R/E/P Community

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

Pages: 1 ... 3 4 [5] 6 7   Go Down

Author Topic: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone  (Read 4431 times)

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #60 on: November 20, 2017, 12:55:40 am »

Should the requisite amount of "time off in my schedule" and the requisite amount of "inclination to further a discussion in an internet forum" ever coincide sufficiently to merit setting up such a properly-controlled experiment, I promise to share the results with you.

It was hardly a suggestion to do a properly controlled experiment. Just to put some vocal files out there, with  attention to basic things  like level matching, attention to proximity effect, vocalist on axis etc.  Nowhere near a "properly controlled experiment". Please  re-read what I actually wrote.

Quote from: soapfoot
I do wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect microphone!

No need to. From what I have read of them, I would most happily use any of the listed "big five" mics on for example vocal recording, but lots of other duties as well. So long as they were in good condition, valve not overly noisy etc.
I wonder if you really know, Brad, where I am coming from here. Maybe with a little more time and patience we could come to a common understanding on this.

All the best,
Tim
Logged

Jim Williams

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 546
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #61 on: November 20, 2017, 11:27:11 am »

If that perfect microphone is ever developed, it will also require a perfect speaker to hear it.

We are closer to perfect microphones than we are to perfect  speakers.

Perhaps an implant will allow us to skip the speaker/hearing stage and feed the signal directly to the brain like Cmdr. Data or Rush Limbough?
Logged

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #62 on: November 21, 2017, 09:04:30 am »

We are closer to perfect microphones than we are to perfect  speakers.

A lot closer I suspect, and have been for maybe 70 years or more.

What I dont understand in this thread at least is:

1. the ridiculing of accuracy on the one hand...

but then

2.   the praising of mics like the great U47 which from its makers' own words was designed primarily to be accurate. (I can supply the relevent Neumann quotes)

One or the other yes, but, not both. There seems amongst some people almost a fundamental disconnect.  I'm still trying to work out the explanation.
Logged

kludge

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1
  • Real Full Name: Scott Dorsey
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #63 on: November 21, 2017, 09:21:43 am »

Well, we can distinguish because microphones that were _designed_ to be accurate, and those that were designed to be deliberately inaccurate.  This creates the interesting category of microphones like the U47 that were designed to be as accurate as possible when they were originally made, but which people like today because of their inaccuracies.
Logged

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #64 on: November 21, 2017, 10:17:00 am »

Yes but even today, their inaccuracies are relatively minor, I'd suggest.

Unfortunately confirmation bias can be very strong in some people. I believe the only way to sort this out is true blind listening tests where people have no idea which mic they are listening to.
Logged

Jim Williams

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 546
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #65 on: November 21, 2017, 11:12:54 am »

Blind listening "tests" are not so blind when you are required to use a less accurate speaker than the mic is under test. Then add more errors from the power amps, converters or preamps, cabling, room, etc.

It's like trying to push down a floating ping-pong ball with your thumb.

"Two steps forward and one step back" ~Johnny Winter
Logged

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #66 on: November 21, 2017, 04:19:09 pm »

Exactly. Michael O first raised the subject in this thread. The accuracy weak link/bottleneck is the playback, with the distortions of speakers and  rooms first by a large margin over amps, converters and cables etc. Not just in a blind listening test but any playback.

So again, why the focus on the much smaller accuracy weaknesses of the mic, and then paying big money for a barely "character" mic whose effect is swallowed up in the far more "characterful" playback.

To minimise the playback losses in blind listening to one mic, we can  listen on good quality headphones, which also removes the contribution of the room. For critical listening tasks many people do use quality headphones.
 
But on one point I differ, Jim. The defects of the playback, adding its own distortions, do not make the blind listening test less blind. They make it more blind, or deaf, by blurring away subtle differences. Another reason why many listeners dont want to subject themselves to blind listening tests when knowing what piece of gear being listening to results in so much more confident opinions. ;)

Logged

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 214
  • brad allen williams
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #67 on: November 21, 2017, 11:20:25 pm »

Let's clear something up here--

I don't like the U47/U67/U87/etc "because of their inaccuracies."

I like them because they sound good.

Logged

klaus

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1423
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #68 on: November 22, 2017, 04:08:55 pm »

What I dont understand in this thread at least is:

1. the ridiculing of accuracy on the one hand...

but then:

2.   the praising of mics like the great U47 (...)

One or the other yes, but, not both. There seems amongst some people almost a fundamental disconnect.  I'm still trying to work out the explanation.

MY explanation since the start of this conversation had been:
Selling a mic as "accurate", whether doing so fifty years ago or today, is misleading. There are no accurate mics as long as there is no agreement which of them is most accurately representing the sound source as we hear it with our ears.

At best, the inaccurate but euphemistic additions and subtractions that mics like any of the Big Five deliver, will deliver to the listener the perceived musicality of, and emotional connection to the live performance.

Again, taking subjective perception out of the discussion is fallacy, as long as only subjective perception tells us in the end what truly matters in a mic.
Logged
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #69 on: November 23, 2017, 07:37:17 am »

MY explanation since the start of this conversation had been:
Selling a mic as "accurate", whether doing so fifty years ago or today, is misleading. There are no accurate mics as long as there is no agreement which of them is most accurately representing the sound source as we hear it with our ears.

As I understand it, audio equipment testing is based on two complementary approaches which are meant to be the two sides of the one coin:

1. formal  measurement
2. subjective listening

Quote from: klaus
At best, the inaccurate but euphemistic additions and subtractions that mics like any of the Big Five deliver, will deliver to the listener the perceived musicality of, and emotional connection to the live performance.


Euphemistic distortions definitely have a place in live amplified performance and recordings and can be perfectly acceptable artistically, although not in every music genre and definitely not to everyone's taste. But if fidelity/accuracy is the criterion - as you appeared to make it the criterion in this thread - euphonic distortions reduce fidelity/accuracy.

Quote from: klaus
Again, taking subjective perception out of the discussion is fallacy...

As far as I know nobody is taking subjective perception out of the discussion. Far from it.
But again I'd suggest listening is only one side of the normal evaluation coin, the other being formal measurement, as mentioned above.

Quote from: klaus
.. only subjective perception tells us in the end what truly matters in a mic.

Are you taking objective measurement of equipment performance, including mics, out of the discussion?

Logged

Jim Williams

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 546
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #70 on: November 23, 2017, 12:14:41 pm »

Objective measurements with current audio test kits are also far from mature or complete. Yes, an Audio Precision is a wonderful tool, I have one.

It will show errors, at least some of them. It will not qualify quality of sound. 
Logged

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #71 on: November 23, 2017, 06:21:17 pm »

 I agreed how important is listening, supported by objective audio measurement.  The limits of human hearing can inform our discussions of equipment and testing. For example if under even ideal conditions nobody can hear distortion  100db below the fundamental tone, how important are audio gear distortions 110db down?
 
When the equipment under test, the test equipment and procedure must be unbelieveably accurate while human hearing is not required to meet anything like that stringent standard, that sounds to me like a double standard.

I remember encountering this repeatedly on a forum discussing analog tape gear. The argument was that to compete with analog recorders, digital recorders must have "perfect" reproduction, while with analog recorders, "who cares about a bit of noise, distortion and wow and flutter?"

Cognitive bias is a long standing issue, and not just in the audio world...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Logged

klaus

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1423
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #72 on: November 24, 2017, 04:31:45 am »

I agreed how important is listening, supported by objective audio measurement.
If something sounds good, it is good. I don't need to construct a measurement aura around it.

And if you want to bring cognitive bias into the conversation, then spell out how in your opinion it affects sound impressions, and how to avoid it.

Logged
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Timtape

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 68
  • Real Full Name: Tim Gillett
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #73 on: November 24, 2017, 08:53:13 am »


... if you want to bring cognitive bias into the conversation, then spell out how in your opinion it affects sound impressions, and how to avoid it.

I  already introduced it into the conversation. Earlier in this thread I wrote:

Quote from: Timtape
Unfortunately confirmation bias can be very strong in some people. I believe the only way to sort this out is true blind listening tests where people have no idea which mic they are listening to.

I also cited the Wiki page on confirmation bias in general:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Here's a Wiki page specifically on audio equipment testing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_equipment_testing

These are just two examples. Much other material out there.
Logged

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 214
  • brad allen williams
Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #74 on: December 02, 2017, 09:06:09 am »

I'm glad you brought up confirmation bias, because it's salient here. If, before auditioning a microphone, I examine some data to find that the microphone advertises

  • an extended frequency response that doesn't deviate more than 0.5 dB
  • very low THD+N figures

That information sets me up to believe, before I've even heard it, that the mic will perform well. Why do you think so many mic manufacturers include such figures and graphs in their marketing literature? But these data are not, in fact, especially reliable predictors of a mic's subjective performance in my experience/opinion.

I've always related to H.H. Scott's logic: "If it measures bad and sounds good, it's good. If it measures good and sounds bad, you've measured the wrong thing."

It's a mistake to assume that the "objective audio measurements" we're undertaking aren necessarily a) the most significant predictors of good sound as perceived by humans, and b) made under the most germane conditions (particularly when they're made by the manufacturers themselves).

Numbers are easy to understand. Metacognition is hard, thorny, and a moving target. So we tend to be easily seduced by the former, and gloss over the latter. How we perceive sound, though, is as or more important to audio than the bare physics of the sound. And when we do attempt to address perception in some way (such as with A-weighting of noise measurements), it tends to be crude.

But there's clearly much more to the story. There are several microphones which roll off at 30 cycles (or 15k cycles) that have been widely embraced by professionals, and plenty which measure ruler-flat, DC-to-light (metaphorically) that have fallen by the wayside. To explain this as some sort of mass delusion (or mass preference for distortion and narrow bandwidth) would be rhetorically lazy, so I've learned to embrace this metacognitive inconsistency as part of the mystery of audio. It's one reminder of just how far we have to go when it comes to understanding human perception of (and preference for) one sound versus another.

I'll leave you with one thought: I contend that there can be no such thing as true objectivity in a topic as broad as microphone performance. Because even the most rigorous methodology begins with a human's opinion about what's important; what's worth measuring, and under what conditions it should be measured. And even brilliant scholars can have blind spots.
Logged
Pages: 1 ... 3 4 [5] 6 7   Go Up