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> Raw, Agressive, Gritty Recording, or just bad
Saoirse O'Shea
post Aug 9 2010, 03:54 PM
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My wife just passed me a CD she's recently bought from one of her favorite musicians. The CD is Paul Weller's 'Wake up the nation' and is one of this year's Mercury nominations. It's picked up quite a few rave review in the press, who often comment on how 'aggressive/raw/gritty/urban' the CD sounds and how it harks back to recordings by The Jam (Weller's first group).

I've just put it up on the mastering rig and couldn't get past track 2. To me the aggressive etc translates as 'digitally distorted, over compressed, thin, brittle, etc' and I don't think the issue is with the playback systems wink.gif . Just to put some numbers on this I fired up some of our test equipment and meters, the rms is up at -5 dB and the peak is at -0.1, lots of intersample overs, lots of hard clipping, I can also hear pre-ring and other issues. Just to check it again I played vinyl copies of The Jam's 'This is the modern world' and 'All mod cons' and they sound aggressive, raw etc but still have dynamics and are nothing like 'Wake up...'. Tracks like 'English Rose' etc still sound open and expansive on the radio. I'd imagine that 'Wake up' will sound very thin and quiet if it's put through an Orban before broadcast - and most radio stations will put it through one.

My wife knows nothing about the 'loudness wars' and not too much about the technical side of mastering. She passed me the CD as she was worried that there was something wrong with the CD and/or her stereo. She asked me if I thought that it was poorly mastered and I had to say that I imagine that the ME did what the producer asked of him in terms of loudness and most of the other issues are a result of that. Personally I quite happily will listen to music that is loud, noisy and aggressive but this isn't the same - the over compression robs the music of its natural dynamics and all the distortion quickly gives me a headache. TBH I could not listen to the CD from start to finish in one take. My wife's shocked that a commercial recoding has been deliberately done like this and receives a Mercury nomination. Me, I'm disappointed yes but shocked, no.


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Daniel Realpe
post Aug 9 2010, 08:50 PM
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I know what you mean...

All it takes for the listener to preserve the original dynamics in music is TO TURN IT UP a little,

It should just say in the CD case or somewhere that it will sound a little less than the rest,...then again if you place that track into a multi-band compilation it is going to sound way lower than the rest so no one will take the risk,

They should offer two versions of each album...one commercial one, as loud as they want it,...and another preserving all the dynamics for those who want to listen to it properly,





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audiopaal
post Aug 16 2010, 12:42 PM
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I know what you mean, there are a few albums like this..
Sounds awful, but some refers to it as orginal, hip etc.. sad.gif
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thefireball
post Aug 16 2010, 12:57 PM
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Wow, I don't think I've ever listened to an album that did that. Yeah, I would want them to preserve original dynamics as well.


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Fran
post Aug 16 2010, 01:39 PM
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Interesting read.

Shall we assume that all albums that sound higher than the rest are poorly recorded?
Isn't there any way to record an album that is loud and preserves dynamics at the same time?



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MickeM
post Aug 16 2010, 04:25 PM
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I'd help fight the loudness way any day, to arms on the dynamic side!!

I find it tireing to listen to these CD's that sound like a jet engine on constant throttle. Tireing, exausting.

I had a listen to that Paul Weller album on my headphones, no super quality but quite alright speakers. Sounds like they are on the limit to distort.


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ItsMe
post Aug 17 2010, 08:17 AM
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Yes this album is really over loud and its rather sad that it makes it sound so bad since the music is pretty ok.


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Aug 18 2010, 11:20 PM
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QUOTE (Fran @ Aug 16 2010, 12:39 PM) *
Interesting read.

Shall we assume that all albums that sound higher than the rest are poorly recorded?
Isn't there any way to record an album that is loud and preserves dynamics at the same time?


It depends Fran.

Every recording has its own 'loudness potential' - more or less the maximum volume you can peak it to and keep natural dynamics and it varies from track to track. A lot of recent recordings aim for maximum volume regardless of what the 'potential' is just so that they sound as loud on the radio/ipod/whatever as other tracks.

WRT mastering it's possible to increase the 'loudness' whilst maintaining the dynamics by careful EQ and a few other things. However, a lot of recent recordings have just aimed for maximum volume by compressing and limiting just to take the rms/average volume up . Apart from reducing the dynamics of the audio what can happen is that the audio ends up with high frequency distortion and other unintended and unwanted artifacts and issues. Stupid bit here, if you just slam the track to make it 'loud', as is done here, it doesn't work: perceived loudness requires dynamic movement as well as a high rms. Essentially if someone shouts in your ear for an hour a little more shouting won't sound loud but dynamic movement between whispers and shouts can and do emphasises the shouting. All that's they've done here though is turn the rms to '11'.

In defense of the ME who did this particular recording - we don't set out to do this and we don't like doing this sort of thing normally but do it because the client insists on it. I've lost count of the number of times a the producer has said to me, 'don't care what you do as long as it is louder than 'X'!' regardless of what I say.


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Daniel Realpe
post Aug 19 2010, 02:48 AM
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Death Magnetic by Metallica messed up the dynamics badly,

Also I think the latest Avenged SEvenfold should have been more dynamic,

I think a good example of going against the current is Chinese democracy, by GnR

That album sounds, not too loud, but it's full of Dynamics!


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The Uncreator
post Aug 19 2010, 02:52 AM
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One thing I don't understand is why loudness is so fiercely sought. The listener can always just turn up the volume and receive a better effect, especially if the dynamics are mastered well. I guess like you said tony, Clients these days just demand it.

I suppose its a trend most music listeners don't notice
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Daniel Realpe
post Aug 19 2010, 02:56 AM
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QUOTE (The Uncreator @ Aug 19 2010, 02:52 AM) *
One thing I don't understand is why loudness is so fiercely sought. The listener can always just turn up the volume and receive a better effect, especially if the dynamics are mastered well. I guess like you said tony, Clients these days just demand it.

I suppose its a trend most music listeners don't notice

that's it...

it would be a pain to always have your hand on the volume knob to adjust every song...

There is a standard volume level on films and movies decibels...there used to be one for music in the early days, 70's and back? but they removed it, and that's what caused everyone to start raising the volume to "catch" more listeners,




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Saoirse O'Shea
post Aug 19 2010, 11:19 AM
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QUOTE (Daniel Realpe @ Aug 19 2010, 01:56 AM) *
that's it...

it would be a pain to always have your hand on the volume knob to adjust every song...


This, plus the need for the track to match the volume of others on a radio broadcast/youtube video/internet stream/club mix tends to be the root of the problem and somewhat exacerbated by the use of mp3 players where people just turn the volume to max and leave it there.

It's a bit like trying to shut the gate after the horse has bolted as often the damage has already been done at tracking and mixing before it gets sent to the ME (as was the case with Death Magnetic). Also as an ME a large part of my job is achieving the client's expectations if possible. I can, and do, try and explain about dynamics but if they insist on volume then I'm expected to do that or they get the mastering done elsewhere.

QUOTE
There is a standard volume level on films and movies decibels...there used to be one for music in the early days, 70's and back? but they removed it, and that's what caused everyone to start raising the volume to "catch" more listeners,


There's a push by some MEs to have an agreed system for audio. The one most cited (and which we use where we can) is the K-System that itself is based partly on post-film. A large part of the difficulty though is that even where we adopt the 'K' system we still get the continuous demand to 'make it really loud'.

May just be me btw but I think some recent films seem to be breaking with the industry agreed standards. I found 'Inception' to be unrelentingly, and unnecessarily, loud.




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Ivan Milenkovic
post Aug 23 2010, 10:33 PM
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Same case with RHCP album Californication. Victim of loudness wars. Fortunately, in the end it doesn't matter that much how good the recording quality is - it's all about how good the songs are.


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Trond Vold
post Aug 24 2010, 12:37 AM
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I just dont get the point of this whole loudness war thing..
If i hear something thats insanely compressed and loud i just turn it off.. I cant stand it. The distortion just kills it for me.

In my ears, Just because a CD can flaunt with it's sheer volume and overcompressed production doesnt mean it's raw, gritty and agressive. It's simply just annoying.

Take Slayer's Reign in Blood for instance.. The audiolevels are pretty low, but it's still one of the most agressive and raw albums ever.

In my opion, i wish more albums sounded like Metallica's Black album.
I think it's probably one of the most well produced and mastered albums ever. The drums alone is a pleasure to hear.

This post has been edited by Trond Vold: Aug 24 2010, 12:40 AM


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Daniel Realpe
post Aug 24 2010, 01:21 AM
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QUOTE (Trond Vold @ Aug 24 2010, 12:37 AM) *
I just dont get the point of this whole loudness war thing..
If i hear something thats insanely compressed and loud i just turn it off.. I cant stand it. The distortion just kills it for me.

In my ears, Just because a CD can flaunt with it's sheer volume and overcompressed production doesnt mean it's raw, gritty and agressive. It's simply just annoying.

Take Slayer's Reign in Blood for instance.. The audiolevels are pretty low, but it's still one of the most agressive and raw albums ever.

In my opion, i wish more albums sounded like Metallica's Black album.
I think it's probably one of the most well produced and mastered albums ever. The drums alone is a pleasure to hear.

yes, I agree,

"Black album" is probably one of the best examples of dynamics on a recording...and when you turn it up, it just goes right to the gut, doesn't it?


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Santiago Diaz Ga...
post Aug 24 2010, 05:31 AM
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This reminds me to Muse' Album "The Origin of Symmetry". Too much distortion everywhere


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The Uncreator
post Aug 24 2010, 07:07 AM
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Bringing up the audio of films. Every movie released on Blu-Ray or DVD always has a mix that frustrates me. One moment you can't hear anything there saying, the next gunshots are sending my speakers flying off the walls, I can't stand it.
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blindwillie
post Aug 24 2010, 07:46 AM
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QUOTE (The Uncreator @ Aug 24 2010, 08:07 AM) *
Bringing up the audio of films. Every movie released on Blu-Ray or DVD always has a mix that frustrates me. One moment you can't hear anything there saying, the next gunshots are sending my speakers flying off the walls, I can't stand it.

Yes, this is so annoying. Drives me mad.


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Aug 24 2010, 01:15 PM
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Those often seem to suffer from poor lip sync to me as well.

I don't really get involved in video post but I have to wonder if there is an issue going on in the encoding and transcoding with the lip sync? For levels I kind of wonder if it's down to the post op not being sure of how to do the audio in surround. I imagine the setting of levels etc are very different to post audio and possibly exacerbated if people don't have the surround and subs properly phase aligned (not necessarily you as the end user - could be the post op)? Also monitoring for SACD and DVD and Blueray is different to standard post audio CD and should require a rather different DAC monitoring chain and burn - maybe some of the post ops here are partially relying on a more standard DAC set up?


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