Loudness Wars and The Death of Dynamic Range!

CnoEvil

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For those still interested, here is an easy to read link, that gives a graphic illustration of what has happened to CD mastering over the last quarter of a century or so. See also the link "What happened to dynamic range" at the bottom of the page:
http://www.cdmasteringservices.com/dynamicdeath.htm
 

Xanderzdad

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'The Seldom Seen Kid' by Elbow also has an interesting link to a similar website - turnmeup.org

Their album truly demonstrates what we are missing and conveys emotion better than the majority of modern recordings.
 

6th.replicant

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There's a free program, Audacity - available for OS X and W**d*w* - which enables you to check/display the waveform of tracks stored in your iTunes or on the desktop - hours of fun :grin:

Audacity also displays a track's spectrum, which is useful for verifying if hi-res downloads are pukka or bogus... :shame:
 

The_Lhc

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Xanderzdad said:
'The Seldom Seen Kid' by Elbow also has an interesting link to a similar website - turnmeup.org

Their album truly demonstrates what we are missing and conveys emotion better than the majority of modern recordings.

Shame they made such a pig's ear of the Abbey Road live version then, sounded great on the red button but the CD was dreadful.
 
Thanks for this, Cno. The graphics are very clear, aren't they?

Sadly it confirms what we hear, both on CDs and over the radio. I've got quite a few early CDs with what sound like quite low levels, but no distortion or noise.

I find it ironic that compression of FM and DAB usually helps in the car but is dreadful at home in the peace of one's living room. I suppose it ends up more mp3-like, which is possibly what the majority of listeners expect these days.
 

dannycanham

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So what is the outcome of the graphs to you?

Modern music is production is getting worse? You would have to be a complete idiot to think this is in any way confirmed.

That some awful modern music is produced just as badly as the music? Of course it is.

That some music is purposefully produced loudly clipped for a brash sound (The Rembrandts), which no one in their right mind would compare to George Michael or Bryan Adams unless trying to prove something they are struggling to prove otherwise? Very likely. Being able to find CDs that want to stand out when the music doesn't is not proof of anything else.

As for Ricky Martin it is a similar story:

"On a completely different level, "La Vida" is a milestone of technology: the first Number One record to be done completely within a hard disk system. In addition to changing the course of mainstream pop music, "La Vida" may also turn out to be a pivot point in how records are made."

"Eleven producers, including Walter Afanasieff, Jon Secada and Madonna, are listed, and 28 primary recording and mixing technicians are listed in various roles on assorted songs, with at least an equal number of assistant engineers."

"All of the recording was done direct, without a console; Dye miked the horns with an AKG C-12VR, placing it rather close in on the bell. "I wanted a very in-your-face sort of sound," he explains. "Other [horn] tracks on the record have that sort of mariachi/cantina sound to them at times, but for this song we wanted it brash and sharp.""

It goes on and on:

http://www.mixonline.com/mag/audio_recordin_la_vida/

Only the dishonest would include a track uniquely as produced as this one as proof of a global trend.

All sources of information are not equal. Not all sources count as proof.
 

dannycanham

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nopiano said:
Thanks for this, Cno. The graphics are very clear, aren't they?

Sadly it confirms what we hear, both on CDs and over the radio. I've got quite a few early CDs with what sound like quite low levels, but no distortion or noise.

I find it ironic that compression of FM and DAB usually helps in the car but is dreadful at home in the peace of one's living room. I suppose it ends up more mp3-like, which is possibly what the majority of listeners expect these days.

I'm just going to copy and past some reading rather than bother to respond to nonsense.

"Dynamic range in analog audio is the difference between low-level thermal noise in the electronic circuitry and high-level signal saturation resulting in increased distortion and, if pushed higher,clipping. Multiple noise processes determine the noise floor of a system. Noise can be picked up from microphone self-noise, preamp noise, wiring and interconnection noise, media noise, etc. Early 78 rpm phonograph discs had a dynamic range of up to 40 dB, soon reduced to 30 dB and worse due to wear from repeated play. German magnetic tape in 1941 was reported to have had a dynamic range of 60 dB, though modern day restoration experts of such tapes note 45-50 dB as the observed dynamic range. Ampex tape recorders in the 1950s achieved 60 dB in practical usage, though tape formulations such as Scotch 111 boasted 68 dB dynamic range. In the 1960s, improvements in tape formulation processes resulted in 7 dB greater range, and Ray Dolby developed the Dolby A-Type noise reduction system that increased low- and mid-frequency dynamic range on magnetic tape by 10 dB, and high-frequency by 15 dB, using companding (compression and expansion) of four frequency bands. The peak of professional analog magnetic recording tape technology reached 90 dB dynamic range in the midband frequencies at 3% distortion, or about 80 dB in practical broadband applications. The Dolby SR noise reduction system gave a 20 dB further increased range resulting in 110 dB in the midband frequencies at 3% distortion. Compact Cassette tape performance ranges from 50 to 56 dB depending on tape formulation, with Metal Type IV tapes giving the greatest dynamic range, and systems such as XDR, dbx and Dolby noise reduction system increasing it further. Specialized bias and record head improvements by Nakamichi and Tandberg combined with Dolby C noise reduction yielded 72 dB dynamic range for the cassette. Vinyl microgroove phonograph records typically yield 55-65 dB, though the first play of the higher-fidelity outer rings can achieve a dynamic range of 70 dB. The rugged elements of moving-coil microphones can have a dynamic range of up to 140 dB (at increased distortion), while condenser microphones are limited by the overloading of their associated electronic circuitry. Practical considerations of acceptable distortion levels in microphones combined with typical practices in a recording studio result in a useful operating range of 125 dB.

Audio CDs achieve about a 90-dB signal-to-noise ratio."

from wiki

MP3 and AAC both contain a global gain adjustment parameter for every block of music data. According to the word length and resolution of thisparameter, the dynamic range of both MP3 andAAC is well beyond the equivalent of a 24 bit D/Aresolution. In short, MP3 and AAC represent theAES 17thInternational Conference on High Quality Audio Coding 7Karlheinz Brandenburg MP3 and AAC explainedmusic in a way that the dynamic range of everyknown audio source is perfectly retained

"MP3 and AAC both contain a global gain adjustment parameter for every block of music data. According to the word length and resolution of this parameter, the dynamic range of both MP3 and AAC is well beyond the equivalent of a 24 bit D/A resolution. In short, MP3 and AAC represent the music in a way that the dynamic range of every known audio source is perfectly retained"

http://www.telos-systems.com/techtalk/hosted/Brandenburg_mp3_aac.pdf
 

oldric_naubhoff

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dannycanham said:
So what is the outcome of the graphs to you?

Modern music is production is getting worse? You would have to be a complete idiot to think this is in any way confirmed.

That some awful modern music is produced just as badly as the music? Of course it is.

That some music is purposefully produced loudly clipped for a brash sound (The Rembrandts), which no one in their right mind would compare to George Michael or Bryan Adams unless trying to prove something they are struggling to prove otherwise? Very likely. Being able to find CDs that want to stand out when the music doesn't is not proof of anything else.

some valid point but I think you are missing the point here regarding getting brash sound on recording. if someone wants to get brash sound then it's down to musicians to play brash and loud and it's not down to processing of recorded material. in other words if a rock band wants to sound rough then they would be using appropriate distorting filters on their guitars and percusion would be loud and energetic (as opposed to say jazz percussion). if a rock band wants to sound rough then they wouldn't record material nice and soft and then let the producer clip the material so the sound turns brash. it's not good to process even rock records too hot (with too small headroom) because of the percussion. if the mean level is too high then there's no headroom for percussion transients and those shimmery sounding cymbal need surprisingly large amount of headroom in order to sound realistic. and by saying realistic I mean "as heard live without amplification" and not "as in highly amplified rock concert". therefore comparing Brian Adam's recordings with those of the Rembrandts' definitely holds true in this situation. if you want to know what I'm talking about listen to track 6 on Sigur Ros's album "Takk" for instance. they play strange rock music which verges on noise and yet the albums never sound distorted. the guitars' sound is distorted but this is due to the effect they use . percussion too sounds as it should be and not as if someone was recording sounds of crushing scap metal. (I'd recommend FLAC or WAV. there's video on youtube but the SQ is disappointing).

besides, I think you don't know that song by Rembrandts if you say that the purpose of editing too hot was to make them sound brash. that song is probably the best example of boring, socially correct pop-rock available and such music has nothing in common with brash sounding rock like Love 666 for instance :)

dannycanham said:
As for Ricky Martin it is a similar story:

"On a completely different level, "La Vida" is a milestone of technology: the first Number One record to be done completely within a hard disk system. In addition to changing the course of mainstream pop music, "La Vida" may also turn out to be a pivot point in how records are made."

"Eleven producers, including Walter Afanasieff, Jon Secada and Madonna, are listed, and 28 primary recording and mixing technicians are listed in various roles on assorted songs, with at least an equal number of assistant engineers."

"All of the recording was done direct, without a console; Dye miked the horns with an AKG C-12VR, placing it rather close in on the bell. "I wanted a very in-your-face sort of sound," he explains. "Other [horn] tracks on the record have that sort of mariachi/cantina sound to them at times, but for this song we wanted it brash and sharp.""

and again, same story! first of all these excerpts make me think that this article is nothing else but a marketing blurp promoting Ricky Martin's album. but let's put this remark aside for now.

if producers of this album wanted to make "La vida" sound "in-your-face" and "brash and sharp" then they made a very bad work. and what's worse; they know about it very well. if the managing producer was someone with some balls they would say to those CEOs "hey, if you want this song to sound in-your-face we're gonna do it the right way and not turn it into brash sounding distorted mush!". here's the solution. mean level (Martin's voice and quieter instruments) would be set to some 60-70 dB to allow for high dynamic swings. that way when listening to this song on your hi-fi and if you wanted to salsa with Ricky at fairly loud 80dB volume level you'd need to turn up the volume more than usually (although not too much more). and then when the brass kicks in with a dynamic swing of 20-30 dB you'd loose your socks sitting on the sofa. of course, if you've got a system which dies when asked to reproduce louder-than-average fart it will not pull this trick off for sure. but that's the real music and a proper hi-fi should be able to recreate it IMO.

dannycanham said:
Only the dishonest would include a track uniquely as produced as this one as proof of a global trend.

unfortunately there is such a trend, whether you want to accept this fact or not. fortunately it mostly affects commercialised music. anything independent/ alternative is usually free from overheating recording techniques so you can still enjoy pure, beautiful music. fortunately my musical taste drifted far away from commercialised music so I care nothing about Ricky Martin, the Rembrandts or Westlife so I can still enjoy unclipped, beautiful music. a bit weird music but beautiful to my ears none the less.
 
dannycanham said:
I'm just going to copy and past some reading rather than bother to respond to nonsense.

In his original post, I thought Cno was commenting on the trend of enginering practice, not the theoretical capabilty of the media.

So, rather than copying text-book stuff, which I do not dispute, are you trying to say that you find typical mp3 recordings actually sound uncompressed and have a wide dynamic range?

If my use of 'mp3' as shorthand for compressed pop music on headphones from a portable music player wasn't obvious, then I'm sorry. However, I think my point stands, and didn't warrant the label 'nonsense', least of all from someone whose posts I respect.
 

CJSF

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Well ConEvil, it makes sense to me . . . no one told me that modern music was 'recorded hot', its sounds pretty grotty to me most of the time. So I listen to radio 4 all day as I go about transporting my passengers, gives me a bit of insight into the world we live in as well, 'educational' we used to call it, you would be surprised how many passengers comment, "its a change not to hear music jangling in a Taxi, especially when I play one of my old CD's", one can get fed up with radio 4 sometimes . . .

As I say, no one told me . . . would this be why I enjoy listening to and thoroughly enjoying old recordings despite the fact that its Spotify. I was down in the 1940's the other day with 'Flanagan and Alan', I regularly listen to 50's and 60's music. There is an openes and clarity despite the obvious short comings and 'frying bacon' on some tracks . . . simply, to me, it is musical.

As you know from my posts, I have a CD collection that is almost all purchased pre 1993, a few of my Fathers classical recording are later, significantly, I remember he was disenchanted with the quality of these later purchases. Almost all unlistened to by me since then, same applies to the 100 or so vinyl discs I came across in the loft the other day . . . I'm going to look at both these mediums in a different light as I rediscover my previous life? It certainly explains some of the CD's I go for in this collection as favorites and test tracks.

Controversially, I would suggest the modern way of listening to music 'full on' and 'surround sound', may have an affect on perceived quality, what is modern quality? I'm no expert on these mediums, but find them overbearingly unpleasant. Preferring the 'old fashioned' 2 channel stereo, auditorium performance, that I appreciate from the 'front row seat' in my music room!

I'm happy being behind the times, I now understand why I'm happy . . . CJSF
 

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