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Current CD mastering practices, And why I now buy so few new CD's.
RockFan
post Aug 9 2005, 03:50
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Although I've been aware of the ever more destructive levels of compression/limiting used over the last 5-10 years (and taken part in discussions here and other places), it only dawned on me recently that I had unconciously practically stopped buying CD's the last year or two..

By that I'm referring to largely rock, indie, jazz etc, incuding so-called 'remasters'.

There are recent releases out there which I would like to own, but with what I've come to expect from modern CD's, I know that an album which I might have 'played to death' over weeks or months in years gone by will simply get boring after a few plays. So I don't buy them. Dynamics, soft/loud contrasts, drama - squashed out of existence.

New Queens Of The Stone Age? Probably a great album - but once bitten .....

I'm increasingly going to exchanges to try and find older releases of albums I want, or even buying vinyl versions of new albums where they're released, as they tend not to be afflicted as badly.

Obviously there are a proportion of buyers who only lsiten to CD's in the car or on personals in noisy environments who couldn't care less and will keep buying, but there must be a lot of others who, like me, are completely disillusioned with this 'loudness fetish' crap and have simply lost interest.

In fact I wonder how much this has contributed to the stagnancy in sales over the last few years that the 'industry' whines about so frequently?

R.
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BradPDX
post Aug 17 2005, 01:39
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I have produced several CDs and been a participating musician in dozens. The practice of using large amounts of "global" compression (compression applied to the entire mix and not just particular tracks) is a phenomenon with roots back into the 70's.

Let me add something really quick and important here: totally uncompressed recorded music is relatively rare in the pop/jazz/folk world and has been for a long time.

The essential psychoacoustic problems being addressed are 1) scale and 2) noise floor. Issue 1 is the fact that most recorded music is not played at realistic performance levels - it is simply impractical for me to crank up my living room rig to even small ensemble levels without bugging half the neighborhood and myself as well. The spaces in which we listen to music are often utterly at odds with the original volume levels.

Compression, judiciously applied, allows music to be perceived as "full" and satisfying at substantially lower levels. Is it "real"? Well, no - but then, neither is a 7-piece band cranking away in my 15 x 25 ft living room being reproduced through 2 sound sources. At its best, compression is a compromise made to remedy the most basic compromise in the system - the fact that the music will NOT be played in original spaces at original levels. It will be coming out of 2 speakers in your home or car.

If anyone in this group is a musician, you can try some interest experiments. For example, I recorded a CD of 10 lullabies for my kids a while back. I did this on the cheap, just the way the kids hear me every night - 2 good condensors, a hard disk recorder, me and a Martin guitar, played live.

When the tracks were played back on good cans or speakers, they sounded great - just like the real thing. I trimmed up the beginnings and endings, burned a CD and popped it into the boom box in the kid's bedroom. My god, it was awful. At low volumes (the target use case) all detail was lost - only the vocals would jump out from the tiny box. The kids hated it.

So it pulled up the tracks again and applied global compression. I burned several discs to see which amount of compression would sound good for the kids. The answer: the one with a lot of compression. Listened to closely, the compression is obvious. But when heard at low volume on the boombox, it is great. Mission accomplished and lesson learned.

What was different from my live performances in the same room? A lot. Lower volume, limited frequency response, directional speakers, etc. The net result was that the music was better served by squishing it. Don't worry; I still play "live" most nights. Lately the kids like Gram Parsons songs.

The next thing is noise. The 70's saw the birth of real FM radio, 8-tracks and cassettes. This meant that the shift to "car listening" was underway, and the record companies obliged with increased compression. In a sense, they are right: uncompressed music in a noisy car is misery. The peaks take your head off while the music floor is inaudible. The trouble is, the cure is sometimes worse than the problem.

I agree that many recent pop recordings I have are excessively compressed, lifeless and grating. That to me is sacrificing one thing for another. But take heart; well recorded music is out there in spades as well. Lately I have been listening a lot to Sufjan Steven's excellent "Illinois" CD - wonderfully dynamic and spacious, not to mention GREAT songwriting and arranging.

And I'll bet that "Illinois" is using some compression - just not too much!
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Posts in this topic
- RockFan   Current CD mastering practices   Aug 9 2005, 03:50
- - Shade[ST]   I have a few King Crimson, Jascha Heifetz, and Hor...   Aug 9 2005, 04:26
- - irishcrazy2005   I am by no means an audiophile, and I guess that I...   Aug 9 2005, 06:43
|- - matth6546   QUOTE (irishcrazy2005 @ Aug 9 2005, 12:43 AM)...   Aug 9 2005, 20:31
|- - Vanishing   QUOTE (matth6546 @ Aug 9 2005, 09:31 PM)today...   Aug 10 2005, 09:05
|- - Bob Speer   Text removed by author   Mar 4 2006, 07:30
- - WmAx   QUOTE (RockFan @ Aug 8 2005, 10:50 PM)... Ro...   Aug 9 2005, 06:47
- - wodney   I concur with the thread poster. I rarely buy cd...   Aug 9 2005, 20:56
- - Lyx   Guess it depends on music-taste...... with most of...   Aug 10 2005, 12:02
- - esa372   A case in point: Rush :edit: link   Aug 10 2005, 14:32
- - chri5   I agree. An album which has been mastered without ...   Aug 10 2005, 15:29
- - snookerdoodle   I have to add that I just think that we have Yet A...   Aug 10 2005, 16:08
|- - legg   QUOTE (snookerdoodle @ Aug 10 2005, 10:08 AM)...   Aug 10 2005, 16:20
|- - PoisonDan   QUOTE (snookerdoodle @ Aug 10 2005, 05:08 PM)...   Aug 10 2005, 16:29
||- - snookerdoodle   QUOTE (PoisonDan @ Aug 10 2005, 09:29 AM)Havi...   Aug 10 2005, 17:17
||- - no.667   QUOTE (PoisonDan @ Aug 10 2005, 07:29 AM)Also...   Sep 12 2005, 20:35
|- - RockFan   QUOTE (snookerdoodle @ Aug 10 2005, 07:08 AM)...   Aug 10 2005, 23:04
|- - Cartoon   QUOTE (snookerdoodle @ Aug 10 2005, 05:08 PM)...   Aug 11 2005, 11:18
||- - snookerdoodle   QUOTE (Cartoon @ Aug 11 2005, 04:18 AM)In pri...   Aug 11 2005, 15:30
|- - GeSomeone   QUOTE (snookerdoodle @ Aug 10 2005, 05:08 PM)...   Aug 14 2005, 23:15
- - irishcrazy2005   OK, this is going to sound very stupid, but rememb...   Aug 10 2005, 18:13
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (irishcrazy2005 @ Aug 10 2005, 07:13 PM...   Aug 10 2005, 23:11
|- - bug80   QUOTE (Lyx @ Aug 11 2005, 12:11 AM)QUOTE (iri...   Aug 11 2005, 11:12
|- - irishcrazy2005   QUOTE (bug80 @ Aug 11 2005, 04:12 AM)I hope t...   Aug 11 2005, 17:01
- - Funkstar De Luxe   Norman people don't give a fuck about how a CD...   Aug 10 2005, 23:25
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (Funkstar De Luxe @ Aug 11 2005, 12:25 ...   Aug 11 2005, 00:42
|- - WmAx   QUOTE (Lyx @ Aug 10 2005, 07:42 PM)QUOTE (Fun...   Aug 11 2005, 01:14
- - RockFan   I forgot to include one of the most important casu...   Aug 10 2005, 23:26
- - snookerdoodle   CNN has an article about the industry and how de...   Aug 11 2005, 17:55
- - Erukian   I sorted foobar's playlist by album gain, and ...   Aug 11 2005, 18:58
- - Mo0zOoH   ‘The Wall’ mastered by Fidelity Labs g...   Aug 12 2005, 22:25
|- - esa372   QUOTE (Mo0zOoH @ Aug 12 2005, 02:25 PM)‘The W...   Aug 14 2005, 16:25
|- - Mo0zOoH   QUOTE (esa372 @ Aug 14 2005, 06:25 PM)QUOTE (...   Aug 16 2005, 03:21
|- - Cyaneyes   QUOTE (Mo0zOoH @ Aug 15 2005, 10:21 PM)QUOTE ...   Aug 16 2005, 03:29
- - NeoRenegade   QUOTE (irishcrazy2005 @ Aug 10 2005, 12:13 PM...   Aug 14 2005, 18:40
- - HotshotGG   QUOTE I forgot to include one of the most importan...   Aug 15 2005, 00:16
- - Hermit-ically Sealed   Hi, I'm a lurker of this site from time to tim...   Aug 16 2005, 05:50
- - Lyx   oh my god! Maybe even that animation on loudn...   Aug 16 2005, 06:58
|- - Hermit-ically Sealed   QUOTE (Lyx @ Aug 15 2005, 09:58 PM)oh my god...   Aug 17 2005, 00:50
|- - Hermit-ically Sealed   QUOTE (Lyx @ Aug 15 2005, 09:58 PM)if i read ...   Aug 17 2005, 02:29
- - BradPDX   I have produced several CDs and been a participati...   Aug 17 2005, 01:39
|- - Hermit-ically Sealed   QUOTE (BradPDX @ Aug 16 2005, 04:39 PM)Let me...   Aug 17 2005, 03:11
||- - WmAx   For examples of albums with simple microphone plac...   Aug 17 2005, 03:21
||- - richms   QUOTE (Hermit-ically Sealed @ Aug 16 200...   Aug 17 2005, 05:01
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (BradPDX @ Aug 17 2005, 02:39 AM)But ta...   Aug 17 2005, 04:04
||- - bug80   QUOTE (Lyx @ Aug 17 2005, 05:04 AM)QUOTE Oh s...   Sep 1 2005, 12:45
||- - Yaztromo   Sorry if this has been posted before but I noticed...   Sep 5 2005, 23:20
|- - GeSomeone   QUOTE (BradPDX @ Aug 17 2005, 02:39 AM)The pr...   Sep 1 2005, 11:14
|- - Julien   QUOTE (BradPDX @ Aug 17 2005, 01:39 AM)I have...   Sep 12 2005, 14:13
|- - markanini   QUOTE (Julien @ Sep 12 2005, 02:13 PM)What wo...   Sep 12 2005, 14:56
|- - esa372   QUOTE (BradPDX @ Aug 17 2005, 01:39 AM)When t...   Sep 12 2005, 15:50
|- - bug80   QUOTE (Julien @ Sep 12 2005, 03:13 PM)QUOTE (...   Sep 12 2005, 17:03
|- - B.Fink   QUOTE (Julien @ Sep 12 2005, 02:13 PM)What wo...   Mar 15 2006, 16:33
|- - PoisonDan   QUOTE (B.Fink @ Mar 15 2006, 05:33 PM)QUOTE (...   Mar 15 2006, 17:46
|- - Triza   QUOTE (PoisonDan @ Mar 15 2006, 08:46 AM)QUOT...   Mar 16 2006, 02:53
- - dreamliner77   It's not that we are all the use of any compre...   Aug 17 2005, 01:42
- - Axon   Heh, I wouldn't be so sure about that. Alleged...   Aug 17 2005, 01:49
|- - RockFan   QUOTE (Axon @ Aug 16 2005, 04:49 PM)Heh, I wo...   Aug 17 2005, 02:09
- - richms   Another issue I have is that a few of the recent C...   Aug 17 2005, 03:38
- - Hancoque   I have another example for poor mastering. This is...   Sep 6 2005, 01:38
|- - Hermit-ically Sealed   QUOTE (Hancoque @ Sep 5 2005, 04:38 PM)I post...   Sep 6 2005, 05:34
|- - Martel   QUOTE (Hancoque @ Sep 5 2005, 04:38 PM)... It...   Mar 6 2006, 17:14
|- - Hancoque   QUOTE (Martel @ Mar 6 2006, 06:14 PM)edit: Pe...   Mar 6 2006, 18:58
|- - Martel   QUOTE (Hancoque @ Mar 6 2006, 09:58 AM)... I ...   Mar 7 2006, 17:33
- - shadowking   Till this day I cannot sit through St Anger. In co...   Sep 6 2005, 09:00
- - Axon   Hancoque, do you have a link to that Metallica for...   Sep 6 2005, 18:04
- - Hancoque   They seem to have changed the forums. I can't ...   Sep 6 2005, 18:10
- - Vanishing   I just read a review of the new Waves L3 Multiband...   Sep 8 2005, 13:30
|- - bug80   QUOTE (Vanishing @ Sep 8 2005, 02:30 PM)I jus...   Sep 8 2005, 13:36
|- - Cyaneyes   QUOTE (Vanishing @ Sep 8 2005, 08:30 AM)I jus...   Sep 8 2005, 15:12
- - Grey   QUOTE (RockFan @ Aug 8 2005, 10:50 PM)In fact...   Sep 12 2005, 00:34
|- - micmac   QUOTE (Grey @ Sep 11 2005, 05:34 PM)QUOTE (Ro...   Mar 9 2006, 07:31
- - Triza   Julien, Iteresting debate. Good points why compre...   Sep 12 2005, 15:06
|- - Julien   QUOTE (Triza @ Sep 12 2005, 03:06 PM)Julien, ...   Sep 12 2005, 16:41
|- - Triza   QUOTE (Julien @ Sep 12 2005, 07:41 AM)QUOTE (...   Sep 12 2005, 18:01
||- - Julien   QUOTE (Triza @ Sep 12 2005, 06:01 PM)QUOTE (J...   Sep 12 2005, 19:01
|- - Cyaneyes   QUOTE (Julien @ Sep 12 2005, 11:41 AM)Clippin...   Sep 13 2005, 19:35
- - Drexl   I don't remember where it was, but I remember ...   Sep 12 2005, 20:36
|- - no.667   QUOTE (Drexl @ Sep 12 2005, 11:36 AM)I don...   Sep 12 2005, 21:01
- - trebius   Ok now i'm new to the audiophile side of the a...   Sep 12 2005, 23:54
- - Triza   Indeed. A bit OT: The other interesting thing is ...   Sep 13 2005, 00:25
- - seannyb   Hard limiting / compression is only half the story...   Sep 15 2005, 03:49
- - Triza   Well you can tell me whatever you want, but 16 bit...   Sep 15 2005, 13:29
- - Acid8000   I just bought the 1994 remaster of Pink Floyd...   Sep 16 2005, 05:36
- - dreamliner77   Gotta love that PIO got the last quote: http://ww...   Mar 4 2006, 07:51
- - Never_Again   Great idea, agreed. Where do I sign?   Mar 15 2006, 19:19
- - Axon   I tried to make a similar proposal on SteveHoffman...   Mar 15 2006, 20:03
- - BradPDX   I don't think that the idea of onboard compres...   Mar 15 2006, 20:07
- - Axon   That's contingent on producers buying into the...   Mar 15 2006, 20:18
|- - BradPDX   QUOTE (Axon @ Mar 15 2006, 12:18 PM)That...   Mar 15 2006, 20:42
- - eZze   this is my first post here... i was reading about ...   Mar 16 2006, 04:21
- - Lyx   QUOTE (eZze @ Mar 16 2006, 04:21 AM)this is m...   Mar 16 2006, 06:08


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