Letter: Improvements in the sound of music

Sir: In his article 'Lost in transmission' (30 September), Anthony Payne compares the mental process that enables us to accept a concert reproduced in the home as 'the representation of a live original' to 'the ability to relate a two-dimensional painting or photo to three-dimensional reality'. I question the fairness of this comparison, because not only is there a dimension missing, but the image is also 'framed'.

Theoretically, the ears could be presented with an identical sound to the original. Although, in practice, this is not possible due to imperfections in the transmission and reproduction apparatus and the difference in the ambience of the listening area, we are now able to achieve a remarkable similarity. It may always be difficult to fit a full-size orchestra into the average sitting-room, but chamber music, for example, reproduced through good equipment can be startlingly close to the original.

Mr Payne is justified in his comment that the colour of individual instruments may be affected by engineers' microphone placing. However, the balance can vary considerably in a concert hall, depending on where one is sitting. I am impressed by the sensitivity and skill of most producers of music programmes in the BBC.

Of course, the live performance offers much more than any reproduction can. It is not a single- sense experience and one is part of an audience. Nevertheless, we should be aware of the considerable improvements made in recent years in the quality of reproduced sound.

I, for one, am grateful that I live in an age when I am able to listen to music in my own home, sounding very close indeed to the original performance.

Yours faithfully,

RONALD JACOBS

London, N2

1 October

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