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compression rebellion?


TimH

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Hey Peter,

 

Yes it's sad, but I actually take some hope from this that maybe more people are realizing that they are being fed crappy sound quality. The more stories that come out like this, the better, I say.

 

Come to think of it, when the nearly deaf headbangers of the world start noticing compression you know it's gotten bad and maybe we've turned a corner towards better sound. (Now, no flames from you headbangers out there - I have a complete catalog of AC/DC that I enjoy thoroughly. I do, however, plan on wearing my earplugs when I see them this year.)

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Some observations

 

Compression of audio is no new thing.

 

About 15 years ago I was having a discussion with Ron Murphy (who is the guy who mastered a lot of the detroit techno classics and whom many believe is responsible for the specific "hot" sound of detroit techno that has so obsessed the European electronic scene for over two decades).

 

Ron was an avid Motown enthusiast and was known, at the time, as the person in possession of the largest Motown vinyl collection of any private individual (ie non library or record company).

 

He told me an interesting story...

 

We all know that Motown records have a distinct, instantaneously recognisable sound. And we all love Motown for it.

At the time most of these records were coming out one of the main methods for "the kids" to hear records was through juke boxes. Berry Gordy wanted his records to be heard by everyone and since juke boxes were set to a fixed volume (in the diners and bars around America) he wanted his records to be louder than any everyone else's records. Motown records were mastered with this specific intention and it is this specific mastering intention which was, according to Ron, responsible for that "Motown Sound".

 

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Both Metallica and their producer Rick Rubin have gone on record as saying that's how they wanted the record to sound. Rubin did the same for LL Cool J's mid-80s break-through record - the stark, minimalist classic "I can't live without my radio". I have heard countless musicians complaining about the compression on the track, but one cannot deny the aesthetic of its production.

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Mobb Deep deliberately amplified the scratches on the samples they used on their "Infamous" lp - presumably, to emphasize that they were playing other people's records, rather than having a session band playing live in the background.

 

Portishead record their music in hi-fidelity, transfer it to vinyl, scratch it up and then record the scratched vinyl version for the release to the general public.

 

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If Metallica or any other artist wish their music to sound a particular way and they have the power to get their music out to the public in that way: surely this allows us as listeners to hear the music as the maker intended? And - whether it be high compresson or lo-fidelity or scratched or "poorly recorded" - is this not a good thing?'?

 

 

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"If Metallica or any other artist wish their music to sound a particular way and they have the power to get their music out to the public in that way: surely this allows us as listeners to hear the music as the maker intended? And - whether it be high compresson or lo-fidelity or scratched or "poorly recorded" - is this not a good thing?'?"

 

I agree 100%. That's why I always say a system needs to reproduce whats on the CD or record as perfect as possible. Not reproduce what the live session sounded like during the recording or anything else. We have to assume the release sounds like the artist intended it to sound.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Very interesting discussion. I have to admit though, that I do not agree completely.

 

If these artists are really choosing this sound, because they think it serves their purpose then the decision to include compressed-to-death music was rightfully done. Still, I keep thinking that these artists simply don´t know what they are doing. I believe it was Bob Ludwig who said, that he asks every artist before mastering how the CD should sound. Most of them want their releases pristine, straight from the master tape. But one day later after hearing that version they always come back and ask "Why is my release not so loud as the one from Artist XY?" What happens then is easy: Bob Ludwig uses compression to make it louder.

 

General consensus among mastering engineers is that 80 % of the artists don´t know **it about sound. It looks a bit different in classical, jazz or blues. But for mainstream (I count Metallica to mainstream) the situation is not that good. Records mostly are made louder in order to sound good on cheap equipment or on radio (despite the fact that radio stations themselves use compression). If Metallica really wanted this sound - fine by me. If Madonna on "Hard Candy" wants that distorted sound to achive an urban feel - also fine by me.

 

But if the mastering engineer of "Californication" from Red Hot Chili Peppers talks about how he achieved this distorted, near monaural sound... I´m sorry, the man is proud of his work, but I just can´t take him serious. For me he´s an idiot. The same goes for most of the releases by artists like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and countless others. The decision to make their records as loud as possible sureley has nothing do to with artistic reasons. The only reason for that is commerce. And since most mainstream artists want to earn money by selling music I doubt the reasoning of Metallica a bit.

 

I also know a bit of the Motown sound. This sound is not only achieved by making it louder than other artists, it also sounds that way because two drum sets were used. This is only one example but there are countless others. Furthermore, analogue compression is different to digital compression (used right now). In Motown times records just couldn´t be made so hot - the needle would have jumped from the vinly.

 

Take "Arial" from Kate Bush, an album mastered in 2005 with pristine sound, only slightly compressed (around 3 dB too loud). Kate Bush herself talked about the fact that she wanted the sound exactly this way - EMI wanted to compress it but she objected. She wanted the sound on the CD to sound like the masters she so carefully crafted with her team. She´s only one example. The mother of the late Jeff Buckley also made sure for the latest release that the sound won´t be over compressed.

 

A "wall of sound" certainly works for some music styles but not for all.

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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Hi Cavaille - The Californication album is one of my favorite in terms of content, but I can't take the sound. In one sense the artists / record labels can't lose by compressing the heck out of an album. They get to sell the album and the sound pleases everyone who doesn't care about sound quality. Those of us who do care are just frustrated with the sound, but it's all we have. Years later the artists / labels gets to sell the same album after its been remastered. Audiophiles are certainly going to pick up the remastered version. If RHCP releases a remastered version of Californication I would love it and pay $30 to MFSL.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Exactly Chris. I didn´t want to sound like a pain in the... you know. But maybe we won´t have to wait until the remaster comes out. I "repair" those lost dynamic peaks with iZotope RX Advanded DeClipper. This little gem removes the distortions nearly completely while reconstructing lost peaks. It´s of course not the original but for the time being it is one solution...

 

Nevertheless, if a remastered version comes out, I certainly will buy it. :))

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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Exactly Chris. I didn´t want to sound like a pain in the... you know. But maybe we won´t have to wait until the remaster comes out. I "repair" those lost dynamic peaks with iZotope RX Advanded DeClipper. This little gem removes the distortions nearly completely while reconstructing lost peaks. It´s of course not the original but for the time being it is one solution...

 

Nevertheless, if a remastered version comes out, I certainly will buy it. :))

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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