Creating examples of "Loudness Wars" effect

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Elgrindio, Jul 11, 2017.
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  1. pinnahertz
    Pavarotti, yes. Orbison close to a mic, nope.
    There isn't a compressor on earth that can do what intelligent manual gain riding with full knowledge of the score can do. Compressors are always reactive, not anticipative and interpretive. Even with today's "look ahead" processing they are still reactive, dumb devices that make "decisions" based on fixed analysis of the envelope, but have no understanding of the musical message or emotional content, and therefore are often in error.

    Now, just as a sanity check (mine?), I'm not talking about processing a vocal track here. That's a job done just fine with the right compressor and settings. I'm talking about controlling dynamics of a full mix of an entire movement or movements.
    Sort of agreed. There is a point to recording without dynamics processing, but it's definitely not for every recording, or even very many. Proper application of technology is always the best way, and to do that one must have the entire picture and purpose in mind.
  2. Cutestudio
    In general compression is applied at entirely the wrong end of the recording process, the mastering engineer is simultaneously mastering for the car, table top radio and HiFi and various other delivery systems, all of which have different requirements, so by definition it will often be wrong for the purpose.

    In a sane world we'd have a 24bit music format with as little compression as possible and apply the compression in the playback system: which would be different (and even possibly adaptive) for the car, HiFi etc. There's a violent preference for 16bit for HiFi however which precludes even basic steps toward this, any move toward higher quality is stamped upon which fits well with the observed decline in mastering quality we see year after year. With everyone rooting for mediocrity for years we have indeed arrived, but Apple did fight back with their excellent 'Mastered for iTunes' initiative so I'd recommend you look there if you want the best masters.

    If you want examples, Girls Aloud stuff is very compressed, Early Katie Melua stuff is not very compressed, which is why (musical tastes aside) one sounds better in the car and the other better on a decent HiFi. SeeDeClip4 has the waveform shown for the track you are playing as I find it instructive to see what it looks like, so I tend to have a good idea of mastering standards for bands now. An interesting trend is that the older albums are usually better for any given time period, you could successfully order an artists's albums by date just by looking at the compression, including Adele who makes it easy with her naming system.

    For church organ music or Enya type stuff a brick shaped waveform can be perfectly reasonable but when you have modern rock such as Muse or Kasabian looking like a brick something's wrong: snare drums in real life really are louder than an acoustic guitar string... a lot of modern rock is unlistenable for me now as it just sounds stupid, although some live stuff is still good.

    Good luck with the project!
  3. pinnahertz
    1. Loudness War processing has nothing to do with mastering for a car, table radio, HiFi, iPod, or anything to do with delivery. It's done to make the track sound louder next to it's "competition". Radio has it's own processing chain which negates loudness war processing (though radio has it's own loudness war anyway). You are correct, all of those end uses have different requirements, but they're not adding loudness war processing for any of those.

    2. A 24 bit release file is not required for lightly compressed, or uncompressed audio, it's done just fine in 16 bits. Some of the most dynamic music on earth was recorded and released in 16 bits, and its perfectly adequate. 24 vs 16 has nothing to do with mastering quality at all. The mastering process takes place with internal 32 or 64 bit floating point data, and it's released as 16 bits.

    3. The "Mastering for iTunes" paper was a good initiative, but everything on iTunes is 16 bits. But it wasn't rules, it was guidlines.

    4. Organ music or Enya would be horrible if brick-shaped.

    5. Agreed...unlistenable.
  4. Cutestudio
    Yes I know, why are you saying this?
    My statement was "the mastering engineer is simultaneously mastering for ...", the words "Loudness War processing" come from you, not me!

    BTW Your love of 16bit was noted in other threads, you do not have to attack 24bit here as well, we will continue to disagree about this as usual: regardless :D
  5. Niouke
    as an FLstudio amateur I always wondered why my tracks had such a low volume compared to commercial modern tracks, despite my spikes just being short of overload. I thought it was a real problem, then I discovered gain + compressor and now I'm a real pro :D
  6. pinnahertz
    You said, "the mastering engineer is simultaneously mastering for the car, table top radio and HiFi and various other delivery systems, all of which have different requirements, so by definition it will often be wrong for the purpose."

    My point is, he's not even considering those purposes. Was that yours as well?
    Not so much a "love" as an understanding. An understanding of what tools do what, and where to apply them. If we had a 24 bit world we'd still have a loudness war.
  7. gregorio
    1. No it's not! In general compression is applied throughout the mixing process and then more is added in the mastering phase.

    2. The audiophile world is built on marketing nonsense, consumer ignorance and is effectively "insane". Most/Many audiophiles are completely suckered by all the audiophile nonsense and therefore their insane world seems sane to them and that everyone else are the ones who are insane. Your statement should therefore read: In a sane world we wouldn't have a 24bit consumer distribution format, we wouldn't have as little compression as possible and compression would only be applied by the artists/engineers creating the music and NOT by the playback system!

    BTW, Apple did not "fight back" with their "mastered for itunes", it might impress gullible audiophiles and therefore be a useful marketing gimmick but it makes absolutely no difference to the loudness war, any application of compression or indeed any other processing!

  8. RRod
    I've often wondered about this, as it does seem like occasional passages are brought up/down a bit even on labels that claim "no compression." I agree with bigshot, though: if we put a box around the person riding the gain, we might call it the world's heaviest compressor...
  9. pinnahertz
    Again, a compressor is a reactive device that responds to signal changes based on group of parameters. It always reacts the same way to level changes, but it has no knowledge of the artistic intent, emotional content, or what's coming up in a minute or so. A compressor is always reactive, even if a look-ahead buffer is employed. A person with a score manually riding gain knows all of that, and may not react exactly the same way each time. Having done both extensively I can assure you that while you might like to call a person a compressor, there really is similarity only in that gain is changed. There is no similarity as to how or when. Seems like a nit-picky difference, but it is an important distinction.
  10. RRod
    Humans can give you "bespoke" compression, that I agree with. But in the end if I can tell a pppp ended up as a ppp, it seems a bit wrong for the company to say *no* compression was applied.
  11. pinnahertz
    Not, they would be correct. Compression is an automatic process that does produce some side effects beyond just level change. It modulates gain continuously based on program envelope. Manual gain change does not. Manual gain riding can also be selective. Perhaps there's one or two PPPP passages that could be made louder, but the rest is left unaltered. You can't do that with an automatic compressor, so they are not compressing just to lift a PPPP to PPP so it can be more clearly heard.
  12. RRod
    Tomatoe tomatoh, it seems. As a "normie" I don't construe "no compression" to mean "not run through an automatic compressor with attack timez and sh**", I take it to mean "we didn't alter the dynamics no-way-no-how!".
  13. pinnahertz
    Call it whatever. If you can't see there's a significant difference I can't help it. Nobody's going to tell you what they did anyway. I can hear compression because I've used it, adjusted compressors, even designed them for decades. You'll never heard a well done manual gain change.

    You may not want to know this, and I don't mean to pop your bubble, but there's pretty much no recording made that doesn't have at least some manual gain change done. It's called "mixing".
  14. RRod
    There's no bubble to burst. I have no interest in recordings where absolutely NOTHING was done with what went into the mics. I want things mixed well and compressed as is tasteful and appropriate for home listening, most homes not being concert halls or Skywalker. But I also like transparency in marketing, which of course will never happen. And of course I've never heard a well-done manual gain change: if it's well done, I shouldn't notice it ^_^
    bigshot likes this.
  15. castleofargh Contributor
    by changing the gain on some tracks I guess they can change the global dynamic of the song but they did not compress the dynamic. would that get past the lawyers? ^_^
    RRod likes this.
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