THE ULTIMATE SPEAKER WIRE
Over the years, there has been a lot of "snake oil" speaker wire sold to the idle, rich, millionaire "audiophiles" of the world. These people were duped into spending thousands of dollars for a piece of wire, promising to add "enhanced spacial imaging", or "more tightly defined highs" and other creative hyperboles used in the audiophile language.
In quite blunt terms, I'd have to say that P.T. Barnum was sentient, when it comes to a lot of these so-called "audiophiles".
I've researched the matter quite extensively over the past 30 years, and have come to the conclusion that the ideal speaker cable is the one that carries a lot of current. It is current which drives voice coils. Not a lot of fancy-dancy bi-filar woven jacketed smazzy razzamatazz. Simple, good, old-fashioned current. The ideal speaker cable shortens the electrical distance from amplifier to speaker to nearly zero.
That's where this stuff comes in. And here is a roll of 160' of it that I bought to replace my #12AWG zip cord feeding the Bassmaxx drivers and the EVX180Bs:
This is beautiful stuff. PVC jacket, clearly color-coded, 65 strands of #26 copper, and very flexible and easy to work with. And it's the best deal on the internet.
I bought mine here:
Joel Knoblock W3RFC
I was given a discounted price based on quantity, but either way, the price is about 1/3 of what other sources of similar wire are charging on the internet, and about 1/5th of what the so-called "audiophile" cables cost. And boy, can this carry current!
I spent a little over an hour, stripping, tinning, and installed connector lugs on the ends, and then snaking it through, after ripping out the old cables. And it sounds great. Lots of punchy low end. It's neater than the #10 AWG Romex that I was using to drive two of the woofer cabinets and looks nice too.
So next time you're about to consider some upgraded speaker wiring, save your money and buy functional cable, like the above, and use the savings for a bigger amplifier. :-)
MIKING TECHNIQUES SEPARATE REAL FROM FAKE SOUND
Recording a group of musicians is an interpretive art form. There are so many ways to mike a band or an orchestra and each method yields a different timbral result.
Recording engineers discovered in the late 1960s that if you put a mic inside the kick drum, you get a big thumping rhythm sound that became the trademark sound of pop music to this day.
Movie soundtrack music often employs numerous mics throughout the orchestra--some engineers go crazy and mike every instrument individually.
All of these techniques are useful in different ways. High fidelity is not always the goal. Sometimes close-miking creates a "painted" sound that accentuates certain nuances not normally heard by the audience. A close miked string section, particularly the double-basses, will produce a bigger, fatter, bass sound, and is often heard in many recordings, especially in the Easy Listening era.
But the audiophile purist--the discriminating listener who does not want his sound chopped up and remixed in a digital Cuisinart--expects the orchestra sound the way it did that evening at the opera, or concert. It is this sound that I think serious concert-goers appreciate best.
Well there are few miking setups that are literally in a position to achieve this. Obviously, if you want to capture the sound of the orchestra from front row center, then that's where you need to put the mics. Some engineers fly the mics above the stage. That sounds fine too, however, it flattens the soundstage, since every instrument is on a plane that is relatively flat, relative to the mic location.
For that 3D spaciousness, the mics need to be in front of the orchestra, and some distance away, so that the levels from various sections of the orchestra average out somewhat. Too close and you get too much violin and cello/double-bass. But it's a challenge to find that perfect location, when you're recording with an audience. Seating--especially the front rows--is prime real estate. Some folks might have paid the better part of a C-note for that seat that you want to stick a mic stand in front of.
As such, a compromise between front row and the stage is often the best choice. Getting the mics a few feet above the stage floor is a must, to avoid refractions and low angle scatter. This position will be somewhat above the audience siteline, which keeps everyone happy.
Once that sweet spot is found, one can capture a rich and expansive layout of sound from the orchestra, with good front to back depth and a broad range of different instrument sounds across the stage.
One thing that surprised me with modern large diaphragm condenser mics is that even from a distance away, the high sensitivity enables the pickup of distant instrument sounds as if they were up close to the mics. It is possible to achieve the multimike detail with just a stereo pair of high quality mics. And at the same time, this arrangement preserves the time delays between various instruments, which keeps realistic stage depth intact.
My experience with commercial recordings is that many of them cause the bass instruments to sound "heavy" and unnatural. This is probably due to that multiple mic situation I described earlier. Putting the mics too close to the instruments introduces what engineers call "proximity effect". Actually, the mic is hearing it alright, but the problem is that it's hearing a small quadrant of the 360ļ radiated sound out of proportion because of the close proximity.
When we hear a double-bass from 40' away, we are hearing the full sound of the instrument from all its directions of output. Each instrument is an isotropic acoustical radiator--that is, it radiates sound in all directions. The character of the sound varies with direction. When we here a cello from the 3rd row, we're hearing the 360ļ radiated sound, some of which is reflected off the walls of the stage and theater.
When a mic is placed close to a cello, it's hearing a small sliver of that sound, which is emphasized more than the rest of the radiational pattern of sound output. You might be hearing the sound off the front of the soundboard, but missing most of the sound off the sides and back. Miked up close, the cello sounds heavier and more colored than it does from a distance away.
And then there is the "plastic" quality of commercial recordings, a certain graininess in the highs, a grittiness or a smeared quality in the mids and that over-hyped bass. This seems to be a conglomeration of engineering decisions ranging from multiple close-in mics, to compression and other processing down to the various audio tracks. I dare say some engineers dare to EQ the tracks. And then by the time it all gets decimated to 16-bits at 44.1KHz, it's lost a lot of the original luster.
I hear it too, in production DVDs. The master 24/96 tracks sound like, well, you are there. The Dolby digital surround tracks sound nice, but something's missing. I'm not quite convinced I'm at the concert. It's subtle and not easy to nail down. But there's no question about the difference.
Recording is a creative art, but I feel that there should be reasonable boundaries that engineers should strive to observe, that they stray not too far from recreating that front row center experience.
"DANSE MACABRE" ON THE ORGAN
For several decades, Camille Saint-saŽns has been a cherished composer in my very selective and limited list of what I find pleasurable musical treasures. His Organ Symphony No. 3 in C has been a longtime favorite of mine. But a lesser known piece, Danse Macabre, has always been performed by an orchestra on recordings from most of Europe and the United States.
Recently, I became aware of the Lemare transcription, a specially-written arrangement of this piece, meant to be played on the organ. I heard it once, and it was inspiring. In fact, I want to make it the cornerstone of a CD release that I'm trying to talk the music director of a large cathedral in the state capital into doing this project with this piece as a central theme.
In the meantime, I spent the last week at the Kurzweils, with the Post Organ Toolkit samples of the Bavo Organ in the Netherlands, creating my "vision" of how this piece should sound. While the original transcription uses pedal registrations that are harsh and lack real bottom end, I arranged my version with a mix of pedal registrations in specific passages that I felt needed something stronger than what the Lemare transcription called for.
The piece is in a semi-finished state, but I think it's come along far enough to present it to fellow audiophiles and music-lovers.
I think it is a perfect musical tour-de-force for showing off the many registrations possible with Post Organ Toolkit samples. It has many passages from soft to loud and forceful, which gave me the opportunity to be expressive through the many tonal qualities of the Bavo Organ. I was working on a Widor piece, Symphonie Nr. 5, but this Saint-saŽns piece offered more inspiration to me to orchestrate this richly diverse tonal feast. Enjoy!
UPDATE TO "DANSE MACABRE" ON THE ORGAN
With the intent of making a YouTube video, I produced this collage of images of the Bavo Organ at Haarlem, The Netherlands, as a backdrop to the organ piece I produced.
Since YouTube seems to be having technical problems with uploads hanging this evening, I've decided to put it here instead.
Windows Media Player 9 or newer, required. You may have to right-click the video window and select "Play", depending on your player client.
"Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-saŽns:
Also try this embedded DailyMotion Link:
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