I remember when CD's were new and Dire Straits came out with "Private
Investigations", the dynamic range that CD's could achieve, when
compared to analogue was really eye opening.
I had been involved in the recording industry for a few years at that
time & expected the emergence of a new "sound" that was not the horribly
compressed stuff like you had to do to shoe-horn music onto vinyl or
radio. But it seemed that it never happened.
You can't blame the consumers for this, it was a done deal at the
mastering stage. Most consumers are blissfully unaware of the
"enhancements" that are automatically applied to everything.
Enhancements which are also hold-over's from the analogue days & are no
longer required (IMHO).
- To add brightness you pass it through some type of "Aural Exciter", a
band pass filter & distortion that only distorts the highest
frequencies, adding even higher harmonics & which also increases the
perceptual loudness of a track. Because the distortion always clips at
the same level, this also contributes to the compression of the audio.
- Then you need to de-ess everything because the vocals will be too
sibiliant (usually just a notch filter does the trick).
- Then the usual is to apply some sort of peak limiting (usually with a
really nasty compression ratio and steep attack). This kills any
transients that might 'threaten' to cause distortion.
- Then you probably want to gate off anything down near the noise floor
of your recording (you know, just in case).
- Then you want to apply a bit of compression to "heat it up" (note this
compresses the exciter artefacts & the already compressed transients
more) so you push the compression up till it hammers, but not so far
that you can hear it breathe as the compression goes in & out.
- After all this, what does your waveform look like? (You started with
lots of sines but now their peaks have been pushed in and 'harmonics'
have been added around them, wait a minute, they're square waves!
- Oh, and of course now it's the digital age, lets normalise it to fit
as much signal as we can on the master.
If mastering engineers can't hear the crap they are putting out they
shouldn't be calling themselves mastering engineers. I've seen so many
muso's disappointed (after getting over the initial excitement) with the
mastered sound compared to what they had in studio.
As a recording engineer I have had sessions down that were just special
(probably flukes too) but were not in the exact format that the company
thought would sell. After mastering, while the 'product' was more
marketable, it was unremarkable. Just another bunch of noise. I am sure
that if the mastering engineer had listened to the whole thing through
several times BEFORE messing with it, the outcome would have been
different (I tend to obsess about stuff I record and always get better
ideas after many listens).
Anyway advice for the next generation: The rest is a note too. If you
mix all the colours on your palette you always get brown or olive. If
you whisper so they can barely hear you, then you shout, you'll scare
the @#$%^&* out of them. If you always shout you're just a loud bore.
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Cory
Sent: Sunday, 30 December 2007 6:35 a.m.
To: Ubuntu Studio Users Help and Discussion
Subject: Re: "The Death of High Fidelity" Sad, sad, sad...
D. Michael McIntyre wrote:
> On Saturday 29 December 2007, Cory K. wrote:
>> Sad article on the state of production and how
>> consumers are killing fidelity.
> It's funny reading this with the JAMin tutorial in mind. That
tutorial is all
> about trying to make everything loud, just like the article hates.
> I agree about MP3s too. I just don't get the age of people walking
> with little things shoved in their ears, listening to hollowed out
> that have sacrificed their core in the name of lossy compression.
My personal glaring example of this was Vertical Horizon's "Everything
You Want". Big radio song and I heard it a million times before I heard
the CD. WOW. The CD was so much more dynamic. It was like listening to a
Now I understand the reason for radio compression but to master songs
this way is just criminal.
> Especially now that so many people are foregoing CDs completely, and
> buying MP3s. They never have a chance to hear what the music wanted
> Of course you can make all kinds of arguments about how true
> do everything the analog way, and/or the lousy 44.1 kHz/16-bits of CDs
> isn't high enough, etc.
> I guess there's a certain element of where to draw the line here, but
> depressing how far down the line is trending these days.
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