Where are we?

When trying to make a natural recording of a sound field, of course we are trying to reproduce the effect of being there.  However, as it is not possible to remove the effect of the listening area completely, the question arises of whether it might be easier to record in such a way that we produce the effect of the sound source being in the listening area.

The distinction "we are there" versus "they are here" is commonly discussed in books on stereo recording.  My view is that they are different things completely; neither a symphony orchestra nor a waterfall is ever going to be convincingly "in" my living room, so effort expended to try and make it so is wasted - the effort should go into trying to reduce the effect of the listening room by improving its acoustics and by using recording and reproduction techniques that decouple it as far as possible.


There is one area of recording in which bringing the sound source to the listening venue is not merely acceptable but is the whole point - this is "sampling".

In sampling we record sounds close, so as to capture as little of the surrounding ambience as possible.  Then when we play them back, they are simply a reproduction of the original source, but in the new acoustic.

It's not as simple as that, of course, and there is no method, for instance, of reproducing the effect of a sound source having a non-uniform distribution of its energy.  But convincing results can be attained with a lot of effort.

One area in which this technique is used is in the reproduction of organ pipes.  A sample-based organ-playing program called Hauptwerk is a good example.  On the company's web site you can find extensive discussion of the use of samples with and without the original acoustic for different purposes.

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