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I usually don't repost links from my nerd publications but this is a well written article. It talks about the "open secret" that is the prolific use of digital EQ and compression today to push the volume level of recorded music to the absolute max and the effects this is having, not on our ears, but on sonic innovations. The need for high quality audio formats is significantly reduced as long as the practice over over compression remains -- you just don't need high fidelity (that is greater resolution between the quietest moment and the loudest moment) to listen to modern recordings as the are turned so incredibly low-fi by over compression.

Great read. The series looks promising.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aug07/5429
 

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You have got to see the Tom Dowd movie. There's one segment where he talks about how despite the record company's instructions to record mono, they defiantly recorded stereo....in order to best capture the performance for the future........artists like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonius Monk.

Puts that whole kids today listen to mp3's anyway argument to shreds....and he didn't charge $2M for..... a beat:eek:

http://www.thelanguageofmusic.com/

oh and for the record (pardon the pun), I hate today's loud records and can't wait till we all look back on them with the same distaste as 80's reverb and 70's syrup strings sections......oh I forgot, those are now hip again as LONG AS THEY'RE REMASTERED REALLY LOUD:mad:

Andy
 
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You are preaching to the converted with me. I posted some other links on the mastering threads in this "lounge". Classical music, (not my cup 'o' tea") and reissues of vintage jazz, (very much my cup of Red Rose), seem to be exempt from brick wall limiting.
It was your thread that prompted me to post that. Thought you might want to see it continued. Little different from the other threads though in that this article is discussing how over-compressing music reduces the need for hi-fidelity reproduction capabilities because there's not a lot range in the music you need to reproduce. So if you drop $10k on that fancy pants stereo and CD player with separate, liquid cooled D/A converter, and then you drop in Nickleback you're really wasting the coins. And you're so on the money with the jazz comment, especially acoustic jazz. They might be immune to the loudness war because they're not competing for radio time with the ferocity of modern pop and rock.

On a similar note, I love how many guys will rave about how dynamic and touch sensitive their particular tube amp is, but then they put a compressor in the pedal board.... I scratch my hat at that.
Very amusing indeed. Although, compressors can be turned on and off to suit the style and sound you're going for.
 

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music is being mastered louder than it ever was
and
there isn't much more room/space left to go

the lack of dynamics makes for a 'quick high' that quickly leaving your ears feeling tired

but,if you don't have material at a comparable volume to what's being generally put out in your genre,your own music in turn would sound quiet or lacking in energy

it's probably good to go along with the general trends and stay (fairly) sonically current

as long as stuff isn't so compressed it feels lifeless and mechanical
 
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The WSJ picked up on all this and recently produced an article for the masses that tried to sum it all up: Are Technology Limits In MP3s and iPods Ruining Pop Music?

Here is an interesting rebuttal to the WSJ article: http://www.hometracked.com/2007/09/14/how-the-wall-street-journal-hurt-indie-artists/ -- specifically he thinks an article like this puts MP3 in a bad light which in turn hurts the indie musician who's primary medium for releasing new music is MP3 now, not CD, because of the significantly lower global distribution costs. There can be well-mixed MP3-based music.
 

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my cup of Red Rose),
On a similar note, I love how many guys will rave about how dynamic and touch sensitive their particular tube amp is, but then they put a compressor in the pedal board.... I scratch my hat at that.

I just picked up the Mesa Boogie Lonestar. After hours of experimenting with tones I've just removed my compressor from my effects board. Anytime I try to use it with this amp it just degrades the tone. This is the first amp where I don't think I"ll be using my compressor.
 

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The Loudness issue has been on the "Limiter" end of the compression for 10 years now and there is still no distortion....:D

Ever have the tv on in the back ground and stop what your doing because for some reason, its been 10 seconds and there is no sound coming from the tv. You think something is wrong.....well no, everything is normal,...they are trying to get your attention, now they do it by having no sound for contrast!
I don't remember what publicity it was, but it illustrates where we are at.
Be it tv, cd, dvd, whatever popular format used, it has been pounded with dynamic range reduced content to the max, mix that with bumpers in and out of content that fight each other for attention, they can't rely on level now...they get creative.

Its true,this IPod culture is not helping at all, 99% of the content on a IPod is compressed to H#&L.....a big percentage of content would already be compressed and there is not much you can do, but I personally always preffered AIFF files on my IPod than any MP3/MP4 using chosen headphones.
This culture is already deaf come 24yrs old!! joke....but ya, they don't appreciate dynamic range!, they see it as, something is wrong with my headphones!
On the otherhand, the vinyl is silently guarding, preventing extinction...there is still an army of people who have a great analog system,great music available, they really care about dynamic range.
DVDAudio is also, but im sure there is more vinyl out there than DVDa.

Dvd in my opinion does not help because most folks have their systems set to handle the normal day to day rumble of radio/tv/videocassette/and even dvd that is compressed alot. So what happends is when they watch an actual film sitting down, they fuddle with the sound all the time because the system is not calibrated like it should. Oh and folks only try this a couple of times..after that, they don't bother!!!
Its like that, period. Thats the thing, profiting and enjoying great dynamic range and overall great sounding content, it takes a certain effort and knowledge on acoustics and things like that.So its not acsessible to everyone, most people don't want to bother with the "resposabilitys".

When the DVD craze came out, the record companies, seeing a new oportunity to make money, started "remastering" the old stuff, getting it ready for release.
Well we can safely say that the couple of years, all the products had been butchered!
They took sometimes glorious original analog mix/master and squeezed that into 16bit/44.1Khz. They did that with equipment that we don't use today!
Its like Formula one....the market evolved fast, nowadays, we have figured how to squeeze previous great analog audio onto still 16/44,1!
but it sounds ten times better.
Its a money thing, we can technically do seemingly imposible things to audio now, some at home, but the best is still a buisness...


One detail here, but its worth noting, I would be curious to hear from Classical, Jazz and Opera music buffs that have a hard time using an ipod and why they don't like it .
Cheers and Happy New Year everyone!:food-smiley-004:
 

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I've never used an iPod or mp3 player, and really have little interest in getting one (other than for listening to spoken word.) The sound isn't always that great.

As for the overall issue--I like dynamics--that's what gave a lot of music I grew up on its power. That's what made some music sound so heavy.

Judicious use of dynamics may become a lost skill in some musicians, not because they neglect it, but because it's not needed or not used by others.

Of course this is a trend, one that hopefully goes away soon.
 

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I've never used an iPod or mp3 player, and really have little interest in getting one (other than for listening to spoken word.) The sound isn't always that great.
actually, the iPod w/ material encoded at the maximum AAC setting or apple lossless and some decent in ear monitors like the etymotic is vastly superior to any preceding portable music device and rivals some of the best home reproduction.

now, it could be that the material that one has encoded sounds like crap and is, indeed, compressed all to hell. but the iPod is the messenger and we should have learned that one doesn't kill the messenger. the iPod is fantastic. something the size of a deck of cards (or smaller) that, even at high bit rate encoding, can store hundreds and hundreds of CDs that can not only be listened to thru headphones, but can be docked to stereo systems in cars or other devices.

but there is a huge w/ contemporary CDs w/ virtually no dynamic range. it's no wonder that ppl don't listen to as much music as they used to.
 

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I never would have thought I'd find another IEEE member here on the forum :)
 
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I never would have thought I'd find another IEEE member here on the forum :)
No? I don't think I'm the only EE around here. I'm actually not renewing my IEEE membership this year. I just don't get as much out of it as I used to.
 

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loudness and dynamics are funny things, and our relationship with them is twisted at times. Somewhere in the early 80's, when I was an avid reader of "Stereo Review" and "Audio" magazines, among others, one of the guiding lights of the time, either Len Feldman or Julian Hirsch, had an op-ed sort of article about the then-burgeoning digital recording process.

Now, to place the article in context, one needs to remember that the physical recording media up until that point, whether wax cylinders, 78s, 45s, vinyl albums, open-reel or cassette tape, had pretty poor S/N ratios. These resulted largely from the dynamic restrictions in these media (how wide can a record groove swing? how much magnetic influence can be applied to oxide particles on a mylar base 1 mil thick?), that would not permit the signal to rise very far above what was an irritating noise floor. One also had a lengthy history up until that point of broadcast technology that was also poor in the noise department and could not handle wide dynamic swings. EVERY song you heard on AM radio (which until the early 70s comprised the brunt of what most people listened to) had passed through several stages of limiting and compression to get it ready for transmission and reception.

So Feldman/Hirsch found himself scratching his head amidst an ocean of applause about the huge dynamic range that was available through the magic of digital recording (which at that point was only available to us after being pressed onto vinyl - my first "digital recording" was RY Cooder's "Bop til you drop", a terrific recording with a great tone). Here, everyone was extolling how fabulous all this dynamic headroom was with specs of 90db and 120db dynamic range in the recording process and hypothetically available during sound reproduction. What had him puzzled was that, as he noted, the average practical dynamic range during listening was much much lower. If you started out with the normal range of ambient noise from ventilation, street traffic, house noises, etc., this would pose a backdrop of some 55-60db. The pain threshold was some 45-50db above that. So what the hell were people going to do with the extra dynamic range? While certainly happy for the improvements in S/N ratio, and also glad for the addition of clean headroom so that "normal" peaks didn't clip, in Feldman/Hirsch"s view, it was overkill of a sort in that one would never ever make use of the increased dynamic range.

Indeed, many early recordings using digital processes were problematic for listeners. I remember one Deutsche Grammophon recording I bought of a piece by Argentinian composer Mauricio Kagel (whom I had the pleasure of meeting when he came to our music class at McGill). I could not listen to it without being out of arm's reach of my amplifier because the dynamic range was so great that it was irritating. The quiet parts were quieter than the streetnoise around my apartment, and the crescendos were deafening. It was one of those recordings where I wished I had a built in compressor.

Personally, I find I enjoy movies better on broadcast TV than on DVD or tape, simply because the sound level is more consistent. Doesn't mean it has to be supersquished so that every cutlery noise and breath is audible, but the more modest dynamic range makes it easier to set the sound and pay attention to the movie.

So, the trend is not to head towards ever-increasing dynamic range and headroom. If anything, in an era when a great deal of listening is done in very inhospitable circumstances (in the car, on the bus, walking outside, at work), rather than in quiet surroundings optimized for loudspeaker-based listening, reduced dynamic range and a return to AM radio dynamics is pretty much the order of the day. Feldman/Hirsch opined about the uselessness of 90db dynamic range for quiet, carpetted listening rooms in basements. One can only imagine how even more useless that range is when sitting above the wheel well on a city bus, or next to the wing on an airplane or driving a 4-cylinder car, where the ambient noise level is likely somewhere just under 70db, and 40db above that is deafening.

Another thing that was recently drawn to my attention. In an interview in Dave Hunter's recent (2nd rate in my view) book on effects pedals, FX guru Roger Mayer makes some interesting comments concerning the pros and cons of analog vs digital. He suggests that digital recording/processing doesn't handle the decaying tails of notes particularly well, largely because (and this is what HE says, not necessarily what is currently the case) there are fewer bits to encode the signal at lower amplitudes. So, the suggestion is that one would want to record at hotter levels because of supposedly greater fidelity. Ironically, one of the things many folks like about recording to tape for the base recording is the way in which tape saturates as well as its essentially "infinite bit resolution" and lack of quantization error.

In any event, I've gotta catch a bus to work, so in summary I think the perceived move towards less dynamic range would seem to be part of a perpetual tug of war between what is technically possible and the circumstances in which people listen to music (and for whom the recording is mastered and marketed). I grew up listening to music on AM radio, so for me compression sounds normal. Now, what happens at the individual instrument level does NOT have to be what happens at the overall recording level. It is possible for a player to have a dynamically-restricted drum kit or rhythm guitar and be part of a recording or overall sound that does have dynamics. Whether one likes a compressed sound or not, though, you are always going to need to have some dynamics in reserve if only for the expression of emotion. There is no tenderness if you start out screaming and can't reduce level from there.
 
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