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Orchestral Music on AR-3a speakers


Capitol C
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I've been listening to my restored AR-3a's for some time now, and noticed something interesting.  On chamber music and jazz, things sound great.  On orchestral recordings, things are more mixed.   I have done a lot of fiddling with positions in the room, the speaker-back midrange and tweeter controls, and the receiver tone controls.  There seemed to be a slight lack of fidelity on high-pitched notes and sharp transients--flutes and piccolos are not sibilant,  triangles get lost in the orchestra, etc.  I thought it might be the room, or the replacement tweeters, or just my 63 year old ears (and 40 year old memories!).  Turning the midrange and tweeter controls to the max helped, and so did some use of the treble control on the receiver, but different recordings seemed to want different adjustments.  Oddly, a local radio station recording of a live National Symphony Orchestra concert seemed very good without fooling around with controls.

Today I listened to the mid-1950s recording of Daphne and Chloe by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  I have a record of it, but ordered a re-release on SACD, which I listened to on a CD player.  It was originally a two-channel recording, and the liner notes say that the master has splices in it, but otherwise wasn't mixed or otherwise altered.  A few minutes into the CD, I turned the treble control on the receiver back to flat, and heard the speakers as I remembered them.  The detail is remarkable, everything sounds right.   So maybe I didn't mess up the restoration after all!

As I knew decades ago, it is very hard to record an orchestra, and often less is more.  The old RCA and Mercury recordings with minimal miking and mixing, or an FM live broadcast with a couple or three fixed microphones, are often superb.  Nothing profound in this post, but I am really enjoying the music!

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I've noticed significant differences in recordings of the same orchestral work; naturally, the actual performers would affect things, but recording balance, "air" around the instruments, hall reverb & decay, and localization of the solo instrument (particularly in the case of piano concertos) ranges all over the place.

We own 22 different sets of the Beethoven piano concertos, and no two have the same quality of recorded sound. 

That said, I'd ask if your AR-3a's are set up to take maximum advantage of their wide dispersion characteristics; this is one of the qualities that make them so well-suited to orchestral recordings.

 

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  • 4 years later...

This is about big band jazz rather than orchestral recordings but the same topic.  Technically good modern recordings of professional big bands are scarce. The best bands from the era are long gone and many of the stereo recordings from the era were done with over emphasis on stereo effect.   The staging is almost always wrong and with few exceptions they are more tolerable in mono playback.  If you like big band jazz on your AR speakers,  the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra recordings are technically excellent and maybe the best assembly of musicians seen in decades for this music idiom.   The 2020 releases are outstanding live performance recordings.   Just thought I would throw this into pile.

Adams

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On 2/15/2016 at 2:40 PM, Capitol C said:

I've been listening to my restored AR-3a's for some time now, and noticed something interesting.  On chamber music and jazz, things sound great.  On orchestral recordings, things are more mixed.   I have done a lot of fiddling with positions in the room, the speaker-back midrange and tweeter controls, and the receiver tone controls.  There seemed to be a slight lack of fidelity on high-pitched notes and sharp transients--flutes and piccolos are not sibilant,  triangles get lost in the orchestra, etc.  I thought it might be the room, or the replacement tweeters, or just my 63 year old ears (and 40 year old memories!).  Turning the midrange and tweeter controls to the max helped, and so did some use of the treble control on the receiver, but different recordings seemed to want different adjustments.  Oddly, a local radio station recording of a live National Symphony Orchestra concert seemed very good without fooling around with controls.

Today I listened to the mid-1950s recording of Daphne and Chloe by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  I have a record of it, but ordered a re-release on SACD, which I listened to on a CD player.  It was originally a two-channel recording, and the liner notes say that the master has splices in it, but otherwise wasn't mixed or otherwise altered.  A few minutes into the CD, I turned the treble control on the receiver back to flat, and heard the speakers as I remembered them.  The detail is remarkable, everything sounds right.   So maybe I didn't mess up the restoration after all!

As I knew decades ago, it is very hard to record an orchestra, and often less is more.  The old RCA and Mercury recordings with minimal miking and mixing, or an FM live broadcast with a couple or three fixed microphones, are often superb.  Nothing profound in this post, but I am really enjoying the music!

I was 63 when I saw an ENT specialist and had my hearing checked by the audiologist. I have a hearing loss in my right ear...not terrible, mostly less sensitivity in that ear, but what you describe is what I hear and It doesn’t matter which speaker I listen to.

The result of an inner ear infection, it did improve but not quite what it was.

 

Bill

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Ochestral music performed in large halls does not have much in the way of sibilance, sharp transients or pinpoint imaging from the audience seats. The halls are deliberately designed to scatter and diffuse the highs and blend the different instruments of the orchestra together to surround the listener in an immersive reverberant sound.

Recordings in which you can pick out individual instruments and hear the strings squealing, i.e., "detail," are made with the mics placed  close to the musicians. They would probably sound just right if played through flat response speakers on the stage of a music hall, but in your living room they tend to sound as if you are standing on the conductor's platform. A great place to be able to identify which member of the orchestra is playing out of step. Not such a good place to just enjoy the performance.

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