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PostSubject: the loudness wars   Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:06 pm

"Loudness war" or "loudness race" is the popular name given to the trend of increasing audio levels on CDs and in digital audio files over the last few decades, which many critics believe damages the sound and reduces listener's enjoyment. Increasing loudness was first reported as early as the 1940s with respect to mastering practices for 7" singles. The maximum peak level of analog recordings such as these is limited by varying specifications of electronic equipment along the chain from source to listener, including vinyl record and cassette players.

With the advent of the Compact Disc (CD), music is encoded to a digital format with a clearly defined maximum peak amplitude. Once the maximum amplitude of a CD is reached, loudness can be increased still further through signal processing techniques such as dynamic range compression and equalization. Engineers can apply an increasingly high ratio of compression to a recording until it more frequently peaks at the maximum amplitude. In extreme cases, clipping and other audible distortion is introduced to increase loudness further. Modern recordings that use extreme dynamic range compression and other measures to increase loudness therefore can sacrifice sound quality to loudness. The competitive escalation of loudness has led music fans and members of the musical press to refer to the affected albums as "victims of the loudness war".

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PostSubject: Re: the loudness wars   Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:46 pm

the following is pretty much a response and my reaction to what I was reading on the stereophile forum. This is not a reflection on stereophile in anyway but more my thoughts after reading this thread.

What an absolutely crock of bull this is Exclamation

"the loudness wars"

Audiophiles will find blame with anything to wiggle their way out in their own minds as to why they are not getting big soundstages and the music sounds compressed.  Hello  scratch :idea:audiophiles the reason your systems sound compressed is because your system is compressing it.

This is crazy Exclamation

What did I say back in the mid "90's". "if the industry (both pro and home) do not make a change this will all fall apart". Engineer geeks who do not listen and understand the audio trilogy are never going to be able to dig their systems (both pro and home) out of the hole they have created.

There's a thread on Stereophile http://www.stereophile.com/content/different-cd-qualitywhats#comment-537381 where guys are struggling to deal with sound changes with digital. I give an answer, then they change the topic to something unrelated while tearing into me for being off topic (which I wasn't, well  Laughing ). You can feel their frustration in their posts yet they start digging audiophile holes to explain that there is a problem outside of their systems. I'm sorry but this is about as naive as I was in 3rd grade as I read word per word a book report out of an article in true grit. Do you know though that teacher gave me an "A" because I was so innovative, yet warned me not to do it again. She had my number  Very Happy . The problem is many audiophiles really do think that they are right in their approaches to many audio theories, and I believe a lot of them are coming from a good place deep down. I mean who is this crazy guy who dares to say that High End Audio has gotten off course. What they don't know is, I'm a true audiophile who didn't stop when the reviewers or engineers or anyone else said stop. I had to find out the answers for real, and the only "real" way to do this was take it (the audio world) apart piece by piece and rebuild it from scratch and see what sticks and what was not reality.

After I did explore and I learned how this works I had to think how in the world did a group of men get so stuck Question They actually act like they have something that we have not been looking into and studying for years now (compression). I had a tunable studio right next door to the folks (think their name was digit designs) that developed compression systems. They made me tons of disc to listen to and I would sit in on "Warner Bros" recordings helping them tune the acoustics of some of the vocals and guitars, and working on the dynamics both naturally and with their compressors. It got to the point where I made my own studio to test things like real space, real size, compression and all the different parts to the recording process.

here's a peek



The studio was designed with the same size rooms so I could go through the audio chain from start to finish. A lot of recordings were brought to my ears and folks all over music row stopped by to listen to what I was doing. They too were in their own world but it alowed me to learn true size first hand as well as then being able to take a recording from another space and tune it in to their recorded space.

what I found

I found that the space of a recording was the actual space of the room. I measured the space of the studios, "kenny loggins", "Reba", "the oak ridge boys", the grand ole opry, Ryman and other recorded live spaces that were to tests my stages against the recordings. The more I was able to open up the signal flow in my playback the more I could see the stages take on shape of the places I measured. At the same time I built the tunable room downtown and up at my place and found the same to be true. The recordings were not inbetween the speakers at all,  the space was huge, like standing in the studio or hall live space. In all of my rooms at the time 4 listening rooms and studio at my place, the 2 tunable rooms at the factory, and the studio on music row I was able to recreate a full size soundstage. A soundstage that I refer to as the "float". It's when the music becomes totally real and stretches to whatever sizes the space is. I have never ever once heard anything close to this on an audiophile system, but is only able to be done on a setup where there is no blockaged holding it back. Even the most compressed recordings had huge stages and you could hear clearly where there was compression being used but it did not sound like what they audiophiles involved in "the loudness wars" are describing. Honestly, the engineers and audiophiles who talk about this I can tell are doing their listening on stock over built equipment and speakers and are hearing most of their distortion from this. I totally understand that there is a problem with how things are being recorded, but these types of problems have always been around and the only real way to solve this is to back up in our over designing and rebuild a more accurate (from start to finish) audio chain.

back up folks

You see, back when we started to also over build mixers the engineers fell into the same trap as the audiophile designers did. They started way overbuilding mixers and studio equipment and the music started to become squeezed, but somehow this became overlooked because (I think) the engineers were going through their own ego driven "this is expensive and better than that because it is" thing. You can see the parallels between the High End Audio studios and the High End Audio home equipment go through this hand in hand almost. I can remember this clearly and thinking to myself "oh no, here they go". It was very audible but these folks embraced for some reason this sound and in time it kept getting worse and worse. It became so bad in both worlds that people had to toe in their speakers almost completely facing them. They even built placement setups around this. They didn't realize they were creating distortions and getting further away from the sound of the live room. They just kept making music playback into a very closed down sound.

don't be fooled

This industry is still finding itself and has a long way to go in it's understanding of the recording process all the way through playback. One mistake was made when engineers had no idea what an electromagnetic field does when put in a chassis with other electromagnetic chargers. No clue that they are creating the problems. Another problem is the misunderstanding of the vibrating signal. Again no clue. They keep making these cluless mistakes then go on a witch hut trying to make up theories that cover their butts and do anything but putting the blame where it belongs and doing something about it. Does the loudness war exist? Sure it does, always did even back in the analog days. There is a gap between live and playback that must be revisited and rediscovered. The issue is this, live has more dynamic info than the playbacks are able to deal with. The engineers have tried to solve this through squeezing the sound. Ok, I get it, move on and fix the real problem already.  The real problem is we are still in design mode and must make products that know how to carry the signal better. This means treating the signal like what it is (a vibrating continuum) that fades in and out of tune like all vibrating energy does when introduced with variable signal. Hello, are you listening engineers  Sleep , you are making the sound worst and your doing it on every level. The more you close in the sound the worst this is going to get. ARE YOU DEAF? Can the High End Audio industry not hear this? We have the technology to capture music like never before but yet we are producing and playing it back worst then ever before on the high end level. You see these audiophiles standing up and protesting and when you tell them "look over here, we found it" they become like kids on the playground at the end of the day trying to find their mom to take them home. "please Mr. Audio Authority tell me a story so I can feel good about my purchase". "Well youngin, let me tell you a story than, and maybe at the end we can buy this new toy to take home with you".  lol!  Oh my Lord I even busted myself up with that one.

I know, I shouldn't be picking on these poor guys but after awhile isn't it really like watching a comedy show, or one of those reality shows that just keeps going round and round  Rolling Eyes . Hey audiophiles, lets follow the bouncing ball  bounce . Sing along with me  bounce it can't be your audio system that is sounding oh so bad, and we will be the last to tell you sorry buddy you've been had.

in the meantime

Those of you who have found and are finding the hobby of listening along with me I'm thrilled that you have been able to look passed the problems and are looking at the solution. I know that it's kinda weird to be a part of a hobby that has been derailed, but I really believe this is only because it is still young and when you take something that is technical like reproducing sound and a few jump in that speak before listening it's easy to follow and all of a sudden be lost and not quite sure how to get back out of the woods. My recommendation is to put the past in the past and start or reboot by going back to simple even if it looks like a step backward. I assure you it is not. make your system simple and begin exploring the methods of tuning and in no time your going to find the music come to life and you'll be able to play things on your system that you never thought you could. Let the guys playing the blame game stay in their world if they want, there's places to explore in tuneland and layers upon layers of music to discover.  Wink

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PostSubject: Re: the loudness wars   Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:43 pm

A post I wrote in response to a question that fits here

"on the recording vs live

I would not necessarily go after the live dynamics, but something that gives you the emotion you want that is close.

The recordings I have worked on where we (for the heck of it) went full blown dynamics threw the woofers right out of the cabinet. Not really but it did fry the voice coils flairy quick.

We have to keep in mind that there is a stage between live and playback where dynamics need to be adjusted if we want the most out of our fidelity. I should come back to this and think I have talked about this somewhere in the archives but to put it in a nutshell. There is more to live air pressure than meets the ear. This is not always a good thing for playback. In playback the most sensitive drivers (I'm not talking efficiency ratings) have the best chance of reproducing the music facts, but they are also the easiest drivers to damage. this is why you see "pro drivers". They may not be the most accurate but they don't blow as easy when faced with dynamic ranges.

My last trip to Detroit recording in the Sound Lounge gives a good testament for this. We were laying down some gospel tracks and the vocals sounded weird on the pro speakers as they were ok for rap but not so for the vocals and movements of the gospel. We put on my 60's and subs and although everything cleared up dramatically and was plenty loud for a listener and huge soundstage, as soon as the compession was removed and the rap was put back on the speakers wanted to be burried. I have rarely seen voice coils move so much (my poor babies). Back went on the Genelecs, and in the ear plugs. I would have to say that the Gen's maybe produced a third of the sound that the 60's did but they could handle about everything that was thrown at them. The soundstage with the 60's was at least 3 times the size of the Gen's, and the Genelecs had to be pointed right at the listener. They hated off axis! But until there is a driver that can do both (deliver all the signal and handle straight dynamics) we will have this step inbetween. I don't really mind it to be honest. The dynamics for me with playback is pretty darn good, but the compression now days for some reason is sounding a little on the weird side. there's something choppy going on, but that's another topic if the pro side ever gets going.

So basically there are diferent levels of dynamics in music and with technogy not quite being there as far as reproducing true dynamic ranges we have at least two, I think three diferent levels of dynamics from listening live, recording, and playback."

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PostSubject: Re: the loudness wars   Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:00 pm

So are you following any of this or are you lost?

Let me break it down a little. In the studio if you want to increase the overall volume without runing into distortion (being over the theshold) you can compress the extremes then raise the volume.

here's what it looks like



The questions though are, does this affect the new extremes, and is the now louder compressed signal causing distortion in regards to lack of dynamic range?

For me the question is even bigger. If you have a system that is only playing part of the signal anyway how does this sound when you add compression on top?

let me show you something that is pretty important

You always hear me talk about space as a big deal, here's why. If you are squeezing the sound or as many audiophiles say (getting detail) here's what is actually happening much of the time.



If the image is less than full size you are cutting out info. It may sound like it's tighter or more in focus but your actually choping out part of the content.

To me, when I go listen to a typical high end audio system this is what I hear.



The sound goes a little beyond the speaker, but a lot of times is stuck in the speaker before getting past it. I also hear focus but at the cost of the full picture. There is usually a little halo but not a room. If you add compression on top of this, yes you have a mess for sure. This is one of the reasons I push for "big". If you have a "real size" "real space" soundstage, yes you will hear the compression but it will not be nearly as bad as what guys are doing to their stages by over build/over dampening.

As I was trying to head down this road on Stereophile before getting cut off by folks who did not understand where I was going, the real problem these guys should be looking at is trying to get their systems to play more of the signal. The loudness war is a separate issue than them getting distortion. Their getting distortion cause their systems can not play the entire recorded picture.

Is over compression a form of distortion? Absolutely, but so is the omission of the recorded audio signal in playback mode. And this is why they are runing around changing out components all the time trading one distorted picture for another. You see I don't have a problem with flavors of the sound, that's not the problem here. Designers have come up with tons of diferent flavors. My problem is with the lack of being able to give the whole stage and calling it flavor or tight or detailed when it is nothing more than chopping away at the content. If your losing content it's a design flaw, but here's what's going on. Your typical high end audiophile hears a diferent flavor combind with a diferent focus and says "I'm here', then they put on a piece of music that doesn't sound right and start looking for another "part" of the pie, instead of seeing how they can open up that stage to make the recording sound good inside of that flavor. They spend their listening lives jumping from one high end lily pad to another and get POed if you make a comment toward there being another answer. Why? Probably because the authorities have gotten no further. They are basically doing the same thing and are not following a method of tuning in the signal. They don't want to go down a path that makes things variable, if they did these audiophile problems would disappear. As I keep saying plug and play doesn't work if the products are too locked into their signal passing characters.

I totally believe the designers out there right now if they would embrace a variable approach (a little more flexibility) could produce things that go much further than they did in the past. You who tune are proof of this.

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PostSubject: Re: the loudness wars   Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:45 pm

Seems like the stereophile forum can't keep their brains out of the loudness wars. Another thread starts on the issue http://www.stereophile.com/content/dynamics-and-dynamic-range

This time though I'm starting to inquire about some of this and seeing that these articles, reports and tests are weaker than one would think. I of course when something like this comes up (like when I first started to explore this years ago) have to get my systems involved cause anything talked about should be listened to. All the charts a graphs in the world without listening understanding means absolutely zero. Let me also send you to my thread so you can see my own listening.

http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/t4p435-michael-s-system

hmmm...Modern Times sounded pretty darn good, so did Supernatural and now I'm going through the database picky out "bad" recordings according to them, and I'm finding something interesting. This loudness wars thing isn't looking at the way things are sounding, but the way things are measuring. I'm not too into these flimsy tests but I happen to have a copy of  a highly rated Tom Petty greatest hits and one that is suppose to be horrible. Do they sound different? Yes, but not in the way I was expecting and what's even more interesting is how much alike they sound after a healthy settling period. Another hmmm...has me thinking. If these guys are doing their tests on computer systems that have not been settled in the way that we settle our components as serious listeners then these tests are about as real as us throwing on a piece of music without any burnin or system prep. So I'm doing my own test and it's not near done but from what I'm hearing so far the difference between the two CD's is nothing like the difference between a system playing the recording cold vs burned in, not even close, not even in the same Galaxy.

So I went a step further, and I'm already regreting it but a test is a test. I took out and down all of my acoustical treatments and played both Cd's  Laughing . I then put the lid over my amp, not screwed in just over it  Laughing , I did the same with the Player  Laughing Laughing Laughing , lastly as if the pain was not enough, I set the system up according to Cardas. I love you George, but  Laughing . And then it dawns on me just how far ahead of the audiophile norm we are. Light years. These guys are playing in sand boxes while we are on the beach. With every step back to the tunees norm the music took big steps and after a while I just let the music play and you could hear the changes in the system as I was doing it. This isn't about loudness wars at all. This is about having systems that can play music.

Has high end audio really traveled this far off the path?

I've also realized that my studio testing in Nashville goes way further than any of these guys have ever done, it's just talk their giving. Their not bad guys, I like them, but this is not testing, this is not referencing, this is just a bunch of guys trying to figure out why the music won't play on their systems without blaming their systems. Does the loudness wars exist? sure, but so does the lack of the ability to make good sound for the hobbyist. What I would like to do is be the audio fly on the wall while these guys play the approved versions. I have absolutely no doubt that these recordings most of them don't sound good on their systems either. I think if they could deal with the truth it would help them to push forward for better sound, but defending a system that can not play any of these recordings to me seems way off the audiophile path in the true sense.

How can I help them before it is too late? Or is the hobby really that far gone for this part of it? I fear some of these guys are too far gone and their ego is never going to let them face what is obvious.

Both the poorly rated version and the good one of "Tom Petty Greatest Hit's" I have made sound great. I can see the differences clearly but having the flexibility that the tune provides allows me to do things that these guys who have fixed systems can never dream of doing. I'm afraid until the hobby and industry knows what is on a recording and steps up to meet it, the spins will keep coming.

Sad really, their systems are obviously anything but revealing, and they as a result of are willing to sacrafice all these great pieces of music.

but not us  Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: the loudness wars   Fri Aug 15, 2014 3:48 pm

Harold here

I've seen the loudness wars happen, but there is so much great music being made I don't see it as being nearly as big of a problem as others are making it in to. Some recordings are clearly better than others but that has been happening for as long as recordings have been made.

Michael brings up a point about tuning the recording in, and if you have never done this you haven't seen for yourself how close you can get to the original sound. How can you make a judgement on a recording if your not hearing the whole recording is what I would like to ask people? I don't see how you can set something up to give one sound when the recording is trying to give another. Every audiophile should be able to hear that all recordings are different.

What tuning does is gives us another option. We can now match a system to a recording. It's not the recordings job to make a system work right. It's the systems job to play that recording. I'm not sure you can understand this unless you start to tune for yourself.
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