Is stereo an unimportant "parlour trick"?

The foundation of stereo is that EMI is going to bring a virtual orchestra into your home with spatial realism. But you must sit facing stereo speakers which have been set up by on the wisest precepts. For the most committed to this goal, you should clamp your mouth on a dental-impression bite-board so your ears will stay put in their ideal fixed location.

Let’s deconstruct that. Can’t I have great music in my environment without sitting facing the stereo speakers? Do I have any compelling need to have a virtual orchestra or will just access to pleasing undistorted music do? Is the enterprise of stereo just a “parlour trick” of no great importance?

It is fair to say that the fraction of hours devoted to the “parlour trick” compared to all the people with earbuds sitting on a bus and all other listening is very tiny. Even the most devoted are rarely sitting at their chairs fixed on the stereo localization and attending to little else.

So in the design and implementation of home music systems, what do we need to do and what do we no longer need to fuss over if we are content to forgo localization?

Ben
 
Most studio recorded music is designed to sound best in stereo. How frequencies are divided up between individual instruments and vocals to minimize unwanted masking also depends on placement in the sound field. That is, panning two sounds in the same frequency range apart from either other in left/right placement can improve clarity and reduce masking.

When one is an another room, or anywhere in the far field for that matter the sound changes a lot and details are lost in reverberation, not just in frequency masking. That can sound okay too, but its a different listening experience.
 
So then the question becomes how much are we losing besides the stereo localization for each additional departure from bite-board listening?

I never use a bite-board, not a whole lot of time spent eyeball-to-eyeball with the stereo system, and so on down the sliding scale.

Speaking for myself and as a long-time devoted listener, my musical enjoyment would be rather little impacted by putting my speakers wherever they fit and moving my chair away from ground zero. Honestly. Or maybe I'd miss it just as I'm going to miss my motorcycle next month.

B.
 
No need for bite-board here, using the term at all seems like an unnecessary exaggeration. One can stand to the right of right channel speaker and still hear sounds obviously coming from the left-channel speaker. Of course, there is kind of a sweet spot in the middle which is probably best for the most critical listening. Most of the time I don't bother with that, but still can enjoy the stereo effects.
 
Dental impression is the ultimate, no kidding. If you are not fastening your head, then you are already sliding down the slipper slope! But I am kidding that any sane audiophile ought to be that compulsive.

Yes, sure, music is great even if out of Official Chair. But then can't somebody say, "Well, let's move the speakers out of the way"? My point is once we loosen the grip of the stereo parlour trick, it becomes a matter of taste where to slide to.

Of more importance to this website is the question of how to design systems that serve us in that new world? Possibly advocates of bipole panels and ambience will claim the high ground.
 
Surely those listening to ear buds are getting the ultimate stereo parlour trick without need of a bite board? Not necessarily the best SQ but for sure the best channel separation.
My lounge is lousy for stereo listening - settee along long wall, speakers on short wall firing down the room across the front of the settee.
 
Thus far, all attempts at replacing stereo for music reproduction have failed, however promising they appeared to be at first. It seems that the effort required to add extra channels is too much for the tiny improvement in sound - if indeed an improvement results.

I suspect that the fact that we have two ears means that one channel is not enough, and two channels are nearly enough.
 
We have two ears and a brain that will work with the two inputs to make acceptable sense. If there is a trick going on it's one we are subconsciously complicit in.

OK, I can buy into that.

My next horn speaker build will be a single point stereo ceiling speaker set into a horn waveguide for near field listening. Kind of mono in 3D. Most definitely a parlour trick.

More than likely give away the old one to a friend for cost. ToS
 

rayma

Member
2011-04-29 8:37 pm
Just raising the question, which I think is very fair, says that there is something wrong
conceptually with stereo as we know it. Something better is surly to come.

Yes, binaural is much better, but requires headphones and different recording techniques.
The acoustical crosstalk when using speakers spoils the stereo effect regardless.
 
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Surely those listening to ear buds are getting the ultimate stereo parlour trick without need of a bite board? Not necessarily the best SQ but for sure the best channel separation. .

Various cues from pinna and head that are anomalous with headphones. So correct about channel separation but not totally coherent stereo (even if anybody actually knew how to put photographic-stereo into two channels.
 
I suspect little music is available that has been recorded in stereo, most of it is close miked and the stereo created at mixing. Then you have to reproduce it whilst fighting your room. For me it is a parlour trick. I like stereo but like Nigel, for general listening, I use single speaker mono. For movies I use 5.1 and love it.
 
Just raising the question, which I think is very fair, says that there is something wrong conceptually with stereo as we know it. Something better is surly to come. Wise (and bite-board) be gone!
Anybody seen a photograph and mistook it for seeing out your window?

Dream on. Any way to have Fritz Reiner and Chicago playing in my little room? (OK, trick question since he's been dead 60 years)

If you want better stereo get electrostatics and motional feedback woofers. Don't waste your time with crossover formulas.
 

billshurv

Member
Paid Member
2014-03-01 11:53 pm
Gerzon developed something better decades ago in Ambisoncs. The industry and consumers weren't interested. Even now I suspect most people don't even have a way of trying a 5.1 or 7.1 SACD performance of a recording.



But I don't understand why more stuff isn't being mastered for headphone listening given that is how a lot of consumption is done these days. Then again the Chesky binaural demos don't work for me.
 
Thus far, all attempts at replacing stereo for music reproduction have failed, however promising they appeared to be at first. It seems that the effort required to add extra channels is too much for the tiny improvement in sound - if indeed an improvement results.

I suspect that the fact that we have two ears means that one channel is not enough, and two channels are nearly enough.

I think a better way to look at it is to say, there are limits to how well sound can be put into your room to be recognizable in a photographic sense. As you say, two speakers are near that limit.

On the other hand, one speaker (or maybe two speakers on mix) fall short. I think that's because one speaker produces no virtuality. All the cues support the perception that the sound is coming from a single origin.

That's my theory of mono (OK, I just made up the word "virtuality")