Author Topic: Harpsichord causing me problems  (Read 714 times)

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Offline george401

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Harpsichord causing me problems
« on: October 10, 2017, 04:16:58 AM »
Hello
I find it difficult to describe an audio problem but I will try.
Its mainly about an Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr  cd of Handel's complete violin sonatas on harmonia mundi HMX 2907259.
When I first heard it I loved it then bought the cd and got problems with the sound of the harpsichord at once. There is a quality that stops me listening to it at all, like very heavy reverberation. Am I right about the reverb or is that the correct sound from a harpsichord, if so I will be wary in future.
Can someone shed some light.
Thanks
george401

Offline San Antonio

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2017, 04:37:34 AM »
Hello
I find it difficult to describe an audio problem but I will try.
Its mainly about an Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr  cd of Handel's complete violin sonatas on harmonia mundi HMX 2907259.
When I first heard it I loved it then bought the cd and got problems with the sound of the harpsichord at once. There is a quality that stops me listening to it at all, like very heavy reverberation. Am I right about the reverb or is that the correct sound from a harpsichord, if so I will be wary in future.
Can someone shed some light.
Thanks
george401

I am not sure what you are hearing since to my ears this recording has a wonderful, rich, natural acoustic.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2017, 04:52:13 AM »
Harpsichords can very much depend on the instrument and how you are listening to it. Harpsichords often have different timbres (like a unique sound signature), and so recordings with different instruments may sound different. I mention this, because even if you dislike the sound of this instrument, it doesn't mean you will dislike others. it could also just be the way this particular instrument was recorded. I don't own it, so I can't check.

Another thought is to change the equalizer and fiddle with different settings on the sound. Maybe reduce the reverb or some of the settings that emphasize this frequency. Alternatively, perhaps use headphones or stop using them or use different ones (just to see if that changes anything). If you do find a different setting that works, save it (in some way) for next time. I can't tell you how many times I've fiddled with something at some point only to change it later and forget the starting point.

Having said all that, you might just find listening to this harpsichord (or harpsichords in general) fatiguing (a minute is fine, 5 not so much). In that case, there are many other alternatives played on either modern or period instruments that might suit your ears better.
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline amw

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2017, 05:04:29 AM »
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2017, 05:34:04 AM »
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.

Possibly but this is not a problem with the aforementioned Handel sonatas, which sounds pretty good to me. I wonder what sort of equipment the OP was using, or whether he's got a bad recording.

In fact I think that harpsichord recordings are much better than they used to be, though maybe not on Spotify, and these days the problem of truthfulness is no greater for harpsichord than for piano.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 05:35:56 AM by Mandryka »
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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2017, 05:48:49 AM »
Possibly but this is not a problem with the aforementioned Handel sonatas, which sounds pretty good to me. I wonder what sort of equipment the OP was using, or whether he's got a bad recording.

In fact I think that harpsichord recordings are much better than they used to be, though maybe not on Spotify, and these days the problem of truthfulness is no greater for harpsichord than for piano.

I pretty much agree with this. I think maybe the problem is that just like any other period instrument, the harpsichord (or tangent piano or spinet or virginal or clavichord or fortepiano etc etc) is an acquired taste. I first acquired it with Scarlatti, then Bach, which was essentially written for harpsichord and thus easy to slip right into since the only other piano Bach I had was Gould. Even then, the first time I heard Mozart on one I nearly lost it, it just wasn't the sound I expected and I was determined not to like it. Now, however, I have gotten well past that and greatly prefer my early Mozart and Haydn on harpsichord or clavichord even versus fortepiano. As it happens, I have that Manze/Egarr disk and only seem to hear a very rich and full harpsichord sound. Unless the OP's has an issue, as someone else mentioned.

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Offline 71 dB

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2017, 08:42:37 AM »
Its mainly about an Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr  cd of Handel's complete violin sonatas on harmonia mundi HMX 2907259.

I find this recording a bit bright (about 4 dB), but otherwise well recorded. For headphones optimal cross-feed level is about -7 dB.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page

Offline george401

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2017, 09:07:25 AM »
When I bought it there were two listings on amazon, one with few positive reviews and the next was all positive the later one. I bought it from ebay and made sure it was the latest as the first had a bad review because of reverb. My cd is (c) 2001 and (P)2004 but the last was 2005.
Are there two different recordings.
My equipment is quad 34, 405-2, marantz cd6005, wharfedale diamond 159s, doesnt cause problems with other cds.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2017, 09:23:54 AM »
Are there two different recordings.

Don't know about that, but my disc is recorded November 28-30, 1998 at Skywalker Sound. This is a re-release with Harmonia Mundi's 2005 catalogue.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page

Offline Scarpia

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2017, 09:33:16 AM »
One thing I've noticed is that recordings of harpsichords almost all seem to fall victim to the loudness war: compressed sound normalised to 0dB. This makes them sound much louder than any other instrument. In reality the harpsichord is pretty quiet (much softer than e.g. the piano) and how resonant it is depends on the venue, but it seems difficult to find "realistic" recordings of one.

Given that the harpsichord has very small dynamic range to begin with, it seems unlikely that producers would choose to compress recordings of solo harpsichord. What they do do is set the recording level so that the loudest sound produced by the instrument or ensemble reaches the maximum volume of the signal channel, as they should. It is up to the listener to set the volume appropriately. (Of course, if a solo harpsichord passage alternates with full orchestra, as it might in a concerto or other types of extended piece, they must keep the harpsichord in its place.)

Offline george401

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2017, 09:42:44 AM »
Don't know about that, but my disc is recorded November 28-30, 1998 at Skywalker Sound. This is a re-release with Harmonia Mundi's 2005 catalogue.
The leaflet with mine also says 1998 recording but cd has 2001/2004. Could mine be remastered.

Offline george401

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2017, 09:47:03 AM »
Given that the harpsichord has very small dynamic range to begin with, it seems unlikely that producers would choose to compress recordings of solo harpsichord. What they do do is set the recording level so that the loudest sound produced by the instrument or ensemble reaches the maximum volume of the signal channel, as they should. It is up to the listener to set the volume appropriately. (Of course, if a solo harpsichord passage alternates with full orchestra, as it might in a concerto or other types of extended piece, they must keep the harpsichord in its place.)
Its not volume I complain about its reverberation like the hammond organ on bob marleys no woman no cry. Fine on that but not on Handel's violin sonata. 

Offline Scarpia

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2017, 10:15:44 AM »
Its not volume I complain about its reverberation like the hammond organ on bob marleys no woman no cry. Fine on that but not on Handel's violin sonata.

This is the recording?



I listened to samples (with inexpensive earbuds). It sounds like a recording with a rather distant recording perspective (they put microphones relatively far form the performers) which is supposed to capture the ambience of the recording venue. I didn't like it, but I don't think there is any technical flaw involved.

Regarding different issues of the recording sounding different, it is technically possible that the same recording was remixed for later release, changing the relative balance of microphones close to the performers and more distant microphones. But that is not a common practice, although it does happen.

I remember reading that Sony decided that a Karajan recording was made with insufficient reverberation, and they went as far as to play the recording from speakers on the stage of the Grossenmusikverein to record the reverberation.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2017, 10:34:13 AM »
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Offline Scarpia

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2017, 10:41:05 AM »
Here's someone who agrees with George401

http://www.talkclassical.com/38426-harpsichord-touchstone-recording-engineering.html

Are you referring to "ariasexta" comment?

Impossible to take that person seriously when he claims you must avoid "budget reissues." 99% of the time there is literally no difference between a budget reissue and the original. They press the same master and put it in the budget box.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 10:43:05 AM by Scarpia »

Offline george401

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2017, 10:45:19 AM »
Here's someone who agrees with George401

http://www.talkclassical.com/38426-harpsichord-touchstone-recording-engineering.html
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.

Offline Scarpia

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2017, 10:52:24 AM »
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.

I feel your pain. Best remedy is to make use of samples available on amazon or other sites to judge beforehand.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2017, 11:08:44 AM »
Thanks Mandryka, that does explain it. Thats a pity as I buy very few cds because of the price.
Did you buy it recently? If less than 30 days, you could see if you could return it. If the time to return it has passed (or they won't refund), perhaps you could still ask to exchange it? You never know, though it depends on the source.
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

Offline george401

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2017, 11:16:37 AM »
March 2016 so no chance of return.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Harpsichord causing me problems
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2017, 11:22:04 AM »
Bummer...
Offenbach gets a raw deal in recordings considering his talent! For a discussion of this outstanding composer too little recorded: http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.

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