Audiophiles have the tendency to compare, or more accurately try to compare, the sonics of their system to live music. It's sort of a fun game - finding and making improvements to a system, chasing that elusive goal of an equivalency to live sound. And knowing it just isn't possible. But what if it was?
I have been reading, recently, about several different brands of signal processors and room correction devices. Mostly, I acknowledge that they live up to their claims, at least to a point. I'm quite satisfied with the results of the room treatments I am using so I have yet to venture into room correction devices. But that's just me. What all of the reading I've recently done on the subject has accomplished is to get me thinking about how things could be.
As it is right now, mankind cannot swish throughout the universe the way Captain Kirk did in Star Trek. An equal impossibility, home based audio systems are not indistinguishable from live music. However, just because current technology is unable to do either one, it certainly doesn't't mean that both are impossible. Basically, we have yet to figure out how. If we could do the latter, for instance, should we?
When I go to hear live music I do so for several reasons. One, and obviously, I go for the sonics. I want to hear the dynamics, soundstage and imaging that live music creates. I want to feel the presence of the power and intensity of live music, especially if I am in musically well placed seats. I want to feel like I am part of the music because I am enveloped by the presentation of the music that surrounds me.
I also go for the experience as a whole. I see live music as more than just the music itself. Making an evening's adventure of it, being with friends, feeding off the energy of the crowd - all of these things are part of the live music experience. Even the agony of parking the car and walking around the block just to get into the venue is part of a live musical event.
But certainly if the technology existed to make a home based musical system indistinguishable from live, would not the rest of the experience follow? You could still have friends over, still make an evening out of it, and still feed off the energy of the rest of the people in the room. Think about it - having the ability to play music by your favorite group or symphony, close your eyes and not have any real notion if you were at home or in a concert hall. If it were possible, would you?
It would seem rather obvious that such an experience could not exist with just components alone. Room acoustics would certainly play their own particular part. Crossing the hurdles of both equipment and room boundaries, recorded music itself would need likewise changes. It seems to follow, however, if all of these technical hurdles could be crossed, and the desired result obtainable, what then?
Technicality aside, how would manufacturers choose to market such products? Of course, just as we have today, lesser-cost components operate to one level of sonics while much higher cost components operate to a higher level of sonics. It seems perfectly natural that the same condition would exist in our indistinguishable from live home system. If you spend "X" you can get an adequately realistic live experience. Marketers would happily declare -- "Oh, but if you spend five times "X" then my friend, you will hear live music as never before!" Just as now, we would have all sorts of devices, operating on the fringe of believability, aimed at that elusive "live" experience for a fraction of the cost of the truly, outrageously expensive equipment.
So what of cost? Just how expensive would this technology actually set back the average audiophile? If a plain ole, run of the mill high-end audio system of tomorrow costs (remember we're in the future now) say, $50,000.00, what pray tell, would this live set up cost? Six figures? Seven? More? Because it almost stands to reason that manufacturers would capitalize on such a technology.
Like many people, I've seen some pretty outstanding home theater systems. If I so choose, I can also watch a movie on a computer. Yet despite however remarkable either of those might be, doing both means you are at home. Or someone's home and not outside, away from the home environment. So clearly, going out in public is part of the experience. Sometimes, the journey and the associated activities are as much fun as the event itself. And if a live musical experience can be had at home, thereby eliminating the need to go anywhere, then the absence of the journey must also be considered.
Chasing that elusive creature that is a home based, live musical experience is very likely best left as an elusive goal. It gives audiophiles something to pine over, it gives engineers and designers something about which they can dream and ponder, and it gives manufacturers something to crave -- not only for the new product status, but also for the considerable profits that would clearly follow.
For now, I'm happy to leave swishing through the universe to a TV show and I'm happy to fight the crowds for parking and good seats to see my favorite live musical acts live. I'm content to dream and ponder the "what if" notion of future technologies. Shoot, I'm probably happy to know I don't have to spend a huge sum of money for something to replace the cost of a concert ticket.
But I'll have to admit; it sure would be nice...