Creating examples of "Loudness Wars" effect

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Elgrindio, Jul 11, 2017.
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  1. bigshot
    Gain riding is still compression. It's just a very slow way of doing it. Try to gain ride vocals to make them read clearly. Betcha can't do it without an inky poo machine, John Henry.
     
  2. pinnahertz
     
  3. gregorio
    There are a few misconceptions going on in the last page or so of posts:

    1. Compressors are dumb devices but those operating them are not. A violin, a snare drum and a trumpet are also dumb devices, it's not until a musician plays them that they are anything other than just a piece of metal tubing, wooden boxes with strings or a wooden shell with a plastic head.

    2. Something which is being overlooked by everyone, including pinnahertz, is automation! "Automation" is the ability to record and replay setting changes and every parameter of a compressor in a DAW is "automatable". What this means is that the threshold above which compression is triggered, the compression ratio, knee settings and pretty much everything else which defines the performance of compressors and limiters can be changed throughout a piece of music/audio. These changes can occur instantly or morph over any period of time, entirely at the discretion of the mix engineer/producer and DAWs provide editable graphical overlays of this automation data so it can be tweaked with almost infinite precision. Many compressors are typically employed on every mix, on individual channels, on sub-groups of channels and on the entire mix. These compressors will all likely have different settings, some of which will be static (don't change throughout a piece) others will be "automated".
    2a. Like the ability to "automate" a compressor, or any other parameter of any other plugin processor, the gain (fader output level) of each channel is also automatable. In fact, the history of gain automation is far older than that of automatable processors, being implemented on analogue desks long before DAWS were even invented. So, manual gain riding is not exactly the pure one hit "performance" thing it's being made out to be.

    3. Riding the gain and compression are two entirely different things! Sure, the original purpose of a compressor was the same as riding the gain but that's essentially a 1940's-1950's view of what compression is. From the 1960's compression was used more as a sonic sculpting tool than as simple a gain control! Riding the gain just changes the output level but compression allows the sculpting of transients, positional changes and changes in the sonic character and feel of a channel, group of channels and the entire mix.
    3a. Despite my trying to explain in the past, it seems that a 1950's concept of compression still prevails here. Transient sculpting and the other factors controlled by compression are absolutely intrinsic to pop and rock music. The application of compression is an art and the compressor is arguably the most important artistic tool in the mixer's/producer's arsenal, as important and commonly used as EQ and even this statement isn't really representative because compression isn't really "a" tool but a whole bunch of tools. Again, the idea of some sort of purity that comes out of a mic and needs to be preserved is complete nonsense, that purity of sound does not exist, it has never existed, the "sound" of pretty much all music genres since the 1960's absolutely depends on it being "sculpted"! The only possible exception is some classical music but even then the concept of some sort of purity from the mics typically does not match the actual reality, it's an audiophile myth!! Maybe you just don't want to take my word for it? No problem, please read this Sound on Sound article from 2009, which is essentially a survey/explanation of the use of compressors from many of the most influential engineers and producers of the last 50+ years. Again, please read this article! Once you have, you will hopefully realise why it's nonsense to keep asking for recordings without compression and to just apply whatever you need in your playback device. It's not much different from asking for there to be no lead vocals in a recording, your playback device could just have a male and female voice programmed in and simply apply it to every song!

    Another article you might find enlightening is this one, again from SOS. Of particular note is the insert box at the bottom of the article, an interview with mix engineer Kevin Doyle and mastering engineer Peter Moore.

    G
     
  4. pinnahertz
    Quite right.
     
  5. ev13wt
    The problem is also the fact that 90% of people listen to music with earbuds and the environment (street, bus, train, walking) need "one volume level". The drivers are usually pretty bad too, as is the frequency response. So the mixdown with a lot of compression makes a bunch of sense.

    Without compression, many people simply would not hear "anything".

    Listening to TV on my 2 channel system is sometimes impossible due to the dynamic range. Set the volume to people talking as they would in the room and music / effects will blow out the windows. Without a compressor behind the tv, it simply "sounds like crap".
     
  6. ev13wt

    These days its a FLAC stream? (pilot project currently going on over at BBC3, last years prom)
     
  7. Silvian
    Hey again Elgrindio,

    Yesterday I discovered a new toy and I thought you might enjoy playing with it too: http://www.claessonedwards.com/home-audio/breakaway-audio-enhancer. Free full trial for a month.
    It appears that it lets you adjust a few characteristics of a compressor and you can see the differences it makes. Now, I don't know how critical is that all these adjustments are made after the fact, after the production. I am still learning about these things, but I have the feeling that one can't "decompress" something which was already compressed; similar with trying to make something which was already chopped to say 128k back into CD quality. So they must have some algorithms which "reconstruct" whatever it is possible, but you can get an idea of what a compressor does, in real time.
    You'll have to find good pieces to test it with. While for most music the first impressions are quite impressive, when you get to more demanding ones, you can tell of the limitations. To keep it simple, take Lorde's Royals. The bass line in the beginning is quite difficult, not very well defined - I was never satisfied with how it sounds in any of the set-ups I have. But with this Breakaway it becomes quite "hollow", I don't really know how to describe it.

    Cheers
     
  8. bigshot
    You can do dynamic expansion. Back in the 80s I had a peak expander that worked very well.
     
  9. gregorio
    Sounds like a problem with your 2 channel system. A mix obviously doesn't leave the dubbing studio sounding like that.

    G
     
  10. Elgrindio
    That sounds like just what I'm looking for! Thanks! I'll check it out.
     
  11. gregorio
    No, it's not! I've tried to explain that what you're looking for ("can I use an audio editing program to change a good dynamic recording into a "loudness wars" recording") doesn't really exist. Sure, you can get yourself a free compressor plugin (or even a processor such as the linked one which is more than just a compressor) and just compress the living daylights out of a dynamic recording. That will give you a massively over compressed recording but it won't be much like most of the loudness wars recordings! Maybe that's all you want though, but it's not really what you asked for?

    G
     
  12. Vatnos
    Yeah, when I installed a waveform seekbar into foobar and looked through my library, it was an exceedingly useful tool, but not without downsides. I have a few versions of some albums, and I was able to figure out which versions were the best. And there were albums I'd always suspected had terrible production, and it felt very cathartic to see that they were brickwalled.

    But... I was very saddened to learn some of my favorite albums were mastered overly hot as well, and part of me wishes I could go back to the ignorant happy days before then.
     
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