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Modern Vinyl "Masters" vs. CD--My Experience, It Really IS About the Music
Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 18:59
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Due to some recent past experiences in other threads wherein some members (who plainly state their honest dislike of vinyl) claim that modern LPs are just as dynamically clipped as their CD-counterparts, I'd like to take an opportunity to illustrate that this is IME not the case. I've heard it stated more than once that "vinyl is not about the music..it's about the ritual.) This is seemingly just plain-old lazy bias. It can easily be forgiven in that these posters make it pretty obvious that they don't purchase vinyl, let alone compare modern releases to their CD-counterparts.

Here are screenshots from needledrops I've done of some of my favorite recent records. All but one were released in the past two years. Warrel Dane's "Praises to the War Machine" was released in 2008. (As a fun side-note, the vinyl LP came with the CD and was limited to 1,000 copies worldwide.)

I would like to note that I did not cherry-pick these examples. I only have about three more needledrops that I also have a CD copy or iTunes Matched version of. I can upload those as well. It should also be noted that all of these examples are on the heavier-side of the metal genre and probably are far more dense in sound than most other examples from other genres.

I've brought each vinyl recording up to 0.1 under 0 dB for easier comparison. None of the peaks are "pops" or any artifacts associated with the LP medium. Only one had a "pop" that hit the ceiling and I corrected it before applying gain.


Borknagar - "The Earthling" from "Urd" (2012)

LP



iTunes Matched AAC




In Flames - "Ropes" from "Sounds of a Playground Fading" (2011)

LP



CD



(This album is an egregious example of how bad they can make a modern CD sound through destructive normalization.)


Saint Vitus - "Let Them Fall" from "Lillie: F-65" (2012)

LP



CD



(Yes, really. It sounds worse than it looks IME.)


Warrel Dane - "Brother" from "Praises to the War Machine" (2008)

LP



CD




Septicflesh - "Oceans of Grey" from "The Great Mass" (2011)

LP



CD




[continued in next post due to apparent image constraints]


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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 19:00
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Dimmu Borgir - "Born Treacherous" from "Abrahadabra" (2010)

LP



iTunes Matched



(This one admittedly doesn't sound that much better if at all. The iTunes Matched version sounds fine to me.)


Woods of Ypres - "Into Exile: "Can You Get Here in 10 Days?" " from "Woods IV: The Green Album" (2009) [Earache Pressing]

LP



iTunes purchased



(Offensively egregious and eardrum-shattering.)


I've stated in the past here that, when all things are equal, the CD is far superior to vinyl. I would like to also be fair and point out that most older CDs that I have also on vinyl make owning the vinyl pointless for anything other than collectibility's sake. Armored Saint's "Raising Fear" and Suicidal Tendencies' "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today?" are examples that immediately come to mind. Both were released in the late-eighties/pre-Loudness War...speaking of which:that's the real issue here.

Before I step down from my virtual-podium here I'd like to conclude that I wish it would be equally less-than-OK at HA to make sweeping judgements about why one would choose the vinyl medium over the CD in many cases as it is to make other ridiculous claims about vinyl. I get that it's so much easier to espouse the popular position than give something a second thought. As a person that actually plays vinyl in the 21st Century I'd like to submit my personal findings on this matter.

As always, discussion, questions, and disagreement is welcome smile.gif


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Nessuno
post Dec 5 2012, 19:24
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Never actually made measurement of the sort, but may we safely assume that all this doesn't apply to classical?


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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 19:29
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Probably not smile.gif I think people who produce classical music pay far more attention to detail and far less to "normalization" of the end-product.

My "measurements" are admittedly unscientific in that those pictures can't tell us how the recordings sound. I feel they do pretty well illustrate what's "going on" so to speak. If anyone's interested I can upload an actual audio sample of any of them later today.


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Porcus
post Dec 5 2012, 20:05
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QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Dec 5 2012, 19:29) *
If anyone's interested I can upload an actual audio sample of any of them later today.


Please do. Those pictures make me wanna violate TOS#9.


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[JAZ]
post Dec 5 2012, 20:08
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@Engelsstaub: While I agree that probably more care was taken to make the vinyl versions of those albums, I would like to make the comparison a bit more fair.

Could you make both songs equal loudness (i.e applying replaygain, or, if you don't want to change the vinyl one, apply the corresponding gain to the CD version so that its loudness is the same than the LP).
Once applied that gain, apply a lowpass filter around 18Khz. A soft rolloff filter would be better than a brickwall one.

I believe that doing these two things, those waveforms will look much less different, although I guess the CD version could still show hardclipping, but should be less obvious.
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 20:22
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@ Porcus: I'm going to try to get a few samples up in about eight hours or less. I have to attend to some stuff at the mo.

@[JAZ] When I upload the aforementioned samples you or anyone else is more than welcome to manipulate them in any way you like. I would suggest making the CD/AAC versions as "loud" as the vinyl ones though. I don't think boosting the gain and ultimately clipping the needledrops would prove anything one way or another.


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rgtb
post Dec 5 2012, 20:25
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QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Dec 5 2012, 19:29) *
My "measurements" are admittedly unscientific in that those pictures can't tell us how the recordings sound. I feel they do pretty well illustrate what's "going on" so to speak. If anyone's interested I can upload an actual audio sample of any of them later today.

I don't think you can infer too much by means of eyeballing.


An anecdote: recently, I downloaded a FLAC EP via Bandcamp. I own the vinyl version of this EP but the vinyl copy I have is perhaps VG so I wasn't 100% happy with the quality of my digitization. I hoped to get a nice digital version from Bandcamp. But what I got was a relatively severe victim of the loudness war. The waveforms of the Bandcamp FLACs looked quite different from the FLACs based on my own digitization.

I ended up contacting the artist about the issue and writing him about my frustration. I told him that I considered the vinyl master "proper" but not the Bandcamp master. Turns out the artist was a really nice guy. He explained to me no separate master was done for Bandcamp. He even went as far as sending me his original masters as provided to him by the mastering studio. I could then appreciate that the FLAC EP was indeed off the original master.

There's not really a moral of the story. I don't know what caused the perceived difference. Was it a Placebo-like effect? Was the vinyl not faithful to the digital master? Again, I'm not sure. I'm just a layperson when it comes to audio. In any case, I'd be curious to learn more about these things.

This post has been edited by rgtb: Dec 5 2012, 20:28
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 20:59
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I think it should be a bit more clear that we're not really talking about "masters" here, rgtb. I doubt that any of my examples were really "mastered" differently. They appear to be rather destructively normalized on the CD.

I also will have to respectfully and adamantly disagree. I believe those screenshots I exported from iZotope RX2 Advanced more than adequately demonstrate the normalization that is present on the CDs but not on the LPs. I can't talk about how much different it sounds, obviously. It should suffice to say that "information is permanently lost" on the CD that is still present on the LP. I would further add that much of that "information" is percussion. It shouldn't be at all difficult to ascertain that the dynamic range of the former is far less than that of the latter. Usually to the point of complete dissatisfaction of and contempt for the CD version.

I'm no recording engineer, but I can assure you that I'm not merely eyeballing these recordings, but listening to them as well. I'm trying to avoid the TOS 8 violations of talking about the way it sounds. ABXing CD against vinyl would be an experiment riddled with inaccuracy and flaw.

EDIT: I would also like to apologize for the tone I got with you in the other thread. We're all humans and have bad days, but I really could have handled it better. Sorry/Ich bitte um Entschuldigung smile.gif

This post has been edited by Engelsstaub: Dec 5 2012, 21:08


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almostmitch
post Dec 5 2012, 21:32
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I like what I see smile.gif especially after just taking the plunge into vinyl.
Metal is my primary genre.
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 21:41
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QUOTE (almostmitch @ Dec 5 2012, 14:32) *
I like what I see smile.gif especially after just taking the plunge into vinyl.
Metal is my primary genre.


Awesome. Just know that it's higher maintenance than digital wink.gif

I've included thirty second samples from the song "Ropes" by In Flames, as illustrated above.

Link to samples of "Ropes."

I can get around to a few more perhaps later today, if needed. The Woods of Ypres and Saint Vitus ones are jaw-droppingly different (IME.)

...please note that nothing was done to these samples apart from applying some gain to the vinyl versions. There was no declicking or other processing of any sort.

Edit: I used to be a good speller wink.gif

This post has been edited by Engelsstaub: Dec 5 2012, 21:42


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[JAZ]
post Dec 5 2012, 21:45
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I'll wait for the samples, to see what I can get out of them.

Still, to dynamically compress a song previous to put it on a CD is not something I would expect to see.
The only reason I could make out of it is that one intentionally makes the CD to be played on small boomboxes or devices with low output power. I could believe that lossy files, especially if sold individually on internet stores could be generated like this (still a stupid thing to do, but more probable), but not as a general rule.

On the other hand, to put a song on a Vinyl does require special treatment. (More so if it is loud). That's why i want to see with a little (not much) dsp processing, if the CD can be more like the vinyl version in this case.

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Triza
post Dec 5 2012, 21:50
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I left the rock scene primarily because of bad masters. Only listen to jazz and classical. I cannot stand these overamplified albums.
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 5 2012, 21:59
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QUOTE (Triza @ Dec 5 2012, 14:50) *
I left the rock scene primarily because of bad masters. Only listen to jazz and classical. I cannot stand these overamplified albums.


I really do understand the sentiment, Triza. I listen to some other forms of music too.

For me there was once a time I was in danger of making "my tastes" conform to an audiophool-norm. I realized that there's is close to nothing I want to hear that is released on exotic formats like SACD.

I'm guessing your experience is different, though. Jazz and classical are great and it could be pretty easy for someone to find enough music to satisfy them in those genres alone. As for me, I've been banging the head a bit too long to change now smile.gif


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StephenPG
post Dec 5 2012, 22:14
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QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 5 2012, 20:24) *
Never actually made measurement of the sort, but may we safely assume that all this doesn't apply to classical?



I have a classical CD collection dating back to 1980 and have yet to find a 'brickwalled' recording.


ps, love the avatar... :-)
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almostmitch
post Dec 5 2012, 22:22
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QUOTE (Engelsstaub @ Dec 5 2012, 15:59) *
As for me, I've been banging the head a bit too long to change now smile.gif


Although I don't see it happening, I hope I too will be able to say this many years from now laugh.gif

You were right about the samples, the CD is ridiculously loud.
While we're on it, do you have any other recommendations for good metal LP's? I like my metal modern, progressive, heavy, djenty, and technical. So if you have any like that I'd be glad to hear them.
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[JAZ]
post Dec 5 2012, 22:56
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Mmm... after a few tests, I cannot get what I wanted.



As i said, i've first applied the same gain to both files, so that we could compare properly. At that point, what can be seen and heard is that in the LP version, the highs are boosted/more present.
I tried boosting the highs on the CD version too, but the waveform didn't change much (boost starting from 10Khz ending at +12dB at 20Khz).

What there is no doubt is that this example favours the LP (both, by graphs and by ear).

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krabapple
post Dec 5 2012, 23:13
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You can't turned a hard limited (as in a limiter was used aggressively) waveform into an unlimited one via replaygain or any other method. You will never get those CD waveforms to look like the LP ones.

That said, not all CDs are limited this much. And some LPs reportedly have been cut from limited masters.


QUOTE
Still, to dynamically compress a song previous to put it on a CD is not something I would expect to see.


?? It's been happening for new releases since at least the mid 1990s. (e.g. Oasis). And if indeed the limiting was done during the creation of the original master --- if it was 'printed' to the masters -- no version short of a remix from the original multitracks will recover that lost dynamic range. (If it's on the multis, forget it) . If it was done specifically for a particular CD mastering, then the original master version may have more dynamic range available. Which could be released on CD, or on LP (the CD will do a better job of retaining it).

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krabapple
post Dec 5 2012, 23:24
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QUOTE (StephenPG @ Dec 5 2012, 16:14) *
QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 5 2012, 20:24) *
Never actually made measurement of the sort, but may we safely assume that all this doesn't apply to classical?



I have a classical CD collection dating back to 1980 and have yet to find a 'brickwalled' recording.


ps, love the avatar... :-)



Not brickwalling, in my experience -- which I take here to mean plateaus visible at low magnification ('zoomed out' ) view of a waveform -- but there has been some spot hard limiting in classical CD releases. I have no idea how common it is though. Here's an example posted by HA's own Axon:

http://audiamorous.blogspot.com/2008/11/th...ering-does.html

This post has been edited by krabapple: Dec 5 2012, 23:27
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krabapple
post Dec 5 2012, 23:27
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And please, before you conclude that vinyl 'sounds better' based on a waveform view, read this other post from Axon's blog

http://audiamorous.blogspot.com/2008/09/wa...ed-harmful.html

and see this old HA thread he started on 'Mastering Vinyl, Myths, questions, discussion'

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....mp;#entry587401

This post has been edited by krabapple: Dec 5 2012, 23:29
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 6 2012, 00:41
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QUOTE (krabapple @ Dec 5 2012, 16:27) *
And please, before you conclude that vinyl 'sounds better' based on a waveform view, read this other post from Axon's blog

http://audiamorous.blogspot.com/2008/09/wa...ed-harmful.html

and see this old HA thread he started on 'Mastering Vinyl, Myths, questions, discussion'

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....mp;#entry587401


I'm attempting to conclude that it is, >85% IME, by the sound samples as well. I can keep them coming but I'm not getting too much feedback thus far on the ones I've already uploaded. Thank you kindly for the links. I'll be sure to read them.

@almostmitch: I don't really have anything djent, but I plan on picking up The Faceless' "Autotheism" when it is pressed on black vinyl. I'll let you know. If you can find Krisiun's "The Great Execution" definitely get that while you still can. "Blackened Death Metal" with a lot of groove. Very "musical" for that sort of genre. That LP completely craps all over the CD-version and I didn't even post it in this thread. I'll PM you a bit later with others that I can think of. I just picked up a Back on Black-pressing of Ihsahn's newest album "Eremita." I haven't listened to the vinyl yet, but that CD is very progressive for a former black metal vocalist. There's even well-executed saxophone.

Basically just get vinyl of bands you like while it's still available. It's usually limited pressings. Even if a few turn out to be as bad or worse than the CD there's a resale/trade-in value to well-taken-care-of vinyl that is nearly non-existent but for the rarest of CDs.


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Engelsstaub
post Dec 6 2012, 00:46
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QUOTE ([JAZ] @ Dec 5 2012, 15:56) *

...
What there is no doubt is that this example favours the LP (both, by graphs and by ear).


Thanks for your valued feedback, [JAZ]. It is immensely appreciated regardless of your findings.

I suspect most if not all of the other examples would as well, but my feelings should be well-known by now smile.gif


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mjb2006
post Dec 6 2012, 01:57
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Can you upload a clip of one of the AAC files and a clip of the corresponding vinyl rip?

Sometimes (often?), MP3 or AAC clipping is artificial; applying negative ReplayGain brings the peaks down to saner levels.
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Engelsstaub
post Dec 6 2012, 02:27
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QUOTE (mjb2006 @ Dec 5 2012, 18:57) *
Can you upload a clip of one of the AAC files and a clip of the corresponding vinyl rip?

Sometimes (often?), MP3 or AAC clipping is artificial; applying negative ReplayGain brings the peaks down to saner levels.


I had to edit the AAC file as AIFF. I converted it to FLAC with xACT. I can assure you that it came from my legally-acquired/purchased iTunes Store album.

The album was legally acquired from my local indy metal & punk record store wink.gif

Same link for the earlier samples.


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mjb2006
post Dec 6 2012, 02:44
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No, I mean, start with the AAC file and "apply" ReplayGain to it, i.e. reduce the global gain field in every frame before you convert it to AIFF. This should get rid of any clipping caused by floating-point values exceeding 1.0; any clipping that remains should be what was in the source material.

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