Music Into Noise: The Destructive Use Of Dynamic Range Compression part 2

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Not all messages are displayed: show all messages (732 of them)

no what you said is not true, i can hear the difference between, say an old police song and a new green day song on my local FM station easily

the 500 gats of bartholomew thuggins (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 24 October 2011 22:22 (3 years ago) Permalink

i think it's a weird audiophile fetish that you could only care about if you have super-expensive listening gear, which most people don't, so...ehhh

― lex pretend, Monday, October 24, 2011 5:19 PM (7 minutes ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

this is absolutely untrue! you can hear the difference on a pair of earbuds, dude

The boyboy young jess (D-40), Monday, 24 October 2011 22:27 (3 years ago) Permalink

agreed, you can hear it even when it's going through some other kind of shitty compression (like youtube or radio).

hardcore oatmeal (Jordan), Monday, 24 October 2011 22:30 (3 years ago) Permalink

i can't hear the difference unless a specific moment in a song is pointed out, and then it doesn't make any difference to how much i enjoy the song!

lex pretend, Monday, 24 October 2011 22:34 (3 years ago) Permalink

like in my everyday listening this just doesn't cross my mind at all

lex pretend, Monday, 24 October 2011 22:34 (3 years ago) Permalink

it does, though -- you're just refusing to acknowledge it. you dont have to be consciously aware its happening

The boyboy young jess (D-40), Monday, 24 October 2011 22:38 (3 years ago) Permalink

um are you actually telling me what crosses my mind there? taking deejian mind reading to new levels there

lex pretend, Monday, 24 October 2011 22:41 (3 years ago) Permalink

i couldn't tell you whether any of my favourite albums this year are over-compressed or not

lex pretend, Monday, 24 October 2011 22:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

lex yr insistent philistinism would be lolsome were you not a professional music writer. and i'm not even talking about the compression thing, I mean this exchange:

i have noticed, weirdly, that in my new room it sounds like the bass on my stereo has been turned WAY UP even though all the settings are the same - this is the case even with DBFB turned off. acoustics are weird things. i presume it's because my old room was carpeted and the new one isn't.

― lex pretend, Thursday, October 20, 2011 9:44 AM (4 days ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

Lack of carpet will do that, also having speakers in corners of rooms, too close to rear walls, etc etc.

― Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:49 AM (4 days ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

yeah my new desk is in a kind of wall nook, maybe moving the speakers out of that will help it. or maybe i just will never be bothered.

Volvo Twilight (p-dog), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:00 (3 years ago) Permalink

There is no global warming, too.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

i don't understand what's so wrong about the room acoustics exchange?

i know nothing and understand little about science and technology, it's less philistinism and more ludditism

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:05 (3 years ago) Permalink

um are you actually telling me what crosses my mind there? taking deejian mind reading to new levels there

― lex pretend, Monday, October 24, 2011 5:41 PM (1 hour ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

no, im saying that whether or not you realize that compression is the source of how it sounds, you hear that it is compressed

The boyboy young jess (D-40), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:06 (3 years ago) Permalink

okay but why should i care if it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the music?

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:10 (3 years ago) Permalink

yeah i'm not sure philistinism was the word i was looking for. i'm not saying it's "so wrong" of you not to move your speakers to get rid of the boomy bass problem, but i think it wd be worth the effort as presumably you listen to a lot of music and not only for work purposes.

you are however totally wrong about the compression thing! not sure how to convince you otherwise beyond what Sick Mouthy has already posted. it's definitely audible tho, including in the stuff you are into. i can't profess to know much about Ashley Simpson but there's a reason Rihanna's last album was called LOUD.

xpost boomy bass sound is affecting yr enjoyment of the music from what I can make out?

Volvo Twilight (p-dog), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:12 (3 years ago) Permalink

rearranging my entire room would be kinda hard work? if i move the desk i have to move the bed, the wardrobe etc too. i've put magazines, books and towels under the speakers and either it's made it better or i'm acclimatising.

i think my argument about the compression thing is that it may or may not be there but it's not obvious enough that i can hear it without being told - as i said i've no idea whether it's a problem on the albums i've played most this year (katy b/beyoncé/pj harvey), no idea at all - and even when i am told it doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the sound so...what exactly is the problem, the scandal, whatever?

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:17 (3 years ago) Permalink

lol no need to go moving your furniture around on my account lex. i'm genuinely baffled that you can't hear this but y'know whatever.

the problem/scandal re compression afaic is that:
- dynamic range is a part of music and that gets lost when everything's uber-compressed, which is a pity
- the "war" part of "loudness war" is justifiable imo to the extent that there is a constant escalation. we're now at the stage where so many records are so cranked that (unintended) distortion is an issue.

lately tho i'm coming to the view that time will heal all wounds / music will move on... over-compression will come to signify the sound of the 00s/10s, same way lashings of digital reverb make a record sound 80s.

Volvo Twilight (p-dog), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:29 (3 years ago) Permalink

as in, *calling* it a war is justifiable cos etc., sorry that wasn't so clear

Volvo Twilight (p-dog), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:30 (3 years ago) Permalink

I tend to think that volume constancy through compression has the effect of making everything more like electronic music and less like ensemble playing. On that Simpson track, the distinction between the clean guitars and the distorted guitars is only timbral, so they're like presets on a keyboard.

timellison, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

(That's not an across-the-board criticism of the strategy, by the way.)

timellison, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:43 (3 years ago) Permalink

Lex is clearly very proud, for some reason, of not being able to cope with certain things, be that changing a lightbulb, cooking a meal, or critiquing pure sound. I'm assuming this is because these are all practical / technical activities rather than aesthetic / hedonistic / emotional ones in his perception, and therefore not matching up to the strictures of the persona he has created. So outright denial, a la climate skeptics or holocaust deniers or Geir Hongro occurs, because the persona cannot develop or change for some reason.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 05:20 (3 years ago) Permalink

Oh, come now.

ste throkes (Ówen P.), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 05:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

Ha! I really like Lex and the above is (I hope clearly) written for parody and reaction, but there are times when his reactions are so strong and didactic and predictable as to feel like a construct rather than a real person. i.e. like Geir!

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 06:11 (3 years ago) Permalink

we're now at the stage where so many records are so cranked that (unintended) distortion is an issue.

really?! which ones? i don't hear "distortion". not even in the ashlee simpson record. i actually love how the guitars sound in that, so clean. i wish more guitar-based music was produced like it.

nick you're not answering my basic point, which is that 1) the effect of this is so minimal that i can't tell it's there unless it's pointed out, 2) even if it is pointed out it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the music in the slightest.

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 07:26 (3 years ago) Permalink

I like your posts on this thread lex -- I have to admit that I find what mixers & engineers are capable of doing these days with compression in pop is actually very impressive to me, everything literally sounds louder than everything else, it is music that is designed to sound that way intentionally and so I am not surprised that it doesn't bother listeners -- it is modern music. Not all of the transient distortion is unintended. It is absolutely put there on purpose in the same way that musical engineers have always found ways to creatively add distortion.

I do have a problem with older records being remastered to the same loudness standard as an ashlee simpson record, but I'm ready to admit that certain people will even prefer that.

Just got back from NYC and went to the AES panel on audio mastering. Nick have you heard about the new ITU-R 1770-2 loudness measurement / the -16 LUFS dB cap about to be mandated in broadcasting at the federal level? A definite sign that all of this is being taken very seriously.

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 07:56 (3 years ago) Permalink

What do you mean by the guitars on Ashley's record sounding 'clean', Lex? Because I think part of the issue here is communication; the words used to describe sound are often very impressionistic and subjective, so what one person understands / describes as 'clean', another person understands / describes as 'distorted', simply because we have different frames of reference. Unlike visual mediums, there's no physical thing which can be paused and pointed at and isolated (like artefacting on a jpeg or lens flare on a movie or whatever) and qualifiably recognised in explanation by both parties (at least not easily), talking about sound ends up being very, very nebulous indeed, and often results in people getting upset and frustrated.

Lex, you HAVE recognised the 'problem' and can hear / identify one of its clearer manifestations (older CDs needing to be turned up; newer ones needing to be turned down). Clearly, judging by your responses, it's not an issue for you and that's great - I wish it wasn't for me because it means I very seldom listen to certain albums / songs that I otherwise would very much enjoy the songs / arrangements of, because the pure sound offends / upsets / hurts me on a physical level (some stuff just can and does give me a headache).

However, just because it doens't bother you consciously doesn't a; mean it doesn't bother you subconsciously (you hate a lot of modern indie rock, much of which REALLY suffers from this, way worse than r'n'b / dance / pop, for instance), b; doesn't mean it isn't a big conscious issue for a lot of people who want something done about it, and c; doens't mean it doesn't affect loads and loads more people on a subconscious level - so many behaviours in terms of people's reactions to and consumption of music these days seem to me to be related to this, directly or indirectly (lack of monetary value ascribed to music; increased emphasis on portable and live music rather than music in the home; propogation of computers as listening devices, etc etc etc etc).

I've drawn these before but I'm not sure I've ever put them up here. This is basically how I hear compression, manifested as visually as I can muster (in 5 minutes on MSPaint). They are MASSIVELY OVER SIMPLIFIED.

Each coloured shape is a musical instrument or voice in the mix of a song; when you play music back via speakers or headphones, they each sit in a specific space relative to each other (I should have done some large and some small, rather than them being pretty uniform in size). Turning the volume up on an amplifier makes the entire canvas larger, including the white space around each element (which is needed to be able to hear each element clearly and understand their relationships with each other), and keeps their proportions the same.

Compression makes each element larger within the same size canvas, and also makes them all the same size, altering their proportions and relative positions. It also squeezes some bits outside of the canvas (distortion / clipping), and overlays some elements over other elements at various points (side-chaining).


So this might be a bit of really minimal techno or hip hop.


You can compress it without really affecting it too much in terms of the elements' relations and proportions.


But do the same with something that has a lot more elements, like several guitars, a piano, several vocal tracks, drums, percussion, strings, synths, etc etc...


...and you lose the shapes, space, and relationships.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 09:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

that's why i used ashlee simpson as an example of a guitar-driven rock act.

i think it's the extremeness of your position that i take issue with (it also comes with an implication of "i'm a better listener than you"). i mean, i certainly haven't felt physically nauseous when listening to ashlee over the past 7 years, i've felt glorious! she's hardly the only act with live instruments or non-minimal arrangements that i listen to. you've heard the katy b/pj harvey records this year - is this an issue with them? i've caned them this year and couldn't have less of an idea.

(lack of monetary value ascribed to music; increased emphasis on portable and live music rather than music in the home; propogation of computers as listening devices, etc etc etc etc)

1) old man shaking stick at cloud, i'm so bored of all of these arguments, 2) other way round surely? compression comes about BECAUSE of ipods etc, because music now has to be eg louder than the tube. (was talking about this with k8 on twitter - both of us ended up listening to britney's latest album way more than we thought we would this year because it's perfect tube listening.)

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 09:58 (3 years ago) Permalink

britney is good music for tubes?

Armand Schaubroeck Ratfucker, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 10:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

yeah you can basically hear everything

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 10:09 (3 years ago) Permalink

I have to admit that I agree with Lex here. In theory I'm appalled by all this overcompression (and waveforms that look like bricks make me a little sick to the stomach), but in my day-to-day listening I haven't ever been bothered by it. I have to say that I hardly ever listen to music on headphones, so that might explain something, but I also recognize it from watching movies and tv:
I am bothered very much by visual defects like edge enhancement and digital noise reduction on DVD and Blu-ray, and stretched people on widescreen TVs, but my wife will happily watch everything on anything, whether the actors all look like John Goodman or have their normal figure. It's pretty much the same with dynamic compression.

ArchCarrier, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:48 (3 years ago) Permalink

the loudness war was started by FM radio stations competing for the best signal that would break through the traffic and city noise of NY. So this is mainly down to commercial music wanting to be heard in an outdoor/loud environment. You can say iPods & bad headphones are an example of this...

The actual amplifiers people use for listening are now smaller and more likely to form part of a laptop/ipod/dock rather than in the 70s where most people had HiFi stereos for listening in the home.

So people mastering serious music know they could get away with dynamics in the album (and that vinyl could not have that wide a dynamic int he first place) now whats odd is that everything is mastered like it needs to be heard in a city junction roadworks site..

my opinionation (Hamildan), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

I'd say with those Britney tracks, the track has been produced from the beginning with compression is used as an effect, to create a certain sound. The problem for me is when you have acoustic and electric instruments, stuff that has been mic'd (rather than electronic sound sources), and then after it has been recorded, there appears to have been limiting added further along the mastering stage.

Chewshabadoo, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 13:36 (3 years ago) Permalink

This to me is an example of something with many guitars and acoustic-sounding drums, which has some very painful limiting put on it later:

Chewshabadoo, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 13:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

If you listen to those Britney tracks, the arrangement is very minimal, there are rarely any moments with many layers of different sounds playing at the same time. To put it into the earlier visual metaphor, there is a lot of white-space in the sound design, and very little scope for sounds to clash with each other at the limiting stage.

Chewshabadoo, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 13:48 (3 years ago) Permalink

i've spoken to a number of non music geek friends about this and they don't give a fuck how something sounds, music to them = a story + a melody + a fashion. so minimal arrangements, bashing you over the head with signifiers, vocal right up in your face, having the track duck in volume to give the vocal more prominence. it's not going to go away unless there's a mainstream shift in how music is used/consumed.

Crackle Box, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:48 (3 years ago) Permalink

not that i really think it should go away, for certain musics it works, it's just a shame there isn't an alternative offered.

Crackle Box, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:01 (3 years ago) Permalink

I'm more with lex on this one than, uh, I'm not with lex on this one

R. Stornoway (Tom D.), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:19 (3 years ago) Permalink

but I also recognize it from watching movies and tv:

ha, i know you're making a visual comparison here, but i often find myself wishing that the audio tracks on movies had a little more dynamic compression, at least when i'm watching at home (esp when watching with my girlfriend, who is less deaf than i am). sacrilege maybe, but it's annoying to constantly turn the volume down during action/heavily-scored scenes and then have to turn it up to hear the dialogue.

hardcore oatmeal (Jordan), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:30 (3 years ago) Permalink

also lex, i can't remember if you like lcd soundsystem (i think you hate them?), but think about the first track on their last album. it has a ton of dynamics that make for a really big moment when the beat drops...if it was mastered differently, that whole intro would be the same volume as the drop. it wouldn't necessarily be worse, but it would definitely be a choice.

hardcore oatmeal (Jordan), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:32 (3 years ago) Permalink

XP: I think my AV receiver has a special 'late night' setting that does exactly that.

ArchCarrier, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:33 (3 years ago) Permalink

huh interesting i actually hate having the tv on because i find it too constantly blaring and loud, and in fact i do feel ill and a bit tired if i'm in one of those houses where they have it on in the background all the time. i always put that down to my being brought up in a house where the tv was only occasionally on, and consequently never having been into watching tv as a pastime.

i love old lcd soundsystem singles like "yeah" and "tribulations", never heard the last album cuz i hated the lead single so much.

this is a great example of what i meant when i said i loved how clean the guitars sound on ashlee simpson songs - like, you can hear every instrument and it's just so polished and perfect, and it really sets off the still-unexpected courtneyesque rawness of her voice:

(one of my favourite songs of the 00s, that)

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:37 (3 years ago) Permalink

youtube quality not quite the best there tho :(

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:39 (3 years ago) Permalink

Lex, tv ≠ film.

ArchCarrier, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

I tend to think that volume constancy through compression has the effect of making everything more like electronic music and less like ensemble playing. On that Simpson track, the distinction between the clean guitars and the distorted guitars is only timbral, so they're like presets on a keyboard.

i think this is otm and a big part of why lex likes those ashlee simpson guitars. they're meticulously edited and compressed on their own (in addition to the whole mix being compressed pretty hard), they might as well be samples. total pop/dance approach.

hardcore oatmeal (Jordan), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

youtube quality not quite the best there tho :(

LOL

unorthodox economic revenge (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:43 (3 years ago) Permalink

With TV it's usually the adverts that are a massive sinner - a drama might be mastered quite dynamically to generate atmosphere, and then CADBURYS CREME EGG or NESCAFE GOLD BLEND or VOLKSWAGEN GOLF comes in and threatens to break your eardrums.

The 'late night' button on a home cinema amp is exactly the same kind of thing as the Sound Check function on an iPod / iTunes - it equalises and levels dynamics. Radio (and TV, to a lesser extent) do this too, compressing stuff for broadcast. So leave the original source / master relatively dynamic (unless it's a deliberate aesthetic choice, which is totally valid in some cases), and let people choose. That's all I want. People aren't stupid.

Jordan's comment on the comment about compressed guitars sounding like dance/pop music totally OTM.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:45 (3 years ago) Permalink

Levels AND dynamics.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:46 (3 years ago) Permalink

expanding, when i listen to those ashlee guitars i find it really expansive - like, it evokes wide open spaces, a car with the top down, being outside - which of course is partly the melody but i think it's the sound.

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:49 (3 years ago) Permalink

idk what that stray "expanding" is doing at the start of that post

lex pretend, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:49 (3 years ago) Permalink

your post was expanding like Ashlee's guitars

he carried yellow flowers (DJP), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:50 (3 years ago) Permalink

I think a lot of this comes down to how people use music, which we were discussing the other day on another thread (can't remember where, now). I don't need to use music on the tube (and if I did, I'd probably get isolating earphones again, like when I used to commute on a train); but I do like to sit on the sofa with big speakers and have music wash over / blast through me. You need very different types of music for those two uses. My problem comes when music I want to have wash over / blast through me is mastered for tube listening, which I generally think comes from an artist's desire to get on radio (and misunderstanding of what works on radio) (although it can't always come from that).

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 25 October 2011 15:50 (3 years ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.