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Why do so many great albums sound so bad? - Page 2

post #16 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFF View Post



Bad production is just that - bad production...producing a result that is way below the standards set in the golden age of recordings. Too much compression, too much limiting, a much too narrow soundstage and plain bad mic'ing produce horrendous results.

 

I think the epitome of a great album ruined by bad production and engineering is Californication.
 

 


 

Ehh, I'd have to say that it's at least still listenable sometimes.  Not the case with (What's The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis.  I can just about take Wonderwall, but Hello (the first track) is horrendous.  And WTSMG isn't even pushed to 0 dB...  The peaks of Hello are around -3 dB, but the majority (i.e. not including the intro/end) of the song uses all of about 2 dB of dynamic range...  It's the worst album I've ever heard.

 

 

 

To the O.P. - You haven't heard bad sound in a Smashing Pumpkins album until you've heard Zeitgeist.  It's not exactly a great album, but its mastering (the compression) is among the worst I've ever heard.  Mellon Collie is tame in comparison.

 

NIN's The Slip is realy bad as regards compression as well, but again isn't exactly a "great" album.

 

All of The Mars Volta's albums (at least through The Bedlam in Goliath) suffer from extreme compression - Bedlam is the worst as it's the most full-out out of all of them.

 

Audioslave's albums (all of them) also are compressed; they're perhaps one of the most prominent (and talked about) examples after RHCP and Oasis.  The song Your Time Has Come is a particularly good example.

 

 

None of these groups were short on money.  It's a conscious decision to compress it, as others have mentioned as a part of the "Loudness War".

 

I find that only a short time listening to such albums causes major listening fatigue to me, so that even well mastered music afterwards is painful to listen to.  The "always loud" characteristic of compressed music causes this - there's no breaks and no dynamics in the music.  It still sounds loud even when you turn the volume down.

 

On the other hand, even relatively poorly recorded albums like Led Zeppelin II and Cream's albums (for example) don't suffer from compression (at least in older releases).  They might not be as detailed, but they're not compressed and don't cause above normal levels of fatigue.  They're still plenty easy to listen to.

 

I will admit, however, that I do gravitate towards better recorded music now.  But I'll still listen to poorly recorded albums as long as they're not compressed so much as to fatigue me before I even get to the end of it.

post #17 of 156

Thought I'd just throw another group who's recording quality does not do the band justice. Blind Guardian. I really can't figure this one out. Listening straight off the CD (mp3 might be a little worse but I haven't ABXed it) it just sounds veiled. Everything seems muted, like the upper-mids are just gone. I'd blame my system (a700's arn't known for mids) except that groups that should sound similar (Nightwish or Opeth for example) sound much cleaner and more complete. It makes me really sad because Blind Guardian is one of my favorite bands ever and the sq is really ruining it for me right now frown.gif.

 

Anyone want to try and explain what compressed/loudified music sounds like, what specifically does a victim of the loudness war sound like? I am suspicious that this is simply a conscious decision on the band's part for an extra "warm" sound. I'm not experienced enough to tell though honestly (and I don't have any other good gear to try it out on).

post #18 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by VioletConqueror View Post

 

Anyone want to try and explain what compressed/loudified music sounds like, what specifically does a victim of the loudness war sound like? I am suspicious that this is simply a conscious decision on the band's part for an extra "warm" sound. I'm not experienced enough to tell though honestly (and I don't have any other good gear to try it out on).


"Warm" isn't exactly a good word to use, as it is more often than not used to describe a frequency response that emphasizes the mids (depending on the particular person's idea of what "warm" should sound like, it can be an emphasis anywhere from the bass to the upper mids).  It is in no way a precise term, although I would go so far as to say that it most definitely isn't what you would use to describe the sound of compression.  But you never know, people will say what they will without regard.

 

Like I said before, extreme compressions usually sounds like unrelentingly loud sound, with little dynamic range within each measure and often throughout whole songs.  Normal peak sounds, like loud percussion, are the same volume as the rest of the music, because the rest is compressed to bring it up to virtually the same level.  The peaks that are left are clipped.  Individual notes are the same volume - loud - all the way through.  Verses are usually as loud as the choruses.  Basically, everything sounds loud, the same volume, and with little relief between peaks - because there aren't any.

 

Now, the whole "empty space" thing is often partially due to the music itself - not enough rests in the music (think Smashing Pumpkins screaming guitar chords), which compresses the sound without any actually mastering compression.  That's a "feature" of lots of rock music.  Imagine if an orchestra played all of its songs at FFF!

post #19 of 156

see below


Edited by jd1138 - 3/21/11 at 9:10am
post #20 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd1138 View Post

Anyone want to try and explain what compressed/loudified music sounds like, what specifically does a victim of the loudness war sound like? I am suspicious that this is simply a conscious decision on the band's part for an extra "warm" sound. I'm not experienced enough to tell though honestly (and I don't have any other good gear to try it out on).


 

See here as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

 

post #21 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd1138 View Post

Anyone want to try and explain what compressed/loudified music sounds like, what specifically does a victim of the loudness war sound like? I am suspicious that this is simply a conscious decision on the band's part for an extra "warm" sound. I'm not experienced enough to tell though honestly (and I don't have any other good gear to try it out on).

 

The frequency ranges are compressed to fit into the limited resolution of a standard CD, so as a result the music sounds not as full or expansive as something like original vinyl, SACD, DVD-A.  There are several pieces to the puzzle -- the music has to be recorded properly to retain the frequency ranges, and it has to be mastered and mixed properly, it has to be reproduced onto a high resolution format like vinyl, SACD, DVD-A, and the final piece is your gear (need decent headphones, an amp, etc.).



Uh, no. Compression affects dynamic range, not frequency response, and the 16/44 Redbook format has more than enough potential in both of those regards anyways. The problem is with studios releasing albums that are already overcompressed before they're put on CD.

post #22 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd1138 View Post

Anyone want to try and explain what compressed/loudified music sounds like, what specifically does a victim of the loudness war sound like? I am suspicious that this is simply a conscious decision on the band's part for an extra "warm" sound. I'm not experienced enough to tell though honestly (and I don't have any other good gear to try it out on).

 

The frequency ranges are compressed to fit into the limited resolution of a standard CD, so as a result the music sounds not as full or expansive as something like original vinyl, SACD, DVD-A.  There are several pieces to the puzzle -- the music has to be recorded properly to retain the frequency ranges, and it has to be mastered and mixed properly, it has to be reproduced onto a high resolution format like vinyl, SACD, DVD-A, and the final piece is your gear (need decent headphones, an amp, etc.).


That's a good one...  Yeah...

 

Please read legitimate, accurate information on the storage of audio before you spew any more misinformation.  The CD format is not limiting the sound as concerns human hearing in virtually ANY way.  Besides only offering two channels.

 

The music you listen to is recorded as a combination of sine waves, which results in one waveform that represents the music.

 

A record puts that through the RIAA equalization curve and then puts the resulting waveform onto vinyl.  The subject of pressing vinyl is very complicated (and I don't know that much about it myself), but understand that it is not a perfect process and as the masters are cut, copies pressed or cut, and as the needle tracks the sound, there are errors being introduced - distortion and noise, but of an intrinsically different character than digital audio (and larger in magnitude compared to Redbook 16 bit, 44.1 kHz digital audio, although being analog the limits are physical rather than a function of the ADC/DAC chain).

 

Digital audio instead takes that waveform and, well, digitizes it.  In 16 bit, 44.1 kHz audio like that of CDs, each second has 44,100 samples taken of that waveform, and each sample has 16 bits - 65,536 quantization levels that can be used to represent the level of the signal.  Basically, in a decent analog to digital conversion, the amplitude (volume) of the input waveform is set to the right level so all those bits are used, and there's no clipping (going over the maximum level of quantization).

 

The error in digital is from quantization - when an analog signal that is infinitely variable has to be represented by discrete numbers - those bits I was talking about.  16 bit audio has 65,536 quantization levels, and 24 bit audio has 16,777,216 levels.  That's a lot more, right?  Yes, it is.  What that means is that the error between the input analog waveform and the amplitude the digitization can represent it as is reduced.

 

That error, however, only shows up as noise.  In fact, 65,636 quantization levels is already enough to reduce the noise from quantization errors to a tiny amount that is only rarely audible in near-silent passages (the quantization error is relatively large in comparison to the signal level) when listening in a very quiet room.  Tape hiss and other noise in the recordings further reduces the audibility of quantization error.  As far as I am aware of, no one has ever been able to tell them apart in any sort of blind testing at normal listening levels.

 

The sample rate - going from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz to 192 kHz does primarily one thing: Raise the maximum frequency level that may be recorded/played back.  Nyquist's (and Shannon's, and so on's) theorem states the following:

 

Quote:

If a function x(t) contains no frequencies higher than B hertz, it is completely determined by giving its ordinates at a series of points spaced 1/(2B) seconds apart.

 

In other words, a given sampling frequency will allow all frequencies up to half of the sampling rate to be recorded.  Thus, 44.1 kHz allows everything up to 22 kHz - already higher than essentially anyone can hear.  Higher sampling rates of course give higher frequency ceilings - but the audibility of those frequencies is questionable at best, and the amount of musical content at such frequencies is essentially zero.  There has been research showing that humans can perceive ultrasonic frequencies to some extent, but the relevance to musical applications is pretty much nonexistent.

 

Give a listen here to see what you can hear: http://www.audiocheck.net/audiotests_frequencycheckhigh.php

 


Edited by BlackbeardBen - 3/21/11 at 7:40am
post #23 of 156

 

That's a good one...  Yeah...

 

Please read legitimate, accurate information on the storage of audio before you spew any more misinformation.  The CD format is not limiting the sound as concerns human hearing in virtually ANY way.  Besides only offering two channels.

 

Sorry, I was just trying to give him a summation/forest view of why albums may sound bad.  I was given wrong info. by someone, and I spewed it back out.  I should've researched it more. 


Edited by jd1138 - 3/21/11 at 9:05am
post #24 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd1138 View Post

 

That's a good one...  Yeah...

 

Please read legitimate, accurate information on the storage of audio before you spew any more misinformation.  The CD format is not limiting the sound as concerns human hearing in virtually ANY way.  Besides only offering two channels.

 

Sorry, I was just trying to give him a summation/forest view of why albums may sound bad.  I was given wrong info. by someone, and I spewed it back out.  I should've researched it more. 



That's okay!  It's just a result of the recording and mastering; it doesn't have anything to do with the format.

 

As for why stereo DVD-A and SACD often sound better - the primary reason is that the horrible mastering done to CDs isn't done to them.  That (and multichannel) is reason enough to buy them, although really the pressure should go on the labels to properly master the CDs in the first place.  The problem is that they can make more money this way.


Edited by BlackbeardBen - 3/21/11 at 9:16am
post #25 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackbeardBen View Post





That's okay!  It's just a result of the recording and mastering; it doesn't have anything to do with the format.

 

As for why stereo DVD-A and SACD often sound better - the primary reason is that the horrible mastering done to CDs isn't done to them.  That (and multichannel) is reason enough to buy them, although really the pressure should go on the labels to properly master the CDs in the first place.  The problem is that they can make more money this way.


I wish that the horrible mastering would be done for digital downloads instead, if they don't want CD sales to keep dropping rolleyes.gif
post #26 of 156

where does vinyl fall in all of this? Does it not clip like today's CDs?

post #27 of 156


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BobSaysHi View Post

where does vinyl fall in all of this? Does it not clip like today's CDs?



Depends on the mix and mastering - especially with commercial records. A few extreme examples: Penetration's "Coming up for Air" LP sounded muddy with the US release, the UK pressing was notably improved, and the CD version is best of all. The first master of the DK's debut LP was noticeably muddier than the remixed followup mix. But classical gets some of the most expensive and sophisticated production, and nearly always sounds really good. I love vinyl, but the advantages of digital/CD are undeniable with the sonic consistency.

post #28 of 156
Quote:

Originally Posted by LFF View Post

 

People have grown accustomed to this fake stereo sound and natural stereo recording is almost non-existent today. I have played natural stereo recordings for some people and they are often shocked at how realistic they sound.

 

 

Great post.

 

I hesitate to ask for fear of my wallet, but can you recommend a natural stero recording?

post #29 of 156
Quote:
Originally Posted by wallstreet View Post

Great post.

 

I hesitate to ask for fear of my wallet, but can you recommend a natural stero recording?


 


Be happy to...try these:

 

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade / Borodin: Polovtsian Dances ~ Beecham

41E55PC0TXL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Recorded using a single point microphone technique...more specifically a coincident figure of 8's angled at 90 degrees. It's a very objective technique and most listeners can accurately judge the position of the instruments from the microphones.

Gershwin to Sousa

31jLGkYPbUL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Recorded by Joe Grado (of Grado HP-1000 fame!!!) using his self-built stereo holophonic microphone. Very nice imaging and sound from both headphones and speakers.

Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn - Equinox

sr002-300.jpg

Recorded using two microphones in the Blumleim Difference Technique by the great Barry Diament. It has made numerous "best of" lists due to its fantastic sound. That fantastic sound is due to the minimalist technique and having someone in charge who knows what they are doing.

If you want some amazing sound on headphones using minimalist binaural, then look at this thread I wrote a while back:

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/511850/awesome-binaural-albums

I have also done some binaural recordings which have been posted on my blog for FREE!

post #30 of 156

yeah i have found this to be true with some bands, but not all new bands have really bad recording, i bought a cd off of a band after a gig that isn,t even on itunes of amazon or play but the recording on the cd was great! :)

this is sad and true but what can we do about it after all we are only about 5% of the market or even less. frown.gif

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