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Technically, you can't get "better sound"...

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Avatar86, Jan 11, 2020.
  1. Avatar86
    ...than that of what the Master engineer had at playback.

    All else is rendering the sound to your preference.

    Change my mind :)
  2. castleofargh Contributor
    It's one possible reference. Someone else might decide to go for the digital master itself. And yet another person might argue that the sound from the performer(pre mic) is the reference, etc.
    What's important is to follow a rational approach once we have settled on something.
    S-S-MR likes this.
  3. Uebelkraehe
    Pretty sure there was some kind of audio chain in play even then...
  4. pinnahertz
    Current audio recording and reproduction systems cannot replicate the original acoustic event, and don't even try. What they can do is to produce a new event with as much of the original character as possible with the goal to convey an experience that is at least similar to the original event.

    And that's great, but so much of what is presented in recordings today never had a meaningful or valid original acoustic event other than what was heard in the mix position during creation. That's an event that could be largely reproduced if we had knowlege of the original environment. But we don't, and so are left to our own preferences. Even making some general assumptions that the original system had certain characteristics is usually ignored or rejected in favor of blind preference. That's probably a mistake, but that's what happens.

    It's sound reproduction, not event replication.
    PointyFox likes this.
  5. bigshot
    Are you assuming that sound engineers are infallible? Because I've worked with a few who aren't!

    You can improve fidelity by using modern technology on older recordings. Here is a recording from 1932 where the engineer ran two transcriptions at the same time, one on the left and the other on the right. They were digitally synced to create a true stereo recording of the Duke Ellington band. No engineer heard that at playback in 1932!
    Steve999 likes this.
  6. Avatar86
    Yes yes, this IS a matter of preference.

    But the fact is, The last step of music production is when the mastering engineer and the Artist sit down and listen through the speakers/ headphones (there and then), and approving the Track/ Album as the official authentic release.

    The music can't technically and ideally sound "better" than that!

    Later we can do remastering, remixes, renderings that WE, Here and Now find "better". But it's not authentic. And the artist might not acknowledge this new version "better".

    It's different!
    Maybe "better" to your and my preference,
    but it can never be More original, than the original.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  7. bigshot
    What if the artist and engineer say it is better? Then is the original not authentic any more?
  8. gregorio
    Yes it can!

    You're falsely assuming that the master has been made to sound as good as possible (in the mastering studio) but that's not the purpose of mastering. The purpose of mastering is to create a master which sounds as good as possible on the range of target consumers' equipment. If the master were made to sound "technically ideal" in the mastering studio, then virtually no consumers could ever experience it or anything even near it, because consumers typically don't have listening environments anything even near a mastering studio. Except in rare circumstances, masters are therefore at least somewhat deliberately compromised and therefore technically can/could sound better.

    I'm not arguing that consumers should change the master though, just that your assertion is not necessarily true.

  9. Avatar86
    I love this discussion :D

    Wheather or not a track is authentic as an original in a studio, or if it is by default always the listeners setup that defines what is true then and there.

    There is no one right answer in all regards, as the question/premise changes, so does the perspective.

    I stand by my belief, that the artist will label (or disapprove) the music as correctly sounding in the mastering studio.

    Then yes, there are different ways for a master engineer to "view" the sound (mono, polarized, centering channel aso.) But that is not the final product.
    Yes they do try the music throug different speaker setups (headphone in-ear and above, Bluetooth speakers and full stereo) as measurement.
    But what the artist hears as the final result is throug the studio speakers.

    What I'm aiming to say, is that if you have a HiFi stereo setup for $100k and get your hands on the master reel. You can't get it to sound More authentically real or true, than in the studio where it was recorded.

    That says two things.
    1. If the artist chose to master by selfe, the probability is that your 100k rig will "over play" how the music was intended to sound. (You preference.. not the truth)

    And that 100k rigs probably wont play all kinds of music "that good", since all masters aim for different sound picture depending on the authentic room setting and target audience music gear.

    And since we can't all reproduce all different studios everytime (yet...)
    I'm saying, that as long as you have good basic quality (one that doesn't degrade the original master too much like soundcloud 128 kbps mp3), the rest is up to your preference.
    And you can save thousands of dollars on that philosophy alone :wink: (regardless of weather different type of brands try to sell their stuff as "The Purest Audio")

    ...but that philosophy is no fun :)
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  10. old tech
    A bit off topic but what does a $100k rig buy in terms of high fidelity/transparency to source compared to a well chosen/set up rig of say $5k? Most evidence would suggest that the $100k rig would have lower fidelity, being designed for euphonophiles, thus further removed from what someone would hear in the studio.

    Perhaps if $95k of that $100k was spent on building an acoustic listening environment similar to a recording studio it may get close to what someone would hear in a studio.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  11. bigshot
    Authentically true is in the ears of the beholder. I have the RCA box of Toscanini's recordings from Studio 8H, but I can't stand listening to them without applying a hall ambience DSP to them. Once I do that, they sound very good. Without it, some of the recordings are unlistenably harsh and dry.

    I think you can't make generalizations like this. There are too many exceptions to the rule.
  12. gregorio
    1. Of course, you're free to believe whatever you want but the reality is that the artist cannot "label the music as correctly sounding in the mastering studio" because it's virtually certain that the artist never even visits the mastering studio! There may be the odd exception but once the mix is finalised it's sent off to the mastering engineer, then about a week or so later (in the case of an album) the master is delivered and the artist will listen to it in their car and/or on their home system, possibly in the mix studio and then either approve this master or make some comments, in which case some tweaks maybe made to the master. However, even this scenario isn't necessarily what actually happens, in many cases the artist never hears the master and has no right of approval. The recording/production/mastering is bought and paid for by the record label, they own the recording copyright and it's entirely up to them to approve the master, although they'd commonly allow input from the Producer. Typically the only time the artist has any involvement in the master is if the artist has any interest in approving masters in the first place AND, if they're already particularly well established and successful, which would give them the power to negotiate this right of approval in their contract with the record label.

    2. Typically the mastering engineer will test the master through various "reference" speakers and probably with HPs. These reference speakers are very poor quality, to emulate the worst case scenario of consumer reproduction equipment and the master is tweaked so that it's sounds as good as possible on these reference speakers (and on HPs) without ruining what it sounds like on the main speakers. Therefore, the result is a master which is somewhat compromised on the main studio speakers. It should be noted that this process typically starts before mastering, the mix studio will typically also have reference speakers which will typically have been used to check (and tweak) the mix at various stages.

    3. Nope, as I stated above, the artist will virtually never hear the final result (the master) through the mastering studio's speakers. In my nearly 30 years in the industry I've never seen an artist visit the mastering studio to approve the master but I can't say this is never the case, there are probably some exceptions.

    4. If we're talking about digital and you buy an official copy then you are effectively getting the "master reel". That's not the case with analogue distribution media though, in which case you'll never "get your hands on the master reel".
    4a. I know this is a very common audiophile belief but it's based on false assumptions of the mixing, mastering and approval process. For example, the "studio where it was recorded" may or may not be the studio where it was mixed and is almost certainly not the studio where it was mastered. IMO, audiophiles are often way too anal about what is "authentically real or true" but are typically hypocritical anyway because they make little or no effort to achieve studio conditions. In fact when confronted with actual commercial studio conditions most/all audiophiles are quite shocked and describe the sound as "too analytical" (or some equivalent). The most "authentically real or true" is IMHO, to use the equipment the masters are targetted at, with some attempt to treat the worst acoustic issues in their particular listening environment (in the case of speaker reproduction). As you state though, that's typically against the "audiophile philosophy", which is largely about equipment cost and brand names and has little to do with "authentically real or true", despite their assertions that it has!

    Steve999 likes this.

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