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Why are my CDs and FLAC files so much quiter than Internet radio?


Vincent3

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Today I learned to take off my headphones when going to a new source. Being used to the volume of my CDs, FLAC files, and YouTube, I went to an Internet radio station and got blasted by much higher volume. Even at about 5% on the Internet player's volume control, it's significantly louder and more sonically aggressive (YouTube, CD, and FLAC are at the same level as each other). The settings in Windows Volume Control or Xonar Audio Center don't seem to account for it. What could be causing such a steep difference?

 

Regards,

Vincent

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What could be causing such a steep difference?

Excessive compression ? Perhaps they want to stand out from the crowd, after all, that's pretty well what happened to the original commercial FM stereo radio stations ?

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Excessive compression ? Perhaps they want to stand out from the crowd, after all, that's pretty well what happened to the original commercial FM stereo radio stations ?

 

Most often, the Internet radio stations are FM stations. The same feed that goes to a station's RF transmitter also goes to the computer server and out over the internet. Therefore, in many cases, the same analog compression and limiting is applied to the internet feed as is applied to the over-the-air signal. There are exceptions, however. I don't know anything about so-called "pop" music, but in classics and jazz, some stations do not compress or limit their Internet feed. In fact, WCRB in Boston broadcasts classics with no signal processing and they actually sound very good (for MP3), especially their live broadcasts of The Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, and Tanglewood Festival concerts.

George

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Most often, the Internet radio stations are FM stations.

 

Enough said ! The stations that you listen to are likely to be mainly minimally compressed Classical Music stations. We even have a couple of those left here too. The OP is comparing .flac and CD with Internet radio stations that by the sound of it definitely aren't classical music stations.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Enough said ! The stations that you listen to are likely to be mainly minimally compressed Classical Music stations. We even have a couple of those left here too. The OP is comparing .flac and CD with Internet radio stations that by the sound of it definitely aren't classical music stations.

 

Well, I did say that I can't speak for "pop" stations, as I don't listen to them. But my point is that here in the USA, "pop" radio stations have, essentially, no dynamic range. Everything is close to 100% modulation all the time. It's part of the lamentable "loudness wars" that have afflicted radio and commercial recordings for nigh-on-to 20 years now. The OP wondered why the Internet radio volume was, on average, much higher than his audio sources; well, it's on purpose.

 

Frankly, I find FM quality here in the States, to be dreadful. I believe that the prevailing wisdom is that most FM listening is done in the car. Automobiles (even quiet ones) are adverse conditions for listening to music due to the high background noise level. Therefore essentially all FM outlets compress their audio drastically in order to keep even the quiet passages above the background noise level (I think a variable compressor should be installed in all car audio systems. Often, when playing a file from an iPod device or playing a CD, the wide dynamic range of most classical recordings and some jazz needs "taming" for automotive use.).

 

While MP3 is far from optimal for serious listening to music, when I weigh today's over-the-air FM with MP3 internet radio, MP3 comes out ahead. I'd much rather listen to a few data compression artifacts that one gets listening to a good Internet classical or jazz station that uses variable-bitrate compression, than to listen to the heavy audio compression, hard limiting, multi-path distortion, and background noise that characterizes over-the-air FM that one encounters these days. It wasn't always like that. I remember back in the late 50's and early 60's (before GE-Zenith multiplex stereo ruined everything), when FM sounded great. A mono FM live feed o0ver "Class-A" phone lines from a live concert was considered the best "Fi" that one could get in the home. No compression, no limiting (the FM band in any market, even New York City, was so sparse, and the stations so far apart on the dial, that the FCC didn't enforce their over-modulation rules, so FM broadcasters just "let-'et-fly!"). But now the FM band is crowded in all urban markets, even the "college station" end of the dial - so compression and limiting are de-riguer.

George

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