Sat front row at the symphony...

Yesterday, I got to sit in the front row to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony do Beethoven's Piano Concerto no 1 and the Shostakovich Symphony no 10.  I know we all talk about audio gear here, but I have to tell you, sitting in the best seat in the house (Heinz Hall) was an amazing audio experience.  I'm not sure the best audio gear in the world can quite match it.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I was mesmerized by the acoustics of the hall and the dynamics of one of the world's best orchestras.


@viber6 and @terraplane8bob  I am an amateur choral singer and recording engineer who has done both at venues such as Disney Hall, Soroya (CSUN) and Royce Hall (UCLA).  I was also a classical music reviewer at UCLA (1970s).  I have over 48.500 LPs/CD/78s. 

Performing with live orchestras, I never get the front sound/full picture but do get tremendous pure direct sound from the percussion, rear strings, horns and some woodwinds depending on my position at the rear. 

My audio system rarely reproduces that sound but does reproduce the excitement of the performances.  Most of my recordings are studio rather than orchestral halls (which I am thankful for as too many modern recordings are drenched in reverb/distant sounding).  

For home listening, I prefer a less reverberant and more direct sound.  That also provides greater body to instruments and voices.  For me, performance comes before sonic delights.  I have several friends with high end sounding audio systems who don't listen to mono recordings, stick to either analog or digital only.  They are missing out on great performances.  Funny how they enjoy my alternative older mono & analog and newer digital recordings on my audio system but don't choose it for their listening. 

For orchestral hall listening, while several friends prefer front row, especially for chamber works, I prefer row 10 generally.  As a music reviewer, I regularly traded away my front row tickets at Royce to for 10th row seats   So, every listener has their preference.  At the opera, (400+ Dorothy Chandler performances), the closer I get the better, both visually and sonically, up to the 10th row. Too far forward degrades both.  



drbarney1, right.  Low mass planar drivers. like Magnepans are uncolored compared to expensive dynamic speakers.  Dynamic speakers can play louder than Maggies, however their coloration and veiling at 100 dB aren't worth listening even below 80 dB where Maggies and electrostatics shine.

davidvicek,  yes, classical music is very complex.  That's why it is important to obtain as much detail as possible in order to fully appreciate the music.  Playing opera or pieces like Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky Korsakov, the violin parts contain hidden passages that are only audible by the violinist.  When I listen to recordings or at a concert, these passages are totally hidden.  That's why only a close seat has any chance of revealing the full complexity.  Despite the visual advantages of more distant seats, the basic laws of physics say that details are absorbed by greater distances, esp at high freq.  To illustrate, the wavelength of a 10 kHz note is about 1 inch, while the wavelength of 20-100 Hz is 10-50 feet.  At a distance of 100 feet in the front balcony, there is much greater absorptive loss at 10 kHz compared to 20-100 Hz.  The perceived tonal balance in the balcony is therefore akin to a speaker without a tweeter, compared to close seats.

I sat front row center for Hiromi "The Trio Project" in the concert hall at Lafayette College and it was one of the best concert experiences ever for me.  I prefer to sit close for smaller groups so I can hear the actual instruments rather than the sound coming out of the house PA.  I've never been to a symphony concert but I can imagine that the front row would be rather intense.

Also  at the Chicago Symphony Hall the FOH mix position happens to be at the center rear of the balcony also if you look carefully above the musicians heads you will notice the condenser mic's placed there held in place with transparent fishline.

I played in many orchestras and jazz groups and my preference is to participate in creation of the music and the sound is quite awesome from this vantage Point.

Most sound you hear from your system is heavily produced and subject to substantial manipulation by the sound engineer. The quality variations are quite extreme and you never know what's been done to it.  My personal view is that sound quality for a lot of recorded classical music is not that terrific.  It's very good but lacks the openess that is most desirable.