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Dark Side of the Disc Article, Pink Floyd remastered DSotM Review
2Bdecided
post May 21 2003, 11:17
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Excellent post DickD! Your graphs and explanation of dynamic range should be FAQed.


Whilst it's true that SACD doesn't have a hard limit, and it's true that you can check that your material doesn't push SACD harder than Sony want you to, there is technically nothing to stop you slamming the SACD format much harder than you're supposed to. You'll get more distortion, and you could get significant unpredictable non-linear behaviour. But if you're of the "slam it hard - if the result sounds OK, it is OK" school of thought, you can take these techniques from the days of analogue tape and apply them very easily to DSD.

Existing audiophile mastering equipment may not allow this - but you can bet that, if SACD ever becomes mainstream, this will become common practice. :-(

Cheers,
David.
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GeSomeone
post May 21 2003, 13:24
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QUOTE (DickD @ May 20 2003 - 08:31 PM)
SACD cannot be maxed out to a hard limit the same way as CD, and if the production is done in the DSD domain with direct conversion to red book CD format for the second layer of the disk as described in the link above, the dynamics and mastering of the CD layer will be the same as for the SACD later.

This is not likely to happen any time soon IMHO. DSD is more a "delivery" format and not a record/work format. I expect that all mixing and mastering will be done in PCM for a long time, with just an extra preparation for SACD (DSD encoding) as the last stage.
Besides the point, but I suspect that DSD is also a convenient layer to hide the source bit depth for the consumers. It's not obvious if the master was analog,16,18,20 or maybe 24 bits, but the consumers will be made to believe that it's all 24/192 (or something like that) so, better than 16/44.1 rolleyes.gif .

The mastering problem is not a format problem, it's just the silly call for louder than that other loud album. Once SACD is generally accepted this will go on if the attitude of the record companies isn't gonna change. Like happened in the movie industry, there they go for dramatic (loud) sound effects. To provide the headroom for those peaks there are reference levels specified (much like replaygain). The resulting crisp sound is actually a selling argument for DVD.

BTW expect the hybrid SACD (with CD audio layer) to disappear once SACD reaches a "critical mass". That might take a while though.
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Ge Someone
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DonP
post May 21 2003, 14:41
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Ack... crappy rushed release, remastered, improved, wrecked....

Where does my DSotM disk fit in? The only date shown is 1973 (the original vinyl release date). It has a
"Harvest" logo and is made in Japan.

This post has been edited by DonP: May 21 2003, 14:42
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DickD
post May 21 2003, 18:43
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2Bdecided, Gesomeone, KikeG, etc.

I fear you're right that mastering will continue to be done in PCM (large investment in studio equipment) and that for rock and pop it will continue to be done with a mind to loudness, reducing the dynamic range and boosting the bass and treble for quite a while. I am quite sceptical whether SACD and DVD-A will improve matters, and fear they won't (despite what I said).

If you've just listened to some thumping compressed recent music, just try putting on something like Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (1976). I mean, a track like Summer Soft has interesting dynamic variation and excitingly loud transients in the rhythm part. These qualities just seem to have disappeared from a lot of recent mainstream music, or been pushed so deep into the mix that they aren't interesting.

The worst loudness war casualties are so rounded and thick with sound they almost become oppressive to listen to*. Some of the great old recordings are much more open and carefree.

(*I bought a 2002 Sarah Whatmore CD single with no cover for 1p in an ASDA supermarket (1.5 cents in Euros or USD), not being quite sure who she was, but it's a cheap jewel case, and although she looked good in the video and I remembered she was a Pop Idol contestant with a decent voice, the music tracks were pretty mindnumbing to listen to. They kind of work as sensory deprivation though. Decent music sounds so wonderfully dynamic and involving afterwards, just as you perceive rustling leaves and bird in the trees so clearly after taking out ear plugs after using a petrol hedge trimmer)

Some of the producers try to restore some variation into modern rock and pop by pausing the music, turning various stereo or vocal effects on and off, but it just isn't as interesting as if they were allowed to have some dynamic variation and surprise us with something loud. Nowadays, our volume control is turned so low and the CD has no louder to go, so there aren't any peaks that stand out as especially loud. (Hmm, why can't modern music be louder, it all seems such a boringly average volume! ;) )

Sure, there are times when I need to crank up the volume to hear quiet sections over the noise of my car on the motorway, but I don't want all my music mastered with that situation in mind.

OK, rant mode off!

I'd guess that this Dark Side of the Moon remaster isn't a severe example of the recent pop & rock loudness war, just one of the more subtle examples of the remaster not quite matching the quality of the original, partly because it has to be made a little too loud, and too consistently loud, to come reasonably close to the volume of recent CDs, albeit a little quieter and avoid complaints when it's put on a CD changer.

I'd rather buy a second hand original release CD than quite a lot of the remasters out there, and I'm becoming a bit suspicious of the whole "Remastered" label on CDs as a Pavlovian response, almost feeling that it's a warning that it will be lacking dynamics, rather than a promise of superior quality which the term once implied.

Perhaps some of the very first CD releases were mastered with poor DACs, maybe even no dither and insufficient anti-aliasing and perhaps had a harsh unanalogue sound (I haven't got any of them to judge if this is true, but I believe that low quality 12-bit and 14-bit ADCs with poor linearity were common in the early days of CD). Dire Straits' 1985 original Brothers In Arms CD (later remastered louder but still sounding good in 1996) is, I understand, reckoned to be among the first truly good sounding rock/pop CDs that made the most of the format. Digital remasters of the first CDs and of older albums, first released before the CD era certainly sounded good, but at some point, the loudness war seems to have recently caught up with things and turned the word Remastered into a warning of records mastered for higher loudness on the meter, not higher quality (at least to me).

By the way, I liked, 2Bdecided's use of the term 'oily' in another thread about new audio formats to describe the qualities imbued by massive amounts of ultrasonic dither. It's reminiscent of the lubricating effect reported when British RAF engineers noticed how clocks worked better when vibrated by aero-engines than on the ground, so they added vibrating devices to dither the mechanisms and make them work smoothly at all times.

Incidentally, all these 5 and 6 channel surround sound systems are horizontal. Are they saving the vertical dimension so they can sell us something new in 10 years' time? (You naturally tilt your head to detect height as well as being alerted to it by the effect of the pinnae of your outer ears, which I understand vary the loudness at around 8kHz according to height. In fact, the very kind foo_crossfeed developer pointed this out when someone complained that the stereo image sounded too high, and you can try it with stereo music, a player, headphones, a Crossfeed DSP plugin and the 8 kHz region of a good Equalizer, like Foobar2000's (or Garf's revised version which doesn't go 96 dB!). Just a few dB up or down (at 7kHz for FB2K, and perhaps a little less on the two adjacent bands) will change the perceived height of the stereo image up or down respectively - just allow time for the change to reach the playback buffer).

This post has been edited by DickD: May 22 2003, 08:29
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rohangc
post Jun 8 2003, 20:11
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In the article mentioned above the author notes:

QUOTE
(Jon also wrote about the Crest-pressed SACD of DSotM developing radial cracks at its center in an online article.)


How do I know if mine was pressed by Crest? It says "Made in EU" on my disc and the disc has a golden dye. Do I have a Crest pressed CD?
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DickD
post Jun 9 2003, 14:44
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I read the article and may have followed the link or seen a sidebar about Crest-pressed CDs. As I recall (I'm not going back to check it, you should have been able to find the same link to a Floyd website I did!) these were made in California and they stated that this problem hadn't been seen on the European pressings they knew about, but only the US pressings, which they traced to Crest.
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