The Concert Hall Experience Without The Concert Hall.
Audio engineers strive to replicate the live orchestra experience.
by Drew McManus
August 7, 2006
Although the world of classical music has been traditionally slow to take advantage of advancements in technology, they may have no other choice than to become involved if some of the latest advancements in sound reproduction prove fruitful. In particular, one of most difficult aspects of live sound reproduction is related to realistic bass sound. To that end, Tymphany, a consumer and professional audio consumer company, asserts that they have created a breakthrough in this area with the advent of the Tymphany Linear Array Transducer (LAT), an audio transducer technology.
Traditionally, in order to reproduce realistic bass sound, a listener must purchase large, cumbersome speakers or subwoofers. The Tymphany LAT engineers claim they can reproduce similar high quality bass audio with enclosures that are only 5" and 7" in diameter, which is significantly smaller than previous equipment. In fact, the company says the Tymphany LAT reproduces a quality bass sound without the mind numbing vibration associated with conventional bass enclosures and subwoofers.
For classical music, technology such as this has considerable potential to usher in a new age of active listeners. For example, the iPod craze is obviously much more than a passing fad and armies of digital audio enthusiasts will be commonplace for years to come. Unfortunately, existing headphones designed for such devices do a poor job at reproducing accurate bass sound do to the size of their bass audio transducers.
Although the Tymphany LAT-500 is only a 5" wide thin tube shaped transducer, it's still too large to fit into a comfortable pair of portable headphones. Nevertheless, these tiny transducers will fit neatly into a flat panel computer monitor or high resolution television, providing the user with high quality audio. Furthermore, as technology marches on it's inevitable that the headphone barrier will be breeched, allowing listeners to enjoy high quality audio on future generations of iPods as well as similarly designed digital audio players.
This becomes more intriguing when you combine these advancements with new developments in reproducing visual aspects of modern concert halls. An increasing number of orchestras are employing virtual concert hall technologies that duplicate the visual perspective from concert hall seating sections, such as this example from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Now, imagine that within the near future the average internet user will be able to reproduce the concert experience visually and/or audibly from specific vantage points right from their home. Listeners could even "move" from one virtual seat to another while a performance is in progress in order to sample the audio and visual vantage based on their preference or curiosity. That's something listeners inside the concert hall would never be able to enjoy.
In a perfect world, a combination of high definition cameras and vantage point audio will bring a home listener as close to the live concert experience as possible. Of course, the classical music business tends to shy away from anything that prevents local patrons from attending concerts in-person. Nevertheless, rising fuel prices, expensive parking, and exasperating traffic conditions already conspire to keep potential patrons away so exploring potential technologies that allow patrons to remain connected to their respective orchestras is a worthwhile endeavor.
In the end, it's doubtful that technology will accurately reproduce the live concert experience within the next few generations; as such, it's likely that the digital reproduction of the concert experience is best used to keep local patrons connected to the orchestra as well as reaching out to listeners that aren't served by professional orchestras. You never know, technology such as the Tymphany LAT may be the fist step in the evolution of how classical music connects with its patrons.
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