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In the Forum: Playback Listening
In the Thread: 2+3 surround sound??
Post Subject: Now Concert Halls Pay House CallsPosted by Romy the Cat on: 8/14/2021
SOUND; Now Concert Halls Pay House Calls By Hans Fantel March 19, 1989

Playing symphonic music in the living room defies the natural order of things.

You have a hundred musicians fiddling, blowing and banging away in a room just big enough for a small dinner party. Acoustically, this doesn't add up. After all, the music was conceived with a certain acoustic assumption - the aura of a space large enough to hold the orchestra and maybe a thousand listeners. The reverberant character of such a place is therefore implicit in the score. Playing the music via records or radio in a typical domestic setting creates a contradiction between sonic and architectural dimensions.

Psychoacoustics - the science dealing with the human perception of sound - has yet to define the exact nature of this contradiction, but throughout the history of the phonograph, recording engineers have obviously been aware of it.

Over the years there have been numerous attempts to deal with this set of problems. The birth of stereo in the l950's greatly enhanced the possibilities of suggesting in playback the spatial aspects of the original performance. But even at its best, stereo cannot properly replicate the sound field of an actual performance.

The difficulty is that sound reflections in the concert hall impinge on the listener from all directions. At home, by contrast, the music arrives mainly from the speakers in front.

There have been continued efforts to resolve this discrepancy, but it was not until the advent of digital technology that the problem could be approached successfully. The present state of these endeavors is impressively exemplified by Yamaha's DSP-3000 Digital Sound Field Processor and the LexiconCP-1 Audio Environment Processor (not to be confused with the professional model, intended for use in recording studios), respectively priced at $1,899 and $1,200.

Although the two differ in their particulars, they share the ability to generate the acoustic ambiance of the concert hall in whatever environment they are placed. The Lexicon, for example, offers a choice of six kinds of settings: rectangular halls and fan-shaped halls, each three different sizes - small, medium and large. It can also provide varying amounts of reverberation without reference to any specific hall shape. Finally, there are provisions for decoding the surround-sound information contained on movie soundtracks, in case theaterlike sound effects are wanted when playing videocassettes.

The Yamaha DSP-3000 offers an even greater variety of acoustical options. Moreover, the settings created by this device are not theoretical constructs but the equivalent of actual halls. Yamaha engineers have measured the acoustics in several famous concert halls both in Europe and the United States and programmed mathematical models of their specific acoustics into the digital computer chips that lie at the heart of the device.

Then they did the same thing with other types of musical evironments such as nightclubs, discotheques, opera houses, chamber music auditoriums and even a vast sports arena. A total of 20 different sound fields sampled in various locations are stored within Yamaha's remarkably trim and compact device.

When these ambient simulators are connected to the amplifier at the listener's home, they will make whatever music is played sound as if it were heard in the simulated hall - even if it was recorded somewhere else. What's more, each setting can be modified so that the listener may, so to speak, choose his seat in the simulated place.

The hitch is that several auxiliary speakers are needed to project the simulated ambiance into the living room, and each of these speakers requires its own channel of amplification. Hooking up these extra speakers complicates the installation and easily adds another $1,000 or more to its cost. Obviously, such an elaborate setup will appeal primarily to prosperous audio fans with an invincible streak of perfectionism.

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