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Why modern recordings sound crap

paulfromcamden

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Paul
mosfet wrote:

The early stuff like Rid of Me produced by Steve Albini
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is fantastic
Albini y'say? Yeah I hear he's quite handy with a tape recorder:D:D

" The current trendy thing is compression. Compression by the ton, especially if it comes from a tube limiter. Wow. It doesn’t matter how awful the recording is, as long as it goes through a tube limiter, somebody will claim it sounds “warm,†or maybe even “punchy.†They might even compare it to the Beatles. I want to find the guy that invented compression and tear his liver out. I hate it. It makes everything sound like a beer commercial." Steve Albini, 'The Problem With Music' 1993

 

rockmeister

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HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Mossy...I have a direct cut sheffield labs recording of the harry james big band (trumpet led brass Jazzy swing type stuff)...the dynamic range on this is ENORMOUS!!! Even on middling volumes, the change when the trumpets kick in loud is BIG...the dog goes and hides under the bed... Is this really 'only' 50Db (You could not get more out of a disc I'm sure, so I'm assuming this is the whole deal)? If so, the possibilities with 90Db to play with are truly frightening...maybe they simply don't dare engineer in 90Db of range, cos otherwise they'd be faced with a series of damages claims when tweeters blew and woofers went into involuntary room orbit on 'the loud bits'?

 

mosfet

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Richard
"I want to find the guy that invented compression and tear his liver out. I hate it. It makes everything sound like a beer commercial." Steve Albini, 'The Problem With Music' 1993
Albini is the man
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:^

Mossy...I have a direct cut sheffield labs recording of the harry james big band (trumpet led brass Jazzy swing type stuff)...the dynamic range on this is ENORMOUS!!! Even on middling volumes, the change when the trumpets kick in loud is BIG...the dog goes and hides under the bed... Is this really 'only' 50Db
50 to 60dB are the figures usually quoted meister. Much depends on the type of the vinyl used. Of course a vinyl recording can sound more dynamic than a CD recording despite having a smaller dynamic range – it’s all down to the engineering and mastering of the recorded music and how much of the available dynamic range of either format is utilised to record the difference between the quiet bits, the loud bits and everything else in-between.

 

Picard

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Aug 1, 2005
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Mr Coherent wrote:

I would completely agree X & Y is one of the worst 'produced' (sound quality wise) albums of the last 3 years without question, and gives no more than an average sound in the various systems I've tried my own personal disc in.As for Oasis whats the story morning glory a trumph in how to really demonstrate how to screw up a format
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On the subject of bad production and compression, I have a client who is no small shakes in the recording industry when I asked this question a while back his answer thus "Very simple really", "I have a boss too!!!, and the bottom line is I have to see XXXX number of cd's sold a year." "my quota changes every year, however our target market is 14 to 25 year olds". "Really!!!, how come?" I asked.

"Yes, they have the disposable income & parents willing/bribable (LOL!!!) to pay, though the only ever listen on shitty bedroom boom boxes & crappy car radio's"

"So we have to make sound good specifically for that portion of the market, the greater majortiy of the sales are there"

Maybe one answer that might to a fair way to explaining a lot of the very averaging sounding discs that are produced.
interesting. maybe the recording industry shoud have spent less time on SACD/DVD-A and more time producing CD GTI or somesuchthing. i'd pay a bit more for a well recorded cd. can't imagine it would put the studios out too much or even the artists.

 

Sony6million

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Dynamic Turtle wrote:

recordings are generally excellent, asare those byPaul Weller
The latest Madonna & U2 albums are unforgivably poor IMO. Avoid like the plague.
IMO you have got to be having a giraffe. Paul Weller makes good music, but to my ears the recordings arepoor, check out Stanley Road for a poor recording.

I don't have any current U2 or Madonna stuff but the their back catalogue is pretty good I would say.

Just my tuppence worth.

 

cjr

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Sony6million wrote:

Dynamic Turtle wrote:
recordings are generally excellent, asare those byPaul Weller
The latest Madonna & U2 albums are unforgivably poor IMO. Avoid like the plague.
IMO you have got to be having a giraffe. Paul Weller makes good music, but to my ears the recordings arepoor, check out Stanley Road for a poor recording.

I don't have any current U2 or Madonna stuff but the their back catalogue is pretty good I would say.

Just my tuppence worth.
Have to agree I dont have a duff CD from Madonna from Ray Of Light onwards, Music is astonishingly good, her latest one sounds excellent to me as well.

 

cjr

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Polarbear wrote:

good, her latest one sounds excellent to me as well
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Polar - Im thinking that is the way the CD is meant to sound ? Ie a disco feel, hardly top audiophile material but for example, all voice worked is synthed etc to distort it, as is the mixing.

I could of course be totally wrong, but Ive heard a lot worse worse than Madges lastest disco romp.

 

Polarbear

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Sorry Colin, I know its not the best material but to me the bass is overblown and its not the best produced album I have heard.

As for the material, its a safe album that may appeal to the younger fans but not me, I find it dull and monotonous,

Regards

PB

 
A

adam

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Madonna latest album sounds to me terrible,the treble is wicked,it's all treble,way over emphasied.

The latest Coldplay is dreadful too,the distortion on the treble is unbelieveable,all three of there albums are poorly produced.I think todays CDs (pop) are all very ropey,in yer face distortion,and upper bass boom,it's the tizz and boom era.

 

jon

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Lots of less commercial stuff still comes with pretty decent production imho - presumably there's some things that aren't going to sell in quantities anyway, so no point in compressing the hell out of it.... Been listening to Prolapse's Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes and Whistler's intermission - produced using cheaper equipment etc. than Madonna, Coldplay and so on, and sound better for it
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btw, if you listen to Coldplay then surely you're just getting what you deserve if it sounds harsh
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mosfet

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adam wrote:

The latest Coldplay is dreadful too,the distortion on the treble is unbelieveable
When the recording levels are pushed really too far - to master CD’s as loud as possible - the recorded peaks in the music will clip. Clipping is the sudden truncation of nice smooth waveforms with flat, squared of tops. Tweeters don’t like clipping and too much clipping in a recorded CD may damage them. So, if you’re hearing a lot of really grating high frequency distortion with a particular CD go easy with the volume knob adam.

The only way to be sure if a recording has clipping or not is to examine it in an audio editor like Adobe Audition. There’s a few examples of dodgy clipped recordings here beginning with Amy Grant – Heart in Motion from 1991.

 

Uncle Ants

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mosfet wrote:

The only way to be sure if a recording has clipping or not is to examine it in an audio editor like Adobe Audition. There’s a few examples of dodgy clipped recordings here beginning with Amy Grant – Heart in Motion from 1991.
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Now that article is what I call fascinating and important shit so to speak. Everyone shoukld be made to read this - especially members of bands.

Good stuff for finding that Mosfet.

 
A

Alex A

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We compared waveform views of random Billboard hits from 1985 and 2005 for a representative glance at how dynamic range has evolved during the past 20 years. Top: from 1985, Whitney Houston's “How Will I Know?†Bottom, one of this year's biggest chart-toppers.
I like how it doesn't site the second song from last year. It wouldn't really be a fair representation if it compared Witney Houston to some hip hop shite from the charts now would it?

As far as Madonna, her latest album is thoroughly enjoyable and pretty well produced if you ask me. Maybe not as well as Ray of Light mind - but then that was produced by William Orbit.

On a conclusive note for myself in this thread, I agree that Coldplay and many other modern recordings lack the dynamic range of the best, and are often (very) compressed in that sense. I do not, however, believe that their appeal is only to be realised on a micro system that only has 6dB of range anyway! I find they are often the best way to test a system - if the music comes through and you find yourself enjoying it then you know that the system has the resolving power to cut through the poor style of production (in an absolute sense), and reveal the content.

If I can hear this, and my system doesnt just sound compressed, thin and harsh, then there must be something good with the production!



 

Uncle Ants

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Alex_A wrote:

On a conclusive note for myself in this thread, I agree that Coldplay and many other modern recordings lack the dynamic range of the best, and are often (very) compressed in that sense. I do not, however, believe that their appeal is only to be realised on a micro system that only has 6dB of range anyway!
If I can hear this, and my system doesnt just sound compressed, thin and harsh, then there must be something good with the production!
might it be a bit dependent on whether the engineer has been deluded enough to send it into clipping?

 
A

Alex A

Guest
Oh and in respect to that article - I have just listened to Bryan Adams 'Cuts like a knife', with apparently very good dynamic range, and it sounds pretty medeocre at best.

Sure it's quieter, but there are very minor dynamic shifts (more a product of the music). Instruments are indistinct, bass is soft and there is minimal imaging.

In comparison, and I don't know how it measures with regards to dynamic range, his more recent MTV Unplugged set is infinitely better in every respect sound quality wise.

Oh and just one other thing... (he turns and points in a Columbo fashion)

You can't really tell what dynamic range a song has from a graph like that. You can be sure that something is clipping (if it exceeds 0dB) and you can be sure that some part of the music is always at the max (if it looks like your 'modern song' example), but you don't know that everything is mixed to the hilt (like Oasis).

You may have a very loud drum beat or rhythm guitar throughout a song, but have a variety of dB levels for the other instruments. So long as those instruments remain clear and audible at lower levels you retain dynamic range within the structure of the song. Such a graph will not represent this as those instruments or parts of the song are 'overshadowed' by the one aspect of the song that is always approaching that 0dB level.

 

mosfet

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Richard
Uncle Ants wrote:

mosfet wrote:
The only way to be sure if a recording has clipping or not is to examine it in an audio editor like Adobe Audition. There’s a few examples of dodgy clipped recordings here beginning with Amy Grant – Heart in Motion from 1991.
shock.gif.7732780fe7e208b945ce79ca96402fca.gif


Now that article is what I call fascinating and important shit so to speak. Everyone shoukld be made to read this - especially members of bands.

Good stuff for finding that Mosfet.
What I find fascinating is quite how deep the wormhole goes Uncle A. I was aware many of the recordings I’ve bought over the last five years or so have been sounding increasingly loud with decreasing dynamic range and suspected this was down to the increasing use of audio compression at the mastering stage. What I wasn’t aware of was quite how long this trend has been going on - since the late eighties early nineties by all accounts - and the situation is now such that some recordings are actually clipped. Paying 16 quid for a recording that’s possibly distorted is a bit pissing outrageous! :Not Sure:

I’ve read on a number of occasions on hi-fi forums that people have had tweeters give up the ghost despite playback volumes being moderate (e.g. the amplifier was not being pushed into clipping). If some recordings are clipped, with waveforms approaching square waves, then there’s somewhere else to point the finger.

The other question is why have I not seen any articles in the hi-fi press about this trend in the mastering and production of music CD’s (perhaps there have been but I haven’t spotted them).

I suppose it may not make for good editorial policy to run such an article. After all who would want to read that for some recordings (many it seems) spending £5K or more on a CD player is a bit like trying to polish a turd! If the dynamic range ain’t there, it ain’t there and it’s the dynamic range of a recording that’s responsible for getting us closer to something that sounds real, something that sounds lifelike. Not pancake like.

If this all sounds like doom and gloom it’s not of course. There are still some great sounding recordings out there with bags of recorded dynamic range. Just need HMV to start stickering ‘em up so everyone knows!
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mosfet

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Richard
Alex_A wrote:

..if the music comes through and you find yourself enjoying it then you know that the system has the resolving power to cut through the poor style of production (in an absolute sense), and reveal the content.

Absolutely Alex. If you find yourself enjoying the music on a £15 boom box or £15K hi-fi system then that’s all that really matters. However no amount of “resolving power†(whatever that means) brushed aluminum fascias or bulletproof transport mechanisms can put back what isn’t there in the first place. Dynamic range on a recording is what gets us closer to the real thing; real music has great dynamic range.

And if you think all of this is fallacious rumour mongering then you should check out the credentials of the authors of the articles that have been linked to.
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Uncle Ants

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Tony
mosfet wrote:

If this all sounds like doom and gloom it’s not of course. There are still some great sounding recordings out there with bags of recorded dynamic range. Just need HMV to start stickering ‘em up so everyone knows!
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You can just see that can't you "Warning, This CD may audibly distort and there is some possibility of frying your speakers". Might explain the lack of mag coverage too - they'd be scared of getting sued by the Man.

 

Dynamic Turtle

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Sep 23, 2005
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Sony6million wrote:

Dynamic Turtle wrote:
recordings are generally excellent, asare those byPaul Weller
The latest Madonna & U2 albums are unforgivably poor IMO. Avoid like the plague.
IMO you have got to be having a giraffe. Paul Weller makes good music, but to my ears the recordings arepoor, check out Stanley Road for a poor recording.

I don't have any current U2 or Madonna stuff but the their back catalogue is pretty good I would say.

Just my tuppence worth.
I don't have Stanley Road and was exclusively refering to the Modern Classics compilation album (which AFAIK uses the same material as those on Stanley Road et al - not re-mastered or anything) and the sound quality is superb - virtually SACD. I was shocked tbh and expected a heap of compressed mush to come out of the speakers but was instead greeted with a consistently well-recorded back catalogue. Impressive stuff.

I wasn't commenting on the musical aspects of either U2 or "spadge", just on the utterly appaling mastering of their cd (vinyl) stuff. Spadge's latest is a very, very painful listen. SSSIBILANCE SSSITY if you ask me
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DT

 

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