The Length The Width And The Breadth Of Sound

The Length The Width And The Breadth Of Sound
Human ears are wonderful things and when combined with the brain are capable of tremendously precise feats of perception. As hunter gatherers, our ears allowed us to hear our dinner moving about in the primeval forests we hunted and not only hear it, but analyse how big it was and which direction it was coming from or heading in. We can tell if a sound is above or below us as well as to the left or right or even behind. Our natural reaction is to turn and face a source of noise and it is no accident that when we go to hear music, we stand or sit facing the musicians. There are many facets of audio reproduction that can affect the resulting stereo “picture” or to be more inclusive, the sound stage. To explain this more fully, the reader ideally needs to go to a local jazz club or to watch an orchestra. Close your eyes and visualise where the sound of each instrument is coming from. When you listen to the same ensemble in your car the instruments should appear in those very same places.

In the early years of music recording and reproduction all music was recorded from a single point source and reproduced through a single loudspeaker. This is called mono but, in 1930 something, a British Engineer working for EMI named Alan Blumlein invented stereo.  It was however, some 35 years later that stereo playback became domestically commonplace.  Since this time, designers and developers of all components in the signal chain (from microphone to loudspeaker) have been working very hard to develop technologies which allow listeners to perceive the same directional placement of sound as can be achieved by the ears and brain.

The sound stage in many cars is completely collapsed due to little or no care being taken over speaker placement and in fact most drivers are listening in mono! It is easy to tell if you are experiencing a good or acceptable soundstage particularly with purist orchestral recordings as here great store is put in the traditional layout of the instruments in a symphony orchestra. We have investigated this before in an article featured in issue two of Driving Sounds magazine (here) but it can also be very simply explored by sitting in your car, listening to a piece of orchestral music and pointing to where you think each instrument is placed using your knowledge of the sound each instrument makes and the picture below to see how accurate your soundstage is. If you find it hard to pinpoint then it is quite likely that your car does not have a very accurate soundstage.

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All music recordings exploit the width and depth of a sound stage. Height is a very difficult thing to transmit but certainly depth and width should be easy to achieve. When recording engineers produce a recording, part of their art is in placing instruments so that they present an aural picture and with a lot more headphone listening going on since the introduction of pocket audio devices, many modern recordings have taken this to the extreme with whole landscapes being brilliantly painted in sound. Alas, for us drivers, it has become very difficult for us to tell where an instrument is placed due to poor speaker placement mostly. However, help is on hand by way of Audison’s Bit products. These are sophisticated sound processing products which are capable of manipulating the sound sent to the speakers and trick the listener into thinking they are listening to proper stereo and making the music they listen to more engaging.

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You can add Audison Bit products to your existing car system using the Audison Prima amplifier range which incorporates Bit technology or add a discrete processor to your already upgraded system between the head unit or sound source and amplifier. Bit products exploit time delay technology as well as equalisation and phase-shifting techniques to reposition all the elements of the recording you are listening to and can recover the soundstage in even the poorest of systems.

If you need to know more about how to achieve a more engaging musical experience in your car, contact your local FOUR MASTER or call 0800 652 5125 and speak with a friendly, expert advisor.

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