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The Big Squeeze in Audio Mixing/Mastering

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sleepysurf

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Thanks to the great new audio blog at http://www.sonicflare.com, here's the link to a superb article confirming our fears about the exponential rise in mixing louder and less dynamic recordings... http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_big_squeeze/

The article is lengthy, and includes some interesting sidebar graphics and links, so is best read in it's entirety online. Here's a little excerpt...

Bob Katz, who's been recording since the early '70s and mastering out of his own facility, Digital Domain (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) since 1990, quantifies what he sees as a crisis: “There's a 12 to 14dB apparent loudness difference between Black Sabbath, produced in 1977 or so and transferred to compact disc in the early '80s, and the Black Eyed Peas' ‘Let's Get It Started,’” he says. “The difference between the loudest records and even the reasonably well-mastered records became so great that I can't even make a reasonably loud ‘normal’ record without people complaining that it's too low.”

Katz, who has worked with a full range of rock, pop, classical and jazz artists — including 150 records for the audiophile Chesky label, where he once served as technical director — paints a grim picture. “About three weeks ago, a very well-known jazz pianist, with a trio of some of the finest jazz musicians on the planet, said that he loved his master, but, ‘It's not as loud as some of the more recent things, so I'm willing to sacrifice its sound to make it a little more competitive, loudness-wise.’ I'm thinking, ‘It has come to this? Why would you have to be the least bit concerned about a jazz recording being “competitively loud”?’ I've heard that even some classical musicians are beginning ‘loudness envy."
 
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Robin

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Dynamic loudness variance between CD's...

sleepysurf,

I was wondering why some CD's were louder but less dymanic than others, I assumed it was because, they were not remaster as well as others or that they were recorded in lower quality (less bit rate). I have been purchasing more SACD's, Red Book, or 20 Bit rate CD's which sound soooo much better generally speaking.
Is this the reason for sound dynamic's reduction? :confused:

Cheers

-Robin
 
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audioraptured

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The Big Squeeze

Sleepysurf: Good morning. Man did you ever pick an area that really needs the audio and recording industry to wake up to! I don't know how many times I have had to "coaster" a cd I've burned on my pc because the music has just too great a variation in sound levels. Even using Nero's 20 percent match and taking out the two second delay makes things difficult to hear for a first run through. I am using wave files at 1411bps. I even use my old Teac W990RX tape deck and watch the wide range on the recording lights dance out of control.
A guy from "FM Tuners" once wrote about the kids with these Ipods or cheap MP3s and the 128 or less rate they are listening to thinking that's good music. I teach high school science, and there is nothing worse than seeing these zombies walk around with these terrible $1.98 headphones on and are oblivious to anything but the crap, (I'm sorry, thats rap), music, (at almost full blast), attacking their ear drums. I seem to sound like my dad, but these kids don't have a clue.
Sleepysurf, you are showing us the slippery slope that may have a bad ending in the future. Thanks for the interest.
 

miljac

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Hi,

I have a couple remarks of my own:

on some newer CDs I have found out that the level is pushed up near to distortion, on some even occasionally the distortion can be heard clearly (and it's not an e-guitar....)
With the mainstream public and the music industry turning to mp3 and online distribution of music I wonder if our hobby will die out. I guess that the rest of the industry will follow producing less good sounding gear for the same price and the price gap between good sounding stuff and crap will widen even more. The media too.
I can remeber good old times when I used to pay ca. 25 DM (Deutsche Mark) for a good LP. It's much more expensive to produce than a CD; still you can find today most the CDs that compare to this price - but in euros or dollars, i.e. costing nearly double.
And most of the people don't care about the good sound.
For the crap music I guess that the crap media (mp3 & friends) are a good match, but this beats the whole idea of hi-fi. It isn't "fidelity" any more, not speaking of "high". And I fear that the recording industry and studios will follow the mainstream - the big money lies there, not with the bunch of "audio fanatics". I fear of the overall degradation of quality. And (in my opinion already evident) loss of the culture of *listening* to the music.
 

gstring

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My feeling on this is that it's a byproduct of the digital age. Certainly when magnetic analog media was the norm, recording levels needed to be at the threshhold that maxed tape saturation (without distrortion) above the noise floor of the device. I've recorded many masters using nothing but high quality condensor mics and a Sony D5 recorder. The dynamic range on these recordings were spectacular.
In 1990, I got my first DAT machine which presented a different challange to maximize dynamic range i.e. no need to max tape levels; however, I wanted to maximize the dB that would allow close to reference level playing through my stereo. These recording were great, espescially considering the low noise floor. However, when comparing the DAT to a Metal Cassette Master, it was evident that the dynamic range was noticebly better.
Fast forward to today where the majority of material released is too compressed. I think that ProTools and the varients have taken the talent out of the engineers job and created mediocre recordings by relying on technology to actually marginalize creativity. Forget that the traditional 2" tape business is all but dead with the last manufacturer closing their doors. Google this and you'll see what I mean. People are hording these things and charging a huge premium for existing stock. Bottom line is that with the exception of a few labels who emphasize quality over quantity, we may be dealing with the "compression" age for the near future...at least until people demand otherwise!
 

audioraptured

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Big squeeze

gstring: may I add to your observations: it seems that many are just using this music, (especially from these cheap computer speakers), as simple "background" music as they go about their day and for some reason bring that attitude home and never take the time to sit and listen and enjoy the really great stuff that is still available.
(Gone is my DBX expander and such. Gone the Teac DBX system cassette; and maybe for the better. But the fun of making a personal compilation and sitting in your living room and really rocking out with friends or just your girl friend; and that great music with the candles and light shows and incense and the memories............sorry, went to a flashback).
However, the SACD and DVD Audio recordings are just ear opening. So I guess I must buckle up and ignore my own rants and just let those who don't know get educated when they are ready. And the sooner the better.
 

gstring

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audioraptured said:
gstring: So I guess I must buckle up and ignore my own rants and just let those who don't know get educated when they are ready. And the sooner the better.
Amen...the only problem is with the "what have you done for me lately" crowd. I think Chris Rock said it best..."here today gone this afternoon!" I only hope that small independant labels contiune to support creative artist. These speakers are sooo good that it just exposes any weakness in the mastering chain. I guess that's a good thing :cool:
 

Craig

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I have to say my most dissapointing recording I own is a Jeff Beck "Jeff" CD circa 2003. I saw Jeff Beck and BB King live when they were touring together in '03 and Jeff Beck's guitar playing was incredible and sounded great and so was Terry Bozio's drumming. But I can't even listen to the same songs on the CD from the same tour. The distortion on the CD is horendous and it is a studio recording. This CD works much better for a "pink noise" source. I don't see how this could sound good even on an MP3 player.
This CD is probably an excellent example of what Sleepysurf is talking about.

By the way, I bought the bootleg CD of live Jeff Beck perfomances from the same tour and it is recorded much better "Jeff Beck Live at the B.B. King Club" . That CD is available on the Jeff Beck website. I highly recommended the bootleg CD if you're a fan of Jeff Beck and it's not available anywhere else.
 

audioraptured

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Big Squeeze

miljac: Guten Tag, vie gehts. Some of the recordings you mentioned are classics, and the company was known for really going all out with many of the selected artists they chose. Like me, I belive you are getting more and more disappointed in not just the quality, but the cost of even finding material that is enjoyable. What are some of the albums you would like to see remastered into great sounding discs? auf Wieder sehen
 

audioraptured

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Big Squeeze

Craig; bullseye with your comments. I am a Beck fan since the Yardbirds and after rock, the next best sound is the blues. His club is really great. (Between B.B. King and Buddy Guy, I think they define the blues regardless of where you are from or where your at now). But I did not know about the quality of that Beck selection.
I am sure glad you mentioned this and I'm on my way to check it out. Best of luck to you and yours
 
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