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Big-label mastering engineers donít 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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saratoga
post Mar 30 2012, 21:41
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At least from my point of view (and as I mentioned i my first post), the real story is just how poorly Apple has managed to communicate the goals of the "Mastered For iTunes" program. Before I mocked their description for its almost condescending tone to the reader, but really I think even much of what they have tried to explain has been lost. For example, in the original quote from Muller he attempts to determine what the frequency response of an AAC encoder is:

ďI can tell you what doesnít work,Ē he said. ďOne of my initial trial-and-error methods was to take digital fingerprints of both versions of the song, and then try to apply a [compensating EQ] to the CD version and pump that back through the AAC encoder.Ē

Now this is a perfectly logical thing to do to a speaker or a tube amplifier. But its just plain insane to expect that to work on a perceptual audio encoder. No one with the slightest clue of whats going on would expect that to work. But to someone still living in the pre-digital era, its all they would have to go on. Now to Muller's credit, he does correctly deduce that a perceptual audio encoder is very, very different from an amplifier through experimental means:

"Well, the problem with that is that input does not equal output. Itís highly program dependent, and you rarely get the same thing twice in a row."

Unfortunately, while he has (thankfully!) given up trying to compensate for perceptual encoding with EQ, he has no idea why AAC encoding works differently then an amplifier. The notion that its actually analyzing a signal and converting it to a new form in a nonlinear, adaptive manner without actually altering the intensity per frequency is lost on him. Thus while Apple has given him tools, they have failed to explain to him adequately what it is those tools are meant to do or why he should be using them. And so he (and most of the people quoted) seem to be grasping the dark trying to relate an ill-explained set of objective handed to them by Apple to (irrelevant) experience using more conventional audio equipment like microphones and amplifiers.

I suppose that while we have criticized Rubin, Muller, Shepherd and company for not understanding their trade, in some sense this isn't really their fault. They've been handed a complicated goal by Apple with very little explanation or guidance. And while yes we would hope they would take the time to learn their tools even without guidance, perhaps given their time constraints. their age, and their other responsibilities this is unrealistic.
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db1989
post Mar 30 2012, 21:53
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 30 2012, 21:41) *
And while yes we would hope they would take the time to learn their tools even without guidance, perhaps given their time constraints. their age, and their other responsibilities this is unrealistic.
QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 30 2012, 21:41) *
their age

What does that have to do with it?

Actually, maybe itís best just to pretend that bit isnít there. A mud-fest will solve nothing, and I certainly donít want to be the one to have started it.
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saratoga
post Mar 30 2012, 22:23
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QUOTE (db1989 @ Mar 30 2012, 16:53) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 30 2012, 21:41) *
And while yes we would hope they would take the time to learn their tools even without guidance, perhaps given their time constraints. their age, and their other responsibilities this is unrealistic.
QUOTE (saratoga @ Mar 30 2012, 21:41) *
their age

What does that have to do with it?


Quite a lot. Experience is a double edge sword. It is a resource of potential contexts to illuminate a new situation, but it also constrains ones thinking by out-competing new ideas with past experience. The more one specializes in a specific field, the harder it is to to look at things from a new perspective and the more tempting it is to use ideas that have previously proven successful. This isn't a dig at someone, its just common sense. Ideas that have worked before are likely to work again.

This problem is particularly acute in my line of work where we see the graying of scientists and the shutting out of new ideas: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405...3334216604.html

But its actually a more general trait of human existence. I actually have never met Meller nor do I know anything about his age. But given that his goto concept was linear systems, time invariant systems, he almost certainly started his career more then 20 years ago when time variant processing was more difficult to implement (and thus less likely to be a significant factor in a new technique). This is not to say that a younger person would have done better (and in fact I suspect that the newer generation is in some ways worse than the old...). However, I don't think its unfair to suggest that someone's experience could (among other factors) guide his or her choice of intellectual tools when confronting a new problem. Actually, I would be surprised if it did not.

This post has been edited by saratoga: Mar 30 2012, 22:23
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Posts in this topic
- Kohlrabi   Big-label mastering engineers donít understand lossy formats   Mar 27 2012, 09:12
- - evereux   QUOTE Appleís 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 : ď 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 donít 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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