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Author Topic: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?  (Read 8844 times)

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September 16, 2011, 03:20:00 PM
the-grid

Outstanding post.  I think CDs are dying but ONLY because they are physical mediums and you have to buy every song.  I think if people were educated on high bit rate mp3 vs low and other higher fidelity formats AND they were the same price AND just as available there would be a switch.

You are right about us being a visual species.  Our hearing is tuned to human voice and animal sounds which is why we hear on a bell curve.

Getting the room right is huge. Working with an ME is a great idea. I actually just put in for an apprenticeship at every studio in Pittsburgh yesterday. Mostly i want to learn the normal approaches and some tricks. Technical/mechanical stuff.  I would like to find an ME too. I have learned that while there are way to many "masters" in every field who actually suck at what they do, one can learn a lot by understanding what not to do. If I were to look for my Mike Senior I would want to not only listen to their stuff but hear their control room and their personal home systems so i can decide if they are the kind i want to emulate or learn what not to do from.

Johnsuitcase
I agree - some HD goes too far and in spite of the better resolution the artifacts are still a detriment. As such video is surely not without flaws yet. However I would love to hear people push audio so far it sounds better to pull back.   
Equipment-Trends Micro amp w/ Paradigm Export speakers ports covered.  Use Fx EQ for  studio room issue fix.  Also use Klipsch S4 & Sennheiser HD-280 phones - home stereo= AMC 3030 tube amp, Triangle Celius 202 speakers & Behringer para EQ for room nodes-laptop=HP 8430 w/Digigram VXPocket & Reaper

September 16, 2011, 06:11:10 PM
Quote
The underlying problem is that people are getting used to crappy audio (while they crave better quality video).

While your thesis on why this is so, is interesting, I also disagree with this view.
Although the general public may indeed be used to less quality audio, it is not in direct connection to a "craving" of any kind, whether for video, or oatmeal cookies. Creating this connection is tenuous at best.

Everyone here has to remember that the value placed on entertainment objects and products is different than when we were younger. Not worse, not better, just different.
And it also will change again in a few years. And it also is not the same in each Country of the World.

Cheers

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September 16, 2011, 08:15:46 PM
Quote
The underlying problem is that people are getting used to crappy audio (while they crave better quality video).

While your thesis on why this is so, is interesting, I also disagree with this view.
Although the general public may indeed be used to less quality audio, it is not in direct connection to a "craving" of any kind, whether for video, or oatmeal cookies. Creating this connection is tenuous at best.

Everyone here has to remember that the value placed on entertainment objects and products is different than when we were younger. Not worse, not better, just different.
And it also will change again in a few years. And it also is not the same in each Country of the World.

Cheers

Craving is overstated. So let's say look for, desire etc.  At that level the point is correct

Saying it is not worse or better but different is incorrect - and objectively not just subjectively. it dismisses audio quality as some completely nonobjective phenomenon and that is incorrect.  While tastes very within a range the range can be set by % of subjective concurrence by learned individuals or objective measures.  Using both of these standards it can be easily proven that audio quality has degraded over time and within a range what is obviously bad.  Almost anyone who is explained what to listen for can hear the difference between a 192k mp3 and 320k mp3 and especially when streaming even lower bit rates. And the difference between the two is easily seen in measurements.  As such this can be extended to music and its audio quality with those other variables being constant.  If it is widely known an accepted that standing waves in a room can degrade sound quality then it is surely no stretch to accept and understand that there are many variables that could lead someone to unknowingly produce bad sound. Try bad room, sitting off axis from the monitors, bad monitors etc.  Since this is true then is is not a stretch to understand that a generation could wind up not understanding these and other issues and create bad sound that becomes universally accepted because that many people are uninformed and therefore wrong.  As for "time" have you listened to 1950s and 60s jazz recordings?  Take one that is very popular Kind of Blue.  Speakers were not flat beyond 12k back then so flat monitors in the treble area did not exist. But these engineers knew that and used meters to make sure they recorded that zone the best they could. Even with that limitation and much older gear those recordings sound much better than a lot of later smooth jazz recordings for example. Try Any of David Sanborn's 80s material.  It sounds horrible. And I doubt if that was by choice.
Equipment-Trends Micro amp w/ Paradigm Export speakers ports covered.  Use Fx EQ for  studio room issue fix.  Also use Klipsch S4 & Sennheiser HD-280 phones - home stereo= AMC 3030 tube amp, Triangle Celius 202 speakers & Behringer para EQ for room nodes-laptop=HP 8430 w/Digigram VXPocket & Reaper

September 16, 2011, 08:26:09 PM
 :D

All I can say is that you defend yourself with too many facts assembled together hastily, that it would take me too long to try to undo your post.

Simply stated, let's just agree to disagree.

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September 16, 2011, 08:58:54 PM
:D

All I can say is that you defend yourself with too many facts assembled together hastily, that it would take me too long to try to undo your post.

Simply stated, let's just agree to disagree.

With all due respect you are dodging and making a strawman saying it it too complex and hasty (which I think are counter intuitive - and facts are facts  - the time they were conceived bears no effect on the degree to which they are facts or true)

On some things there are no opinions. On subjective matters people can disagree but on objective matters where there  is consensus by a preponderance of reasonable or trained individuals there is no allowance for objective disagreement. 

Let me give you a easy example.  (And i am pressing this point because i think your response is a large reason the problem exists). if I record you talking with a widely accepted quality voice microphone and then play it back to you over just a 12' woofer or just a tweeter the sound would objectively inferior to the playback of the voice of a widely accepted speaker that plays that freq range flat or close to flat.  Now my example is a bit exaggerated but not that much if you listen to some very poor recordings.  Another example. Record an acoustic bass in a treated room and in a non-treated square bedroom - all hard surfaces.  Ask someone to identify which one sounds more real. Most people even those who never heard one live will realize the one in the bedroom is so far off it can't be real, right or "good".

The subjectivity you refer to does come in to play in that wide range of good or what real might be after you get beyond what is obviously abhorrent or flawed. Like using different mics etc. Or in cases where one purposefully alters the original or good sound for effect etc.
Equipment-Trends Micro amp w/ Paradigm Export speakers ports covered.  Use Fx EQ for  studio room issue fix.  Also use Klipsch S4 & Sennheiser HD-280 phones - home stereo= AMC 3030 tube amp, Triangle Celius 202 speakers & Behringer para EQ for room nodes-laptop=HP 8430 w/Digigram VXPocket & Reaper

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September 16, 2011, 09:05:18 PM
I think sound quality, that is fidelity, is objective, of course. Something either reproduces the original sound accurately or it doesn't. Whether that is desirable is subjective and subject to culture, etc.

While I like hi fidelity recordings, I also really like early punk, 80's hardcore, and 90's indie rock. None of it is terribly hi-fi, but I don't think it loses anything, in fact I think it gains value from that.

On the other hand, getting used to bad reproduction is a problem, I suppose, but if that's that case, anyone raised in the era of small speaker radios, LPs played on mono all-in-one record players, etc should have terrible hearing and not be able to tell the difference between a CD and a micro cassette recorded at slow speed!

Now, getting a mix to be balanced, and sound good, etc, is no easy feat. Getting it balanced, without 'errors' and technically even is pretty easy, but getting it to sound, artistically and aesthetically consistent with the vision the artist is trying to put forth is the hard part. The best engineer, from a technical perspective, often doesn't create the best final product because he simply doesn't 'get it.' You mention in your first post the importance of being aware of the genre, and I think that is key, but I think there's a step beyond familiarizing yourself with the genre and 'getting it.' I can familiarize myself with hiphop, but I don't 'get it' and I don't think I could do an artist justice, no matter how well I eq'd, compressed, etc. Maybe the thing that mix needs is tons of distortion, or some crazy flanger. I'd have no idea.

Now, finally listening to your mix!

First impressions are that the drum sounds are too ambient, and a little soft for this track. The kick in particular disappears when the instruments come in. Toms are kinda muted, a little like a jazz drummer playing with a rock band. Snare seems kinda thin, could use more body, and doesn't seem to have any sustain to it.

The guitars seems a little thin to me, edgy and a little harsh in the upper mids, but kinda anemic.

Bass guitar is pretty good, could maybe use a touch of distortion or something to add some articulation. Mostly it's just masking the kick too much to my ears.

The vocals are a little on top, and a hair syballant here and there. Maybe a bit more compression, and some de-esser. The reverb is a little too much for this type of track, I think, or maybe just not blended in quite low enough. Not sure, my first impression was 'whoa, reverb!' :-)

As far as building tension, I think your mix has the same problem as most, it doesn't have a real payoff, sort of loses momentum after the bridge.

Tonality wise, your mix doesn't seem off balance, there's good lowend, good mids, good treble, just stylistically it doesn't really work with the track.

Hope that doesn't sound overly negative, I'm trying to give my honest impression. My mix suffered from some serious tonality issues (my own fault for trying to mix in a new room, without referencing, using some new outboard for the first time...) Thanks for posting!

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September 16, 2011, 09:55:45 PM
No sir your comments are more than applicable, fair and reasonable. I think overall what we might not agree on is genre. I think most of our differences lie in that choice.  I think this is a rock-pop song with a roll not an alt rock song. I actually don't like the groups original version though recognize that given that choice it is well done.

I do not like to drastically alter the original recording- especially given this was a contest and most people didn't. I don't like to add or cut parts, change the base arrangement or even massively alter base sounds or feels. (Unless a dance remix is called for) Of course this group alters the hell out of what they record so that explanation doesn't hold a ton of water. Since i didn't like the original I broke part of the rule and adapted it to my preference that this not be an alt rock song. So there were no big tone or arrangement changes other than left to right which I did because of those choices and two of the guitars being so close in sound and given where they were in the arrangement I didn't want to pan left and right.

You are dead on with the drums.  I play and record drums and I found these hard to mix.  Obviously I need to learn how to work with all kinds of stuff. I found the direct tom mic feeds especially the high tom were very narrow in range, mostly bass and the high tom was tuned with a huge pitch bend that i do not like, avoided and probably did with negative unintended consequences. .  The overhead mics picked up the sound of the toms and snare great, far better than the local mics, but were very low in the field compared to the cymbals. I prefer locations for these mics to try to even that out. And even those mics missed some of the crashes and I needed the room mic for that but  that mic was mono which means use too much of it and you narrow the sound field. I never liked the sound of the toms and need to learn to turn what I had in to something better. Regarding the bass drum that choice follows my change of genre. As for the snare top I think it was bass heavy and had no range. Like it was a Sennheiser e-series mic. And I kept going back and forth on phase to the bottom mic which sounded better but it altered the phase of the cymbals and changed their sound field depending on phase. With respect to the overall drum ambiance that is also a change of genre but I could very well have over done it a skosh. Yup - I struggled with the drums and need to learn how to deal with working with a wider variety of source recordings.

Guitars. Again genre change but beyond that I thinned the guitars on purpose to avoid them clashing with the bass and since two of the guitars sounded so close I tried to distance them from each other. Having said that I can see how someone might think they were thin. (Of course the original goes in the opposite direction and lowers the high end for the obvious effect) 

I didn't add distortion on anything because of my genre change. Additionally the stereo feeds on the bass were naturally gritty.  I did go back and forth on how much of them to use.  I can see the argument for a bit more of them. But again I think that is a genre issue.

Vocals - Yup I cut a little low end. Same genre choice - at least in my head.  I didn't touch sibilants at all.

Didn't try to build tension.  Changed it to a rock-pop song.

"Tonality wise, your mix doesn't seem off balance, there's good lowend, good mids, good treble, just stylistically it doesn't really work with the track. "  I think this is an excellent demonstration of the genre difference. If i tried to copy the original's genre every one of your points would be dead on. As i changed it I think they fit in that context. or at least fit better.

The tonality balance being on comment pleased me.  When I made my original comment about so many being so bad this is what I was talking about. I thought so many were tonally so far off that the rest of the areas were beyond secondary in importance. Now having said that the original song alters tonality big time by instrument but does mesh them together well in the context of the whole song and genre/song style pretty well except the whole thing has a midrange glare. But that works if it has to be an alt rock song.

You were not overly negative at all.  You took the time to listen intently and were not only honest but like I said reasonable, applicable and fair. I appreciate that (If you said I was majorly off tonally though  I wold have dismissed everything else you said) I hope to do this again some time. Obviously with my comment on so many being so off and my postulation to why I set myself up to be able to produce the Mona Lisa.  Over time I hope to match my abilities as an audio critic (at least tonally) with my ability to create a stellar song that is more than just good tonally.
Equipment-Trends Micro amp w/ Paradigm Export speakers ports covered.  Use Fx EQ for  studio room issue fix.  Also use Klipsch S4 & Sennheiser HD-280 phones - home stereo= AMC 3030 tube amp, Triangle Celius 202 speakers & Behringer para EQ for room nodes-laptop=HP 8430 w/Digigram VXPocket & Reaper

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September 16, 2011, 10:14:14 PM
Saying it is not worse or better but different is incorrect - and objectively not just subjectively. it dismisses audio quality as some completely nonobjective phenomenon and that is incorrect.  While tastes very within a range the range can be set by % of subjective concurrence by learned individuals or objective measures.  Using both of these standards it can be easily proven that audio quality has degraded over time and within a range what is obviously bad.  Almost anyone who is explained what to listen for can hear the difference between a 192k mp3 and 320k mp3 and especially when streaming even lower bit rates. And the difference between the two is easily seen in measurements.  As such this can be extended to music and its audio quality with those other variables being constant.  If it is widely known an accepted that standing waves in a room can degrade sound quality then it is surely no stretch to accept and understand that there are many variables that could lead someone to unknowingly produce bad sound. Try bad room, sitting off axis from the monitors, bad monitors etc.  Since this is true then is is not a stretch to understand that a generation could wind up not understanding these and other issues and create bad sound that becomes universally accepted because that many people are uninformed and therefore wrong.  As for "time" have you listened to 1950s and 60s jazz recordings?  Take one that is very popular Kind of Blue.  Speakers were not flat beyond 12k back then so flat monitors in the treble area did not exist. But these engineers knew that and used meters to make sure they recorded that zone the best they could. Even with that limitation and much older gear those recordings sound much better than a lot of later smooth jazz recordings for example. Try Any of David Sanborn's 80s material.  It sounds horrible. And I doubt if that was by choice.

There are three conflated arguments here.

One is purely objective from an audio point of view, and concerns the format of the delivery medium. Yes, 192k mp3 is inherently inferior to 320k mp3, which is inherently inferior to 16/44.1, which is inherently inferior to 24/96. Audio information is lost for the sake of faster download times and the ability to squeeze more tracks into your telephone. This is uncontentious.

The next argument concerns environmental factors that lead to the printing of a substandard mix - something that is COMPLETELY independent from the format of the delivery medium (with the exception of mastering for vinyl). Yes, having a bad room will impede your ability as the tracking or mix engineer to deliver a good end product. Note - impede. Not render impossible. It just gets harder. I have yet to see any evidence that the current generation of consumers has a worse understanding of standing waves than consumers in the 1950s (ie none), nor have I yet to see any evidence that the current generation of audio engineers has a worse understanding of standing waves than audio engineers in the 1950s (ie plenty). If the average is skewed by the fact that more consumers these days take an interest in audio engineering thanks to the availability of pretty decent technology, that's a different issue.

The final argument concerns taste. This is the tricky one, the big one, the one that makes this whole area interesting in the first place. We just need to be VERY careful to separate vibe, musicianship, innovation etc etc from pure "sonics", in the audiophile sense. I don't know this David Sanborn, and from what you're saying, I might be lucky. But in terms of SONIC fidelity, there is no question that a modern recording (eg Brad Mehldau The Art of The Trio vol. 3) is superior to a vintage one (eg Miles Davies Birth of The Cool). If you find one more evocative than the other - and therefore more faithful to the feel of a certain era or style - again, that's a separate issue. Similarly, is Led Zeppelin I a hallmark of fidelity, audio quality, whatever? Absolutely not! In these terms, it sounds absolutely terrible! Is it one of my favourite albums? Of course! But I could name any number of recent albums that have technically superior audio.

Now for the big aesthetic claim: the greatest artistic successes often stem from the simultaneous achievement of seemingly contradictory goals. So in this case, who can deliver a record that combines the engaging detail, clarity and separation that modern techniques and media afford with the absorbing cohesion, atmosphere and emotional involvement of the old school? Only the very best, that's who. That's what we should all be aspiring to. Never mind nostalgia, the bar is set pretty damn high right now - until you look at the prevailing format of delivery medium. But then, I already covered that...
Grid is good.

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September 16, 2011, 10:39:21 PM
I agree with everything you said in the micro but not macro. Meaning there are songs that sound far better today than years back. BUT on the whole far more proportionally sounds far worse especially when compared to how damn good things can sound these days.  You are correct when talking about songs out of the norm today or the subset.  I believe I am correct on average. I prefer you were correct on the whole.
Equipment-Trends Micro amp w/ Paradigm Export speakers ports covered.  Use Fx EQ for  studio room issue fix.  Also use Klipsch S4 & Sennheiser HD-280 phones - home stereo= AMC 3030 tube amp, Triangle Celius 202 speakers & Behringer para EQ for room nodes-laptop=HP 8430 w/Digigram VXPocket & Reaper

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September 17, 2011, 12:46:23 AM
imispgh -  I understand your reluctance to mess with the recorded tracks, of course! The thing is that many, if not most, home recordists, and many studio engineers, adhere to the idea of getting tracks down that are passable, but often far removed from the actual sound they are going for. In some cases, I don't think they necessarily know what sound they are going for, in actuality. I've recorded bands with the idea that I'd get a true to life representation of their performance, only to discover during mixdown that the guy with a piccolo snare actually wants a big beefy snare of the sort you'd get with a maple snare at least 6" deep! In more recent years, I've gotten better at quizzing the band about what they're going for before starting to track!

With a set of tracks like this one, I tried to envision what they were after, rather than what they provided, if that makes sense. I can sort of hear the drum sound they wanted, by the way he played the parts. Same with the guitars and bass. Maybe it's because I'm so familiar with that genre, and that may be a limitation on my creative input, but I tried to match what I thought they were wanting to hear, based on the references they gave, and the way they played the parts.

Hope that makes sense!