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Advice on tracing the hiss, please!

  1. rumlyne
    Hello there!

    I recently purchased the soundtrack of 'Frozen' in 24/48 (beautiful music, if you ask me) and on my speakers it sounded nice, but the trouble began when I listened to it with my AKG K550 on my way to work. I do like it a little bit on the loud side and imagine my frustration when my ears stung and hurt like hell when Idina Menzel (being musical singers - stressing every syllable) sang the first word with 'S' on 'Let It Go', a sharp, loud and hissing sound. Very uncomfortable! I had noticed it on the previous tracks and later on on the other tracks, but not as brutal as in that song.

    First I thought something was wrong with my DAP (DX90 Lurker 2.1.5 L2). I plugged the K550 into my laptop - same result. Plugged them into my old, budget hand-me-down AV-Receiver from my dad (Yamaha RX-V361) and encountered the same annoying hiss and lots of noise on the quiet parts (which is why I never use my headphones with if). Then I redid all the tests with my Sennheiser IE80 with th results being more or less the same. The hiss isn't as brutal with the In-Ears but still present. Also with both headphones on low volume levels the 'S' sounds quite normal and natural as it does in the other songs on my preferred level but as soon as I reach my level it gets sharp and stingy.

    I remember to have read somewhere that a bad amplifier induces problems with high frequencies. Is that true? could this be the case? If it is, a (portable) headphone amp should be a solution.
    But assuming that's true it also means that my DX90 isn't capable of driving my IE80 properly, doesn't it?

    The other possibility (the only other one I can think of) is that the soundtrack is badly mastered, which is very unlikely with Disney swimming in money. Also the soundtrack was at least Oscar nominated and I don't think it would be if it was badly mastered.

    Also I can't compare it to similar tracks to find out wether or not the mastering is rubbish. I don't know any other singer who stresses an 'S' as Idina Menzel does and I don't posess any of her albums.

    Has anybody encountered similar Problems with 'S's?

    Do you have any idea how to determine where the Problem lies?

    Anyways, thank you for reading this far :) Have a nice day!

  2. billybob_jcv
    Does the same thing happen if you listen to the same song from a different source, like this low-quality one on youtube?
  3. rumlyne
    Just tried it and no sharp 'S'
  4. billybob_jcv
    Interesting. OK, that tells me it's in the file, and my guess is that either there is more treble energy in the hires file that is sending the headphone into sibilance, or something in the way the DAC is dealing with that high res file is not kosher - or some combination of the two.
  5. rumlyne
    I hope it's not the DACs (Maybe the Laptop's chip is rubbish, but the DX90's?).
    If it's in the file I will find a way to get rid of the annoying 'S'. Of course I could've done this right away, but I wanted to be sure the problem lay there and not anywhere else.
    As soon as I downloaded the WAV (don't want to import the FLAC in Audacity, then edit it, export as WAV und convert it to flac again) I will post about the result.

    Thank you for your quick reply and help!
  6. GREQ
    Sounds to me like you've unwittingly purchased the file from a dishonest source.
    There are no harsh 'S' sounds in this sound track, but this kind of phenomenon can occur when the music has been badly/improperly ripped with some sort of 'gain' modifier.
    This accentuates many sounds horribly, and the whole album is a lot louder than other modern albums.
    It's the digital equivalent of 'gain' distortion, but turning the volume down won't have any effect as the music has been processed and saved as the poor quality rip.
    Maybe the website you bought it cannot be trusted?
  7. rumlyne
    I bought it at Qobuz.com as well as 'Get Lucky' and 'Shake It Off' and these work just fine for me. Also they are as loud as most other albums I have. Maybe they just ripped the vinyl, who knows! But even if they did that (what I seriously doubt) I think they would know why not to use hat 'gain' modifier you talked about. I didn't know about that (thanks for the explanation by the way!), but them hopefully being professionals would know better.

    I just finished downloading the WAV and will start playing around with audacity, see where it leads.
  8. rumlyne
    On Amazon lots of people are complaining over the poor mastering on the vinyl. Looks like despite swimming in money Disney didn't bother the sound quality.
    I opened the file in Audacity and played it with half the speed. Even with everything deeper the 'S' was still as audible and annoying as ever - but on half speed at least it didn't hurt because it wasn't so high. Also now that I knew what I was looking for I think I noticed that background noise that people say to hear when playing vinyl. I can't be 100% sure as I never had the pleasure of listening to vinyl (neither I nor friends can afford the equipment) so I can't compare it.
    But still chances are good you were right GREQ!

    Anyway, I'm stuck with this poorly mastered and eventually even more poorly ripped piece of music. Now how do I get rid of the 'S'? I have Audacity and a friend of mine has FL-Studio. With one of those I should somehow be able to filter it out.
    Any ideas?
  9. GREQ
    That sucks because the CD-version is fine.
    (I have daughters, Frozen soundtrack isn't my first choice in music [​IMG])
  10. billybob_jcv
    Buy the CD version from Amazon and save yourself hours of time...
  11. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    OK, first off, I think that's the wrong adjective. If you're not "musical," that can be interpreted to mean you're not melodic. You're either a rapper who depends solely on rhythm, or someone with a hot body that major labels get away with for being marketable.
    I think the adjective you were going for was "emotive," a trait more common with theater singes than other performers since their primary job requires them to act by singing. That does not include actresses who get record deals or singers who simply get into TV shows (or even if the show is about singing, they might not necessarily apply the same style as what they do in a theater). Basically, one has to act out and convey the emotion of the lines of lyrics as if they are delivering lines in a non-singing dialogue, and sometimes the emphasis can come out as you described.

    In addition to what the others already posted, as much as amps can distort, I don't think that's the problem given the K550 and IE80 are relatively easy to drive, and even more likely in the recording as the CD version sounds fine according to @GREQ.
    What speakers were you using where it sounded normal? Try standing closer to the speakers and to just one of the speakers to see if the problem is noticeable, even if not as bad as the IE80. Normally you'd get more of this on speakers, especially those who upgrade car speakers and then just plop the tweeter down somewhere on the dash (in which case it is actually just time alignment and reflections, not a matter of driver response), but I guess the revers is possible. The detail may be there and naturally headphones and IEMs are more apt to reveal tinier details since the drivers are closer to your eardrums, so you don't have much in the way of room modes; on top of that it's possible that your room may actually attenuate such frequencies.
    Well let's consider their target market: highly likely children who will gravitate to loudness rather than, say, audiophile albums played through audiophile systems where detail freaks can hear the London subway rumbling through in the background on their five-figure systems.
    Why not just buy the CD version? $12 or so - that's not a lot compared to a DX90 (unless you went broke buying that, plus the K550 and IE80) - and the quality of what you're listening is the most important part of any audio system considering your gear's job is to get all that to your ear as loud as you prefer without coloring or distorting the original signal.
  12. rumlyne

    Well that's good to hear...

    As a cliche-student I'd rather spend hours than to spend another cent :wink:
  13. rumlyne
    accidental post
  14. rumlyne
    I didn't mean to question anyones musicality, it was a bad translation: What I meant by 'musical singer' was a singer/actor who plays in musicals (broadway 'n' stuff)! During their training/education they (obviously) set high values on how to say/sing something clearly, one important point being the right streessing and accentuation of consonants so that even the people in the last row are able to understand them effortlessly.

    I came to the same conclusion - I expect a portable DAP at least to drive In-Ears properly. Also I didn't notice anything similar on any other album with any of my headphones.

    The speakers were part of an old Philipps bottom-line kind of mini-CD&Radio-set and are now connected to the Yamaha. You were right! When moving closer to the speakers I was able to hear the 'S' a lot weaker but it is definitely the same.

    Of course you are right about that, but then why release a SO CALLED HD-version and Vinyl but poorly mastered? Tracks that literally hurt listening to? Also I think it's an affront to the singers and artists. It's a matter of principle! But I know in a world with money there is no room for something like principles. I feel betrayed! I was promised a HD-version of the OST and what I got is a version worse than that of the 30% cheaper CD!? That's crazy!

    I didn't buy the all at the same time but yes, I'm broke. Luckily there are other ways to get the CD-versions.
    I couldn't agree more with you.

    So the hiss is traced then! Seems like I got fooled by the music/child-entertainment industry big time.
    I'll play around a little bit with FL and Audacity and see if there's anything I can do or go for the CD-version.

    Thank you all for your help and input!
    Wish you all the best!

  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Yep and that's basically what I articulated up there.
    Those Philips speakers aren't really "high fidelity" - I've had some of those before and the sound was tuned to be on the warm side with rolled off treble. That helps the bass become more audible without the problems of boosting bass, like distortion, and is generally more pleasing - the sort of sound you expect from speakers that many buyers would use for background music in an office or small lobby for example.
    I wouldn't really put much faith on anything with a sticker on it that says "HD," and neither with vinyl. HD aside from actual video or audio resolution (which usually has more to do with the audio embedded in a video file) barely means anything beyond marketing really - kind of like how HTiB sets and some other kinds of sources say "HD audio" but while they can decode most audio on BluRays they can't read a real 24bit/96khz stereo track (not that I think that's the only criteria for being a better copy). Vinyl is headed towards the same direction, considering it's not only audiophiles with budget Regas or expensive Clearaudio TTs listening to vinyl but a also many of hipsters who hook up vintage gear to crap headphones. A hipster store over here that sells hipster cameras and vinyl sells really crappy headphones for example. Heck it's not like their TTs are even equipped with the cleanest cartridges - some of these people consider cereal sound effects to be the "natural" way of listening to music, regardless of the fact that Snap, Crackle, and Pop aren't exactly part of any of the bands they're listening to.


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