http://audiamorous.blogspot.com/2008/09/wa...ed-harmful.htmlSummary: Anybody who waves an Audacity screenshot around saying how good/bad a mastering is will be summarily punched in the face.
Bob Katz has commented (in Mastering Audio) that "a rule of thumb is that short duration (a few milliseconds) transients of unprocessed digital sources can be reduced by 4 to 6 dB with little effect on the sound." Even 1ms of clipping is 44 samples of CD audio, and relatively few examples of clipping exceed even that.
Instead, clipping in this case may at worst sound like a change in timbre - annoying, to be sure, but potentially not an issue for most listeners.
Perhaps the most accurate method of evaluating mastering quality, though, is the simplest: Asking the mastering engineer.
the sound quality of music today is still considerably better than what it was for (most of) the last 60 years.
All I will say is that it artificially generates a stage of lossiness in a digital system that is perfectly capable of being, to all intents and purposes, lossless. Cheers, Slipstreem.
Recent talk about mastering quality has compelled me to commit this to my blog:http://audiamorous.blogspot.com/2008/09/wa...ed-harmful.htmlSummary: Anybody who waves an Audacity screenshot around saying how good/bad a mastering is will be summarily punched in the face.
Quite simply, the waveform plot is a worthless tool for evaluating mastering quality and its use for that purpose should be banished.
So does that mean that when you correctly rip a CD and get waveforms that look like the following, that they may actually be ok? I ripped this a few days ago and frankly I was horrified. I thought it must be trash, like some sort of audio vandalism where the person doing the mastering must be a clueless loser. Can it really be that the people mastering this stuff do actually know what they're doing and that they are carefully monitoring the distortion levels that are caused by this clipping and keeping it within some acceptable bounds?
EDIT: Massive self edit to save falling out with Axon. If you are the author of that piece and I haven't seriously misinterpreted the suggestion that deliberately adding clipping to a waveform is in any way acceptable, then you really don't want to hear my opinion on it! All I will say is that it artificially generates a stage of lossiness in a digital system that is perfectly capable of being, to all intents and purposes, lossless.
You can hardly tell people not to use waveform plots, and prove the folly of this by using a waveform plot...! The point is not to misinterpret them. As you have shown here... [a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_biABNEep_j0/SMYs...yendecker-2.png" target="_blank"][a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_biABNEep_j0/SMYs...yendecker-2.png" target="_blank"][a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_biABNEep_j0/SMYs...yendecker-2.png" target="_blank"]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_biABNEep_j0/SMYs...yendecker-2.png[/a][/a][/a] ...waveform plots, carefully examined, can be perfect for teasing out what has really happened. Not always, but often.
btw, I have CDs where the "clipped" peaks look exactly like the clipped peaks from your vinyl example, because the clipping occurred before other processing. I found such "clipped" peaks because I heard the problem, and went looking for it.
I don't have the Bob Katz book you quote, but you appear to misuse the quote itself...
"reduced by 4 to 6 dB" does not equate to "clipping".
DC shift aside, runs of clipped samples are effectively muted samples. There is no audio there. So the question becomes, if you hide the DC shift, how many samples can you set to zero before the effect becomes audible. This is quite well researched in psychoacoustics - the answer is totally content dependent, but it can easily be a couple of milliseconds or more. This is for something like white noise, with a single mute - not a repeating pattern.
Most listeners have speakers that will "change the timbre" dramatically more than any record producer would choose to - that doesn't mean that those of us with decent speakers should also have to suffer.
QuotePerhaps the most accurate method of evaluating mastering quality, though, is the simplest: Asking the mastering engineer.Funny, I use my own ears, not someone else's!
Quotethe sound quality of music today is still considerably better than what it was for (most of) the last 60 years.I think the kind of music that's trashed today would probably have been trashed in a different way had it been made in the past. Many (not most) pop records from the 1960s were fairly lo-fi. However, it's quite easy to find recordings from the late 1950s which sound far better on a decent stereo than typical modern pop recordings. The chance of being able to listen to a pop recording on a decent stereo and actually enjoy it is probably lower now than it's ever been.
QuoteQuite simply, the waveform plot is a worthless tool for evaluating mastering quality and its use for that purpose should be banished.I think it would be more accurate to say, subjectively 'bad sounding mastering' can usually be convincingly correlated after the fact with some quality of a waveform or spectral view; but be careful going the other way -- I have seen people tout waveforms with relatively minor, and likely inaudible, amounts of clipping, as proof that the track sounds bad.
What 'sounds good' is so highly influenced by audio and non-audio factors that I really have to wonder whenever I read rave (or neg) reviews of music these days. Example: since I began ripping DVD-As and 'laserdropping' SACDs, it's been illuminating to look back and see how many of these often highly compressed (though rarely clipped) stereo versions were praised to the skies as the best ever masterings so far...by people who claim to loathe compression when they see it on CD waveforms. To me, that's gotta be some combination of expectation bias (hi rez = good sound) and actual pleasure with the sound.
As for 'ask a mastering engineer', and using Hoffman as a paradigm, given his lifelong aversion to digital (he wouldn't even make a single digital edit to join the two masters of side one of 'Thick as a Brick', claiming it degrades the sound), and some of the bogosity he's spouted about it, I'd hardly consider him a go-to guy on the matter. I'd go to Katz, who actually accepts that digitally compressed audio can still sound great.
Have you posted your links and thoughts in a thread on Hoffman's forum? That should be, um, interesting to watch, if so.
QuoteQuotethe sound quality of music today is still considerably better than what it was for (most of) the last 60 years.I think the kind of music that's trashed today would probably have been trashed in a different way had it been made in the past. Many (not most) pop records from the 1960s were fairly lo-fi. However, it's quite easy to find recordings from the late 1950s which sound far better on a decent stereo than typical modern pop recordings. The chance of being able to listen to a pop recording on a decent stereo and actually enjoy it is probably lower now than it's ever been.And yet..... it's still done. A lot. That's the biggest paradox in all of this that really makes me question how important talk of the loudness war really is. If it really were as bad as everybody says it is, people would not be listening to modern music nearly as much as they actually do. But the teeny boppers are still listening to the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana (at least they do in Texas - I dunno what's going down in the UK), and they seem just as thrilled about them - even in the recorded format - as kids from previous generations have been about "their" music. I have yet to see any kind of conclusive evidence that declines in the music business can in any significant way be the result of compromised audio quality.
hmm....manually compressing a face....that's a little extreme
Say it, brotha. Did you know that the Yes DVD-A of Fragile was brickwalled more heavily than Gaswirt?
Yes. The Gastwirt isn't brickwalled at all, is it? It only reaches actual 'peak level' once, in one channel.What's scary is that the latest CD remaster -- on Rhino, credited to Inglot & Hersch -- is even MORE smashed than the DVD-A.Anyway, I get more jollies from comparing frequency plots these days, than waveforms...the seem to 'tell' me more about what I'm hearing (prolly because as humans we're so sensitive to EQ changes in the midrange)Check it out. DVD-A vs Gastwirt:
Hoffmans' 'catalog' is relatively small, and largely out of print, so his impact on buying decisions isn't going to be that great...except for rabid audiophiles willing to shell out $100 for a Hoffman 'Aqualung' CD. And Hoffman's information about various releases has been known to, um, evolve over time...I'd stick with Katz for information if possible. (It's interesting too that there are some Hoffman CD remasterings that are clipped.)
Ah, yes. That Mona Lisa smiley-face of an eq is not news to me. When I first ripped it, I honestly did think I could hear a lot more detail in the DVD-A version, but after I level-matched everything, the differences are honestly pretty slight. Methinks there may have been some remixing involved - explaining the large channel imbalances at high frequencies, suggesting some creative placement of percussion in the stereo mix.
They would have had to go back to the multitracks anyway for the surround mix, so I'm imagining that they did a brand new downmix for the stereo version to match the 5.1?
No remixing. That large imbalance -- about 6dB at max -- can be created without it. Remember, this graph doesn't compare channel to channel of the same mix directly -- it's comparing each channel to its counterpart on the Gastwirst version.That's important to keep in mind. What I showed isn't a direct EQ plot -- it is a plot of *difference* between the DVD-A and an arbitrary reference mastering (Gastwirt's). And note too that by that criterion, only one channel is 'smiley' compared to the same channel of the Gastwirt; the other is 'frowny' in the treble region (a half-frown?)
Mona Lisa smiley-face
Also: imagine, for example, the same sort of graph where the 'reference' CD was mastered with muddy highs and inadequate bass compared to the original tapes -- a 'flat' remastered CD from the original tapes would look very 'smiley' in a difference comparison to the reference CD. Yet it wouldn't be 'smiley' compared to the original masters.This pedantic episode brought to you by me, to show that without knowing what's on the master, and without accounting for what's being measured, it's possible to jump to speculative conclusions.
Btw, here's successive waveform views of ripped 'Roundabout' remasters -- please don't punch me.
No, that's rarely done. The stereo version here, as is usual, is just the original two-track mix, remastered. I wouldn't bother comparing two different MIXES this way, though I suppose it too could be informative.
QuoteNo, that's rarely done. The stereo version here, as is usual, is just the original two-track mix, remastered. I wouldn't bother comparing two different MIXES this way, though I suppose it too could be informative.How do you know this?And yes, this is all horrifically off topic
Ah, yes. That firsthand knowledge actually dovetails pretty well with my thinking that knowing mastering decisions from the horse's mouth (the mastering engineer) is the most trustworthy method of comparing masterings (besides listening to it yourself). Of course, said engineer can lie, but you've got bigger problems if that's happening.
It is called relativity. They have no comparision. It is easy to be satisfied with eating shit, if you haven't ever tasted anything better. They have no reference! Their "rating" is literarily meaningless. They enjoy it - compared to what? What? More of the same?
Common people aren't capable of making competent and meaningful ratings - they just do, feel and think as they are told to do. They are believers. This is not a rant with the purpose of criticizing those people and requesting a change. No. Those kind of people have always been like that and will always be like that, because they want to be like that. Its comfortable and seemingly riskfree. What i am saying is that the ratings of those people dont matter. They are irrelevant, because they choosed so. What matters are the ratings of people different to those. The mainstream does not invent and set trends, it follows the trends created by others... its only effect is inertia - or in more friendly words: stability.
If this can only be justified on relativity and elitism, it's never going to punch the mainstream. What, are we going to pursue the Scientologist strategem, and get all sorts of celebrities to complain about how bad CDs sound nowadays?
We are compressing the night sky.Do you think the kids born in the last 15 years even have a sufficient comparision anymore? If you tell them about various sky objects, they react as if you're talking about aliens.