How should music sound?
This question arose after reading a few EQ and directivity threads in the multiway forum.
How should music sound in my environment when reproduced through my stereo system?
1) How the mastering engineer intended it to sound.
2) How the voice(s)/instrument(s) sounds live in the environment targeted by the mastering engineer.
3) How the voice(s)/instrument(s) sounds live in an environment I prefer.
4) How I want it to sound.
Or supply your own answer. "It depends" is not allowed! :)
I'll take the first half of answer 3. How Voices and Instruments sound live. Once that's nailed, everything else seems to fall in place.
I don't give a hoot how the mastering engineer intended it to sound, 'cause I have no idea what that might be. He was working to his clients tastes and preferences that day, not mine.
IMHO, mastering engineers are full of themselves, and it's a case of the tail wagging the dog. I would prefer things sound the way the mixing engineer/producer intended, but as Pano notes, that's usually in the category of "insufficient information".
So, I go with 3, since that's what I know and can reasonably target. My "preferred environment" is a studio control room, however, as I most often listen to recordings for which that is the "reality". That is, if I can close my eyes and believe I'm hearing the main monitors that the band listened to (or the PA, in the case of live recordings), I'm happy.
Someday, maybe, I'll try building an omnidirectional speaker for listening to my old mono records and see if I can create a real "they here in the room" experience since that stuff was pretty much recorded direct to tape without all the sideboard processing.
I'm sorry but it does "depend", very much on your own
preferences, seeing your talking about directivity and EQ.
It also "depends" on room size and listening position.
Some people like an "in your face" immersion, others
an "over there" panoramic vista to the soundstage,
usually the latter is far more multiple listener friendly.
Of course either way you want "realistic" reproduction.
One of my fave tests for hifi is listening to speech.
A few years back I got a female singer / song writer friend into a studio and recorded her and myself speaking, using nothing more than a half decent mic and a Sony Datman Pro - No compressors, Eq'ing etc. She only lives 3 miles away, so when I audition a new component I invite her round for dinner, we chat and then listen to her recorded voice.
My mother plays piano, clarinet and sings in the village church choir.
I have several friends who play guitar, steel guitar, cordobro and banjo, two very very good drummers (one is Royal school of music / BMA trained percussionist), two flautists, a harp player and a lass who's trained as an Opera singer.
Listen to as much LIVE ACOUSTIC music as possible. At 20ft, some thing like a double bass sounds really big, does your system reproduce this scale?
Listen to street buskers, they might not be the best singers or instrumentalists, but their live, doing it and FREE (I always give em some change, the better they are, the more they get) - some even sell cd's, these can be well worth the few £ / $'s as they are (usually) simple recordings
If you don't have access to live, listen to simple music like duets, trios and quartets.
I've found the worst people to ask round for a listen are pro audio people, they say things like 'you dont have a 6,000 band eq, so how can your system sound any good!' - but then maybe I've not found one who's head isn't deeply inserted you know where!
I've also found that woman above the age of 20 are good judges of overall sound balance / quality, even better if they've born children. When they come into your environ, they see big boxes on the floor or in a rack and 'speakers - they don't care a jot if it cost £/$ 50 or 50,000, can pump 50amps / 1,000w to your voice coils, they will judge your system purely on it's sound.
Just my way / thoughts...... hope this helps.
Each and every original artist (singer/instrumentalist/composer, painter, writer) I have talked to has conceeded that the value of his work is not in what he has put into it, but in what people can take out of it. An artwork that doesn't communicate anything to anybody is worthless.
In this light every work of music should sound in a way that you can enjoy it best. This would probably be 4).
Fidelity in music media reproduction that will take the original intention of the artist without fundamental changes up to your ear is a myth - it does not exist anywhere except in the live performance.
If your goal is not personal enjoyment, but the best documentation of some musical event, it is probably 1)
Nobody is able to make a music file that anticipates all environments of all possible buyers/listeners.
I suggest (1), as it is co-work of artists and engineer and producer.
I'd go farther, the system used to master the recording is different, the speakers are different and the acoustics of the recording studio is different.
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