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Big-label mastering engineers don’t understand lossy formats, Article about Mastered for iTunes
Kohlrabi
post Mar 27 2012, 09:12
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Just found this article via twitter, circled among mastering "engineers" (in fact Heba Kadry reposted it, the girl who mastered the latest Mars Volta album, which reaches -12.79 dB on my RG scans, and is generally mastered in a horrible fashion).

This further backs my impression that most of them don't have a single clue of what they are doing. The section about the mastering practices of Rubin and Meller are especially eye-opening to me. Masterdisk "engineers" also apparently are now out to rape the Rush back catalogue. Further down they cite phase-reverse tests to prove AAC files are different from the original (wow, REALLY?).

The good thing is, I can use this article to decide which releases to avoid in the future. But I'm really at a loss what we can do beside that. I'm really fed up with mastering "engineers" destroying music releases.

This post has been edited by Kohlrabi: Mar 27 2012, 09:17


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Ceterum censeo Masterdiskem esse delendam.
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TrustScience
post Mar 28 2012, 23:39
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 27 2012, 03:35) *
I think you're being a little harsh on the article.


QUOTE (KMD @ Mar 27 2012, 04:14) *
Thats round the wrong way, the article said the waveform shapes were not the relevant factor it was the person skeptical of mastered for itunes that was looking at the sum of two file with one inverted.


From the Author

Thanks for sharing the article, Kohlrabi. If you have another read of it sometime, I think you'll find it's pretty even-handed.

I get the sense that you disagree with the claims made by the mastering engineers, and not with the article itself, which tries to take a neutral stance.

Since this was piece of reportage, rather than opinion, I wanted to accurately deliver the news, present both the commentary and the criticism, and to offer some dispassionate analysis of both stances. The article tries to remain skeptical of the magnitude of the claims, but I also stand by the fact that it's unfair to dismiss them entirely without proper tests.

If you do want to read an opinion piece, you'll probably find that my own feelings about blind listening are pretty congruent with the philosophy here at Hydrogen Audio. I'm a big supporter of this site and of ABX tests in general, and I even wrote a supportive opinion piece about blind listening tests in the very same issue you cited! (You can read that here):

"Can You Hear What I Hear? A Guide to Listening Blind"

I will have to disagree with the extreme stance that mastering engineers are generally snake-oil salesmen (I've never had an experience that would lead me to believe that) or that Mr. Ludwig or Ms. Kadry are incompetent (I know both, and they're definitely not).

However, as a matter of personal opinion, I would agree that Rick Rubin overstates the audible differences normally found between high-res AAC files and their original WAV masters. I'd also agree that at least one of Meller's comments was probably more figurative and expressive than it was literal.

With that said, the engineers I interviewed told me that in "Mastered for iTunes", Apple also fixed an actual issue they had in the past with creating AAC files from high-resolution masters. To be fair, even Bob Ludwig agrees that 256kbps files won't necessarily sound any worse than traditional CD files - Just so long as they're created properly, and the engineer can verify there were no issues with the transfer. (He says that this is something that they're now able to do.)

The other real development appears to be that MEs can now easily and effectively hear the differences between their original master and the file that the iTunes store's proprietary encoder will create. (I'm told that, for better or worse, it's not the same encoder used in the consumer version of iTunes.)

Who knows? Even if the AACs sound identical in 95% of cases, this new ability to actually listen and check can't be a bad thing

Personally, I think the new tools are a good idea, but I'm not about to replace my music library with new "Mastered for iTunes" versions anytime soon.

I definitely appreciate the healthy dose of skepticism here on Hydrogen Audio, and would agree that people who have a service or product to sell sometimes dramatize their claims... But show me a salesman who doesn't, and I'll show you a salesman who's out of a job!

Thanks again for the share and the comments. Keep doing what you guys do!

Very best,

Justin Colletti
Recordist, Journalist
http://justincolletti.com
http://trustmeimascientist.com
http://sonicscoop.com
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saratoga
post Mar 29 2012, 04:29
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QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 18:39) *
I get the sense that you disagree with the claims made by the mastering engineers, and not with the article itself, which tries to take a neutral stance.

Since this was piece of reportage, rather than opinion, I wanted to accurately deliver the news, present both the commentary and the criticism, and to offer some dispassionate analysis of both stances.


Yes, clearly people are mostly annoyed by how clueless some of the people doing the mastering are. That Bob Ludwig quote where he seemingly does not understand what audio encoding is or why it might cause clipping is particularly galling from someone doing any sort of audio work. Particularly to people like me who consider the huge amount of clipping accidentally introduced by incompetent engineers to be one of the worst aspects of modern music.

QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 18:39) *
The article tries to remain skeptical of the magnitude of the claims, but I also stand by the fact that it's unfair to dismiss them entirely without proper tests.


Yes of course, however some of the stuff you say is just ... odd. For instance:

QUOTE
First is that Sheperd’s sample size of one song is far too small to be conclusive — especially with a manual process like mastering for iTunes.

Second is that Sheperd’s methodology is flawed. He takes a song that was mastered in August, before the new protocols were in place, and then uses both a lower bit-depth source-file and a different AAC encoder than was used to create the “Mastered for iTunes” version.

With all that in mind, it would be no surprise if Shepherd’s results are different. He then continues to compare his own custom file to a down-sampled CD version rather than the original high-resolution master. In his test, Shepherd also neglects to run either a blind ABX test or an objective frequency analyzer to verify which version of the file could be shown to sound more similar to the original during normal playback.

Even if Shepherd fixes his methodology, there’s still a third argument that could call his analysis into question: Since the Mastered for iTunes process uses a healthy dose of additive EQ to restore frequencies that are lost during the AAC conversion process, it’s plausible to suggest that the phase-shift inherent in all non-linear EQs could cause his phase-based null test to report additional cancellation differences — even if the EQ was successful in restoring the original frequency balance.


No, first everything that clown says is irrelevant since you can't show that one encoding is closer to CD by subtraction. Its not that his sample size is too small its that his test is meaningless. Its not that he took a song mastered at the wrong time, its that he doesn't know what hes doing. Why are you talking about EQ when nothing he says could possibly make sense? Actually, why are you even addressing this guy aside from to say "no I'm sorry, thats not how audio works"?

QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 18:39) *
I will have to disagree with the extreme stance that mastering engineers are generally snake-oil salesmen (I've never had an experience that would lead me to believe that) or that Mr. Ludwig or Ms. Kadry are incompetent (I know both, and they're definitely not).


That part where Ludwig discovers that very loud digital files can easily clip when you do any sort of lossy processing, was that taken out of context? Because by implying that hes unfamiliar with digital processing you make him sound utterly incompetent . . .
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greynol
post Mar 29 2012, 04:46
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QUOTE
the Mastered for iTunes process uses a healthy dose of additive EQ to restore frequencies that are lost during the AAC conversion process

Citation please!


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Posts in this topic
- Kohlrabi   Big-label mastering engineers don’t understand lossy formats   Mar 27 2012, 09:12
- - evereux   QUOTE Apple’s 256 kbps AAC files are supposed to s...   Mar 27 2012, 09:26
- - skamp   They obviously think what they do is teh shit. Nor...   Mar 27 2012, 09:32
- - 2Bdecided   I think you're being a little harsh on the art...   Mar 27 2012, 09:35
|- - Kohlrabi   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 27 2012, 10:35) I ...   Mar 27 2012, 09:44
|- - Nessuno   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Mar 27 2012, 09:44) Jus...   Mar 27 2012, 10:55
||- - DonP   QUOTE (Nessuno @ Mar 27 2012, 05:55) QUOT...   Mar 27 2012, 12:38
|- - dhromed   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Mar 27 2012, 09:44) I...   Mar 27 2012, 14:10
|- - Fandango   @greynol: Oh, here it is explained by a guy named ...   Mar 29 2012, 05:14
|- - skamp   QUOTE (Fandango @ Mar 29 2012, 06:14) PS:...   Mar 31 2012, 10:59
- - KMD   Thats round the wrong way, the article said the ...   Mar 27 2012, 10:14
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (KMD @ Mar 27 2012, 05:14) Thats r...   Mar 27 2012, 17:15
- - Porcus   I bet the people behind Monkey's Audio will wa...   Mar 27 2012, 11:15
- - RobWansbeck   Vlado Meller is reported as saying : “ The high...   Mar 27 2012, 16:11
- - greynol   http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....st...   Mar 27 2012, 16:14
- - TrustScience   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 27 2012, 03:35) I ...   Mar 28 2012, 23:39
|- - Canar   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 15:39)...   Mar 29 2012, 03:12
||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (Canar @ Mar 28 2012, 21:12) QUOTE ...   Mar 29 2012, 14:24
||- - greynol   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 06:24)...   Mar 29 2012, 15:22
|||- - krabapple   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 10:22) So t...   Mar 29 2012, 17:14
||||- - greynol   QUOTE (krabapple @ Mar 29 2012, 09:14) Yo...   Mar 29 2012, 18:03
|||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 09:22) Your...   Mar 29 2012, 17:18
|||- - greynol   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 09:18)...   Mar 29 2012, 17:39
|||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 11:39) QUOT...   Mar 29 2012, 17:49
|||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 12:49)...   Mar 29 2012, 18:02
||- - greynol   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 06:24)...   Mar 29 2012, 15:37
|||- - krabapple   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 10:37) QUOT...   Mar 29 2012, 17:17
|||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 09:37) QUOT...   Mar 29 2012, 17:32
||||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 12:32)...   Mar 29 2012, 18:00
||||- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 16:32)...   Mar 29 2012, 18:26
||||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 29 2012, 12:26) QU...   Mar 29 2012, 18:52
||||- - Canar   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 10:52)...   Mar 29 2012, 18:58
|||||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (Canar @ Mar 29 2012, 12:58) QUOTE ...   Mar 29 2012, 19:02
|||||- - greynol   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 09:32)...   Mar 29 2012, 19:04
|||||- - Canar   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 10:52)...   Mar 29 2012, 19:04
||||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 13:52)...   Mar 29 2012, 19:37
||||- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 17:52)...   Mar 30 2012, 10:19
||||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Mar 30 2012, 04:19) It...   Mar 30 2012, 17:19
||||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 30 2012, 12:19)...   Mar 30 2012, 19:06
|||||- - TrustScience   That's true. I did make a couple clarifying ed...   Mar 30 2012, 20:13
||||- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 30 2012, 17:19)...   Mar 31 2012, 10:33
||||- - krabapple   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 30 2012, 12:19)...   Mar 31 2012, 21:59
|||- - saratoga   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 10:37) QUOT...   Mar 29 2012, 18:19
||- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 13:24)...   Mar 29 2012, 16:45
||- - krabapple   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 09:24)...   Mar 29 2012, 17:10
||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 09:24)...   Mar 29 2012, 17:48
||- - TrustScience   QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 29 2012, 11:48) The...   Mar 29 2012, 18:02
||- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 29 2012, 13:02)...   Mar 29 2012, 18:13
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 18:39)...   Mar 29 2012, 04:29
||- - greynol   QUOTE the Mastered for iTunes process uses a healt...   Mar 29 2012, 04:46
|- - Fandango   QUOTE (Canar @ Mar 29 2012, 04:12) QUOTE ...   Mar 29 2012, 04:34
|- - IgorC   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 28 2012, 19:39)...   Apr 6 2012, 23:17
- - greynol   I read the paper by Apple back when we first discu...   Mar 29 2012, 05:23
- - Fandango   Ah, it has been discussed before and Apple actuall...   Mar 29 2012, 05:30
- - greynol   I provided a link already. Go to the first post i...   Mar 29 2012, 05:35
|- - Fandango   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 06:35) I pr...   Mar 29 2012, 05:51
- - saratoga   I think the most damning thing about the mastered ...   Mar 29 2012, 05:53
|- - Fandango   QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 29 2012, 06:53) Ess...   Mar 29 2012, 06:04
- - greynol   As I said in the dedicated discussion, Apple is ad...   Mar 29 2012, 05:59
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 29 2012, 00:59) As I...   Mar 29 2012, 06:12
- - greynol   RE: Big-label mastering engineers don’t understand lossy formats   Mar 29 2012, 06:30
- - 2Bdecided   It's what happens when the art-world and scien...   Mar 29 2012, 09:36
- - drewfx   Perhaps interviewing someone with a background in ...   Mar 29 2012, 19:02
- - greynol   When I am in a position to improve something of mi...   Mar 30 2012, 16:49
|- - TrustScience   QUOTE (greynol @ Mar 30 2012, 10:49) When...   Mar 30 2012, 17:40
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (TrustScience @ Mar 30 2012, 12:40)...   Mar 30 2012, 19:13
- - greynol   I'll try not to make this a long post as I...   Mar 30 2012, 20:47
- - saratoga   At least from my point of view (and as I mentioned...   Mar 30 2012, 21:41
|- - db1989   QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 30 2012, 21:41) And...   Mar 30 2012, 21:53
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (db1989 @ Mar 30 2012, 16:53) QUOTE...   Mar 30 2012, 22:23
- - greynol   Aside from db1989's point in the next post whi...   Mar 30 2012, 21:52
- - greynol   Since others are piling on while admittedly not ad...   Mar 31 2012, 22:14
- - Axon   Perhaps TrustScience would have found our reaction...   Apr 1 2012, 17:26
|- - Kohlrabi   QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 1 2012, 18:26) In that ...   Apr 1 2012, 18:09
|- - knutinh   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 1 2012, 19:09) Warr...   Apr 1 2012, 22:06
|- - Kohlrabi   QUOTE (knutinh @ Apr 1 2012, 23:06) QUOTE...   Apr 1 2012, 22:22
|- - knutinh   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 1 2012, 23:22) My p...   Apr 2 2012, 09:00
|- - skamp   QUOTE (knutinh @ Apr 2 2012, 10:00) let u...   Apr 2 2012, 09:15
|- - knutinh   QUOTE (skamp @ Apr 2 2012, 10:15) iTunes ...   Apr 2 2012, 12:31
- - krabapple   It's possible that calling famous mastering en...   Apr 2 2012, 07:17
- - Kohlrabi   The notion that mastering engineers who deliberate...   Apr 2 2012, 13:07
|- - db1989   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 2 2012, 13:07) I al...   Apr 2 2012, 13:25
- - Kohlrabi   Thank you very much, db1989. That was what I had i...   Apr 2 2012, 13:48
- - db1989   Great!   Apr 2 2012, 13:50
- - absinthe33   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Mar 27 2012, 10:12) Jus...   Apr 2 2012, 15:22
|- - dhromed   QUOTE (absinthe33 @ Apr 2 2012, 15:22) br...   Apr 2 2012, 16:08
|- - absinthe33   QUOTE (dhromed @ Apr 2 2012, 17:08) QUOTE...   Apr 2 2012, 23:04
|- - splice   QUOTE (absinthe33 @ Apr 2 2012, 15:04) .....   Apr 2 2012, 23:52
- - 2Bdecided   Some lossy codecs can introduce audible temporal s...   Apr 2 2012, 15:28
- - skamp   Heba Kadry again: "While Im all for setting a...   Apr 4 2012, 15:23
|- - Kohlrabi   QUOTE (skamp @ Apr 4 2012, 16:23) Heba Ka...   Apr 4 2012, 22:29
|- - splice   QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 4 2012, 14:29) ... ...   Apr 5 2012, 01:33
- - 2Bdecided   ...which leads back to Justin's latest article...   Apr 4 2012, 16:25
|- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Apr 4 2012, 16:25) ......   Apr 5 2012, 11:24
- - stephan_g   ^Agreed. A "decent stereo", btw, include...   Apr 5 2012, 16:30
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (stephan_g @ Apr 5 2012, 11:30) Why...   Apr 5 2012, 18:04
|- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (stephan_g @ Apr 5 2012, 16:30) ^Ag...   Apr 5 2012, 18:43
- - stephan_g   Don't know about that, but I was just browsing...   Apr 5 2012, 21:56
- - markanini   QUOTE (stephan_g @ Apr 5 2012, 21:56) Not...   Apr 6 2012, 02:01
- - krabapple   QUOTE (stephan_g @ Apr 5 2012, 16:56) Not...   Apr 6 2012, 20:28
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