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John Dyson

I need some feedback -- confused, maybe

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Some of you might know that I am working on some audio processing software...  However, I am having problems with 'taste' or 'which has the desirable sound.'  I have done NO extra processing beyond the specific result that my own processor is supposed to do -- it should be a fairly good representation of the oriignal album, but cleaner/more distinct.  However, I search around for reference version from friends/correspondants/etc.  I was provided a snippet from an SACD version -- and the sound is TOTALLY different.  Question -- need some ideas as to what is the preferredsound?  It seems like compression is more common and stronger than it used to be, and wondering if compression is really better.  The ONLY dynamics processing done by me is a decoding type operation and NOT processing for a certain sound.  This really confounded me because I had expected the SACD version to sound 'better' to me, but it doesn't.  I have other versions (e.g. from HDtracks, which this isn't) sounds different yet -- still more compressed than the raw album DolbyA compatible decode.

 

I am interested in the 'possible change in taste'.

 

The 'Album' version, just 'decoded', no extra compression, limiting, or expansion for effect.  The 'Album' version has ZERO extra EQ.  NO mastering or cleanup other than decoding.

The 'SACD' version, no extra processing added from the original SACD...

(I used .mp3 because the difference is clear, and also limited the length in the examples to be a good citizen.)

 

This *really* suprised me.  My friend thought that he was sending me a 'reference' (SACD) version, instead of got a 'different' version...

The raw album version (just DolbyA decoded) is the (ALBUM) version.

ALBUM:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cn48bcbpsvh8zdl/SuperStar-Album.mp3?dl=0

SACD:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qp1yfma1pfcc2an/SuperStar-SACD.mp3?dl=0

 

Is the SACD really better by people's taste nowadays (or always?)

 

John

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Maybe I wasn't being 100% honest in asking the question...  How can the SACD copy (compressed mushed squeezed sound) be worth anything when compared with the original?  What is going on when something that is supposedly superior is so 'damaged'?   I noticed a remastered version of Carpenters singles from HDtracks had similar (but not quite so severe) damage...  What IS going on?

 

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Actually this track from the RBCD Abba -SOS The Best of (Japan) doesn't sound too bad, albeit it is several dB louder.

 The voices aren't quite as much a basket case though. Weird effect ! O.o

 The nameofthegame-dhnrds Is clearly better than the other version though.


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 31-10-2018

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I tried these today.  The first version sounded fine to me, rather good in fact, the SACD clip in comparison sounded like going from decent floor standing speaker to inferior stand mounts.


Windows 10 PC, Roon, HQPlayer, SOtM sMS-200Ultra, tX-USBultra, sPS-500, SOtM modified switch, Mutec REF10, Mutec MC3+USB, Devialet 1000Pro, KEF Blade.

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I will listen later. Best if you don’t identify  the tracks so that you get unbiased feedback. You are much luckier than me to get this many responses. 

 

Edit added:-

I prefer the SACD. The background music much clearer. The vocal is right. Instruments presence are more pronounced. I did increase SACD volume by 2.5dB after I sense that the SACD version was better despite the Album appears to be sharper when listened without the level increase. 

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My version derived directly from a copy of a DolbyA version is the first one (natural.)  The 2nd one to me sounds compressed and distant.  Each person has their own taste, but it seems (to me) that the general taste is going towards a compressed sound.  The natural version is about as 'naked' as the recording gets.  (You can actually hear the distortion from the original -- the first version above -- in the remastered HDtracks version.  They apparently, for remastering the HDtracks version, only had the distorted DolbyA versions to begin with, and simply added some compression/accompanyment/EQ to the original.)

* I was initially incredulous that the SACD version was so very far from the original recording...

 

This general taste for compression is the reason why I asked the question.  It is interesting to me -- I actually used to like compressed sound, but compression can almost never be done without distortion.  Now, since I am working on audio processing -- I have become hyper-sensitized because I know *exactly* how to listen for the gain control distortion  (it is all part of the audio h*ll thing.)

 

The real problem with the orginal (not-compressed-additionally) stuff is that ALL of the original distortion and vocal enhancement is obvious.  Sometimes it seems that some compression helps to take the edge off of the sound.  Sometimes, mellowing out the sound with some EQ or compression might be helpful.

 

Hearing the super clear, raw DolbyA decoded versions of Linda Ronstadt (stuff like 'Just One Look') using the Aphex distorter (keep forgetting the real name) is a real trip to audio hell.  Potentially really clear, nice sound -- all mangled by phase/time corruption.

 

John

 

 

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33 minutes ago, John Dyson said:

My version derived directly from a copy of a DolbyA version is the first one (natural.)  The 2nd one to me sounds compressed and distant.  Each person has their own taste, but it seems (to me) that the general taste is going towards a compressed sound.  The natural version is about as 'naked' as the recording gets.  (You can actually hear the distortion from the original -- the first version above -- in the remastered HDtracks version.  They apparently, for remastering the HDtracks version, only had the distorted DolbyA versions to begin with, and simply added some compression/accompanyment/EQ to the original.)

* I was initially incredulous that the SACD version was so very far from the original recording...

 

This general taste for compression is the reason why I asked the question.  It is interesting to me -- I actually used to like compressed sound, but compression can almost never be done without distortion.  Now, since I am working on audio processing -- I have become hyper-sensitized because I know *exactly* how to listen for the gain control distortion  (it is all part of the audio h*ll thing.)

 

The real problem with the orginal (not-compressed-additionally) stuff is that ALL of the original distortion and vocal enhancement is obvious.  Sometimes it seems that some compression helps to take the edge off of the sound.  Sometimes, mellowing out the sound with some EQ or compression might be helpful.

 

Hearing the super clear, raw DolbyA decoded versions of Linda Ronstadt (stuff like 'Just One Look') using the Aphex distorter (keep forgetting the real name) is a real trip to audio hell.  Potentially really clear, nice sound -- all mangled by phase/time corruption.

 

John

 

 

 

Glad you liked the Dolby A processed sound. OTOH, I prefer not to alter the original sound in the recording. I used to add a low pass filter for the sub but no longer.

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6 hours ago, STC said:

 

Glad you liked the Dolby A processed sound. OTOH, I prefer not to alter the original sound in the recording. I used to add a low pass filter for the sub but no longer.

The DolbyA version IS the original version.   The original version was DolbyA encoded.  (In fact Karen's vocals were enhanced -- which give that overly 'crisp' sound.  Some of the earlier albums were NOT as enhanced, you can tell by listening to the original recordings.) The SACD version IS the compressed version (or at least, somehow processed beyond DolbyA decoding.)   This is what I was commenting on -- the preference for the ADDITIONAL compressed sound.  This is now a common thing -- I am not judging either way, just interested (that is why I was confused.)  Even people who like audio also like compression from time to time.

 

Here is the undecoded version from the album  (I wasn't really trying to talk so much about DolbyA decoding -- notice that the peaks are the same as the undecoded version but also the more extreme overly crisp sound).  I happened into DolbyA encoded versions of the Carpenters albums -- that is what I am starting with.  Even the normal vinyl might have been further processed -- that is called *mastering*.  The SACD version surprised me -- I had expected an excellent DolbyA decode, not an additionally compressed version.  HDtracks remastered versoin  is similar (more compression).

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/k0t4grg530znywy/SuperStar-undecoded.mp3?dl=0

 

John

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Just realized that there might have also been a defect in my comparison -- the copy that I produced was NOT mastered.  It was just decoded from a fairly close to master tape.  By the time that the material gets to vinyl it might have some attenuation on the high end.  I noticed on some ABBA stuff about -3dB in the 15kHz range.   It might vary from recording to recording (or album to album.)  It seems like a lot of albums are done all at once --- probably the reason why the average/peak levels of each song is sometimes different.  Also, some albums seem to have one or two of the songs 'corrected' because of an unexpected quality to it.

 

On my album 'original', I just now, experimented with a simple 2nd order lowpass at 17.5k with a Q of 0.707, and it probably sounds closer to what most people might expect.  By doing the lowpass, NOTHING is really missing, but it does remove some of of the intensity.  I don't know why they do the intense HF, other than actual DolbyA HW tends to mute the high frequencies because of some kind of HF distortion -- kind of like tape itself, and recording engineers might have tried to compensate for it.  My decoder is very faithful to what is in the recording.  I found out that one of the natural distortion mechanisms doesn't appear to be so much IMD, but rather a kind of uncompensated timing non-random-dither in the attack/decay curves.  I don't know where it comes from -- might be the delay in the feedback loop when encoding.   My decoder does compensate for that wobble -- lines up the highs (in a time sense) more accurately.  The decoded material is probably as close to what went into the DolbyA encoder as been heard in 40yrs.  That does NOT mean that it produces the expected sound -- because the muffling is what is expected.

 

I have also gotten used to non-mastered material.  (Not all material has been modified, but some material DOES sound more normal with a bit of massaging.)  In some cases, the actual mastered material does sound worse (IMO), and sometimes it sounds better.  Lately, there has been a habit of improving the competitiveness by compression (decreasing the peak-RMS ratio), allowing the materail to be played more loudly given the same amplifier power (or modulation of a transmitter.)

 

I agree about compression though -- -it is not necessarily bad.  I *do* think that it should be avoided if possible, and should be used in careful amounts.  (No loudness wars by using broadcast processors on recordings -- like appearntly 'The Complete Studio Recordings' from ABBA. That was a VERY destructive thing.  Sounds 6-9dB louder -- kind of amazing, actually.)

 

John

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On ‎4‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 7:38 PM, John Dyson said:

agree about compression though -- -it is not necessarily bad.  I *do* think that it should be avoided if possible, and should be used in careful amounts

 

Among other things, such as reducing the "sweetness" and individuality of female voices, Compression almost invariably degrades low level ambience and reduces 3Dimensionality.


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 31-10-2018

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Pardon my ignorance, but I am totally confused. How can an SACD file converted to lossy mp3 be representative of what the SACD sounds like?


"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted"- William Bruce Cameron

 

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2 hours ago, Allan F said:

Pardon my ignorance, but I am totally confused. How can an SACD file converted to lossy mp3 be representative of what the SACD sounds like?

I am NOT claiming that it sounds exactly like the original SACD, but the difference between the SACD and the direct decode from a DolbyA copy is extreme enough that the differences are still shown.  mp3 doesn't do enough damage to obscure the difference, but does damage nonetheless.

 

I am SUPER familar with mp3/opus/etc damage (not familar with the damage caused by AAC -- but at least I am honest about it.)

You would NOT believe how clean the direct, 24bit flac 96k  immediately decoded DolbyA copies sound.  The sound is SO clean that the damage from mp3 is much greater than with the SACD version -- because the direct decode starts with cleaner audio.

 

The temporal damage from mp3 is pretty severe (a chorus merges together too much -- lost detail.)  It is more difficult to hear the damage when starting with lower quality material (like traditional commercial copies -- even the Carpenters stuff from HDtracks.)  Lower quality material tends to be fuzzier, over-mastered, etc.  (The temporal damage using Opus seems significantly less, but there is a graininess that I am not really sure what is going on.)

.

John

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5 hours ago, sandyk said:

 

Among other things, such as reducing the "sweetness" and individuality of female voices, Compression almost invariably degrades low level ambience and reduces 3Dimensionality.

You are dead right about the spatial image (e.g. stereo image.)  Compression flattens the image -- that is probably the second major improvement (other than frequency response) that proper DolbyA decoding does.  I would place correcting the stereo image being more important than the HF compression itself.  (Even though, the HF compression is the biggest cause of the damage to the spatial image.)

 

However, some people DO like compression, and a small amount of JUDICIOUS compression can make material more listenable FOR SOME PEOPLE.  I generally dislike the sound of compresison myself (and I have written a free-to-use compressor -- MANY TIMES/KINDS/VERSIONS.)  There is a free one on Hydrogenaudio FWIW.

 

John

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