Music 'versus' Film?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Erik G. Lund, Apr 6, 2004.

  1. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    Throughout the forum I see references to the idea that there are 'film' pieces of equipment on the one hand and 'music' equipment on the other

    I don't really see any sense to this if one understands what the words 'high fidelity' actually mean . ALL sounds are supposed to be accurately reproduced - regardless of their 'origin' - train whistles, dogs barking, violins, doors slamming, dynamite blasts, saxophones. news broadcasts - WHATEVER - are supposed to be 'on the money.'

    So if a soundtrack has been accurately done - an amplifier and speaker setup is supposed to relay that accurately - WHATEVER the content (and certainly music is a big part of many films). It is illogical to make some artificial dichotomy - if one is watching a court room drama and one is supposed to be feeling to be IN the room - then the voices, gavel bangings and paper rustlings should be as close to the original sound as possible.

    Certainly the implication in many of the comments I have seen is that it is expected music should be accurate - and that a lot less 'quality' is to be expected from 'film' equipment. As said - this makes no sense at all.

    I can see some logic in perhaps needing more power available for (usually artificially staged) frequencies in the 20-25 Hz area on sound tracks - rarely reached in music content (however it is known that the usual dynamics of classical music exceed that of most other content). But accuracy is still the basic prerequisite - and on that score - comments are implying that film reproduction does not require accuracy (read: fidelity).and one can 'make do' with the usual Japanese attempts.
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Hi Erik,

    First, welcome to the Forum.

    It would have been nice if you had given us a link to the information you’ve been looking at, so we could all be on the same page here.

    Generally I agree with you, being a guy who was into hi fidelity music reproduction long before home theater came around. I’ve heard about the “for film” electronics you mentioned; however, it’s long been accepted that a system assembled with music as the focus will give excellent performance for home theater, too.

    But there is more to a first-class home theater system than accuracy and those needs will separate them from an audiophile-quality music system in both electronics and speakers.

    For instance, the amplifier power needs you mentioned. It should be self-evident that in most cases a stack of $5000, 30-watt tube amplifiers will not cut it in a home theater system.

    The next thing that comes to mind is THX processing. Although many (if not most) people believe you can build an excellent home theater system without THX certified equipment (myself included), THX nevertheless represents the tour de force in a high end home theater system.

    And - perhaps contradictorily - THX processing actually concerns itself with altering the original signal.

    For instance, THX’s Re Equalization feature introduces an equalization curve designed to tone down the high frequency content of DVD. It’s based on the assumption that movies intended for the theater are mixed with exaggerated high frequency response, due to the fact that a screen is in front of the speakers, and that cinema speakers are usually horn-loaded designs with sagging response at the highest frequencies. Re-Equalization was designed to specifically address this exaggerated response in the home environment.

    THX’s Decorrelation feature was used in the Pro-Logic days to enhance delocalization and separation of the mono rear channel signal.

    But probably the primary place where serious music systems and home theater systems part ways is with the speakers. Speakers designed specifically designed for home theater applications – primarily THX certified speakers – have markedly differently dispersion qualities than regular hi-fi speakers do. THX speakers intentionally and specifically limit vertical dispersion. The idea is to minimize ceiling and floor reflections, so as to make dialog more clear and focused.

    Thus no matter how accurate THX speakers may be, most audiophiles will find them unpleasant to listen to for music.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  3. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    I had not been referring to any specific posts - just a line of comment that has existed over the last years.

    And mainly it is a question of comment being that some particular piece of equipment is good enough for films but not for music. This to me is pure nonsense.

    I do not go along with the THX approach at all - as an extension of THX requirements - it would seem that an opera buff would not be able to properly listen to 'opera dialogue' without a THX system - after all, isn't spoken dialogue technically equivalent to sung dialogue?

    Another matter is why has the term 'home theater' been usurped by 'surround systems' - an excellent stereo system will run circles (metaphor intended) around the usual Japanese 'surround' setup.
     
  4. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Erik said



    I agree that for purposes of music reproduction in the home, where the conveyance of the intellectual and emotional message of the music is of more importance than aspects of the presentation, such as the venue acoustics the recording took place in, that an excellent stereo system will run circles around most surround setups.

    However, movies with discrete 5.1, or 6.1 soundtracks are another matter entirely, and in this case, where a sense of immersive involvement with the picture/action/dialogue/storyline is a fundemental part of the 'being there' sensation, high quality stereo simply does not cut it IMV, as it is incapable of providing the steering, localisation of effects, and 360 degree immersive soundfield that is a requiste part of HT/movies in the home, if one is talking accuracy to the original intentions of the movie director.

    The fact that a high end stereo may have/offer a higher resolution than it's midrange surround a/v receiver counterpart, is of little consequence given that the sounds of doors, papers etc are often artificially created, and delivered by a lossy compression system, AND that even though benefits are apparent with high end AV processors, unless one turns the picture off and focuses wholy on the sound, the advantages of the high-end processor whilst there, appear slight when one takes the movie experience as a whole, i.e. sound and picture.

    With their economies of scale, fastidious attention to design, build quality comparable in some cases to more than a few high-end manufacturers, and proprietary software, plus the R&D behind it, the so called 'mainstream' Japanese producers make AV products that are both excellent in performance for their intended function regarding movies, and generally superb value for money.

    Just my 2c worth... [​IMG]

    Cheers

    John... [​IMG]
     
  5. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    I have no argument with surround systems as such - I enjoy my Outlaw 1050 very, very much. (Although I really do wonder why so much material is sold with 5.1 on the cover but nothing 'inside' - eg The Sopranos 1-3)

    I DO have an argument with systems that forego all the great sound reproduction for just getting some kind of ping-pong-ping-pong-ping effect from really dull amps and 'exaggerating' speakers.

    Surround sound produced by poor fidelity equipment just does not cut the mustard - the 'bad' sound more than negates any chance for 'reality' expression.

    It is just a pity that people (the biggest part of the population) is running after abysmal sound reproduction where they may very well already own something far better
     
  6. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    perhaps it's artificial, but not illogical.

    speakers from different manufacturers DO sound different, correct? so if someone wants to loosely categorize a speaker as a "rock" or "jazz" speaker, that's probably legitimate, no? so what's wrong with categorizing a speaker as a "music" or "movie" speaker?
     
  7. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    Well - in the same vein - there should be - when using both music and film sources:

    Door-slamming speakers
    Train whistle speakers
    Grand piano speakers
    V-8 Engine speakers
    Cymbal speakers
    Woman Screaming speakers
    Clarinet speakers

    Need I say 'etcetera'

    ++

    The answer to your question:

    No - I don't think so. The only sensible arrangement is to have flat speakers and good recording engineers. All of the above sounds can be recorded accurately with good recording equipment and a professional recording engineer - and they will all be reproduced accurately with accurate equipment.

    Other options are certainly 'legitimate' in the same way as putting ketchup on a fantastic steak.
     
  8. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    and how many speaker manufacturers are there out there?

    why?

    i like your list of speaker types, btw. and there ARE speakers that are much, much better at piano reproduction than others. same can probably be said for each of those other "types", too.
     
  9. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    Just like there are many more brands of ketchup than cattle.
     
  10. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    so you're suggesting you have found the "best ketchup"?
     
  11. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    No - I've been saying I want to stick with the steak. [​IMG]

    Actually the main reason for so many brands of speakers is the low-cost threshold for market entry. Manufacturing a few hundred speaker enclosures is enough to have a brand.

    And I do seriously think the only logical way to approach 'high fidelity' (using the meaning of those words) is to count on the signal to be right on - and the speaker to reproduce it straight across.

    There really can't be jazz speakers, whistle speakers, etc. What is happening for the most part is manufacturers are responding to fast-sell tactics - bass boost will sound at first to many to give more sound - and thus sell. Selected mid-range peaks will put music forward and sell etc etc. The result is that various manufacturers compete with the way in which they play with the 'exaggerations' and 'deficiencies' and the simple fact is that various sounds will indeed sound 'better' with one kind of 'mistake' and another speaker will sound better with another type of sound with a different 'mistake.'

    But really the plain fact is that if a recording is done properly the signal will be a 1:1 reflection of the original sound - and the only way to get that thru to the ear will be a flat speaker.
     
  12. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    i don't think you've hit upon the reason there are so many speaker companies, yet.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Now we’re really getting into wishful thinking. If there was any reality to this, I wouldn’t have CDs with bright high end response, or others with exaggerated bass, or with virtually no bass at all. Or some with each bass note clean and articulate, and others with muddy, indiscernible bass lines. Or some that sound very open and natural, while others sound almost as bad as FM radio.

    The sad fact is there is absolutely no professional standard for a “properly done signal.” And the goal of the vast majority of recording engineers is not obtaining “a 1:1 reflection of the original sound.” Even if it were, even fewer studios have the caliber of equipment it would require to accomplish this.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  14. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    I think there are differences between the two, but I don't think that they are adequately explained without writing for pages, which I don't have the knowledge to adequately explain for beginners, nor the gumption.

    But room acoustics also is a big difference, you'd shoot for a deader room for HT, generally, than for music.

    I think you can get away with less-high quality speakers for HT, than you can with music. Music is my only audition factor. If it sounds excellent with music, it should also sound excellent on film, but the converse is very often not the case in my experience.
     
  15. Zack_R

    Zack_R Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree the sound should be reproduced accurately regardless of the media.

    I think one reason you see so many different opinions regarding speakers is for the simple reason that all ears are not created the same. I don't mean from a frequency response as much as the physical differences between peoples ears can change the mids and highs quite dramatically. I know it may sound funny but read on[​IMG]

    Try this test the next time you are playing your system. Place you fingers on the back of your ears and barely move them forward. You will hear a difference in sound. Some peoples ears stick out a little more than others and so they will hear a different sound. So if one set of speakers measures flat at the listening position it may not be flat sounding to my ears but it could be to yours.

    And so goes the old saying trust your ears.

    Also, the ideal positioning of speakers is different from film to music.

    For music, speakers are generally recommended to be toed in for a more direct sound (single listener). With movies the speakers are generally parallel to the listener(s).

    These two different configurations may call for different design specifications.
     
  16. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    Sorry for any misunderstanding - I was referring to those who probably are spending $800-1500 total. But there also is a huge number of people buying the HTIB stuff that SURELY have a much better stereo system already on the shelf but have been sucked into the 'format' scam.

    +++

    Re the transducer aspect - yes, speakers are transducers as are mikes - but the mike is at the signal originating where choice is vital - and the speaker is at completely the other end and its function is as a reproducer - NOT creator! The mike end is the place where one creates the 1:1, accurate signal - and the 'reproducing' is supposed to duplicate it - NOT monkey around with it.

    Sure - there are boomy CD's - overbright CD's - but one doesn't buy a slew of different speakers to correct them - but starts to rate recordings as 'properly done' or not. The onus is supposed to be on the recording engineer! Really - the alternative is to have a different set of speakers to match each jerk's product - or a lowest common denominator of compromise. Rather logical IMHO.

    Just to back up - if one has a set of various instruments - all requiring specialized mikes to record them accurately - onto one recording - I cannot understand for the life of me - (draw the corresponding flow diagrams, analogical data diagrams, etc.) - how - to reproduce that carefully generated signal - one puts at the last place before the ear - a speaker that CHANGES that carefully made signal?

    To think it through - please FIRST do the exercise of thinking of the well-made signal - or almost well-made signal - and then think what you want the speaker to do so you get that original. If you introduce bad recordings at this point in your thought you will end up with a can of worms - and also see by the way that it is virtually impossible to think of a speaker as ever being a 'correcting' device.

    The same thing holds true for amps and receivers - if they are boomy or bright - or crisp or warm - or whatever - and the signal did not have that characteristic then the amp is simply wrong - it's another matter if you 'like' it - and then we're back to the ketchup on good steak.
     
  17. Kevin_R_H

    Kevin_R_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Eric,

    I'm going to respond to your initial post. I didn't read through all the replies - so if someone already stated this viewpoint, I apologize.

    I am one of those who routinely states that "quality of sound" is more important for "listening to music" than for "watching movies". For me, there are two main reasons:

    1) When I'm listening to music, I never do anything else. I don't use music as background noise. I don't do crossword puzzles, work around the house, surf the internet, play with the dogs, or read a book. I simply sit down and (attempt to) lose myself in the music. My mind is paying attention to every little detail and nuance. If my system is screwing up this presentation, it will greatly detract from my enjoyment.

    But when watching movies, there are a number of events vying for my attention. Yes the sound is important, but so is the picture. And of course, hopefully the goal is to lose myself in the story.

    Yes, "bad sound" can certainly ruin the DVD experience (amps/speakers that clip, wimpy LFE, noticeable distortion, etc). And I understand many people like to show off the sonic capabilities of their DVD system, particularly LFE and dynamics. But if I ever get to the point to where I want to watch a DVD strictly for the "audio workout" it gives my system, I'm going to need someone to slap me.

    ******************************

    2) Even more important is the concept of "faithful reproduction", which is what hi-end audio is all about. Why are audiophiles such sticklers for perceived realism? Because they (or at least some of them :b ) feel they have considerable knowledge on how different instruments are supposed to sound, and they want their system to sound as "real" as possible.

    Maybe they play the saxophone, and they absolutely know all the subtle nuances this instument can project. Or a piano, or a cello, etc. If their system does not faithfully reproduce these instruments, it will be immediately noticed.

    However, when listening to movie "effects", how does one define "faithful"? I mean, when watching "The Pod Race", I certainly don't know what each and every noise was supposed to sound like. After all, some Sound Man (and his/her cohorts) are the only ones who really know for sure. As long as my gear can handle the dynamics and the bass (without calling attention to itself), it's going to be an absolute hoot.

    Bottom line, since I have no clue what the original effects/noises/explosions are supposed to sound like, how can I possibly judge my system's ability to reproduce them?

    Kevin
     
  18. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    whether you like ketchup on it or not, for most, the steak's gotta be cooked.

    and there is no sacred cow.
     
  19. Erik G. Lund

    Erik G. Lund Extra

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    True enough for those 'unknown' sounds. But human voices, usual cars, telephone rings, film music, and such - when accurately reproduced draw you into the film. And as far as surround sound goes - I am really disappointed why natural surround sounds are not used more. As I pointed out - 'The Sopranos' says it's 5.1 - but there are virtually no rear/side channel sounds at all - the only one I even recall was a jet approaching or landing at Newark while they sat in front of Satriale's. And I find this continually to be the case - often the only surround you notice is that totally exaggerated Dolby ad that they force on you at the beginning of the DVD - you know, the one where you jump up to turn it down so the neighbors don't complain.
     
  20. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    You’re missing the point on several fronts, Erik, and I get the impression you know little about the realities of studio recording.

    In a perfect world the mics at the studio would “be the place where one creates the 1:1 accurate signal.” But as I’ve already noted, the mics typically used are incapable of doing that. In a prefect world every studio in the world would use the same universal-standard mic with ruler-flat response. I assure you, such mics are rare because they are very expensive.

    So what they use instead is what I mentioned before, different mics for different applications. They do this because they’ve found that the natural coloration of certain mics sound better with vocals, or drums etc. However, by default this can only mean one thing: that these mice are not delivering a 1:1 representation of the original signal.

    And when all that is said and done – capturing the instrument or vocal on a recording – then they set about to “monkey” with it: equalize, compress, add reverb/delay etc.

    Suffice it to say, Erik, to expect a studio to deliver a start-to-finish 1:1 representation of any signal is to set yourself up for certain disappointment.

    Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember those “muddy” CDs I mentioned? They sound that way because they didn’t get enough “monkeying.” Specifically, proper attention was not paid to equalizing each and every vocal and instrument track.

    The problem is, in their “natural state,” male vocals, drums, congas, guitars, bass guitars, keyboards (including pianos), clarinets, saxaphones, cellos, etc. all have significant energy in the 80-200Hz region. If several instruments like these are all playing together, and if all are allowed to produce their natural lowest harmonics, all that duplication, quadruplication, etc. in the 80-200Hz region combines to make sonic mush.

    Any recording you have on your shelf where the bass line sounds clear and distinct, it’s accomplished by rolling out most of the bottom end of all instruments except the bass, to get everything else “on top” so the bass can carry the bottom end by itself. Furthmore, it’s typical to EQ the bass as well, to tame any boominess it may have at certain frequencies, or to account for any natural “dead” spots on the neck.

    The result is far from 1:1, but it’s imminently more listenable than something that would be closer to the “natural state” of true 1:1.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that a studio was able to achieve that 1:1 goal, and that it really did sound better that way. The impetus then is ultimately on the speaker at the other end. I say “the speaker” because in this day and age it’s highly doable for all audio electronics to deliver ruler-flat response. However, there is no such thing as a ruler-flat speaker. They all color the sound in some way.

    Any way you cut it, Erik, either at the recording end or at the reproducing end, your 1:1 expectations is wholly unobtainable.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     

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