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Recording quality? - Page 2

post #16 of 42

There are bad recordings, but a lot of them are brilliant and historical. Bob Dylan can be whiny and distant, The Beatles can be bright, and old Louis Armstrong stuff can tear out my eardrum. But I would never give up listening to those old, naively mastered albums. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Criticism should be tempered by context. The modern albums though, the ones playing into the loudness-war, made by producers and mastering engineers that should and probably do know better, when they excrete something with a waveform that looks like a brick and sounds like a construction site, that should result in a public tar and feathering of Death Magnetic proportions each and every time.

post #17 of 42
Thread Starter 

I guess it also depends a lot on in which way you listen to music.

 

Myself I like to listen to deep house mixes for hours on end and I need the bass to have distinct texture and the cymbals and highs to sound good, otherwise they take me out of the experience. If a song is good, then great, I will respect the artist and the song even when I'm listening with my old game boy ear buds. It's not that it takes away from the brilliance of the song, but it takes away from my experience, which is a different thing.

 

It's like when you're running a marathon and everything's going great.... Except there's a pebble in your shoe. Even though it may not totally hinder you in your performance, at some point you're probably gonna decide you want the experience to be the best it can be. Unless you're in a race and you desperately want to win ofcourse.

Anyway, that's what closely resembles my style of enjoying music.

 

It's amusing to me that I now find myself feeling the need to defend the reason I care about recording quality, while this was initially in no way a consideration :).


Edited by Nirvana Woman - 1/1/13 at 2:40pm
post #18 of 42

The mastering quality seems to be the greatest factor in my music appreciation.  I do enjoy plenty of electronic music created with synthetic sounds, as the technical aspects of the sound are normally well recorded.  

 

An example of poor mastering can be found with the modern AC/DC offerings.  When this supergroup recently allowed for digital sales on iTunes, I lifted my self-imposed ban on their music and purchased a few of my favorite albums on Amazon in CD format.  I was born in the 60's and my experience with their music is almost exclusively from records or cassettes.  Listening to these remastered CD's, I found that the oomph and drive that I once loved was completely missing, and the music was very fatiguing.  I ripped all of the CD's to my computer, uploaded them to Google Music, and I have not bothered to session any of the songs since my initial discovery.  I have absolutely no interest in listening to these poorly mastered tracks when I have so many better options available to me.

 

I'm certain that if I had my old audio equipment along with the album 'Back in Black' available on an LP, I would be thrilled to hear the broader dynamic range of some of my past favorites.  

 

Today, it seems that the recording quality is not the biggest factor, just the poor mastering.  I'm set up with plenty of headroom when it comes to volume, so I really want music with plenty of dynamic range or else music that was created artificially where clipping and compression do not exist.

post #19 of 42

Some albums are just fatiguing to listen to. There are those that I can go through without even noticing the passing of time, and there are those that are so harsh that I can't go through a couple of songs. Mostly badly recorded, the instruments are a mess, highly compressed.

post #20 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

 

 

Your reply would seem to imply that you have some way of correcting bad mastering after the fact, but what you are really suggesting is that someone learn how to properly master.  

 

There's pretty much nothing that can be done to un-do certain mastering processes once they're done, in particular those processes used to fight the "loudness war".  

 

Learning to properly master is certainly worth while, but won't have any impact on the existing poorly done material unless you get the unlikely opportunity to re-master from the original tapes or files before the damage was done.

You can correct some bad mastering after the fact. It requires very specialized tools and a deep understanding of how we hear and how to manipulate certain parameters of audio. I also suggest people learn to properly master.

 

Some things can be completely eliminated. Some can be fixed to a large degree. Some can only be improved upon slightly and others...well...you can't do squat.

post #21 of 42

If you have a good sound file (preferably uncompressed WAV file, or analog tape, that's best) and enough headroom, yes not impossible for you to remaster an already produced song.

post #22 of 42
There are some DSPs that do a mighty fine job on the fly. I recently got the RCA Toscanini box. These recordings are notorious for being dry as dust. They were recorded in too small a room. I play them back through the Vienna concert hall DSP in my Yamaha receiver and the sound blooms and it even does a more than just passible job of a 5:1 stereo effect.
Edited by bigshot - 1/2/13 at 12:31pm
post #23 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by penmarker View Post

If you have a good sound file (preferably uncompressed WAV file, or analog tape, that's best) and enough headroom, yes not impossible for you to remaster an already produced song.

Good quality originals are a must of course, that's a given.  But whether or not a badly mastered piece can be improved upon after the fact depends entirely on what was done to make it bad in the first place.  If its just an EQ issue, that's fairly easy.  If it's a bit over-compressed, perhaps that can be somewhat reversed.  But if it's had aggressive loudness processing done on it, there's probably not much that can be done.  That kind of thing is quite destructive.  To reverse it you'd have to have rather accurate knowledge of what exactly was done so that you could apply the reciprocal, and even the mastering guy may not have enough detail to do that. 

post #24 of 42

Do you mean hot mastering and clipping when you say aggressive loudness?

post #25 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Do you mean hot mastering and clipping when you say aggressive loudness?

That's a huge generalization, but yes.  "Loud mastering" is a catch-all term, and there are many ways to create a loud master, and many types of dynamic processing.  Most of them cannot be un-done after the fact simply because their specific action is unknown.  Take for example a simple compressor followed by a peak limiter.  A compressor has a threshold above which it begins to compress, a compression ratio, and attack and release time, an envelope detector that can be averaging, slow-peak, or RMS, and the knee above threshold can be a sharp corner or rounded in some way.  All of that is unknown, and pretty hard to reverse without knowing, but possible to approximate if you're patient.  Then we come to the peak limiter.  How fast, and at what threshold?  Recovery speed?  An inverse peak limiter has to be much better matched to the original limiter.  Again, possible, but harder because you've got the compressor action in there too.  Now, take all of that and multiply by 3, 4 or 5 because aggressive loudness processing using 3 to 5 separate bands of compression and limiting, followed by peak limiting and clipping.  And if they really cranked it on hard, the resulting intermod distortion is impossible to un-do. Now the chances of nailing the exact inverse processor are pretty much nil. And you can't un-clip. 

 

All of that goes on in contemporary music today.  Classical and jazz are still lightly processed, thankfully.  But the folks asking about this here are not listening to Bruckner. And what's happened to their stuff is, frankly, criminal.

post #26 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFF View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

 

 

Your reply would seem to imply that you have some way of correcting bad mastering after the fact, but what you are really suggesting is that someone learn how to properly master.  

 

There's pretty much nothing that can be done to un-do certain mastering processes once they're done, in particular those processes used to fight the "loudness war".  

 

Learning to properly master is certainly worth while, but won't have any impact on the existing poorly done material unless you get the unlikely opportunity to re-master from the original tapes or files before the damage was done.

You can correct some bad mastering after the fact. It requires very specialized tools and a deep understanding of how we hear and how to manipulate certain parameters of audio. I also suggest people learn to properly master.

 

Some things can be completely eliminated. Some can be fixed to a large degree. Some can only be improved upon slightly and others...well...you can't do squat.

 

Have you ever gotten mixes/recordings that were so bad that you went "no amount of mastering can save that, re-record and redo the mix please!".

post #27 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

 

Have you ever gotten mixes/recordings that were so bad that you went "no amount of mastering can save that, re-record and redo the mix please!".

The role of the mastering engineer is to apply final adjustments, but mostly at the request of the producer.  So if the producer says "make this the loudest record ever!", that's what a mastering engineer does because that client pays the bills.  If the master is already smashed to death, and the producer likes that, then the ME doesn't have much to do.  If left to his own devices, most ME's would keep it clean, but it's not up to them.  But it's not their call to demand a remix because the quality is bad, but it is their role to advise.

post #28 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

 

Have you ever gotten mixes/recordings that were so bad that you went "no amount of mastering can save that, re-record and redo the mix please!".

Yes...

 

Aside from some really bad recordings made by amateurs, I had one audiophile from Japan request I remaster his copy of "Death Magnetic". When I told him there was NO fixing it, he then asked about "Californication". redface.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

The role of the mastering engineer is to apply final adjustments, but mostly at the request of the producer.  So if the producer says "make this the loudest record ever!", that's what a mastering engineer does because that client pays the bills.  If the master is already smashed to death, and the producer likes that, then the ME doesn't have much to do.  If left to his own devices, most ME's would keep it clean, but it's not up to them.  But it's not their call to demand a remix because the quality is bad, but it is their role to advise.

That's why I am poor. If a producer tells me to smash the levels, I give them the middle finger and send them packing. I won't compromise my ethics, work quality, and/or reputation for some money or because some producer "knows what the public wants".  If they want me to advise, they can hire me as their lawyer.

post #29 of 42

Why do producers want it louder? 

 

Do all producers get together and just complain about how quiet modern music is and tell stories about how badly master records made a song a big hit??

 

I'd imagine many producers are audiophiles by default(having been around music 24/7) or would be open minded.
 

post #30 of 42
Prod
Quote:
Originally Posted by ukon16 View Post

Why do producers want it louder? 

Do all producers get together and just complain about how quiet modern music is and tell stories about how badly master records made a song a big hit??

I'd imagine many producers are audiophiles by default(having been around music 24/7) or would be open minded.

 

Producers are not generally audiophiles, and neither are musicians. If their record comes up in rotation on the radio, in background music in a bar, in a venue with a DJ, or on somebody's iPod they want it as loud or louder than the previous song. It's partly a ego thing, partly marketing, and complete fallacy. Each of those play situations has a final volume control run by a human that will undo your best loud mastering if it seems too loud. Radio play is even worse because stations have their own, quite aggressive, audio processing that not only squashes everything to death but adds to the distortion present in a loud master. It's all over zealous fanaticism, and part of life in audio. Google "loudness war".
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