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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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Axon
post Apr 1 2012, 17:26
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Perhaps TrustScience would have found our reactions more understandable if we just told him up-front how little many of us tend to respect mastering engineers, as a matter of engineering (as opposed to artistic) technical competence. Mastering engineers don't necessarily need a firm grasp of signal processing fundamentals to do their jobs well, yet this topic is probably more about signal processing than it is about artistic or subjective notions of sound quality.

The incorrect statements that appear to be made by respected mastering engineers in the article -- the premise of EQing a master to compensate for encoder coloration, using nulling comparisons as a metric for encoder quality, etc. -- are something a lot of us have come to expect. (cf: widespread professional misconceptions about loudness equalization, the audio properties of vinyl, high-res digital audio formats.....) Stated baldly, that's why a bunch of us non-mastering-engineers seem quite at ease critiquing mastering engineers about how they do their jobs.

In that context, I find TrustScience's situation as a journalist rather unenviable. If he were going to placate us, he would probably need to interview mastering engineers while operating under the premise that he might know more about the topic than they do...

This post has been edited by Axon: Apr 1 2012, 17:28
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Kohlrabi
post Apr 1 2012, 18:09
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QUOTE (Axon @ Apr 1 2012, 18:26) *
In that context, I find TrustScience's situation as a journalist rather unenviable. If he were going to placate us, he would probably need to interview mastering engineers while operating under the premise that he might know more about the topic than they do...

The problem is that some of the "engineers" simply perpetuate FUD about lossy formats/encoders. I guess most have read the article in the OP by now, I found another piece by Scott Hull, the owner of Masterdisk:
QUOTE (Scott Hull)
The bottom line is that experienced engineers can -- and do -- make noticeably better sounding AAC files than you get using the standard, automatic encoder.

Warranted, "better sounding" is a loose term. But the point of AAC is not "better sound", but transparency. And regarding that no amount of mastering engineering tricks can improve on AAC, especially not ones by those who don't even understand that digital clipping of CDs at full scale is bad (which isn't an artistic choice, but bad engineering). They probably are talking about creating a new master specifically for AAC encoding. With that they can manage to create a "better sounding" AAC file, but sure as hell the master they derived that from will also "sound better" than the previous master.

It's one thing if you don't understand something and shut up about it. It's far worse to not understand something, but in turn having strong opinions about it, and sprouting your misconceptions out to the public. All the while putting in your weight of apparent knowledge in the field because you mastered some CDs before and have a big sign up front.

This post has been edited by Kohlrabi: Apr 1 2012, 18:16


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knutinh
post Apr 1 2012, 22:06
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QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 1 2012, 19:09) *
Warranted, "better sounding" is a loose term. But the point of AAC is not "better sound", but transparency. And regarding that no amount of mastering engineering tricks can improve on AAC

If you are the painter and decide what scene and style to paint in, surely your choices can serve to hide flaws in your selection of colors?

-k
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Kohlrabi
post Apr 1 2012, 22:22
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QUOTE (knutinh @ Apr 1 2012, 23:06) *
QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 1 2012, 19:09) *
Warranted, "better sounding" is a loose term. But the point of AAC is not "better sound", but transparency. And regarding that no amount of mastering engineering tricks can improve on AAC

If you are the painter and decide what scene and style to paint in, surely your choices can serve to hide flaws in your selection of colors?

My point is that when master A sounds better than master B when encoded to AAC, A will sound better than B when left lossless too, unless you encounter AAC artifacts, and you are able to defeat them with your new master. You could then also try to diminish that problem by choosing a higher encoding bitrate. I doubt the mastering engineers consistently find AAC artifacts at common bitrates.

This post has been edited by Kohlrabi: Apr 1 2012, 22:25


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knutinh
post Apr 2 2012, 09:00
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QUOTE (Kohlrabi @ Apr 1 2012, 23:22) *
My point is that when master A sounds better than master B when encoded to AAC, A will sound better than B when left lossless too, unless you encounter AAC artifacts, and you are able to defeat them with your new master. You could then also try to diminish that problem by choosing a higher encoding bitrate. I doubt the mastering engineers consistently find AAC artifacts at common bitrates.

Yes, audible degradation is necessary for the argument to float. I dont know what bitrates we are talking about, but let us just assume that they are low enough for this to really be an issue (I am sure that much of the talk from producers stem from the lack of blind testing).

My point was that if some piece of classical music sounds bad through a given AAC encoder/bitrate, the extreme artistic possibility would be to use an entirely other piece of music (e.g. Britney Spears) that might or might not sound equally degraded at that bitrate. A mastering technician might do other significant changes to the mix that divert our attention from problems (or avoid problems in the first place). These are artistic choices that an encoder will never have the freedom to do, but I think that the technically savvy people on this site tend to under-appreciate the craftman-ship (or lack thereof) of mastering a song or an album. It is an interesting challenge that require both technical and artistic skill.

Sadly (for many of us), even highly acclaimed mastering engineers seems to lack technical skills that seems basic to us (or at least the ability to describe the technical causes in a meaningful way), and at the same time seem to have an artistic vision that is very far from what many of us prefer.

I believe that it is common in "hand crafts" such as music making and cooking, where knowledge is of a more intuitive, "pass-on-by-example" and training nature (as opposed to the engineering route that is more theoretical and QED-oriented), to perhaps do the right thing (e.g. "keep hot signal levels, but avoid clipping", "fry your steak at hot temperature before adding butter"), but for very wrong reasons (i.e. "the magic sound fairy will bite you in the nose otherwise"). I can see how experience and feedback will (best case) tend to direct such professionals in to doing stuff the right way through some form of natural selection, but since theoretic analysis is seldom needed or celebrated, why would one expect it to accumulate into the most celebrated professionals?

Reference:
"Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor", Hervť This

-k

This post has been edited by knutinh: Apr 2 2012, 09:08
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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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