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[i]Please Help Me![/i]: Waveform vs Envelope:

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by TheSonicTruth, Sep 26, 2018.
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  1. bigshot
    I don't think you're capable of understanding. It isn't your fault.

    A waveform is not the same thing as an envelope. I'd explain what an envelope is, but there isn't much point.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  2. TheSonicTruth
    I'm capable understanding more than you think. Just now when the goal posts keep getting moved about.

    Conceptually, I get what they are: A waveform is visible waves themselves. An envelope, as I understood from articles on the subject, is a line drawn across the tops of those waves.

    Where this gets lost in translation is on that UseNet group Rec.Audio.Pro. In particular, username 'geoff' fixates on whether I'm calling something a waveform or an envelope! It's really frustrating.

    The way I look at it, if you have a monitor that's 16" wide(19-20" diagonal), and you put a 1-3sec snippet of low frequency audio across it, you'd be able to see the individual waves. ergo, a 'waveform'. Conversely, you load an entire 3-4 minute pop song into the DAW, and you might see some spikes and jagged edges, but not individual waves. So would the latter example count as an 'envelope' by virtue of not being able to resolve individual waves?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  3. bigshot
    No, an envelope is just processing. It can be a whole lot of processing, or very little. The idea is that if you take sound and put it through that envelope, it's going to come out with that particular type of processing. It isn't good nor bad. It's just processing. All albums have been processed to suit whatever format they are released on. We've been trying to explain this to you for over a year and you keep insisting that all processing is bad. It isn't. Bad processing is bad. Good processing is good. It all depends on the format and intended audience. A waveform is just a graphical representation of sound. Differences aren't necessarily audible. We can measure and represent things as waveforms that we can't hear.

    I have no hope that this is going to explain it to you. I really shouldn't bother. But when you pretend to listen, I get suckered in again.
  4. VNandor
    Which articles gave you that idea? I don't think I've heard anyone using the term envelope that way in the context music production. When I searched for "sound envelope" the first wikipedia article summed up what I think envelopes means when it comes to music.

    Your description of envelopes would be more correct in the context of telecommunications, maybe you read an article about how amplitude modulation works? For example AM broadcasting can use xxxkHz (couple hundred kHz) sine wave as a carrier and if you modulate that with audio rate frequencies then the outline of the carrier's amplitude could be called the "envelope" of the carrier and it would look much like the modulator signal.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  5. TheSonicTruth
    In this article: http://www.zytrax.com/tech/audio/sound.html

    I found this diagram:


    As I perceive that diagram, the wiggly line is the waveform, and the dotted line outlining it is the envelope - hence my description of he envelope. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm tired of playing word games over on Usenet and being told something is an envelope when 90% of articles about the loudness war - and music production in general - refer to them as WAVEFORMS. In the comments sections of those articles, no argument breaks out over what to call them. The comments remain about the broader topic at hand: loudness, music production, remaster vs original, whatever.

    It sounds like you're using envelope in the sense of the stages of a transient note: Attack, decay, sustain, etc. I'm trying to clear up 'waveform vs envelope' in a DAW screen context, with regards to an entire SONG, or speech, et, that's all.
  6. VNandor
    This is a waveform of a single instrument playing a single note, so the dotted line is the instrument's volume envelope. Still, I haven't heard anybody referring to an entire song's 'volume envelope', only to an instrument's volume envelope.

    I'm using it that way because virtually everyone uses it that way.

    What you are looking for is maybe some kind of RMS function over time or maybe a crest factor function over time? If I know correctly, the light blue you are seeing when looking at audacity is showing how the average RMS value changes over time. It calculates the value from different intervals as you zoom in or out. I think the dark blue line is made up by the program searching at given intervals for the 'loudest' sample point and then plotting that. Again the amount of sample it picks from depends on how much you are zoomed in or out.
  7. TheSonicTruth

    All I'm looking for is the correct, most widely industry-used term for what you see when you load, say, a 3-4 minute pop song, or 10 minutes of speech, into your DAW and appears on your screen. It's that simple!

    Is this:


    a 'WAVEFORM' or an 'ENVELOPE'?? Most magazine and internet articles call it a 'waveform'.

    Ave Maria...
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  8. bfreedma
    You aren't using the correct terminology, so no one is going to answer your question with either A or B.
  9. TheSonicTruth


    Are you all machines or actual people?? What do I need to do to get a simple question answered around here?

    The folks on UseNet call, what I just attached an example of, "envelope". I've been using the term "waveform".

    So who's right, who's wrong, and is there even a sharp deliniation between when to use the term envelope or waveform to describe my attachment??

    It should not take more than a single paragraph, 50 to 100 words, to clear this up!
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  10. VNandor
    I tried to explain what you are looking at, and it's neither a simple waveform, and definitely not an envelope.
  11. TheSonicTruth

    Alright, it's settled:



    Thank you very much, everyone.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  12. bfreedma

    It's been explained multiple times on this thread. Yelling, demands, and insults aren't going to change those or close your knowledge gap.
  13. sander99
    I quickly looked through this thread from start to finish now. I am not qualified to have an opinion about what you can or cannot see from waveforms etc. so I don't say anything about that (and I never did, in my first post here I just thought I could help in further explaining one little example given by someone else that shows that waveforms and "rough waveform outlines" can be different and sound the same).
    But now I see that there is an unfortunate ambiguity at play here that probably causes the overheating of the discussion.
    It seems that in the field of music production there is one specific meaning to the word envelope, like gregorio explains here:
    However, if you look at wikipedea you see something that looks a bit like what TheSonicTruth was thinking (and that I, not having looked at the rest of the thread, kind of accepted as his intended meaning):

    from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Envelope_(waves) :
    Maybe the solution is to just say okay, because here we are talking in the context of music production we must use the word envelope in the way that gregorio described above, and if we want to talk about the other thing we could informally say "rough outline of the waveform" (and in new threads, other forums etc: if necessary shortly explain why you use this word).
  14. bigshot
    That is one kind of envelope... one involving dynamics. But an envelope can involve other kinds of signal processing too... reverb, EQ, etc. It can be a set of multiple sound modifications that a signal is run through. All it means is that the sound going in is altered in a programmed way before coming out. You can modify the effect of the envelope any way you want.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  15. bigshot
    If it comes before the sound, is it an Ante-lope?

    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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