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Thread: Live vs. Broadcast

          
   
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    Senior Member Involved Member Tardis's Avatar
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    Live vs. Broadcast

    I am listening to the website broadcast of La Traviata right now and I am surprised at how different it sounds compared to it live.
    When I heard the Chorus live 3 days ago, it was like hearing rolling thunder. They sound much smaller in the broadcast
    I also remember watching the Live in HD broadcast of Rigoletto. When I heard Emalie Savoy live, her voice was huge. And then when I watched it, it sounded like the sound got flattened out.

    Curious. I wonder if there is some sort of audio normalization going on .

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    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tardis View Post
    I am listening to the website broadcast of La Traviata right now and I am surprised at how different it sounds compared to it live.
    When I heard the Chorus live 3 days ago, it was like hearing rolling thunder. They sound much smaller in the broadcast
    I also remember watching the Live in HD broadcast of Rigoletto. When I heard Emalie Savoy live, her voice was huge. And then when I watched it, it sounded like the sound got flattened out.

    Curious. I wonder if there is some sort of audio normalization going on .
    This is not a new problem. I have noticed for many years that singers can sound very different live than on record or broadcast. I had heard Jose van Dam live several times and knew his voice well, and the first time I heard him on record I was shocked at how dull and colorless his voice sounded. Same with Sylvia McNair. It is not just the size that seems to be affected: as Tardis says, the basic tone quality is changed. The late voice teacher Edward Zambara was of the opinion that you had not really heard a singer's voice until you heard them live. Bad news for all of us Callas and Flagstad fans!

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    Senior Member Involved Member Tardis's Avatar
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    I hear these stories about the size and agility of Joan Sutherland's voice, that gave rise to her nickname "La Stupenda".
    And then I listen to recordings and I just feel like I am not hearing what others might have heard live in the opera house.

    The other thing might also be the acoustics of the house. I know that the Met acoustics are good in general. But the sound definitely floats up. Whenever I have sat in Orchestra level and Grand Tier, either up front or in the back, the orchestra's sound often didn't feel big.
    But when I sat in Dress Circle, Balcony, and Family Circle, the orchestra sound had acquired a more beautiful tone to it. Maybe more opportunity for the sound to spread out? The downside, of course, is you can't really see things on stage as well.
    It might be the location that the broadcast is being recorded is altering the sound as well.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Yes, sound quality and sound balance (from different channels, from the orchestra versus the singers) is of extremely variable quality even in the modern day recordings. Usually when I review a DVD or blu-ray I give some consideration to sound quality. It all depends on technology as well. My home theater is equipped for 7-channel DTS sound, with decent speakers. When I get a blu-ray that exploits this technology (which is actually quite rare, most don't go beyond the 5.1 surround), I can get at home a rather close experience to the live show. But of course, nothing replaces live opera.

    So, yes, some singers may be flattened by bad sound engineering... unfortunately, however, I think the opposite can also be true: sometimes we get from recordings (especially the ones with high technology like these multi-channel DTS master audio tracks) the impression that certain singers have bigger voices, and when we listen to them live, we realize that their tiny voices are actually a bit disappointing...
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Yes, sound quality and sound balance (from different channels, from the orchestra versus the singers) is of extremely variable quality even in the modern day recordings. Usually when I review a DVD or blu-ray I give some consideration to sound quality. It all depends on technology as well. My home theater is equipped for 7-channel DTS sound, with decent speakers. When I get a blu-ray that exploits this technology (which is actually quite rare, most don't go beyond the 5.1 surround), I can get at home a rather close experience to the live show. But of course, nothing replaces live opera.

    So, yes, some singers may be flattened by bad sound engineering... unfortunately, however, I think the opposite can also be true: sometimes we get from recordings (especially the ones with high technology like these multi-channel DTS master audio tracks) the impression that certain singers have bigger voices, and when we listen to them live, we realize that their tiny voices are actually a bit disappointing...
    True! I have been fortunate enough on a few occasions to have the opposite experience: singers whose voices are so large that recordings cannot properly convey their size. The first time I ever heard Gwyneth Jones live, as the Färberin, I was amazed at just how huge the voice was when heard live. I heard her later as the Siegfried Brünnhilde and as Elektra, and each time the power and size of her voice were incredible. My sole experience of Birgit Nilsson live, also as the Färberin, was similar: the size and especially the cutting edge of her voice were remarkable. Interestingly, in my experience Nilsson's voice was not quite as large as Jones', but its ability to cut through the loudest orchestral passages was much in evidence. IMO, this ability of a voice to 'cut through' the orchestral fabric can be just as important, if not more so, than its ability to soar above the fray. I feel that too many singers try to 'sing louder than the orchestra', with the sad result that they damage their voices irreparably. What they should be doing, instead, is cultivating the carrying power that comes from as pure a tone as possible. It was said of the late Rita Streich that her tiny voice could be heard in the farthest reaches of the house, precisely because of this purity and carrying quality.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    True! I have been fortunate enough on a few occasions to have the opposite experience: singers whose voices are so large that recordings cannot properly convey their size. The first time I ever heard Gwyneth Jones live, as the Färberin, I was amazed at just how huge the voice was when heard live. I heard her later as the Siegfried Brünnhilde and as Elektra, and each time the power and size of her voice were incredible. My sole experience of Birgit Nilsson live, also as the Färberin, was similar: the size and especially the cutting edge of her voice were remarkable. Interestingly, in my experience Nilsson's voice was not quite as large as Jones', but its ability to cut through the loudest orchestral passages was much in evidence. IMO, this ability of a voice to 'cut through' the orchestral fabric can be just as important, if not more so, than its ability to soar above the fray. I feel that too many singers try to 'sing louder than the orchestra', with the sad result that they damage their voices irreparably. What they should be doing, instead, is cultivating the carrying power that comes from as pure a tone as possible. It was said of the late Rita Streich that her tiny voice could be heard in the farthest reaches of the house, precisely because of this purity and carrying quality.
    I have been working toward upgrading my sound system which, now that I am retired, is more important to me since I have more time to enjoy recordings. A colleague in my old office is an audiophile, having invested in high end equipment ($30,000 speakers, etc), so, coincidentally, I asked his advice earlier in the week.

    In the course of our conversation, my friend tried to explain to me why high end equipment is so different. It boils down to high end equipment reproducing sound much closer to the live experience - the holy grail of audiophiles. He explained that the way his speakers are engineered, they push air at a different rate than standard home equipment - both from the rear and forward; his speakers do not have woofers and tweeters, but are a mono system, so the sound is better integrated and doesn't have to blend. He has similar quality for his playback equipment, and the connecting cables are the diameter of a garden hose.

    I guess this is my way of saying that the home experience is bound to be different than what we hear live. My opera knowledge is many degrees less informed than most here because I have always favored live performances over recordings - which is a good deal more satisfying to my ear than recordings - but very limiting.

    I've also heard both Gwyneth Jones and Birgit Nilsson live, and remember Gwyneth Jones as being loud, but hitting her notes only with some difficulty (at least in Fidelio). About a year later, I saw Nilsson in recital (at the Kennedy Center, 1980), when she was 62. She performed in the Opera House, with the Opera House Orchestra on stage. She took awhile to warm up - the first half, she was only ok, but still had no difficulty singing over the very nearby orchestra. After intermission, she came back and sang the final scene from Salome and absolutely soared - just jaw-droppingly good, heart-stopping. I've also heard Joan Sutherland live, (in a concert performance of Anna Bolena) which was similarly stunning.

    Comparing Jones' and Nilsson's voices is difficult after so many years, but only that final scene from Salome has stuck with me almost 35 years later. I cannot imagine hearing a recording at home that could come close to that experience. Maybe $30,000 speakers, I don't know.

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    A colleague in my old office is an audiophile, having invested in high end equipment ($30,000 speakers, etc)...
    Your colleague is going to want one of these puppies.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Wow, $30,000 speakers... I didn't even know that these existed... you guys are scaring me. So, if we need a couple of those, $60,000, divided by $25, it would be enough money to buy 2,400 DVDs... I wonder what would give the opera lover more pleasure (assuming at least decent receiver/speakers that wouldn't completely botch the sound coming from those recordings) - a pair of speakers worth $60,000 that would, say, enhance from 97% of sound quality from $1,000 speakers to 98%, or 2,400 DVDs?

    Short of an opera lover being so rich that the difference between $30,000 and $1,000 is entirely negligible, I think it makes little sense to buy $30,000 speakers.

    (But maybe I'm just being jealous...)
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    My friend is a very quiet unassuming guy - who is not an opera fan. He will listen to one once in a while, he says, but really is focused on 'regular' classical music. I can't afford that audiophile stuff, but am fascinated by his pursuit of music appreciation at that level.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    My friend is a very quiet unassuming guy - who is not an opera fan. He will listen to one once in a while, he says, but really is focused on 'regular' classical music. I can't afford that audiophile stuff, but am fascinated by his pursuit of music appreciation at that level.
    The great equalizer for the frugal opera audiophile is high quality headphones with headphone amp system.

    Because headphones use only a single full range speaker there is no crossover between multiple speakers and no room distortions to muddy up sound. Sound has incredible purity of tone, coherance and resolution of fine detail that would cost 20x or more to match (if ever) in a conventional speaker system.

    The tradeoff is headphones do not generate a holographic 3D soundstage like full room system and although bass goes very deep it does not have the physical viscerial impact like a powerful subwoofer in open room space.

    For opera most of your vocal listening is ideally handled by high end headphones in spectacular fashion, only the orchestral 3D soundstage space is limited

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    [B]The tradeoff is headphones do not generate a holographic 3D soundstage like full room system and although bass goes very deep it does not have the physical viscerial impact like a powerful subwoofer in open room space.

    For opera most of your vocal listening is ideally handled by high end headphones in spectacular fashion, only the orchestral 3D soundstage space is limited
    Dark Angel, you'll want to check out the Smyth Realiser A8 too which I mentioned in my post above. This will be my next toy. I'm going to darken my Sennheiser HD800's a little with a Rabid Dog custom mod and then I'm planning to invest in the Smyth Realiser A8 (which is much better than the Beyerdynamic Headzone). Makes a $10-15k system sound exactly like a $200k system... And what is there not to like about that?

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Dark Angel, you'll want to check out the Smyth Realiser A8 too which I mentioned in my post above. This will be my next toy. I'm going to darken my Sennheiser HD800's a little with a Rabid Dog custom mod and then I'm planning to invest in the Smyth Realiser A8 (which is much better than the Beyerdynamic Headzone). Makes a $10-15k system sound exactly like a $200k system... And what is there not to like about that?
    BTW, if you watch opera DVD, Blu-rays, and CDs, like I do, I really like the Oppo BDP-105. I've modified mine with an aftermarket kit so that it is universal zone, so I can play discs coded for any country. The BDP-105 has a built in high-end headphone amp as well as a 32-bit reference DAC which uses some clever patented signal processing techniques to squeeze out those last bits possible above the Nyquist noise floor. Combined with an A/V receiver and a flat screen (highly recommend the Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 which is what I will be upgrading to when it is released in a month) and the HD-800, a set up with the Smyth Realiser A8 is about all I will ever need from my opera system.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Dark Angel, you'll want to check out the Smyth Realiser A8 too which I mentioned in my post above. This will be my next toy. I'm going to darken my Sennheiser HD800's a little with a Rabid Dog custom mod and then I'm planning to invest in the Smyth Realiser A8 (which is much better than the Beyerdynamic Headzone). Makes a $10-15k system sound exactly like a $200k system... And what is there not to like about that?
    That is pretty advanced and going to appeal more to a hardcore audiophile (like you) but I was thinking more basic universal starter set-up like Sennheiser HD 600 headphones with Schiit Lyr tube hybrid amp (or even cheaper more basic Schiit Asgard 2 amp).

    For $850 new and cheaper used you have a killer basic headphone system that will match the sound of a very expensive stereo system in many key respects for opera vocals.


  14. #14
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    BTW, if you watch opera DVD, Blu-rays, and CDs, like I do, I really like the Oppo BDP-105. I've modified mine with an aftermarket kit so that it is universal zone, so I can play discs coded for any country. The BDP-105 has a built in high-end headphone amp as well as a 32-bit reference DAC which uses some clever patented signal processing techniques to squeeze out those last bits possible above the Nyquist noise floor. Combined with an A/V receiver and a flat screen (highly recommend the Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 which is what I will be upgrading to when it is released in a month) and the HD-800, a set up with the Smyth Realiser A8 is about all I will ever need from my opera system.
    I am on my third Oppo blu ray player and am a huge fan, just waiting for lower prices on 4K resolution TV sets to get the benefits of newest powerful upscaling capabilities.

    Also notice the Oppo 105 has a built in headphone amp, a recognition of our headphone discussion

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    A 200K system???

    [Alma dies of a heart attack - R.I.P., Alma!]
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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