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Discussion in 'Music' started by Philip Hamm, Dec 13, 2005.
Very interesting and informative article. So we're all out here trying to find equipment that can handle the frequency and dynamic range and the engineers are squashing it so we'll never be able to tell. Hmmmmm...
Everyone blames mastering engineers, but I've said all along that they dont' want to create these masters. They're giving their client what they want. There is only so much an engineer can do, else the client will walk and take their business to someone else.
Great read, thank you for linking to that article.
Those waveforms in the sidebar are just ugly.
Which is yet another reason why Hi-Rez music will never take off.
Sound quality is getting worse and people just don't care.
So we have these bad sounding CDs being released, and people are ripping them and compressing them further to MP3. To the average consumer it sounds amazing.
Welcome to the 21st century.
I fear you are right. And certainly that's the way things are going. Read yesterday that SACD + DVD-A sales together were less than the number of LPs sold (yes, vinyl) this year.
Reading that article I couldn't help but think of that classic scene from Spinal Tap "Yeah but these go all the way to 11"
As someone who makes a lot of compilations from CD onto MD the loudness difference in recent CD's is something I'm noticing a lot more. I'm constantly having to re-adjust the record level from one CD to the next. I don't quite understand why you need to make them louder. Most playback devices have volume controls on them.
In the end your correct but in a broadcast environment it must be the case that a hot source will end up sounding louder at the receive end. And we know our brain tends to make louder=better.
I just assumed that the elimination of dynamic range and the introduction of compression/clipping in large quantities were reactions to the incredibly high rate of partial deafness in America today. Between high-noise environments, and headphones, and superloud cars, it's a wonder most people have any auditory sense left at all. Since they definitely can't distinguish fine gradations of sound, there's no sense in including such.
They never mentioned Oasis who makes Phil Spector's wall of sound seem like a little picket fence. Their SACD is OK but it's dynamics go from 11 to +11.
Broadcasters can use whatever compression, limiting, and boosting they deem necessary, but I hate it that consumers have suffer from the same over-compressed sound. If crappy FM radio is that important a venue, release separate CDs for broadcasters, or let them worry about compressing the sound. I couldn't care less about FM radio and music that sounds like that all the time even on good equipment will not get purchased by me.
I just picked up this SACD a few weeks ago, listened to a few tracks while my ears bled, then put it away. It sounds terrible and its not terrible because of the actual sound (well, it is a little too bright for my tastes), your right when you say its the dynamics.
Even in the days of vinyl, broadcast music has always been heavily limited, it is an inherant part of the processing chain.
I agree that this practice is ruining otherwise decent recordings, both new and remasters. This over compressed stuff may be fine as background music, but it is painful to listen to loud. I prefer to master my own material without excess limiting. If the audience wants it louder, they can use the volume knob. That doesn't apply to the majority of commercial recordings though, since the A&R guys still think louder is better, and no matter what the qualifications of the mastering engineer, the client (record company) dictates the desired outcome.
OH THANK GOD! Finally someone to understand what I've been going through over the past 10 years!
I got into MP3's around 1996 and at that time, I was converting a lot of my 80's CD's. This is a wave form of a metal band from 1986:
Wave Form of CD from 1986
When I bought Ozzy Osbournes "Ossmosis" in 1995, I couldn't believe the loudness of that CD. I remember (in 1997) analyzing the wave form and was BLOWN away!!! Check it out:
Wave Form of CD from 1995
These results are very similar to the article, but I noticed this back in 1996.
And since then, it hasn't gotten any better. I just don't understand why they think it's acceptable?
It's only common sense that the highest level on the master recording should be mapped to the 0dB level, and most of the recording should be well below the master level. 0dB is for peaks, and good recording practices [good ANALOG recording practices of 30 years ago!] would hold the average level at about -6dB depending on the sort of music it is.
I've been duping digital audio from LaserDiscs for some time now, and the music on those is usually mastered fairly low to agree in terms of levels with the video soundtrack, since the upper end in film and video is used almost exclusively for LOUD sound effects, and nobody wants to listen to music which is MASSIVELY LOUDER than the rest of the programme.
The result is that the music doesn't make too efficient a use of the available dynamic range, but it does have plenty of headroom. When I normalise the tracks, they are very "live" sounding, whereas so much recorded music sounds dead.
In my area, we have a classical music radio station, WRR 101.1 FM; they carry a programme called "Adventures in Good Music" hosted by one Carl Haas, who plays some of the selections on his piano. One gets a good sense of just how much most recordings lose through over-processing, because even coming over the FM [probably from a DAT source], the sound is so much like having a real piano in the living room that it's almost palpable.
Yeah, broadcast standards puts the digital audio average at -10dB.
OMG Talk about ugly waveforms. That's amazing.
Check out this list made up by Bob Katz, a respected mastering engineer:
"Honor Roll of Good-Sounding Pop CDs"
And check out his interesting comment about HDCD concerning Emmy Lou Harris' Wrecking Ball album (among others). I didn't know HDCD affected a recording's *dynamic* range.
I've heard this effect myself when listening to a local college station and the local Pacifica (listener-supported) station. Goes to show how well the old-skool FM format can perform if used correctly.
I don't think it's 'don't care' as much as having different priorities. For most people, MP3 is good enough for their needs, for most people, the spurious excitement generated by new methods of production is what they want.
There is a decision to be made with current hi-fi - do you go for cheap and cheerful MP3 which offers huge quantities of moderate quality reproduction but with a phenomenal saving in physical storage space, or do you go for a more accurate system that dominates a room, cannot be transported, and is something that (in the popular imagination at least) is dominated by snobs obsessed with listening to their system and not the music?
By and large, people are choosing convenience and immediate excitement over inconvenience and subtler long-term pleasure. Not very surprising.