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Songs with mixing/mastering issues, or other difficult audio

Discussion in 'Music' started by Zapp_Fan, Jun 28, 2018.
  1. Zapp_Fan
    So, I demo a lot of gear and also spend a lot of time inspecting / tuning things using music. Unlike a typical audio reviewer, I find that songs with difficult / problematic audio help me evaluate the performance and FR of a given device. A well mixed and wonderful-sounding recording tends not to make problems with the gear very apparent in my experience.

    For example, the track The Rub Off by Plump DJs basically uses a series of clicks as a major part of the bassline. Even worse, they apparently rectify the signal so that it's unipolar - rather than pushing the speaker in and out, the speaker will (theoretically) only move outwards. This weird audio makes for a great stress test. You can tell something about FR as well as dynamics right away when you listen to this song. (it's also a song that suffers terribly from low bitrate lossy compression, but that's another thread...)

    Another good example is the original recording of Holy Ghost by the Bar-Kays. Although there is a really deep synth bass throughout the track, it's mixed in such a way that it sounds very weak and distant if your speakers / headphones don't have excellent bass extension. Even if they do, it doesn't exactly jump out of the mix. So by listening to this I know within seconds where we're at with sub-bass.

    So, I am wondering if anyone else has "defective" songs that are good for quickly identifying the behavior of a speaker or headphone?
  2. ADUHF
    Howdy Zapp_Fan,

    I can't really point you to a specific track or tracks for a certain issue. But I have used, and continue to use a wide variety of music to tweak and evaluate my equipment. Basically, every new track I listen to becomes part of that evaluation. One of the more specific things I can probably point to is bass drops to analyze the LF extension and "looseness"of an HP's bass. I've also used frequency sweeps and steps to isolate L/R imbalances at different frequencies. And tracks with alot of HF detail to adust the treble setting on my EQ,... tracks with good vocals to adjust the midrange settings, and so forth... I mostly listen to (non-audiophile) material on YT though. So we aren't talkin really high quality stuff here that you can buy at your local vinyl shop.

    Recording, mixing and mastering defects are usually the opposite of helpful in such evaluations. And generally not the sort of thing I'd look to for making equipment purchasing decisions or EQ adjustments, for example. But I certainly run across them all the time. And there are certain tracks that I've come to believe are mixed/mastered too aggressively, or sometimes not aggressively enough in the bass and/or treble, as a result of my other evaluations. The most common problem I run into though on the pop (and other) recordings on YT is, I believe, excessive loudness compression.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  3. ohsigmachi
    As I expected my DT1770s murdered the bass line on "Holy Ghost."

    My chain is in my sig, but I'm running DT1770s now instead of my trusty DT990s.

    I have noticed mixing dynamics as I listen to a single Artists catalog from beginning to end, J Roddy Walston and the Business's debut album has a very powerful and full sound, and if you go directly from it to their sophomore album, "Essential Tremors," you immediately notice it sounds weaker. They were recorded at two very different studios and have different sound engineers and producers. Oddly, "Essential" got them the most mainstream exposure.

    The Sword's debut album "Age of Winter" has a very washed out mastering also, it's supposed to be a HUGE and powerful doom metal album, but the recording and mastering don't do it justice, I wish they would remaster it. Their Sophomore album "Gods of the Earth" has more "oomph" to it.
  4. Wiljen
    There was a version of Slade's "Run Run Away" with the long intro that was spliced together from different takes and the timbre of the toms shifts in the middle of the intro.
    If I can find it, I will post a link.
  5. Zapp_Fan
    These are all pretty reasonable techniques, and are ones that I use myself too. (The intro to Stock Sound by Spectrasoul has a very nice and orderly bass sweep that's handy for checking sub-bass response... IIRC it goes down to 15hz or something like that)

    I think a poorly mixed track is not useful. I guess I'm more interested in oddities of mixing, less than just poorly mixed stuff. When you have a track that has a very easily noticeable sound that stands at the threshold of some audible phenomenon, it becomes useful for testing equipment in a subjective way. For example, the un-remastered version of Everyday Struggle by Notorious BIG has a very loud, sharp snare. On equipment that has too much distortion or is otherwise flawed in the treble region, it immediately tips from "emphasized but acceptable" to "wince-inducing". This isn't necessarily a badly mixed track, it just happens to include an edge case that's easily heard. Likewise, that Rub Off track is mixed well, but the waveform they used is so challenging that it immediately reveals any problem with dynamic / impulse response.

    So probably a better title for the thread would be "music that features sonic edge cases" or something, but you probably get what I mean. You do the same thing with bass drops, but I like to have others. For example, certain Parliament Funkadelic tracks are great for evaluating detail since they have so many sonic layers and things going on in the background. etc.

    Interesting, thanks!

    Sounds like a good test track. I would guess that a system with weaknesses in the midrange would have trouble revealing those timbral shifts.
  6. ohsigmachi
    If you're looking for a track that has those "tipping point" sounds try "They All Laughed" by Bing Crosby. If your gear is too hot on the treble the muted trumpet will be almost unbearable.
  7. Wiljen
    Yep, used to like that track until I got good enough gear to realize how bad it really was.

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