Innocent Ear

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Don't all recordings aim to reproduce the concert hall experience?

        No they don't! There are two basic approaches to sound recording. One is as mentioned above, the re-creation of the concert hall experience in the listeners home with as much realism as possible. This is what used to be meant by the term 'high fidelity'. The other approach takes the view that a recording is something quite different to the concert hall experience, another medium in fact and should be manipulated accordingly, particularly to compensate for the lack of visual stimulus when listening to a recording. This is the method with which the vast majority of modern recordings are made in particular pop and rock recordings where frequently the studio itself is ‘another instrument’, an ‘artifice’.

How did this situation come about?

       Historically, the limitations of recording and playback technology made it necessary to use multiple microphone techniques to stop solo instruments being drowned out in the hissy cacophony of noise. This led to the increased importance of the recording engineer, whose skills allowed the best use of a limited medium. As sound recording technology improved the novelty of what could be done with that sound remained more important than fidelity (think of the early days of colour television and the garish use of colour to show it off). By the time that high fidelity equipment became available in the ‘60’s the culture of the all important recording engineer had been established. And, to be fair, in the areas of general entertainment such as films and popular music, this importance was quite deserved. With classical music, however, these audio enhancements have become increasingly problematic.

Even the fig leaf of multi miking to get around poor portable radio or in car entertainment systems have fallen away with perfectly acceptable audio reproduction equipment being available to everyone.