Most Realistic Recordings

I was recently listening to my daughter practice the piano and I was enjoying quite a full-body sonic experience. I later went to my system and picked out a few piano recordings that I suspected were recorded well, but as I listened, I just didn't have anything close to the same experience. The piano just didn't sound right, nor nearly as full as I had just experienced while listening to my daughter. I know what pianos sound and feel like. I grew up playing many different types and understand their differences. I've done some research on recording pianos and have learned they are particularly difficult to record well.

As I've delved deeper into this audio hobby/interest and acquired more respectable gear, the more general question that keeps coming to my mind is this: How did this music sound at the time it was recorded? (presuming it was a person playing an instrument, not something "mixed" or electronic). Meaning, if I had been in the room, would I have heard or felt the same? Or is there something about the recording setup/micing/mixing/etc. that has failed to capture the moment? Or has the audio engineer intentionally filtered some of that out?

Now, being an audiophile (i.e., a music lover) has many paths and many goals. For me, I love lots of different kinds of music and am not too caught up in the ever changing landscape of audio gear and the need to try something new. I hope to get to the point where a well-captured recording sounds realistic in my room on my system. I like full-spectrum sound (i.e., if the note/sound is in the track, I want to hear it). I know that accurate, realistic reproduction through any system is depends a great deal on the equipment and the room it's being played back in. I don't expect my system to give me that jaw-dropping "I'm there" experience (yet), but some day I hope to get there.

So, to my question above, I would very much love to hear if anyone feels they have heard an album, a track, a recording of some kind that could be used to test out the "realism" of one's system. What would you say is a recording that more accurately captured the sonic hologram of the moment it was performed. Any genre is ok. And if you think a particular studio/company does this well, I'd love to hear about it!

And, please, I don't want the conversation to about gear or room treatment. This is about the recording itself, the source material, and how accurately the entire moment is captured and preserved. I respect everyone's personal experiences with your system, whatever it's comprised of. So, please don't argue with each other about whether a recording didn't sound realistic to you when it sounded realistic to someone else. Let's be civil and kind, for how can you deny what someone else's ears have heard? Thank you! I'm excited to learn from you all!


Yes, from the point of view of great sound some of the best DG recordings ever have been produced within the last decade or so.  But they are inconsistent.  Apparently DG has contracted with different independent producers to do their recordings.  Some of the best, at least to my ears, are represented by the Shostakovich - Nelsons - Boston Symphony series.  Try the 10th, for example.  But some they have done in Berlin have been less than stellar acoustically IMO.

The Gillian Welch / David Rawlings albums on Acony sound pretty amazing using a very detailed "home recording" approach, especially on vinyl. If you like acoustic, folk, Americana, acoustic blues, alt country, etc. they are very worthwhile. Soul Journey is probably my favorite, but Time(the Revelator), The Harrow & The Harvest, All The Good Times are all fantastic. Cheers,


In this category the SOUND LIAISON One Microphone recordings rules in my opinion. 

The advantages of the One Microphone approach to recording are obvious; phase coherence, perfect imaging, great sense of depth, superior realism. Another advantage is that it forces the band being recorded to really play. There is nowhere to hide, no fixing it in the mix. Our ears are much more sensitive to phase errors than we are aware of. The obvious solution to avoid phase errors is to record the whole band from one point. But until recently we didn't experienced a microphone that was up to the task. Drums and piano sounded too distant and the sound stage did not reflect what I heard standing in front of the band. The first thing that impressed me about the Josephson C700S was the natural sound of the mic and the sound off axis. This is what makes the difference between a good microphone and an average microphone. Secondly the microphone is quite unique, it has three capsules instead of the more common two.
So when recording with the Josephson C700S, instead of placing microphones at the instruments we now place the instruments around the microphone. Mixing is no longer possible. We have to create the complete sound stage at the spot by carefully moving each instrument closer or further away as well as left and right in relation to the microphone. The benefits of this way of working is that the result is completely free of phase errors and that the sound is very natural with a wide deep soundstage. So far all musicians have been struck by the incredible authenticity of the recordings and commented that they never heard their instrument sound so real and lively.

Thanks everyone for the recent comments. I'm loving the suggestions.

@kefas, thanks for pointing out the one-mic recordings. That sounds very intriguing and I will definitely look into that.

Forgive my ignorance, but I must ask a technology question (and if you don't know, that's ok). How does one mic capture and preserve the left-to-right soundstage/imaging? Does it have something to do with the capsule count/positioning within the one microphone? I can understand how it can capture some amount of depth, but it's unclear to me how it can preserve width. Anyone know how this works?

You might also want to look into binaural recordings.  Google explains it better than I can.  There was a British classical label that took it up big time years ago, but it went defunct.  Perhaps someone else will remember their name.