Originally Posted by neilvg WARNING OFF TOPIC THREAD HIJACK
please ignore if uninterested:
I deal with mastering and mix engineers everyday. It's true that modern music is definitely more compressed, but you cannot compare compression, especially when its part of the mixing process and production itself, with sound quality. An over compressed master will indeed change the quality of the mix, but in many cases, mixes coming into mastering these days are already heavily compressed. This gives the engineers and production crew more of an artistic choice as to how the music hits and is presented.
Now for that bit on vinyl below: (a summary) : vinyl needs to be taken down in overall VU and treble energy needs to be brought down, mostly so the record can play stably. This actually results in less compression on the master, and a sound that comes closer to the original MIX. However, it is wrong to say that vinyl ACTUALLY has more dynamic range. They are just mastered that way since they need it to play with most modern styli. CD and Digital in general can get away with a lot more compression. This is why the numbers on those measurement sites look the way they do.
Originally Posted by x RELIC x
The 'guy behind the counter' is a nut bar and doesn't know s***. Vinyl is almost always better for dynamic range. I agree, a lot of modern mixes are terrible and it's getting worse. Adele, Bowie, many remasters, it's sad.
So if your thinking sound quality is opposite of compression - you'll think the new Bowie sounds bad. Because it is very compressed. But I actually think it sounds Amazing. It's very modern, but has great vibrancy and impact - which is what any good mix needs for starters. It's not meant to sound live, its meant to be an artistic statement in the studio.I submit the following:
(not my words) - but from below, it's not a simple straight ahead story when it comes to vinyl being better.
: Vinyl requires a better-sounding master because it is physically incapable of reproducing the hypercompressed sound mastered to CD
Different masters can substantially improve or reduce sound quality. Some have less background noise. Some alter the dynamic range. There are other mastering techniques that can also affect the sound.
There are documented instances of different masters being used on vinyl releases compared to CD releases. A bass note which is panned hard to the left or right will cause the needle on an LP record to jump out of the groove, an early example of this is the song Crazy by Seal which had to be remastered for vinyl with the bass repositioned in the centre stage. Another notable example is The White Stripes' Icky Thump. However, there are also instances of the same masters being used on vinyl releases compared to CD releases. In fact, if you purchase an album produced in the last two decades on vinyl, it is likely that the master will be no different than the one used on CD. Alternative masters for vinyl cost money, and mastering is a significant cost of producing a record. The reason for different masters is that producers possibly view digital media (like CD) and analog media (like Vinyl) to be different in nature, so they might produce a different master for each medium. Some even believe that Vinyl will automatically yield a superior sound, despite the well known technical limitations and disadvantages compared to the CD.
The technical details behind this myth are as follows. The cutting heads used for creating the vinyl lacquer (or metal mother) are speaker-like electromechanical devices driven by an extremely powerful amplifier (several hundred watts). At extremely large/fast cutting head excursions, the cutting head coils may physically burn up, much like how a speaker's voice coils may be destroyed by an excessive current. Also, the diamond cutting head stylus may prematurely wear or break. This places important constraints on the maximum levels that can be recorded to a record.
A very high power output is required to cut grooves with a high acceleration. Acceleration at the same signal amplitude is higher for higher-frequency signals. Heavily clipped and limited CDs in the modern mastering style have more high-frequency content than earlier masters. In general, increasing the perceived volume of a record - whether by increasing the recording level or by limiting/clipping/compression - raises the cutting head average power.
Additionally, during playback, the turntable's stylus has limits on what grooves it can successfully track. Cartridges can only track grooves of a finite modulation width (measured in microns) that decreases in frequency. For instance, a cartridge may only be able to track a 300 µm-wide groove at 300 Hz, and yet only 50 µm at 20 kHz. This also places limits on the acceleration and velocity limits the record master can take.
The most obvious way to work around these issues is simply to reduce the recording level of the vinyl master. That's exactly what vinyl mastering houses do, using multiband limiters that dynamically reduce the treble content of the master, to limit the cutting head power usage.Effect of vinyl mastering on dynamic range
A related myth is that when vinyl has a higher dynamic range than CD, it means the audio was sourced from a different, more dynamic master, and that the difference in dynamics will be audible.
It is true that recordings on vinyl sometimes have a spikier waveform and a measurably higher dynamic range than their counterparts on CD, at least when the dynamic range is reported by crude "DR meter" tools that compare peak and RMS levels. The higher "DR value" could indeed be a result of entirely different master recordings being provided to the mastering engineers for each format, or different choices made by the engineers, as happens every time old music is remastered for a new release.
But even when the same source master is used, the audio is normally further processed when mastering for the target format (be it CD or vinyl), and this often results in vinyl having a spikier waveform and higher DR measurement. There are two types of processing during vinyl mastering that can increase the DR measurements and waveform spikiness, thus reducing the RMS and increasing the basic DR measurement by perhaps several dB:
The audio is subjected to low-pass or all-pass filtering, which can result in broad peaks becoming slanted ramps.
The amount and stereo separation of deep bass content is reduced for vinyl, to keep the stylus from being thrown out of the groove.
It is quite possible that these changes are entirely inaudible, despite their effect on the waveform shape and DR measurement.
The dynamic range of the waveform is also affected by the vinyl playback system; different systems provide different frequency responses. Factors include cartridge, tonearm, preamp, and even the connecting cables. A vinyl rip with weak bass may well have a higher reported DR value than a rip of the same vinyl on equipment with a stronger bass response.