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  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Hello Guys!

I have a question and I hope I place it in the right sub-section. Today I bought the score for the movie G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra. I don´t want to talk about the movie, I´m not interested in seeing it, I just want to hear the music which was composed by Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, The Abyss etc.). The label which released the score is called Varèse Sarabande, they reside in California. They have a long history in releasing music from movies and they are an independent label.

There german subsidary is called Colosseum Schallplatten which subsequently was responsible for the release I´d like to ask about. This release was bought by me today at a Saturn market, I have the bill to prove it. When doing the things I usually do when I prepare a CD for listening (grabbing and upsampling and store the results with WavPack lossy) I took a look at the original files.

What can I say? The files on this pressed, official and brand new CD appear to be compressed with a lossy codec. They have the typical frequency response of music compressed with MP3 or AAC, I´d say if MP3 was used it had a bitrate of 192 kBit/s. I tested the disc with TauAnalyzer - the result was "UNKOWN".

Here is a screenshot I did with Wavelab:


I´ve already written a very angry mail to Varèse Sarabande! I can´t believe this: I´m going into a store, buy a brand new CD and what do I get? Lossy music! Don´t get me wrong, the whole CD sounds really good apart from being mastered 6 dB too loud but nevertheless I didn´t expect lossy music on a regular CD for that much money.

I´ll upload an excerpt from the score for you that you can judge yourself.

EDIT: Here you can download an excerpt from the score. I think you can use whatever analyzing tool you want. I see the missing frequencies in WaveLab and in iZotope RX. Transients occasionally show up but the rest doesn´t. Very strange.
  • Last Edit: 20 August, 2009, 06:50:31 PM by Cavaille
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • pawelq
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #1
Here is a screenshot I did with Wavelab:


This is not a proof of lossy compression being used.

the whole CD sounds really good


What's the problem then?
  • Last Edit: 20 August, 2009, 07:12:35 PM by pawelq
Ceterum censeo, there should be an "%is_stop_after_current%".

  • Axon
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #2
A lowpass in and of itself is not proof of lossy encoding, but a spectrogram view of your upload clearly shows gating of low amplitude high frequency content, which is a patently clear sign of lossiness.

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #3
Here is a screenshot I did with Wavelab:


This is not a proof of lossy compression being used.

the whole CD sounds really good


What's the problem then?
If that isn´t proof enough, download and look at the sample. There you can see yourself.

And the answer to the rest is very easy: first and foremost when I buy a CD I expect the full frequency, not just something that was lossy before. If I´d want lossy quality I would buy iTunes stuff. I buy CDs for exactly the opposite reason: full quality (and a printed cover, a real booklet etc.).

The second and more severe reason: if I decide to make some MP3s out of this CD myself for listening on my portable MP3 player, I would re-compress an already lossy compressed source. In other words I´d do a form of lossy transcoding (via converting to .wav throught the CD). Listening to artifacts should be easy then, don´t you think?
  • Last Edit: 20 August, 2009, 07:29:20 PM by Cavaille
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • pawelq
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #4
A lowpass in and of itself is not proof of lossy encoding, but a spectrogram view of your upload clearly shows gating of low amplitude high frequency content, which is a patently clear sign of lossiness.


Still a possible sign not a proof. Band-limited gate or compression may be used without noisy compression.

And the answer to the rest is very easy: first and foremost when I buy a CD I expect the full frequency,

Though it sounds to you very goog with the frequency range it has.


The second and more severe reason: if I decide to make some MP3s out of this CD myself for listening on my portable MP3 player, I would re-compress an already lossy compressed source. In other words I´d do a form of lossy transcoding (via converting to .wav throught the CD). Listening to artifacts should be easy then, don´t you think?


Did you try this? Could you hear artifacts?
Ceterum censeo, there should be an "%is_stop_after_current%".

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #5
And the answer to the rest is very easy: first and foremost when I buy a CD I expect the full frequency,

Though it sounds to you very goog with the frequency range it has.


The second and more severe reason: if I decide to make some MP3s out of this CD myself for listening on my portable MP3 player, I would re-compress an already lossy compressed source. In other words I´d do a form of lossy transcoding (via converting to .wav throught the CD). Listening to artifacts should be easy then, don´t you think?


Did you try this? Could you hear artifacts?
Do you actually have principles? I don´t want to be harsh but I believe it´s understandable that I can expect full quality for ca. 19,- Euro (don´t know what it is in $).

To answer your questions: with good I meant I don´t hear typical artifacts like pre-echo. I only hear distortions and pumping effects - maybe due to brickwall limiting. You can hear that also in the excerpt. This discussion is not about the fact if I´m able to hear lossy compression or not, it is about the fact that a manufactured CD is pre-compressed. For me, that´s a first and also for me, quite unaccetable.

I did a test with 160 kBit/s MP3 (Lame). Result: compression artifacts. When I usually use that bitrate I sometimes have slight compression artifacts. Now I have many. Increasing the bitrate causes my MP3 player to loose its battery power much sooner. And you don´t expect me to buy a new one with a longer battery life so that I can play 256 kBit/s files, do you?
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • rpp3po
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #6
I am very certain, that this is not lossy compressed. The spectrogram doesn't show any sign of blocking at any zoom level, that AFAIK all common lossy encoders share. It's perfectly smooth! Many mastering engineers don't go by the schoolbook. They often use a specific hardware (or software) equalizer just because they like the "sound" of it and that may have been the case here.

BTW, have you designed those arrows especially for these plots?

PS: I just got my hands on a large pile of DCC and MFSL gold releases, that I'm importing into iTunes right now. Pure diamonds! If those ever cross your sight, drop everything and grab'em!
  • Last Edit: 20 August, 2009, 08:10:31 PM by rpp3po

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #7
I am very certain, that this is not lossy compressed. The spectrogram doesn't show any sign of blocking at any zoom level, that AFAIK all common lossy encoders share. It's perfectly smooth! Many mastering engineers don't go by the schoolbook. They often use a specific hardware (or software) equalizer just because they like the "sound" of it and that may have been the case here.

Impressive arrows BTW, did you design them especially for this plot? 
You don´t? I can clearly see low pass filtering in the spectrum analyisis in iZotope, which is sometimes expanded by transient sounds. Otherwise I agree with you. Mastering engineers and composers alike love to play around with several tools. But then I wonder... for years Alan Silvestri used HDCD. Now he uses something that applies a low pass filtering at around 16 kHz to violins, brass, flutes, synth and sometimes percussion. Above that stays some tiny little noise pattern that doesn´t move with the music 

And the image was done in 1 minute with photoshop.
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #8
I just got my hands on a large pile of DCC and MFSL gold releases, that I'm importing into iTunes right now. Pure diamonds! If those ever cross your sight, drop everything and grab'em!
But they are so expensive. Well... not one bit of compressed sound    If they would release more classical music (not just dvorak or stokowski as they did many years ago) I´d buy them immediately. Do they still master with half speed?
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • rpp3po
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #9
I think MP3, AAC, and even MPC and MP2 can be ruled out. They usually leave a clearly blocked pattern in the spectrogram. It's not very probable, that anything else has found its way into this studio.

My first thought was maybe this was a try to sabotage MP3 creation, but the brickwall filter alone doesn't sabotage anything and other artifacts don't seem to be there.

[But they are so expensive. Well... not one bit of compressed sound    If they would release more classical music (not just dvorak or stokowski as they did many years ago) I´d buy them immediately. Do they still master with half speed?


Yes, the classical lineup was always poor. But they have released a lot of fantastic remasters from the 60's-80's: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Aretha Franklin, Velvet Underground, The Police, etc. and later even Nirvana, Guns N' Roses  and the Pixies. And yes, completely without the "hot" sound of compression that they tell us we want.

Most of those releases aren't available anymore, so a large sharing scene of perfect EAC rips has evolved over time. Therefore you don't necessarily have to pay $100 for every of those 24K gold CDs to dive into this.
  • Last Edit: 20 August, 2009, 08:33:38 PM by rpp3po

  • Destroid
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #10
Yes, the lowpass appearance is damning evidence of some lossy scheme, but what I want to know is if all the tracks on the album look that way, if in fact they are all the same composer, performer, etc.
"Something bothering you, Mister Spock?"

  • rpp3po
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #11
Couldn't anyone cite a lossy codec, that doesn't leave blocks in a spectrogram, for a change? Maybe I'm missing something. Even the old MP3 tries to avoid this by overlapping, but usually there are always some traces left.

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #12
[But they are so expensive. Well... not one bit of compressed sound    If they would release more classical music (not just dvorak or stokowski as they did many years ago) I´d buy them immediately. Do they still master with half speed?


Yes, the classical lineup was always poor. But they have released a lot of fantastic remasters from the 60's-80's: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Aretha Franklin, Velvet Underground, The Police, etc. and later even Nirvana, Guns N' Roses  and the Pixies. And yes, completely without the "hot" sound of compression that they tell us we want.

Most of those releases aren't available anymore, so a large sharing scene of perfect EAC rips has evolved over time. Therefore you don't necessarily have to pay $100 for every of those 24K gold CDs to dive into this.
I know of this releases. But you know, I´m very old-fashioned. I actually want to hold a CD in my hands, want to look at it. A booklet printed by my printer doesn´t look real (maybe I need a better printer). That´s why I still tend to buy a lot.    To be completely honest, the CDs I want, for example from TELARC, are simply not existing on the file-sharing networks. But then, I´d buy them anyway...

Yes, the lowpass appearance is damning evidence of some lossy scheme, but what I want to know is if all the tracks on the album look that way, if in fact they are all the same composer, performer, etc.
I think I can answer that. Most of the tracks have this evidence of some lossy scheme, but not all. There are 21 tracks on this score album and roughly 30 % look lossless. And all the tracks are composed and conducted and produced by Alan Silvestri with executive album production by Stephen Sommers and Robert Townson (head of Varèse).

A friend of mine was so nice to point out that someone before me already has discovered this, I didn´t know:

1. Intrada Soundtrack forum
2. FSM Board

On there one can find a reaction from Varèse Sarabande:

Quote
We also heard of some web site threads complaining about this disc and have since put effort into getting to the bottom of this. As I'm sure you know, there is a tendency in the message board world to light fires which are not based on facts. There is a great deal of misinformation spread about this way. We did actually receive a few emails about this as well, but the emails from different people were virtually identical ... word for word. We found that a little suspicious.

As a matter of procedure, viewing a spectral analysis of the audio files is never part of the approval process. A mastered album is always carefully listened to by Varèse Sarabande, the album producers and engineers and is approved before it is duplicated. This album went through the same approval process.

I can assure you that, after re-listening to the disc, everyone involved continues to stand behind the sound quality of the disc.

Hope that helps.


It really is strange to see that a company who released several SACDs in the past and used people like Mike Matessino for remastering jobs would behave that way. If they speak the truth it would mean, that Alan Silvestri himself approved of the filtering/compressing/whatever. Some filmmusic composers tinker a lot with sound apart from composition or orchestration to achieve the desired reaction from the audience, maybe it is the same here.
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • clobon
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #13
Hi,

On there one can find a reaction from Varèse Sarabande:

Quote
We also heard of some web site threads complaining about this disc and have since put effort into getting to the bottom of this. As I'm sure you know, there is a tendency in the message board world to light fires which are not based on facts. There is a great deal of misinformation spread about this way. We did actually receive a few emails about this as well, but the emails from different people were virtually identical ... word for word. We found that a little suspicious.

As a matter of procedure, viewing a spectral analysis of the audio files is never part of the approval process. A mastered album is always carefully listened to by Varèse Sarabande, the album producers and engineers and is approved before it is duplicated. This album went through the same approval process.

I can assure you that, after re-listening to the disc, everyone involved continues to stand behind the sound quality of the disc.

Hope that helps.


He never denies that they used actually compressed material, they just stated that they gave their ok after listening.
Or am I just missing the point?

Regards, Clobon

Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #14
This original CD is made from a lossy source, look at the spectrogram.

  • Last Edit: 21 August, 2009, 06:31:49 AM by .halverhahn
.halverhahn

  • Destroid
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #15
Not every CD made has to be full-range, especially if the company releases the material from distance

No, I think it's really possible that the source sound files could be lossy. It is analogous (pun intended, I guess) to the limitations of cassette, which nobody really really noticed in the case of the lack of another medium to compare it to.

If you think about it, now there might be some HD version of this released later on in its un-capped glory

Just see what the a DVD-A of this is release performs. $$$
"Something bothering you, Mister Spock?"

  • 2Bdecided
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #16
I think MP3, AAC, and even MPC and MP2 can be ruled out. They usually leave a clearly blocked pattern in the spectrogram.
.halverhahn's spectrogram looks blocky enough to me.

If it was something exceptional (which I don't think it is), it could be AC-3 (Dolby Digital) - I can't remember what that looks like.

The 2000 single of Toca's Miracle...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toca's_Miracle
...is clearly (and very audibly) from a lossy source - I think it's multi-generation minidisc, but that's just a guess based on years of listening to MD and mp3. Only the 7" mix is affected - the 12" mix is lossless (but you can't quite get the 7" mix by editing the 12" mix - some parts aren't duplicated in both). Probably the worst obvious audio fault on a UK number one single since Jive Bunny's first single (mono mix transferred off a dodgy cassette with incorrect azimuth!).

Cheers,
David.

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #17
Not every CD made has to be full-range, especially if the company releases the material from distance

No, I think it's really possible that the source sound files could be lossy. It is analogous (pun intended, I guess) to the limitations of cassette, which nobody really really noticed in the case of the lack of another medium to compare it to.
  Exactly. That´s why I bought only CDs almost from the beginning. Wait, I even had one cassette from TELARC (!) - fantastic sound (for a cassette). Recorded in 1x speed onto a TDK-SA Chrome Cassette. And they even used HXPro. Maybe TELARC did use a home tape deck for it - but on the cassette it states that it was produced at Terre Haute (DADC). It was back in the 80s...

If you think about it, now there might be some HD version of this released later on in its un-capped glory

Just see what the a DVD-A of this is release performs. $$$
Very cynical but you´re right. Then hopefully with full frequency content AND without loudness-war-artifacts. But that won´t come. Varèse is notorious for being economical. 
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #18
I think MP3, AAC, and even MPC and MP2 can be ruled out. They usually leave a clearly blocked pattern in the spectrogram.
.halverhahn's spectrogram looks blocky enough to me.

If it was something exceptional (which I don't think it is), it could be AC-3 (Dolby Digital) - I can't remember what that looks like.
AC-3 stops from my experience at precisely 19 kHz but I´m not sure about this.

The 2000 single of Toca's Miracle...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toca's_Miracle
...is clearly (and very audibly) from a lossy source - I think it's multi-generation minidisc, but that's just a guess based on years of listening to MD and mp3. Only the 7" mix is affected - the 12" mix is lossless (but you can't quite get the 7" mix by editing the 12" mix - some parts aren't duplicated in both). Probably the worst obvious audio fault on a UK number one single since Jive Bunny's first single (mono mix transferred off a dodgy cassette with incorrect azimuth!).
What? You´re kidding, right? I have Jive Bunny´s first single (I was young and without taste once), it always sounded good to me (and in stereo). Did Germany have a different pressing?
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • odyssey
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #19
Did anyone think of it as an attempt to force users to abandon CD media? At least that seems to be a common strategy of the music business lately...
Can't wait for a HD-AAC encoder :P

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #20
Did anyone think of it as an attempt to force users to abandon CD media? At least that seems to be a common strategy of the music business lately...
Varèse wouldn´t get a commercial benefit out of it if they used compressed music for CD releases. Reading over at the soundtrack forums, there is the information that the german Varèse daughter Colosseum admitted that some mistake happened with the master.

The american mother Varèse on the other hand denies this. Douglas Fake, head of Intrada (another independent score-only label), expressed his concern about the sound quality of G.I. Joe but he doubts that Varèse will remaster the release.
marlene-d.blogspot.com

  • Axon
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #21
I guess I should have used the term "blocking" when I said "gating". halverhahn and I are talking about the same thing.



There are really funny things going on above the ostensible lowpass, as you can see. Based on the length of the blips I can discount AAC from contention because some blips are not clear multiples of 1024. They could be multiples of 576, so MP3 is a contender.

My money is on the pressing plant receiving an MP3 by accident supplied by the mastering house for proofing. I'm likely to incline with both Cavaille and VS here - this sucks but it is unlikely to cause an audible problem unless additional information becomes available as to the specific encoder used.

  • 2Bdecided
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #22
Where high frequency blocks are maintained but lower frequencies are completely removed, that gives rise to an annoying sound some listener refer to as "ringing". (Not the ringing associated with filters).

My ears don't have enough high frequency extension to hear it (never have had, within the lifetime of mp3!) - but a few other gifted listeners report it for other samples with spectrograms like that.

So maybe someone somewhere will hear a problem with this.

...and who can say what effect it would have on transcoding?

Cheers,
David.

  • rpp3po
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #23
I must correct myself on the issue blocking. My spectrogram was left in a "look nice" setting and added visual blur that is not an representation of the actual signal.
  • Last Edit: 21 August, 2009, 10:55:01 AM by rpp3po

  • Cavaille
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Regular CDs with lossy compression
Reply #24
There are really funny things going on above the ostensible lowpass, as you can see. Based on the length of the blips I can discount AAC from contention because some blips are not clear multiples of 1024. They could be multiples of 576, so MP3 is a contender.

My money is on the pressing plant receiving an MP3 by accident supplied by the mastering house for proofing. I'm likely to incline with both Cavaille and VS here - this sucks but it is unlikely to cause an audible problem unless additional information becomes available as to the specific encoder used.
Ah, thanks for the information. At least this maybe points to MP3. But what a shame for the mastering house (Bernie Grundman Mastering).


Where high frequency blocks are maintained but lower frequencies are completely removed, that gives rise to an annoying sound some listener refer to as "ringing".
How does this "ringing" effect sound?

BTW, here is the technical information about the disc:


Mastered by Patricia Sullivan Fourstar - quite a household name, don´t you think?
  • Last Edit: 21 August, 2009, 11:10:45 AM by Cavaille
marlene-d.blogspot.com