Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

The Concert…

It was a beautiful summer evening. The sun was beginning to set and the temperature was in the comfortable high 70s. One couldn’t ask for a better day to attend an outdoor concert at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. The grounds of Ste. Michelle are park-like and reflect old-world charm. When strolling along the pathways past the chateau it is easy to fantasize being in France -- much like a visit to Versailles.

The concerts are held in a large open area with a permanent elevated stage. Lights and speakers are suspended from several overhead beams. The low frequency woofers – about a dozen – are located below and on the stage itself. No question that plenty of audio power can be generated to satisfy even the most ardent rock concert fan.

The concert we had chosen to attend was of a more subdued nature – the music of Abba. Their music is more in a traditional popular song format – although with a contemporary feel. The songs were performed by a very capable female vocalist with a variety of instruments providing a rich background accompaniment. Needless to say, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening – made even more so by several glasses of excellent wine and hors devours.

Music has always been an important part of my life. During my grade school and high school years, I took piano lessons and in high school was the designated accompanist for the school choir. High fidelity reproduction became popular when I was in my teenage years and became a serious hobby for me, along with my growing interest in electronics. I saved my birthday and Christmas gift money for several years to purchase a good quality amplifier, tuner, turntable, and bass reflex speaker. It brought me great joy to be able to play classical recordings of piano music and symphonies and to be able to imagine that I was actually in a concert hall. By today’s standards, the technical specifications for harmonic and intermodulation distortion of my vacuum tube amplifier were not all that impressive, but the sound quality was nevertheless quite good.

Later in life, as my financial situation improved, I was able to put together a seriously high-quality sound system with speakers that took up a significant part of our family room. The goal for me was always to come as close as possible to what one would hear in a concert hall while listening to a classical symphony orchestra and/or solo performers.

With this life-long passion for music and music reproduction – during the drive home -- I began to think about this concert. As already noted, the overall experience was outstanding. With no effort I had been able to immerse myself in the enjoyment of the music. But the scientist in me began to wonder -- how did these massive speakers and high-power amplifiers do in providing accurate reproduction of the musical performance? The surprising answer that came to me is: I really didn’t know and in fact there would be no way to know. Other than the voice of the female vocalist, all the music was created on electronic instruments. So what are they “supposed” to sound like? There is no way to compare the “real” sound to what we hear reproduced the way we can with a classical symphony or with a conventional piano. I know what a piano is supposed to sound like because I have played one for many years. But what is an electronic keyboard supposed to sound like? Well, I suppose it can sound like anything that the circuitry can generate.

This thought process led me to the interesting conclusion that many young people growing up today don’t really know or care if music reproduction is accurate as long as they can immerse themselves in whatever sounds are being sent to their ears. So we have ended up with ear-buds for portable entertainment, boom box speakers for our cars, and giant woofers at concert halls whose purpose is to overwhelm the audience with audio vibrations so powerful that they are felt as well as heard. We have traded audio accuracy for visceral sensations.

We appear to have passed through and beyond a time when accuracy of musical reproduction was appreciated. Other than the small and probably shrinking market segment of consumers who appreciate classical music, there is little perceived value in highly accurate music reproduction. After all, if the sounds are electronically generated how are we to know what they “should” sound like? And the human voice has a limited frequency range and is also likely to have been electronically enhanced in the recording studio.

Some years ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that a time would come when we would be happy to have something not as good as technology can produce. But that is exactly where we are today and the future is not likely to take us back to earlier times. Now, and looking into the future, sound sensations are “in”, wearable and portable devices are “in”, and really loud sounds are “in”. But high-quality reproduction is no longer an important purchasing criterion. The world changed in perhaps a surprising and unpredicted way. Could something similar happen in the display industry?

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on what you see in the future for audio reproduction technology, and if you think some unpredicted or unanticipated change could also happen in the display industry. You can reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.

 

 

19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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