Anyone agree? - DFWstangs Forums
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 09:35 AM Thread Starter
Turbobrooks
 
Andrew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: You can call me Aaron Burr from the way I'm dropping Hamiltons
Posts: 16,252
Anyone agree?

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/sto...fidelity/print

The Death of High Fidelity
In the age of MP3s, sound quality is worse than ever

ROBERT LEVINE

Posted Dec 27, 2007 1:27 PM

Advertisement

David Bendeth, a producer who works with rock bands like Hawthorne Heights and Paramore, knows that the albums he makes are often played through tiny computer speakers by fans who are busy surfing the Internet. So he's not surprised when record labels ask the mastering engineers who work on his CDs to crank up the sound levels so high that even the soft parts sound loud.

Over the past decade and a half, a revolution in recording technology has changed the way albums are produced, mixed and mastered — almost always for the worse. "They make it loud to get[listeners'] attention," Bendeth says. Engineers do that by applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song. Like many of his peers, Bendeth believes that relying too much on this effect can obscure sonic detail, rob music of its emotional power and leave listeners with what engineers call ear fatigue. "I think most everything is mastered a little too loud," Bendeth says. "The industry decided that it's a volume contest."

Producers and engineers call this "the loudness war," and it has changed the way almost every new pop and rock album sounds. But volume isn't the only issue. Computer programs like Pro Tools, which let audio engineers manipulate sound the way a word processor edits text, make musicians sound unnaturally perfect. And today's listeners consume an increasing amount of music on MP3, which eliminates much of the data from the original CD file and can leave music sounding tinny or hollow. "With all the technical innovation, music sounds worse," says Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, who has made what are considered some of the best-sounding records of all time. "God is in the details. But there are no details anymore."

he idea that engineers make albums louder might seem strange: Isn't volume controlled by that knob on the stereo? Yes, but every setting on that dial delivers a range of loudness, from a hushed vocal to a kick drum — and pushing sounds toward the top of that range makes music seem louder. It's the same technique used to make television commercials stand out from shows. And it does grab listeners' attention — but at a price. Last year, Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone that modern albums "have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like — static."

In 2004, Jeff Buckley's mom, Mary Guibert, listened to the original three-quarter-inch tape of her son's recordings as she was preparing the tenth-anniversary reissue of Grace. "We were hearing instruments you've never heard on that album, like finger cymbals and the sound of viola strings being plucked," she remembers. "It blew me away because it was exactly what he heard in the studio."

Advertisement

To Guibert's disappointment, the remastered 2004 version failed to capture these details. So last year, when Guibert assembled the best-of collection So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley, she insisted on an independent A&R consultant to oversee the reissue process and a mastering engineer who would reproduce the sound Buckley made in the studio. "You can hear the distinct instruments and the sound of the room," she says of the new release. "Compression smudges things together."

Too much compression can be heard as musical clutter; on the Arctic Monkeys' debut, the band never seems to pause to catch its breath. By maintaining constant intensity, the album flattens out the emotional peaks that usually stand out in a song. "You lose the power of the chorus, because it's not louder than the verses," Bendeth says. "You lose emotion."

The inner ear automatically compresses blasts of high volume to protect itself, so we associate compression with loudness, says Daniel Levitin, a professor of music and neuroscience at McGill University and author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Human brains have evolved to pay particular attention to loud noises, so compressed sounds initially seem more exciting. But the effect doesn't last. "The excitement in music comes from variation in rhythm, timbre, pitch and loudness," Levitin says. "If you hold one of those constant, it can seem monotonous." After a few minutes, research shows, constant loudness grows fatiguing to the brain. Though few listeners realize this consciously, many feel an urge to skip to another song.

"If you limit range, it's just an assault on the body," says Tom Coyne, a mastering engineer who has worked with Mary J. Blige and Nas. "When you're fifteen, it's the greatest thing — you're being hammered. But do you want that on a whole album?"

To an average listener, a wide dynamic range creates a sense of spaciousness and makes it easier to pick out individual instruments — as you can hear on recent albums such as Dylan's Modern Times and Norah Jones' Not Too Late. "When people have the courage and the vision to do a record that way, it sets them apart," says Joe Boyd, who produced albums by Richard Thompson and R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction. "It sounds warm, it sounds three-dimensional, it sounds different. Analog sound to me is more emotionally affecting."

Want to continue the sound quality conversation? Click here to discuss this story in the comments section of our Rock & Roll Daily Blog.

Advertisement

Rock and pop producers have always used compression to balance the sounds of different instruments and to make music sound more exciting, and radio stations apply compression for technical reasons. In the days of vinyl rec- ords, there was a physical limit to how high the bass levels could go before the needle skipped a groove. CDs can handle higher levels of loudness, although they, too, have a limit that engineers call "digital zero dB," above which sounds begin to distort. Pop albums rarely got close to the zero-dB mark until the mid-1990s, when digital compressors and limiters, which cut off the peaks of sound waves, made it easier to manipulate loudness levels. Intensely compressed albums like Oasis' 1995 (What's the Story) Morning Glory? set a new bar for loudness; the songs were well-suited for bars, cars and other noisy environments. "In the Seventies and Eighties, you were expected to pay attention," says Matt Serletic, the former chief executive of Virgin Records USA, who also produced albums by Matchbox Twenty and Collective Soul. "Modern music should be able to get your attention." Adds Rob Cavallo, who produced Green Day's American Idiot and My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, "It's a style that started post-grunge, to get that intensity. The idea was to slam someone's face against the wall. You can set your CD to stun."

It's not just new music that's too loud. Many remastered recordings suffer the same problem as engineers apply compression to bring them into line with modern tastes. The new Led Zeppelin collection, Mothership, is louder than the band's original albums, and Bendeth, who mixed Elvis Presley's 30 #1 Hits, says that the album was mastered too loud for his taste. "A lot of audiophiles hate that record," he says, "but people can play it in the car and it's competitive with the new Foo Fighters record."

Just as cds supplanted vinyl and cassettes, MP3 and other digital-music formats are quickly replacing CDs as the most popular way to listen to music. That means more conven- ience but worse sound. To create an MP3, a computer samples the music on a CD and compresses it into a smaller file by excluding the musical information that the human ear is less likely to notice. Much of the information left out is at the very high and low ends, which is why some MP3s sound flat. Cavallo says that MP3s don't reproduce reverb well, and the lack of high-end detail makes them sound brittle. Without enough low end, he says, "you don't get the punch anymore. It decreases the punch of the kick drum and how the speaker gets pushed when the guitarist plays a power chord."

But not all digital-music files are created equal. Levitin says that most people find MP3s ripped at a rate above 224 kbps virtually indistinguishable from CDs. (iTunes sells music as either 128 or 256 kbps AAC files — AAC is slightly superior to MP3 at an equivalent bit rate. Amazon sells MP3s at 256 kbps.) Still, "it's like going to the Louvre and instead of the Mona Lisa there's a 10-megapixel image of it," he says. "I always want to listen to music the way the artists wanted me to hear it. I wouldn't look at a Kandinsky painting with sunglasses on."

Advertisement

Producers also now alter the way they mix albums to compensate for the limitations of MP3 sound. "You have to be aware of how people will hear music, and pretty much everyone is listening to MP3," says producer Butch Vig, a member of Garbage and the producer of Nirvana's Never- mind. "Some of the effects get lost. So you sometimes have to over-exaggerate things." Other producers believe that intensely compressed CDs make for better MP3s, since the loudness of the music will compensate for the flatness of the digital format.

As technological shifts have changed the way sounds are recorded, they have encouraged an artificial perfection in music itself. Analog tape has been replaced in most studios by Pro Tools, making edits that once required splicing tape together easily done with the click of a mouse. Programs like Auto-Tune can make weak singers sound pitch-perfect, and Beat Detective does the same thing for wobbly drummers.

"You can make anyone sound professional," says Mitchell Froom, a producer who's worked with Elvis Costello and Los Lobos, among others. "But the problem is that you have something that's professional, but it's not distinctive. I was talking to a session drummer, and I said, 'When's the last time you could tell who the drummer is?' You can tell Keith Moon or John Bonham, but now they all sound the same."

So is music doomed to keep sounding worse? Awareness of the problem is growing. The South by Southwest music festival recently featured a panel titled "Why Does Today's Music Sound Like Shit?" In August, a group of producers and engineers founded an organization called Turn Me Up!, which proposes to put stickers on CDs that meet high sonic standards.

But even most CD listeners have lost interest in high-end stereos as surround-sound home theater systems have become more popular, and superior-quality disc formats like DVD-Audio and SACD flopped. Bendeth and other producers worry that young listeners have grown so used to dynamically compressed music and the thin sound of MP3s that the battle has already been lost. "CDs sound better, but no one's buying them," he says. "The age of the audiophile is over."



Allen Werl Performance Racecraft Motorsports Inc.

Made possible by:
http://www.jamesbschassisservices.com
http://www.brooksracecraft.com
Andrew is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 10:18 AM
yes, jluv
 
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 17,073
I read about half of that and got fatigued, lol!

I like loud music, but I want it to sound good. When I want to really jam out or audition my system for someone, or play a good song that I particularly like, it absolutely must be on a CD (or DVD). I like having an Ipod, and satellite radio, and HD radio for the variety and randomness of songs, but that's just basically for having music on in the background. I don't really get much joy from turning up the volume on those formats, because it sounds like turds compared to a CD.

I also agree with what they are saying about a lot of newer stuff being recorded louder, or having emphasis on certain frequencies (and subsequently a lack of others). I have definitely noticed that. I think radio stations do the same thing after the fact, like some eq more bass into their stuff. Seems like it, anyway. It makes it really hard to get all of my settings right in the vehicle. Every song needs tweaks on my end to sound as good as it can (to me). I notice it a lot less in other vehicles, so having a really nice system is a double-edged sword.

The older I get, the more I find myself picking my favorite songs by how they sound musically more than on the actual lyrics. It's perfection when I find a song that rocks both ways.
jluv is offline  
post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 10:35 AM
dead
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 14,611
i read just the title and i strongly agree. with everything going to downloadable audio and mp3 (compressed formats) being the main format, it is setting a bad trend. i wish the flac format would start replacing mp3 as the predominate format.

i listen to A LOT of music in 2.1 stereo. it sucks to see HDCD / SACD / DVD Audio failing.
momo stallion is offline  
 
post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 11:13 AM
Custom Title
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Hades who?
Posts: 16,520
I hate how stupid TV channels are so different. You watch one and have the volume set ona decent level, change and it is blaring or barely loud enough to hear it. I know some TV's have that control so the volume stays the same, but I do not have that option on my receiver, and don't recall ever seeing one as an option (at least in the price range I look at).

They've done studies you know.... 60% of the time, it works every time



Yellowstang is offline  
post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 11:25 AM
Oooooooh-whee
 
Tyrone Biggums's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: What up with that? What up with that?!
Posts: 10,434
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yellowstang View Post
I know some TV's have that control so the volume stays the same, but I do not have that option on my receiver, and don't recall ever seeing one as an option (at least in the price range I look at).
Our Samsung plasma has it and it wasn't any more $ than your dlp. Did you check your settings? On ours you have to select it in the settings and turn the feature on.

8/16/05
Tyrone Biggums is offline  
post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 11:45 AM
Custom Title
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Hades who?
Posts: 16,520
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Biggums View Post
Our Samsung plasma has it and it wasn't any more $ than your dlp. Did you check your settings? On ours you have to select it in the settings and turn the feature on.
The TV has it, but I have the TV speakers off/muted since the Yamaha receiver handles the sound output directly from the DirecTv box via HDMI cable.

How do you have your setup connected?

They've done studies you know.... 60% of the time, it works every time



Yellowstang is offline  
post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
Turbobrooks
 
Andrew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: You can call me Aaron Burr from the way I'm dropping Hamiltons
Posts: 16,252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yellowstang View Post
I hate how stupid TV channels are so different. You watch one and have the volume set ona decent level, change and it is blaring or barely loud enough to hear it. I know some TV's have that control so the volume stays the same, but I do not have that option on my receiver, and don't recall ever seeing one as an option (at least in the price range I look at).
Denon AVR2809CI offers some compression like you're asking for.



Allen Werl Performance Racecraft Motorsports Inc.

Made possible by:
http://www.jamesbschassisservices.com
http://www.brooksracecraft.com
Andrew is offline  
post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-13-2009, 04:32 PM
Aspiring Bean Counter.
 
Slowhand's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room
Posts: 12,279
Yet another aspect of my generation's music scene that I just don't understand. There are very few artists today that seem to put much effort into production. Their philosophy is now just record it, let the production team fix your mistakes and put an album of shit out.

I listen to more People Under the Stairs these days than anything, mostly because the two of them put more work into the production quality of their albums than just about anyone else around.

Slowhand is offline  
post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-18-2009, 10:41 AM
EW
Procrastination Racing
 
EW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Bedford, TX
Posts: 9,224
That article is exactly right. I have been saying this for at least 5 years. People at this point want quantity over quality. Not me.
Most modern popular music sounds like a constant drone to me. No dynamic range, no detail, can't pick out individual instruments, just noise.
EW is offline  
post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-19-2009, 08:03 AM
893
Lifer
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 16,774
Quote:
Originally Posted by EW View Post
That article is exactly right. I have been saying this for at least 5 years. People at this point want quantity over quality. Not me.
Most modern popular music sounds like a constant drone to me. No dynamic range, no detail, can't pick out individual instruments, just noise.
dito.

I keep my ipod in the car for variety, but but I still would rather hvae good quality. I always keep a few cd's on hand for those cases.
893 is offline  
post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-19-2009, 08:52 AM
dead
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 14,611
finally read it. good read.

andrew is becoming an audiophile. welcome to yet another money pit sir.
momo stallion is offline  
post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 09:59 PM
Lifer
 
line-em-up's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Somewhere south of here.
Posts: 5,810
line-em-up is offline  
post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 10:10 PM
Lifer
 
joezgarage's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: somewhere between Dallas & Ft Worth
Posts: 2,223
I still miss being a kid and kicking back with my dad listening to vinyl on his Bose 901's.
joezgarage is offline  
post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 12:02 PM
DECH Mustang Expert
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by EW View Post
That article is exactly right. I have been saying this for at least 5 years. People at this point want quantity over quality. Not me.
Most modern popular music sounds like a constant drone to me. No dynamic range, no detail, can't pick out individual instruments, just noise.
It always amazed me when people would hear noises in one part of one song in their car, blaming a speaker or install, but when you would listen to the same track on the demo board the noise was still there!!!

Ipod for portability and video for the kids.. cd and DVD for audio enjoyment (Ok DVD video too).. multichannel to give you the BIG GRIN and hear details in music you didn't know was there!

Hold on to old CDs the re-issues do not stand up as they are remastered to todays "Taste"...
DECHman is offline  
post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 01:07 PM
Lifer
 
Mustangman_2000's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: D/FW
Posts: 8,912
I completely agree with the article. MP3 were created for a viable means of downloading music content through the internet. The compression at 128 is noticeably distinguishable between that an a song in CDA format. I have a MP3 disc player in the car and in my Jeep. Being able to listen to 160 songs on one CD-R is nice, but the quality is marginal.

The sound quality is worse with the advent on newer technology such as Ipod shuffles. Interesting paradox.

However, there are still some remaining hard core audiophiles out there that still listen to LPs/CDs and use vacuum tube amplifiers for the purest sound reproduction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MR EDD View Post
it was not a problem to bring money to his house at 10pm.so why is it a problem to call and bitch.it wasnt a problem when we were all sitting around smoking pot together.yes i said it we all were smoking pot together.what now stupid.
Mustangman_2000 is offline  
post #16 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 01:21 PM
Aspiring Bean Counter.
 
Slowhand's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room
Posts: 12,279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustangman_2000 View Post
However, there are still some remaining hard core audiophiles out there that still listen to LPs/CDs and use vacuum tube amplifiers for the purest sound reproduction.
<----Still rocks out to LPs.

I've got a nice little collection going, but I'm currently working on piecing together a vintage system to play them on.

Slowhand is offline  
post #17 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 02:21 PM
Lifer
 
line-em-up's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Somewhere south of here.
Posts: 5,810
...

Quote:
Originally Posted by joezgarage View Post
I still miss being a kid and kicking back with my dad listening to vinyl on his Bose 901's.
I miss those days. Put on an album, turn the lights off and kick back on the couch. Just me and the music.
line-em-up is offline  
post #18 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 02:24 PM
Lifer
 
line-em-up's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Somewhere south of here.
Posts: 5,810
...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slowhand View Post
<----Still rocks out to LPs.

I've got a nice little collection going, but I'm currently working on piecing together a vintage system to play them on.
I've still got my old collection with a nice system to play them on. However, it's rare that I have time. Usually, I'm listening (at least what can here with 4 noisy kids and a wife that wants to talk the minute I turn the music on) to music through my PC.
line-em-up is offline  
post #19 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-18-2009, 02:14 AM
Back To Normal
 
2001 GT's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Beyond the Abyss
Posts: 6,180
100% agree! And this comes from someone that has over 150 GB of MP3's. I can even tell a huge difference if the MP3 was ripped in at a higher bitrate.

Texan By Birth, Techsan By Choice.
2001 GT is offline  
post #20 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-18-2009, 02:24 AM
Factory Issue
 
Yale's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Shippensburg, PA
Posts: 12,295
My uncle just spent $30k on a tube amp, so no worries. It'll be like every other hobby, if it isn't the latest hotness fad, it'll be relegated to its true devotees.

Give me a dollar.
Yale is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Reply

Bookmarks

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the DFWstangs Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in










Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode



Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome