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The mixing quality report thread
post Sep 7 2008, 20:22
Post #1

Group: Members
Posts: 3353
Joined: 6-July 03
From: Sachsen (DE)
Member No.: 7609

Okay, may as well go ahead and give this a try. Maybe it works out, maybe not.

I'm someway not satisfied with the topic title, but currently cannot come up with something better.

This thread is supposed to collect reports of members about the mixing quality of CDs. Each report is done template-style with the following "fields":

- artist and album name
- if there are multiple releases of the record, then specify which one
- matching genres and styles
- dynamic range
- stereofield width and depth
- frequency balance
- speakers/headphones used for the review
- comments

As you can see, this does not just cover the much talked about degree of dynamic range compression, but much more. Also, i intentionally propose to NOT primarily use technical measurements (i.e. RG-values). However, as you will see, this does NOT mean, that the reports are completely "subjective". A quick rundown on the individual elements of the review-template:

1. Artist name and album name
Self explanatory.

2. Version
Self explanatory. If there is only one, skip this.

3. Matching genres and styles
Please do your best to not use your personal or "popular" interpretations about genres (there are alot of misconceptions, especially with... *cough* ambient). If in doubt, prefer to use a more generic category (i.e. "rock"), rather than a false very specific category. Multiple cagegories are welcome as well.


Now, something very general about the following three elements of the template (dynamics, stereofield, freq balance). If we want the ratings to be in any way meaningful, we need some kind of reference. This reference doesn't need to be "perfectly exact", just "good enough". At this moment, people typically cry for doing technical measurements.

This however in this case would not make sense - firstly because it would mean expensive investments into hardware, just to be able to post in this thread -> wont happen. Secondly, because there is no measurement hardware, which can meaningfully and accurately enough measure what we want to rate. No, RG-values cannot give you reliable ratings about dynamics - RG-values dont even measure dynamics - what RG-values are supposed measure, is simply how loud a track sounds to you. Thats something different than dynamics.

What i propose is something different. From my experience, many (not all) unremastered 80ies pop tracks serve as a very good "upper reference" for dynamic range, very broad and deep stereofield, and a neutral frequency balance. At the opposite end, really bad current recordings, serve as a good "bottom reference" for dynamic range, very small and close stereofield, and highly variable frequency balance. So if you rate a record according to those criterias, then always compare them with this upper reference (80ies) and lower reference (massacred "modern" recordings)

Okay, back to explaining the remaining elements of the review template...

4. Dynamic range:
Rating steps are "very high" (i.e. good punchy 80ies records), "high", "low", "very low"(i.e. overcompressed modern recording). You should not just let peak-dynamics influence this rating (punchyness), but also musical dynamics (is the overall music at constant volume, or is it variable?). Accurate speakers or headphones can help you improve your rating-reliability, but is not a necessity. Remember that with music which has lots of dynamics, you will need to raise the volume to evaluate it properly (or use RG).

5. Stereofield width and depth
With stereofield depth, we mean just that... how deep the soundfield appears to stretch on the Z-axis. A deep stereofield is nothing very unusual and can easily be noticed even with low-quality listening equipment (anything which isn't junk, like builtin laptop speakers will do). Depth also isn't unusual in modern recordings... just add some reverb and there you go.

Stereofield width is an entirely different beast though, and rare in modern records. What we mean is how far the soundfield appears to extend to the sides (x-axis)..i.e., if there appears to be sound and "presence" beyond the placement of your speakers or even beyond the walls of your room. Unless you do have fairly accurate speakers which have good off-axis response, please do NOT rate stereofield width, because you will not be able to reliably differentiate between width and depth. With typical low to mid-end consumer speakers, any soundfield can be made to appear vast, just by adding depth. "Spot speakers", typical surround speakers, and even very directional studio monitors, will not do. Unfortunatelly, i do not know how the relationships are regarding headphones (competent help and guidance welcome!). Something else which may be worth noting, is how "natural" the stereofield feels, if it is deep and/or wide. For example, even low-quality reverbs can add lots of depth, but it will sound "synthetic" and "artificial". As rating steps, please use: "very wide/deep", "wide/deep", "narrow/close", "very narrow/close"

6. Frequency balance
This is more simple than it sounds. It's if an album feels "bassy" or "airy" and in general any constant frequency imbalances. You will need speakers/headphones which are accurate, balanced and which have a sufficiently extended low-end (should go down to 60-70hz without any reduction in response power) to notice this reliably. Do not rate this field and skip it completely, unless you have balanced studio monitors. Typical hifi-speakers, especially ones with a big fat oversized subwoofer will not do! If you need a reference, again pick unremastered 80ies pop records.

7. Speakers/Headphones used

If you have anything else to add, just write it here. However, please try to keep it short and get right to the point. Dont write "stories".


I will in the next 20mins post a first example review.
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