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John Mayer's Latest -- Too Compressed!, Heavy compression on modern CDs.. ugh.
delusion_
post May 19 2004, 23:05
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I've been listening to John Mayer's latest CD, "Heavier Things", and cannot believe how compressed it sounds. Does anyone else share this opinion? Listen near the end of the first track, Clarity.. when the trumpets start in with the guitars. Or a great example is on "Something's Missing", from about the 3:20 mark and onward. Terrible distortion of the bass/high end, from what sounds to be heavy compression.

Is it just me/my equipment, or what? Anyone else listened to this CD and thought similiar?

At first I thought it was a ripping problem, but I've tried three different drives, and all using Exact Audio Copy in secure mode... exact same wavforms each time.

This post has been edited by delusion_: May 19 2004, 23:23
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Teqnilogik
post May 20 2004, 00:05
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Odds are it is highly compressed since John Mayer is a rock/pop artist. It's hard to find any pop/rock album that is not heavily compressed these days. It's a shame, I know, but the only thing you can do to tell the record companies to stop this irresponsible behavior is to stop buying the music. But unfortunately not many people (including myself) are willing to stop buying the music. So in that case the record companies see no need to anything different. I hate how they are butchering the sound to achieve the highest volume. It seems that compression is starting to become more and more known among the general public and I see posts weeklky now about this topic so let's hope the general public starts hearing this and starts demanding less compressed audio CDs.
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mithrandir
post May 20 2004, 02:22
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When I first heard "Heavier Things" on good stereo equipment I thought the album sounded like crap. There's precious little microdynamics and I heard a lot of clipping.
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teleguise
post May 22 2004, 02:29
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Please excuse what may be a 'laymen' question but the topic was intriguing.

Am I wrong in thinking that what's recorded is recorded whether analog or digital
(100% the way the artist performed it), then it's mixed in which if digital could get
compressed and finally mastered to disc. So is it typically done at that point or could it
be anywhere along the chain?

QUOTE
I hate how they are butchering the sound to achieve the highest volume.


I would think it all revolves around saving $$ but how do they save if a disc allows you
70-80min of recorded music and the album was only 40-50 anyway? What do they gain
by doing so?
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Bonzi
post May 22 2004, 02:41
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teleguise, what they mean is that the volume of the disc is very loud. When this happens it ruins the dynamics of the music and makes it sound "compressed." It can also lead to "clipping" Compression has nothing to do with saving space on the discs. Although it does have something to do with $$$ since record companies believe the discs will sell more if they are played louder on the radio which is bs because they can easily do this as they are playing it on the radio.
BTW: same topic here as well http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/show.php/showtopic/21748 please delusion_ do not cross. It is _very_ rude.
BTW2: TOS #7
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shadowking
post May 22 2004, 02:50
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Interesting. I was at a local Thai food dine in recently where they play a 80's to present mix on a Sony boombox. The modern songs just sounded like anything else i.e. - dull. When they played a 80's track it wasn't any louder or softer, just stood out more like you can tell its 80's.

So I think the opposite is happening: the less compressed mix is the standout - even on very cheap equipment.


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teleguise
post May 22 2004, 03:56
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Thanks 'Bonzi' for the link as well as quick and clear definition.

One other question if I am on the right path to then understanding.
That all this is probably happening from the get go during the recording phase although
could be introduced anywhere in the process? So short of having the artist back in the
studio, the chance of any subsequent mixes/releases will always as well?
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Kaleb.G
post May 22 2004, 04:07
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I understand compression to be like trying to inflate a spherical balloon inside of a box* so much, that the balloon loses its spherical shape as it is being cramped up against the box, and these distorted, flattened balloon surfaces are the clipping.

*(where the balloon is the waveform, the balloon size is the volume level, and the box is the total volume threshold)

Was that a good analogy? Yes? No? unsure.gif

This post has been edited by Kaleb.G: May 22 2004, 04:12
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ShowsOn
post May 22 2004, 04:20
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Does that John Mayer CD also have copy protection?

I only own a few copy protected CDs, but they seem to sound compressed as well. I don't know if that is simply the mastering, or if the protection itself has something to do with that. Is it possible that the copy protection on some CD players forces the player to revert to error correction, and thus the sound heard is full of interpolated samples?

I realise this is just speculation, I am not motivated to some how get a copy protected, and non copy protected version of the same CD and test, so I hope I am not breaking any forum rules by floating such specualtion. I understand that some copy protected CDs work by having a 'corrupt' table of contents? Is it possible that doing so on some (older?) CD players can introduce errors in the sound?


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Rash
post May 22 2004, 04:50
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You guys are absolutely right. Is it only us, sound enthusiasts, that complain about this?

Oh, by the way, I like your analogy Kaleb. wink.gif

This post has been edited by Rash: May 22 2004, 04:53


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Jurg98
post May 22 2004, 11:03
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@ShowsOn:

As far as I know, copy protection schemes like Cactus weave extra bits into the music stream... So you could have a point in saying that those CDs are full of interpolated samples...


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plunger
post May 22 2004, 15:53
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I believe a serious problem in the "loundess" race is also the widespread acceptance of [digital] brickwall limiters, which offer a completely different processor than ordinary compressors and limiters (basically high-ratio compressors.)

Anyone familiar with Waves' L1 and L2 knowa the drill. Pull the threashold down, watch the loundess soar. No physical clipping.

The really sad thing about it all is that major studios, and even a lot of the little guys, are recording through some of the most awe-inspiring signal chains, capturing sound at resolutions which defy reason, only to have all that sound destroyed in final mixdown, pre-mastering, and mastering. What's the point of moving to DSD-inspired recording and playblack when we're only going to blow up the ballon (great image btw) to fill up that box as well.

*sigh*

On a funny note has anyone ever looked at the Classical Music EQ preset in Winamp? I just stumbled across it last night while looking for a zero function. It's just too much.


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Kuuenbu
post May 22 2004, 23:05
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QUOTE (Rash @ May 21 2004, 10:50 PM)
You guys are absolutely right. Is it only us, sound enthusiasts, that complain about this?

I'm not an audio enthusiast and I complain about it.

Also, I've seen complaining about it in non-audio forums so yeah, it's probably not audiophile-exclusive. Of course, I don't know every single person who has stated this view when it comes to the importance of audio in their lives but I certainly wouldn't put the idea past me.


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Undesirable
post May 23 2004, 01:57
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In my opinion, if you're paying for it then they should allow you to download in a variety of formats i.e. 128 for slow connections or samples, 192, LAME 3.90.1 Standard VBR, 320 and lossless FLAC.

edit: Oh, you were talking about the original CD. That's surprising.

This post has been edited by Undesirable: May 23 2004, 02:00
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analogy
post May 23 2004, 04:35
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"Compressed" when referring to a CD means dynamic compression, NOT data compression. Dynamic compression refers to reducing the dynamic range (i.e. difference between the loudest part and the quietest part), usually in order to make the CD "Radio Ready." See: Loudness Race.

Looking at the Waves web site for its L1 and L2 products, I have a theory: The loudness race is being driven by the makers of digital brick wall limiters. =D That aside, I see they're using the myth of the "Radio-Ready" album to hawk their sound-wreckers.
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dreamliner77
post May 23 2004, 06:43
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Waves L1 and L2 can still be used artistically without destroying the recording.


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plunger
post May 23 2004, 17:06
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QUOTE (dreamliner77 @ May 22 2004, 09:43 PM)
Waves L1 and L2 can still be used artistically without destroying the recording.

Oh I agree that any tool can be used artistically. I use waves l1 and l2 throught my projects to catch errant peaks which are too far out of wack when mixing a track. That being said, my files don't look like square waves in a stereo wave editor. Headroom is important.

The problem is that because limiters went from high-compression ratio, to basically an infinite compression ratio, they are being used, as someone said above, to simply make songs more "radio" friendly. And in the hands of someone who may not know better they are pure evil.

I don't know if anyone knows the last Travis album, but that have this great song called "side" which has been limited so heavily it feels like a black hold of emotion, despite the fact that it has the potential to be a great pop tune.


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analogy
post May 23 2004, 19:23
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QUOTE
Waves L1 and L2 can still be used artistically without destroying the recording.


Agreed, just like any other sound effect. And, like any other sound effect, a recording does not benefit from its overuse. biggrin.gif
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precisionist
post May 24 2004, 13:32
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QUOTE
I understand compression to be like trying to inflate a spherical balloon inside of a box* so much, that the balloon loses its spherical shape as it is being cramped up against the box, and these distorted, flattened balloon surfaces are the clipping.

*(where the balloon is the waveform, the balloon size is the volume level, and the box is the total volume threshold)

(Kaleb.G)

Clipping and, on the other hand, limiting/compression are two completely different things (Although they have partly the same results.) See my explanation in this post (the part before the last one)

by the way: I like this analogy, too.

QUOTE
I understand that some copy protected CDs work by having a 'corrupt' table of contents?

(ShowsOn)

Copy protection has nothing to do with sound quality (not in an audible way).
There seem to be copy protections that corrupt only the TOC and others that also (or only) corrupt the audio data. Once I recorded a song from a protected CD twice on my HDD through the digital ins, the files were different at some points by a few samples and sample values. This means, the CD player had to perform interpolation. (With a normal CD the files are identical in this test.)


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Rash
post May 28 2004, 22:10
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Lemme ask a newbie question. In which process of CD making do they apply the compression? Is it during mixing, CD mastering? Thanks a lot.


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chrisgeleven
post May 29 2004, 01:08
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QUOTE (Rash @ May 28 2004, 04:10 PM)
Lemme ask a newbie question. In which process of CD making do they apply the compression? Is it during mixing, CD mastering? Thanks a lot.

Mastering is usually when this is done.


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plunger
post May 29 2004, 02:45
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Actually, it is not necessarily the mastering engineer (who ruins the album - in fact a good mastering engineer will often be able to make up, to some degree, for a certain amount of lackluster mixing). A good mastering engineer is basically a good set of ears (hopefully ears which aren't emotionally attached to the music - note: be wary of albums mastered by the mix engineer of teh same album) coupled (prefferably) with a very tiny amount of gear most of us haven't even heard of and even fewer could afford.

You can find some great info in response to Mastering-related enquiries Manley Labs has received here:
http://www.manleylabs.com/Mastering_Newbie.html

Enjoy!


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NeoMoose
post May 29 2004, 03:08
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Has anyone mentioned that John Mayer is going to sound like crap no matter how it is mastered. tongue.gif

Maybe the newer formats like SACD will bring about some change...
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xiphmont
post May 29 2004, 08:17
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QUOTE (NeoMoose @ May 28 2004, 09:08 PM)
Has anyone mentioned that John Mayer is going to sound like crap no matter how it is mastered. :P

Maybe the newer formats like SACD will bring about some change...

Has nothing to do with the CD technology. This is all about giving the BOOMCHUKKABOOMCHUKKA generation what they want: music that makes their Honda Civics rattle.

:-)

(BTW, I was going to mention this earlier but didn't have the software to back it up. Folks on Linux can now officially play with un-compressing dynamically compressed music as I made a source-release of the Postfish today. Expanders galore! ;-)

Monty
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