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Sgt Pepper

Loudness Wars Question

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4 minutes ago, BeeRay said:

Of course I'm talking about before the mastering. How can it be compressed if you are using the tape for different formats? You think vinyl is cut from the the compressed master?

Did you read the article above ?  They make a master - they then doctor it (not compress it) for vinyl.  If you want to uncompress it you need the original multitrack recording (not the two track master) and then you can get back to the original to create a new master BUT it depends if the recording studio backed up and stored the original multitrack .. in many cases that may not be the case.   

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Super Wammer
3 minutes ago, uzzy said:

Did you read the article above ?  They make a master - they then doctor it (not compress it) for vinyl.  If you want to uncompress it you need the original multitrack recording (not the two track master) and then you can get back to the original to create a new master BUT it depends if the recording studio backed up and stored the original multitrack .. in many cases that may not be the case.   

...and that leads onto how recent remasters might indeed be based on something less than ideal, while others - like The Beatles recent editions, I believe - really do delve back into the original.  And at the same time, they try to record what there is left on the original in digital as the tape is probably falling to pieces, and barely survives one pass. 

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My understanding is they make a master tape, sometimes called studio master tape, then from that they product various formats, cd, mp3 and vinyl. So you will have a different master for cd and vinyl. If you go back to studio master you should be able to produce an uncompressed version? 

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5 minutes ago, BeeRay said:

My understanding is they make a master tape, sometimes called studio master tape, then from that they product various formats, cd, mp3 and vinyl. So you will have a different master for cd and vinyl. If you go back to studio master you should be able to produce an uncompressed version? 

I guess that would be in effect a direct copy of that master then?  I’d love to think, as I believe you may do, that this would be the ‘best’ version.  However, I do believe that many of the CDs or LPs that we enjoy the most may well have been skilfully manipulated.

The closest I own to the original are probably the direct cut LPs of the 70s, mainly as produced by Sheffield Labs of the USA.  There wasn’t even a master, aside from the lacquer.  There were subsequently CDs produced from master tapes that were made simultaneously.  Some of those were analogue and later ones digital.  They are worth hearing in any medium, even if some of the music won’t be to everybody’s taste.  

Chasing the Dragon Records are producing similar today.  They’ll even sell you a copy mastertape!  http://www.chasingthedragon.co.uk/

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12 minutes ago, Nopiano said:

I guess that would be in effect a direct copy of that master then?  I’d love to think, as I believe you may do, that this would be the ‘best’ version.  However, I do believe that many of the CDs or LPs that we enjoy the most may well have been skilfully manipulated.

The closest I own to the original are probably the direct cut LPs of the 70s, mainly as produced by Sheffield Labs of the USA.  There wasn’t even a master, aside from the lacquer.  There were subsequently CDs produced from master tapes that were made simultaneously.  Some of those were analogue and later ones digital.  They are worth hearing in any medium, even if some of the music won’t be to everybody’s taste.  

Chasing the Dragon Records are producing similar today.  They’ll even sell you a copy mastertape!  http://www.chasingthedragon.co.uk/

All of my LPs were bought in the 70s, maybe a few in the early 80s. Cds were bought mostly in the 90s before all this loudness issue. Others I have bought more recently have been checked that the sound quality is OK. Otherwise I just stream from Deezer or Spotify.

Yes I have heard some of those Sheffield Labs and Dragon Records, few were to my taste unfortunately. This is the problem the high quality records are rarely to my taste, the nearest that is would be ECM.

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6 hours ago, Nopiano said:

Loosely speaking, that’s why they’ve labelled them that way. But you need to think about the type of music too. For example, punk rock, which is typically loud from start to finish will have a limited dynamic range.  Whereas a typical orchestral piece will have moments of relative quiet, often for several minutes or an entire movement, but also huge climaxes.  That’ll be a wide dynamic range.

2 hours ago, bigfool1956 said:

I wouldn't choose my music based on it's DR, otherwise I wouldn't have any Rammstein, but I do use it as a tool to try and get the best digital mastering of the music I love. I also reference the Steve Hoffman forum, which is full of useful information on different masterings. Sometimes, as with Ziggy, the best DR isn't always the best sounding. For example some mastering engineers use a lot of EQ, which can still give a good DR, but sound thin and screechy.

Some good advice here.

The vast majority of the music I listen to has a DR <10, but very little of it requires a large dynamic range. Having a low dynamic range doesn’t always equate to a poor recording/mastering. 

Unfortunately, there are albums I own that the loudness wars have left its mark on. Usually it’s in the form of clipping or a lifeless and flat sound, these both tend to be on vocal uplifts or the use of traditional unamplified instruments.

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I was a mastering engineer through the transition of pre-loudness to loudness from the 90's

I remember when we first saw the loudness thing. I say saw, because that's what we first noticed, the digital meters. I think Sterling Sound Mastering in the US were one of the first, engineers like Ted Jensen and George Marino. They were doing it before Bob Ludwig from what I remember. The first mastering place I worked at we would get 1630 Umatic tapes, (which were the CD masters at that time) from all the different mastering places from the Uk & US. The record companies would also order cassette copies from us, so we got to hear everyone's work. Bernie Grundman, Masterdisk (where Bob Ludwig was before), Sterling, plus all the UK Mastering houses.

I remember Ted Jensen's mastering of Metallica, and we just watched the digital meters full at the top blinking from 0dB to -2dB. We couldn't believe it. Our head technical guy worked out that they had clipped it, but pulled the output down by -0.1dB so it didn't show in the red as being clipped. We were one of the very first in Europe to use Sonic Solutions DAW de-noising and editing, so we could see the waveform as just this big brick on the screen, like someone had come along with a pair of scissors and just snipped off all the peaks. 

The record company A&R guys are the ones to blame. They wanted 'their' band/artist to be the loudest, so that when you put their album on it came out louder. When everyone started doing it, it became a thing of "I don't want my artist to sound quieter than the others."

When it first came in people thought it was really clever, and the producers became somewhat intoxicated with it too. I'm so glad there has been a backlash. Some of the old CD's I did still sound great because it came off the 1/4" or 1/2" reel to reel into an analogue desk with maybe some slight analogue EQ/compression, and into DCS converters; then finally into the DAW. I aimed to get the level right going in with analogue gear, so I didn't have to alter the level digitally in the DAW, which would alter the bits. That all went out when loudness came in of course, because we the  digitally boosted everything into clipping.

One of the reasons I didn't continue with mastering was because loads of stuff was coming in mixed on pro-tools, in-the-box, and it just sounded so thin and horrible, and they had maximised the level with really poor digital limiters before it even came to us. There was literally nothing could be done to make it sound better. These days many realise the loudness thing was bad for music and have gone back to the old ways. People like Bernie Grundman have done a great job of cutting vinyl straight from the original 1/4" tapes, such as Frank Zappa and Dire Straits.

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4 hours ago, BeeRay said:

My understanding is they make a master tape, sometimes called studio master tape, then from that they product various formats, cd, mp3 and vinyl. So you will have a different master for cd and vinyl. If you go back to studio master you should be able to produce an uncompressed version? 

The Studio Master tape is the final mix of multitrack to a two channel recording.  It is at this stage more compression may be added to make the mix.   The LP master is a doctored copy of the original CD master (it is not compressed or played about with other than to rectify extremes .. see the article I posted the link for)  .. you need to go back to the original UNMASTERED tape and remix it to two tracks without compression to make a new Master Recording (it is the two track Master Mix file that is sent for making CDs and another copy sent to cut LP stamps ) - BUT it depends if the recording studio backed up and stored the original multitrack .. in many cases that may not be the case.  It also depends on how much compression was used in the making of the original Multitrack Recording as well.  It is not a simple matter to make a new 2 channel master without compression - the whole recording (with the old tape studios probably 16 to 32 tracks and modern digital recordings probably many many more) will need to be remixed down to 2 channels (in effect redoing the whole "mastering" process .. 

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4 hours ago, Nopiano said:

...and that leads onto how recent remasters might indeed be based on something less than ideal, while others - like The Beatles recent editions, I believe - really do delve back into the original.  And at the same time, they try to record what there is left on the original in digital as the tape is probably falling to pieces, and barely survives one pass. 

I think the original multitracks were digitised by George Martin so the original tapes are preserved in digital form now (I think) .. hence the new Stereo remix of Sgt Pepper by Giles Martin (superb it is too and I hope he does all of them) .. I am pretty sure the same thing was done to the Led Zep recordings by Jimmy Page.   Provided they are stored correctly, the original tapes will last a long time the only thing is you have to wind the tapes onto a new spool at a regular interval to stop the tapes suffering from print through.  
The biggest problem with a lot of new "remasters" is not just the quality of the old tapes but the actions of person doing the remaster which is likely to alter the original mix (more bass, less bass, etc etc.) whereas we are looking for the original balance of sound but with improved fidelity.   It takes a person sympathetic to the originals and who knows the material well to do a good job I think - Steve Wilson springs to mind . he obviously loved Jethro Tull and other artists and it is heard in his music - and he has done fabulous remasters of Jethro Tull back catalogue and others.   So to George Martin and his son Giles with Beatles material ..  the Love Album is a favourite of mine with the Giles remixes of songs, playing one backwards with no instruments and splicing tracks together whilst retaining the essence and feel and balance of the originals.

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After much hype on fan forums I bought a series of SHM-CD remasters in 2012, they were only available from Universal Japan and cost over £200 for the 8 CDs in the series. They were touted as being the absolute pinnacle in remastering, sounding so wonderful and refreshed.  

I was not amused when I ran them all through Audacity! This is the worst of the albums, Red = clipping.

Does it sound awful? Strangely no... until you compare it the original CD release or the original LP.

ALT1.thumb.jpg.7bedde6ecd9b76c31378752c865e119f.jpg

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8 hours ago, DougK said:

After much hype on fan forums I bought a series of SHM-CD remasters in 2012, they were only available from Universal Japan and cost over £200 for the 8 CDs in the series. They were touted as being the absolute pinnacle in remastering, sounding so wonderful and refreshed.  

I was not amused when I ran them all through Audacity! This is the worst of the albums, Red = clipping.

Does it sound awful? Strangely no... until you compare it the original CD release or the original LP.

ALT1.thumb.jpg.7bedde6ecd9b76c31378752c865e119f.jpg

That looks more like an error in matching or levels, doesn’t it?!  I’m not familiar with Audacity so I’m not sure how it works, but as you say, you’d expect that to be audible.  

I still have a hunch that some very good sounding recordings might not have a wide dr, and what helps them sound good - especially if they’re LPs - is that the limited range is less taxing on cartridge etc.  

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42 minutes ago, Nopiano said:

That looks more like an error in matching or levels, doesn’t it?!  I’m not familiar with Audacity so I’m not sure how it works, but as you say, you’d expect that to be audible.  

I still have a hunch that some very good sounding recordings might not have a wide dr, and what helps them sound good - especially if they’re LPs - is that the limited range is less taxing on cartridge etc.  

Don't think so. There is a tool in Audacity that can show clipping, in red, that is what I used. The Audacity zoom function allows you to zoom in on the peaks, all the red areas display a flat top at the peaks... clipped.

This is the original CD using the same show clipping tool:

 Capture.thumb.PNG.ce4428f709716070a18e2ede5f6099f8.PNG

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Super Wammer
1 hour ago, DougK said:

Don't think so. There is a tool in Audacity that can show clipping, in red, that is what I used. The Audacity zoom function allows you to zoom in on the peaks, all the red areas display a flat top at the peaks... clipped.

This is the original CD using the same show clipping tool:

 Capture.thumb.PNG.ce4428f709716070a18e2ede5f6099f8.PNG

OMG, I see the difference now.  So it spots the clipping because every peak is identical.  Clever!

Thanks for the explanation. 

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On 12/12/2018 at 10:01, Sgt Pepper said:

So looking at this list, Red is bad Green good?

Yes, I'd go along with that. Every album that I have with a red DR rating sounds dynamically compressed. Especially when played back to back with a less compressed album (with appropriate adjustment of the volume knob).

Every album that I have with a dark green DR rating sounds spectacularly good (on my system to my ears). To the extent that even if the music isn't my cup of tea it will still be an enjoyable event listening to it.

On 12/12/2018 at 11:06, Muckplaster said:

It's not new. All the 60s Motown singles were very compressed and that's how they sound at their best. Vinyl is a more compressed medium of course, it has to be.

The ones I've heard, I think sound pants. I think they'd sound much better and more enjoyable without the compression.

On 12/12/2018 at 13:34, Nopiano said:

Loosely speaking, that’s why they’ve labelled them that way. But you need to think about the type of music too. For example, punk rock, which is typically loud from start to finish will have a limited dynamic range....

Never Mind the Bollocks has a light green DR of 13. The recording and musicianship are a bit rough, a long way off the polished engineering of a Lady Ga Ga CD. But the Sex Psitols album has a zest, a life, that makes Ga Ga sound as flat as a pancake.

The Clash's Combat Rock has a dark green DR of 14. It's a great album, musically and recording wise.

One thing I have been wondering for a few years now, is if some people are less sensitive to dynamic compression than others? Some people don't seem to mind the excessive dynamic compression on albums such as Genesis remasters or London Grammar CD's. Some people do. I get tired of listening to 21st Century CD after CD on my main system, because almost all of them are too dynamically compressed. I also hate hi-fi system that are "polite" / "smooth" / round off transient peaks, whilst others appear to love them.

Edited by lindsayt
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On 13/12/2018 at 09:00, Nopiano said:

That looks more like an error in matching or levels, doesn’t it?!  I’m not familiar with Audacity so I’m not sure how it works, but as you say, you’d expect that to be audible.  

I still have a hunch that some very good sounding recordings might not have a wide dr, and what helps them sound good - especially if they’re LPs - is that the limited range is less taxing on cartridge etc.  

I think that there is a lot of hot air spoken about dynamic range and LPs - we all know that theoretically CDs have a wider dynamic range - but many of the recordings you refer to were recorded on analogue tapes (dynamic range of about 77db I am informed on Wikipedia) .. also just in case you wanted to know about the process used for mastering LPs etc this article may prove useful http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=Myths_(Vinyl).

The Clash I can understand as for the Sex Pistols they were rubbish as was the music .. there were so many better punk bands who were in the business to play music and not to play the system to make money (the Damned the Stranglers to name but two) ..  

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