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Topic: Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping (Read 5845 times) previous topic - next topic
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Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Hi,

It's my first time posting here, so please make allowances if I have done anything the wrong way!

I am wondering what anyone makes of the sound quality of these samples taken from Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Playing The Piano" recently bought from iTunes.

Specifically, I'm hearing some clipping in places. (Opening the file in an editor shows that the waveform is indeed getting clipped.)

The samples are:
sakamoto1.wav from track 2 "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence"
sakamoto2.wav from track 7 "Tibetan Dance"
sakamoto3.wav from track 7 "Tibetan Dance"
sakamoto4.wav from track 8 "Thousand Knives"

Do you think it is that acceptable for a commercially released product? Or is it just to be expected?

Stewart.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #1
Do you think it is acceptable for a commercially released product?
No. This is clearly audible clipping that could have been avoided with careful mastering.

ps: welcome to HA

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #2
Hi,

It's my first time posting here, so please make allowances if I have done anything the wrong way!

I am wondering what anyone makes of the sound quality of these samples taken from Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Playing The Piano" recently bought from iTunes.

Specifically, I'm hearing some clipping in places. (Opening the file in an editor shows that the waveform is indeed getting clipped.)

The samples are:
sakamoto1.wav from track 2 "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence"
sakamoto2.wav from track 7 "Tibetan Dance"
sakamoto3.wav from track 7 "Tibetan Dance"
sakamoto4.wav from track 8 "Thousand Knives"

Do you think it is that acceptable for a commercially released product? Or is it just to be expected?

Stewart.


Not much excuse for clipping. Long ago with poor metering devices it was easier to goof. I did a little 'fix' of your #4 attachement in Adobe Audition 3. Yes, the level is 1/5 dB lower to make 'room' to un-clip.

[attachment=5938:sakamoto4_fix.wav]


Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #3
I did a little 'fix' of your #4 attachement in Adobe Audition 3. Yes, the level is 1/5 dB lower to make 'room' to un-clip.


Yes, that's much improved. Is that using Audition's automatic de-clip function that I've read about somewhere?

I did achieve something similar by manually selecting individual clipped cycles and applying a low pass filter. Not ideal.

And haven't figured out how to fix up the clipped sections without decompressing the AAC and then recompressing. (Go on - somebody tell me I shouldn't have bought a compressed version in the first place!) 

Stewart.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #4
No. This is clearly audible clipping that could have been avoided with careful mastering.


So moving to a more subjective and less technical area, I am wondering how acceptable this should be considered. Should it be rejected? (Leaving aside that I suspect many people here wouldn't buy compressed music in the first place!)

I have sent in a complaint to iTunes so I'll wait and see what happens with them. (Hopefully it will be handled by somebody who can at least hear hear and sympathise with the problem.)

Strange thing is, I listened to the same album on Spotify and there was no sign of the clipping on their version. (I know the audio quality from Spotify has its limitations but it was good enough for checking for the clipping, I think.)

So perhaps the iTunes version was from a different source. In fact, I have no idea what iTunes work from - standard commercial CDs or whatever - or whether they do any of their own processing before AAC encoding. It's all a mystery...

Stewart.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #5
The problem exists also in the Audio CD. In general, the album has nice dynamics and not a single sample reaches 0 dBfs (album gain -2.06 dB, album peak 0.977356). Considering the genre and the particular performances I'd might prefer an even less compressed mastering, but the album is not anyhow a victim of the loudness war.

The few distorded passages sound exactly like the original recording level would have been set slightly too high and these passages would have peaked over 0 dBfs. Naturally this can have happened at some other stage during the mixing and mastering process.

Stewart's samples from the iTunes AAC release seem to be correctly encoded and faithfully reproduce the problems in the source audio.

There is also a two-disc "deluxe" release of the album. If the same tracks on that release don't have this problem then it is obvious that someone made a mistake during the production/manufacturing process of the single-disc release.

I attached a lossless sample from the single-disc release. It is the sample #4 (I tried to cut the same passage).
[attachment=5944:Thousand...s_sample.flac]
I must add that I had not noticed the distortion before reading this thread. It occurs only during a few brief moments.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #6
The problem exists also in the Audio CD. In general, the album has nice dynamics and not a single sample reaches 0 dBfs (album gain -2.06 dB, album peak 0.977356). Considering the genre and the particular performances I'd might prefer an even less compressed mastering, but the album is not anyhow a victim of the loudness war.

The few distorded passages sound exactly like the original recording level would have been set slightly too high and these passages would have peaked over 0 dBfs. Naturally this can have happened at some other stage during the mixing and mastering process.

Stewart's samples from the iTunes AAC release seem to be correctly encoded and faithfully reproduce the problems in the source audio.

There is also a two-disc "deluxe" release of the album. If the same tracks on that release don't have this problem then it is obvious that someone made a mistake during the production/manufacturing process of the single-disc release.

I attached a lossless sample from the single-disc release. It is the sample #4 (I tried to cut the same passage).
[attachment=5944:Thousand...s_sample.flac]
I must add that I had not noticed the distortion before reading this thread. It occurs only during a few brief moments.


Alex,

Thank you for confirming that the problem exists on the audio CD version that you have. In that case, I had better not be too indignant with iTunes about it!

The version on iTunes is the two-disc version, i.e. coupled with Out Of Noise. I have not noticed a similar problem with the second disc so far. (Have only skimmed through it so far.)

BTW, the problem doesn't appear to stem from the original recording; four of the tracks previously appeared on Sakamoto's "/05" CD (Tibetan Dance, The Sheltering Sky, The Last Emperor and Reversing) but without any clipping.

(I was quite surprised to find the same versions from /05 appearing on Playing The Piano - I was expecting all new recordings. And by 'same' I mean that if you take the versions from PtP and /05, align them, normalise them and subtract them from each other they pretty much cancel out -- that sort of 'same'!)

But Sakamoto does seem to 'recycle' his compositions and recordings quite a lot -- it's not just environmental recycling he's keen on!

Stewart.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #7
Strange thing is, I listened to the same album on Spotify and there was no sign of the clipping on their version.
Confirmed. They have two different "versions" of the album with different covers, but the audio seems to be identical. No clipping.

Cheers,
David.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #8
I have sent in a complaint to iTunes so I'll wait and see what happens with them. (Hopefully it will be handled by somebody who can at least hear hear and sympathise with the problem.)


Oh well, I have heard back from somebody at iTunes:
"In the hopes that this was caused by a download issue, I have posted a new copy of "Playing the Piano" to your account. [snip] if you require any further assistance with your purchases, I would be glad to help. Thanks for your understanding, and have a wonderful day!"

I suppose there's little point in taking it further with iTunes if ultimately the fault lies with the mastering of the CD they had to work from. Just have to put it down to experience, I guess.

Stewart.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #9
You could try to contact Ryuichi Sakamoto directly. Probably he isn't aware that some pressings of "Playing The Piano" have this technical problem. It would be interesting to see if he would personally comment the problem. Perhaps he would be able to do something in order to fix the problem in possible future pressings of the album.

I have not used Twitter and don't know what kind of messaging options it provides, but maybe you could reach him through Twitter: http://twitter.com/ryuichisakamoto or at least through the contact addresses at his web site: http://www.sitesakamoto.com.

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #10
I suppose there's little point in taking it further with iTunes if ultimately the fault lies with the mastering of the CD they had to work from.
True.

It would be interesting to know what Spotify was working from - there's obviously a "good" master of this somewhere. It's not quieter (the unclipped waveform sits below 0dB FS!), but there are other differences beyond the lack of clipping - though the AAC vs Ogg encoding could account for that.

Since you've already paid for it, I suppose you can rip the version off Spotify with a clear conscience - though by the time you've transcoded it to something else lossy, the theoretical quality could have taken quite a hit. I wonder if Spotify's download services uses the clipped master or the unclipped master?

Cheers,
David.

P.S. If you want to patch up what you've got, then Cool Edit Pro's "Fill Single Click Now" function is really effective audibly (though the resulting waveform looks completely different) - the trick is not to be too precise when selecting the section to fix - give it about 300 samples to work with, not just the 7 clipped ones.

EDIT: Yes Alex B - that's a much better solution!

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #11
I did a little 'fix' of your #4 attachement in Adobe Audition 3. Yes, the level is 1/5 dB lower to make 'room' to un-clip.


Yes, that's much improved. Is that using Audition's automatic de-clip function that I've read about somewhere?

I did achieve something similar by manually selecting individual clipped cycles and applying a low pass filter. Not ideal.

And haven't figured out how to fix up the clipped sections without decompressing the AAC and then recompressing. (Go on - somebody tell me I shouldn't have bought a compressed version in the first place!) 

Stewart.


I tried the auto de-clip and couldn't tell what it actually did - certainly nothing I found useful. The first block chord had 1 (count 'em) clipped area of 4 consecutive samples beginning at 3153 (left channel only). I first reduced level by 1/2 dB (that 1/5 was a typo) and manually dragged the samples more 'negative' while trying to maintain a smooth curve. In the second chord I found 7 samples starting at 30628, 7 more at 31157, a 'suspicious' area at 34048 and maybe one more I forget.


Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #12
Well, I contacted iTunes again and told them not to worry as the problem was present in the audio CD (one version of it, at least) and was not specific to their own processes. They came back and said they would arrange a refund anyway and also said they'd pass on the information about the quality problem for further examination.

Regarding the best approach to getting the actual CD pressing revised, I like the idea of contacting Ryuichi Sakamoto personally but I wonder how much influence he would have over technical/production matters. On the other hand, if iTunes pursue it, I could imagine them having reasonable influence, being a major world-wide seller.

For my own situation, for now the easiest option is to just make a playlist in iTunes and substitute the versions from the "/05" CD in place of the clipped "Playing The Piano" versions. (It seems that the problem appears mainly on the tracks that have been 're-used' from the "/05" CD, so perhaps somebody just blindly increased the gain on those tracks to match the other recordings on "Playing The Piano".) That only leaves one track, "Thousand Knives", with the the problem -- but it's just on the 'big finish' chord, so can probably live with that!

Thanks to everyone here for all the help with this.

Stewart.


Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #13
The first block chord had 1 (count 'em) clipped area of 4 consecutive samples beginning at 3153 (left channel only). I first reduced level by 1/2 dB (that 1/5 was a typo) and manually dragged the samples more 'negative' while trying to maintain a smooth curve. In the second chord I found 7 samples starting at 30628, 7 more at 31157, a 'suspicious' area at 34048 and maybe one more I forget.
Now suppose there are 100 clipped samples on a 45 min CD (=119070000 samples). That means that 99.9999% of the CD is fine and can't be ABX'd against a non-clipping version (everything else being equal). The question is how disturbing this is and how deceiving statistics can be

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #14
My CD doesn't contain any "technically" clipped samples. It doesn't reach 0 dBFS. Neither does the linked "decoded AAC sample #4".

The digital clipping has probably happened before the final master was created and the volume level has been reduced after that or the audible distortion is actually caused by some other unknown reason.

 

Sakamoto "Piano" download from iTunes is clipping

Reply #15
My CD doesn't contain any "technically" clipped samples. It doesn't reach 0 dBFS. Neither does the linked "decoded AAC sample #4".


I know what you mean. Well, the wave is getting clipped, just not to 0db -- it is getting clipped at -0.4dB (i.e. to a maximum level measured at 0.9511) for some reason.


Quote
The digital clipping has probably happened before the final master was created and the volume level has been reduced after that or the audible distortion is actually caused by some other unknown reason.


From examining the waveform, it seems that if it wasn't for the clipping, the peaks might have just fallen within the 0dB boundary.

So perhaps the audio was OK right until somebody passed it through something to hard-limit it to -0.4 dB. Why would that happen?

 
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