MOBILE USERS: m.isthmus.com
Connect with Isthmus on Twitter · Facebook · Flickr · Newsletters · Instagram 
james madison beach
Thursday, August 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
Collapse Photo Bar

CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Music news, rumors, what you're listening to, how you're listening to it and whether it's all on the up-and-up.

CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:59 pm

CDs remastered in the 80's generally sucked pretty hard. They sound awful today even compared to an mp3 of a remastered CD. I think they often used inferior sources, did a very sloppy job. Back in the 80's, the public had an exploding appetite for magical, shiny discs.

Around 1993 or so, I could hear the sound quality was far better, the engineers evidently figured out what they were doing. Or maybe the software tools were better. Or maybe they started caring. Or maybe all three.

Well, in the past decade or so, it seems that the industry has started compressing music heavily so that the CDs would be louder overall. I suspect consumers associate low recording levels with the crappy remastering of the 1980's. If you have any interest at all in sound quality, catch this ear-opening brief video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

I've been slow to pick-up on this phenomena, but ya, a lot of the remastered albums have sucked in recent years. I'm looking at you, Exile on Mainstreet

Will it never end?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war
http://turnmeup.org/
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Endo Rockstar » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:25 am

This phenomenon is especially annoying in your vehicle when you want to "turn it up" just a little more....Yup its bullshit.

Let Kyle Motor mix and master your albums. You won't have this problem.

-Dan Motor
Endo Rockstar
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 1253
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 11:16 pm
Location: Madison

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby wack wack » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:37 am

Fortunately some are catching on, and trying to fix this mess: check out the new remix of Rush's Vapor Trails, and compare it to the abominable 2002 original mix.

They absolutely insist that nothing was added or re-recorded, but the lack of brick-walling on the new mix exposes so much goodness that just wasn't there before.

I wonder how many more of the CDs in my collection are hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.
wack wack
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 3122
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2003 5:32 pm

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:48 am

Endo Rockstar wrote: Let Kyle Motor mix and master your albums.


Ya, even going back to the 80's, my hunch is that little of this nonsense has to do with technology, because there have always been some excellent sounding CDs. It comes down to the engineers giving a shit.

I (and probably many consumers) probably thought these sound quality issues were subtle, fine points for people with dog ears. No, the music industry has been content to issue, and then reissue, garbage compared to what is possible.
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:50 am

wack wack wrote: I wonder how many more of the CDs in my collection are hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.


If you are old like me, you have already purchased some of your favorite music 2 or 3 times in different formats. (I think Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" sets the record, for a long period that famous album was reissued from a tape played half-a-note too slow!) How many times is enough? Well, I can't afford it anymore, so enough is enough.
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby david cohen » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:22 am

well they master stuff so it sounds good on your Dr. Dre Beat thingies on MP3. I mean, who listens to this stuff through a high fidelity stereo anymore? It's just as much the fault of the consumer as it is the engineer who seeks to appease the consumer.
david cohen
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 1324
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:48 pm

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby wesconsin » Mon Oct 21, 2013 8:49 am

^this.


and our country has turned into (musically) a mass group of retards. the general population is so musically stupid (for example: just bieber, skrillex, etc) that they don't actually care about quality, just if it sounds good with a plastic dixie cup in hand, and will make females dance.

it puts the producers and engineers in a hard spot. if you want to succeed monetarily, what do you do? Do you mix it so it sounds good on real speakers, or do you master it so it sounds good coming out of a smartphones speakers and/or shitty overpriced headphones?
wesconsin
Senior Member
 
Posts: 65
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:34 am

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby wack wack » Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:00 am

Huckleby wrote:
wack wack wrote: I wonder how many more of the CDs in my collection are hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.


If you are old like me, you have already purchased some of your favorite music 2 or 3 times in different formats. (I think Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" sets the record, for a long period that famous album was reissued from a tape played half-a-note too slow!) How many times is enough? Well, I can't afford it anymore, so enough is enough.


Heh, I was in HPB this weekend and saw four different CD issues of Kind of Blue in one row.
wack wack
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 3122
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2003 5:32 pm

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Mon Oct 21, 2013 1:33 pm

wesconsin wrote: and our country has turned into (musically) a mass group of retards. the general population is so musically stupid (for example: just bieber, skrillex, etc) that they don't actually care about quality, just if it sounds good with a plastic dixie cup in hand, and will make females dance.


music in the 60's was mastered in mono so it sounded good on transister radios and car radios.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. High fidelity sound has always been something of a niche.
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby chainsawcurtis » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:02 am

In my early musician days back in the early 70s the drummer in the band had a great stereo - Sansui receiver, Advent speakers, B&O turntable, Teac 10 inch reel to reel tapedeck with auto reverse. He would spend hours making making a six hour mix tape so we could sit around on Sundays and play Risk without having to get up and flip the records (faves were Doobie Bros, Zappa, Capt. Beyond, Steely Dan). Five guys would put five bucks each into the pot and one guy would put in a nickel bag of pot into the pot. We'd smoke the weed, play the game and about six hours later the winner took the pot home.Almost everyone we knew had pretty good stereos but that may be because we knew a lot of musicians.

Sound quality is definitely a matter of taste. A couple of years ago a friend who was a longtime (like 40 years) engineer in LA recorded and mixed some stuff for me and the band. We didn't actually sit around and talk about mixing but let him do it on his own time. What he came back with was good but it has the quality of every frequency pushed to the limit seemingly. There is no air. No breathing room in the mix. Subsequently, I've been recording and mixing for myself and am much happier with the results. I can make the overall sound level the same as his mixes but I think I have succeeded in putting more space in the mix.

I am particularly fond of the recording quality in Al Green's early Memphis stuff. You can tell the rhythm section is all in the room listening to each other. There are very little noticeable effects. Overall great sound without a lot of flash.

Plus throwing this link in from NPR - It seems there is movement toward better download quality. http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2013/09/11/219727031/what-does-a-song-that-costs-5-sound-like
chainsawcurtis
Forum Addict
 
Posts: 325
Joined: Fri May 20, 2005 2:30 pm
Location: Toetown, WI

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Sun Oct 27, 2013 11:07 am

chainsawcurtis wrote: I am particularly fond of the recording quality in Al Green's early Memphis stuff. You can tell the rhythm section is all in the room listening to each other. There are very little noticeable effects. Overall great sound without a lot of flash.

Ya, those records sound amazing. It hasn't been about technology for about 60 years. Rudy Van Gelder recorded beautiful sounding jazz back in the 1950's that still sounds awesome today.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Van_Gelder

chainsawcurtis wrote:Plus throwing this link in from NPR - It seems there is movement toward better download quality. http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2013/09/11/219727031/what-does-a-song-that-costs-5-sound-like


Damn interesting story there.

"DSD (Direct Stream Digital) has been around since the late 1960s"

That woman charging $5 for a digital song is yuppie absurdity, I don't care what kind of artisan she is.

I've been following Neil Young's efforts. Tilting at windmills, I'm afraid.

The idea of using compressed music for internet distribution is a bitter residue from the age of modems.

I'm really Debbie Downer on this topic, sorry. But if the public had significant interest in sound quality, FLAC would have taken root on the internet 10 years ago.

It seems like eventually the world has to come to its senses. Someday it will be cheap to store 10,000 tunes on an iPOD in high resolution. Unfortunately, the driving forces of cost and convenience win, and Neil Young may be a very, very Old Man before high quality sound comes to fruition for the masses.
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby NullDevice » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:04 pm

What's interesting to me is that a lot of the "loud" music everyone complains about has a HUGE crest factor - a dynamic range on a small scale that's pretty high. Hip hop and a lot of dance music is hugely peaky around the kicks, then the rest of it has a pretty low RMS. Integrate that over time, though, and you have a very low DR. The problem isn't 100% that people are mastering it for shitty headphones/dance clubs/whatever (a mastering engineer's job is, contrary to popular belief, transportability and translatability between systems) but the fact that the current trend in pop music just isn't to write quiet parts. It's neither good nor bad, really, it's just the current trend. 10 years ago the buildup/breakdown was a staple, now we're doing "drops", in anotehr 10 years we may have 5 minutes of silence in every song, I dunno. Anyway.

A high crest factor but low integrated DR is still going to be fatiguing, but over the span of a 3 minute pop song, nobody (on the production and marketing side, anyway) cares - as long as this song sounds good, we're not worrying about the other 15 songs played in that block on the radio/spotify/Pandora.

Loud also gets listener attention and loud tricks the brain into thinking "better" at least for a few minutes. That's pretty much all anyone's going for.

It's easy to blame technology for the problem of loudness, and sure enough, it's far easier with a modern limiter to drive your signal RMS high than it was 30 years ago, but at the same time, a lot of pro mastering gear is far better and far more transparent than what was available to the average artist who wasn't getting their stuff premastered at Abbey Road (although even AR has come way down in price). The fact that I can get an EQ for a master track that won't screwup track phase, bundled free with my audio software...that's in-freaking-credible. Sure, it's not a Manley MassivePassive Mastering Edition or a Shadow Hills Equinox, but it's a damn sight better than a 20-year-old digitech EQ rack.

It's also easy to bag on mp3 and aac, and certainly in the early days when everyone was encoding at 128kbps, it sucked haaaaard. But honestly, we're mostly of a generation that grew up listening to cassettes, which had a ludicrously limited dynamic range, saturated like hell, had a high noise floor and a limited frequency spectrum, so most of the modern railing against lossy formats is only slightly better than "get off my lawn." Plus these days if the engineer prepping for encoding is paying attention to headroom and intersample clipping, and hopefully using a codec preview tool like the Sonnox Frauhofer or the Apple AUNetAACRoundTrip you can get pretty decent fidelity from an encoded file. Maybe not quite audiophile fidelity, but then again ain't nuthin ever gunna be good enough for those dudes.

These days the limiting factor isn't storage, true, so we could use FLAC more often. But the limiting factor for most people is bandwidth, and that's unlikley to change any time soon, unless we all get 100mbps fiber and ubiquitous wifi. If you go the full Neil Young 96khz/24bit route (which, I might add, is ludicrous, but that's a different rant) you're looking at about 2gigabytes for an album. Yeesh.
NullDevice
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 737
Joined: Fri May 02, 2003 2:53 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:27 pm

NullDevice wrote: If you go the full Neil Young 96khz/24bit route (which, I might add, is ludicrous, but that's a different rant) you're looking at about 2gigabytes for an album. Yeesh.


Nobody has ever explained to me why CD parameters (44 KHZ, 16 bit) are inadequate to represent sounds for human hearing. People can't hear jackshit above 15Khz. I suppose there could be a tiny difference in processing music at 24 bits, but not storing the final product.

I'm thinking of the Ghostbuster's TV ad slogan: "We're ready to believe you." I'm prepared to believe that people hear something different in those super high resolution formats, but I just don't get why.

I also agree with you that good mp3, well mp4, sounds damn close to CD quality.
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:31 pm

NullDevice wrote:But honestly, we're mostly of a generation that grew up listening to cassettes, which had a ludicrously limited dynamic range, saturated like hell, had a high noise floor and a limited frequency spectrum


FWIW, I work with a young hipster kid and apparently cassettes are making a comeback with the hipster crowd.
Stebben84
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 4812
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:59 pm

Re: CD sound quality: now it's the Loudness Wars

Postby Huckleby » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:44 pm

http://8tracksrback.ecrater.com/c/795725/8-track-tapes

If you're looking for Billy Ocean's "Love Zone" on 8-track, it will set you back $40
Huckleby
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6411
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: parents' basement

Next

Return to General Music

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

moviesmusiceats
Select a Movie
Select a Theater


commentsViewedForum
  ISTHMUS FLICKR

Promotions Contact us Privacy Policy Jobs Newsletters RSS
Collapse Photo Bar