To hear what the microphones heard?

Do you think that's the ultimate goal of sound reproduction? Or to hear what the ears would've heard if they'd been there at the time and place of the event? Not quite the same thing in reality. Perhaps our systems and rooms should be able to compensate the loss somehow without distorting the original picture. Your thoughts? Let's consider only unamplified acoustic instruments.
said above >>Do you think that's the ultimate goal of sound reproduction? Let's consider only unamplified acoustic instruments.

The reality of the situation is that most folks never hear non-electrified music anymore. It is very hard to find (at least in my neck of the woods). For the most part ALL of modern popular music is electric. A standard of "unamplified" has little meaning here. I look hard for unelectrified concerts in my neck of the woods and they are getting harder and harder to find. The economics of concerts requires a certain size audience these days and this leads to amplification. I fear unamplified music is facing extinction as a reality and so, perhaps, as a standard.

If you do take it for a standard we are so far from it that the discussion seems hopeless. I had the chance to listen to Paul Galbraith for several hours Friday. Half of that time in a great room about 20x30 unmiced. I don't think we are even close to a system that can capture it or a system that can reproduce it. He said the same thing, that is..something is lost as soon as a mic is introduced.

Using what the ear would have heard is problematic. Ears are, of course, all different. The shape of the outer ear and its place on a particular head act as a kind of filter.
The ear canal has its own resonant frequency and is not uniform from person to person. The whole business is tied to the brain and that is poorly understood. So what "THE" ear would have "heard" may be the wrong question. I think there are too many different ears and maybe it is more accurate to say that a person's ear and brain CREATE the sound as opposed to passively hearing it. How do you get one standard out of that?

Of course, it seems that there is some sort of sound independent from the ear-brain hearing/creating its particular version of it. The only option is to measure it (that is measure the music someway and not what the “mic hears”-the mic just creates voltage swings-it does not hear music) and then the question is do our measurements capture/measure everything that makes up music. There are some who say that music is simply variations in air pressure and can be measured very accurately indeed. This is another of those questions in audio that you could spend your entire life on.

If the measurements are not up to the job and ears are not only different by active participants in hearing than an absolute standard seems hard to come by.

I remain,
Clueless, ears and even brains are not as different as you think; you exaggerate it.
I must disagree!
If brains were not so different I wouldn't be so clueless! The logic is impeccable and irrefutable!

"Oh, I could tell you why The ocean's near the shore.
I could think of things I never thunk before.
And then I'd sit, and think some more.
I would not be just a nothin' my head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain."
Scarecrow to Dorothy.

Maybe I'll change my handle to Einstein! It has a nice ring to it!

I remain,
The Einstein, formerly known as
Clueless is actually completely right. Every person who attends a concert has different likes and dislikes. Different areas on which they focus, and therefore though they attend the same concert they hear something completely different.

A drummer will specifically listen to the drums. They want to hear if the person is keeping proper time, but also if they are just repeating the same dull beat throughout each number or if they can vary the sound of their time keeping.

A guitar player is listening to the guitar to see if they are getting the notes or chords down right.

The brass player is attentive to the music and breathing of the player.

People are most critical of what they know. Only a fool criticizes that about which he knows nothing (or is clueless).

My wife and I focus on very different aspects of the same music, and like it or dislike it based on much different priorities. She may dislike something for the very reason that I do like it! Neither of us is wrong, we just like different things.

Clueless you are a freakin' genius!
Limited to aural considerations only, I like listening to recorded music through my system more than the majority of my live experiences. I think the goal of the whole music reproduction continuum is to please me in my living room, or my car. It would also be nice if it pleased you too, so as to lower my costs, and increase the joy in the universe.
It's the reponsibility of the engineer to accurately preserve what the mics heard.

It's the responsibility of the listener to provide an environment and system which allows the recording to sound like what the mics heard:

Listening through a pair of Sony Studio v6s, I -think- I hear what the mics heard. Listening through the system that I have carefully put together the same recording sounds like a re-creation of place to me.

It's pretty subjective.