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bluesman

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Posts posted by bluesman

  1. 34 minutes ago, Blake said:

    I hope I'm not being pedantic, but it seems that distinguishing the term 'distortion' from 'alteration' is important because of the negative implications of the term 'distortion' which can often start online fights.  

     

    As a professional in the industry, I'd be curious if you if you have any thoughts on 'distortion' versus 'alterations' when you are engineering or producing and whether you find tubes to be introducing distortion, or alterations of the sound signal?

    Any alteration of the signal is a distortion of the signal.  EQ is distortion.  Compression is distortion.  “Tube warmth” is distortion. Etc.  Not all distortion is bad, in that many forms enhance our listening pleasure.  But if the waveform that hits your ears is not the same one generated by the source, it’s distorted. 

  2. 15 minutes ago, hopkins said:

    Everyone else explaining that even if we did have a "zero distortion system" we would not be able to know that because the recording itself introduces its own "distortions" (from microphones, the recording process, mastering, etc...) and we are never getting the true sound of musical instruments (even if we were able to know how each of them sounded) 

    But the question of accuracy is usually based on comparison between the master and what you’re hearing from your system.  We all agree that most commercial recordings are “distorted” in that the performance is processed, ostensibly but often unsuccessfully to reproduce a better and more universally playable and enjoyable recording.  We all agree that most fail to present a pristine and perfectly faithful image of the actual performance that was recorded.  So you’re right that it’s a rare commercial recording that captures the true and exact sound of musical instruments.

     

    But there are many recordings available to us made from masters that come close enough for critical distinctions to be heard easily.  Skillful engineers choose mics that preserve and favor the sound of the instruments and performances for which they’re used.   The great mastering engineers use only as much processing as they need to make the master playable on their target devices.  The rest squeeze and manipulate so that the master yields salable sounds heard best on mobile devices, auto stereo, boom boxes etc.  We know what the latter sounds like - the dynamic range is narrower than Barbie’s waist and they’re louder than a Pee Wee Herman suit.  
     

    But most of us also know how the good ones sound, and we gladly “settle” for that.  The Gillian Welch recording Jud used for his example is one of many very fine recordings that capture the true essence of a performance with extremely little distortion.  The true sounds of the instruments are clearly delineated and preserved sufficiently accurately to emerge intact from the speakers of most systems of more than modest quality.   The sound of that Epiphone guitar in the master is extremely close to the live sound of that actual instrument. The minor distortions introduced by the devices and processes used to capture and master it are both audible and well known to many of us.  They alter the sound in a minor way that does not disguise its character.

     

    If you had a true zero distortion system, you could hear the changes introduced by the recording process, and you could also hear how well or poorly the master presents the sound of the performance.  Accuracy and fidelity of a fine master are obvious despite the flaws inherent in the recording process because you’ll hear and recognize the flaws too.  Of course, a bad master would also be evident if you know how the performance should sound.

  3. 45 minutes ago, Kimo said:

    Perhaps, "accuracy" is a matter of taste.

    Perhaps so - but I suspect it's more the fact that "realism" is a matter of taste. So is "sound quality".  GIven that there's no such thing as the best, this is both understandable and reasonable.  If there were truly a "best" anything, most of us would be uniform in our praise and our desire to have it.

  4. 18 minutes ago, Allan F said:

    I agree that, as a starting point, one has to be able to hear differences of this magnitude to judge playback accuracy. OTOH, whereas unamplified acoustic instruments can be used as a standard for "the absolute sound", electric or amplified ones cannot.

    Thanks!  With all due respect, I think you’re correct about many but not all.  Trying to differentiate between heavily distorted flying 32nd notes from Hendrix, Guy, and Stevie Ray is most often a fool’s errand.  But in jazz, there are some clearly audible differences, eg the “thunk” of Tal Farlow, the sweet smooth sound of Johnny Smith, the woody sound of Mundell Lowe, and the relatively flatter drier electric sound of Wes Montgomery.  All of them played amplified archtop guitars, and they all have distinct sounds both recorded and live (I’m old enough to have enjoyed them all - I even had a stage side table to hear Wes on my 21st birthday).

     

    Hopefully without stirring more flames, I suggest going to YouTube and listening to the four guitarists mentioned above.  For similar differences in basses, listen to Brian Bromberg, Ron Carter, and Richard Davis (all of whom play upright basses).

  5. 45 minutes ago, hopkins said:

     

    I understand your point of view (and appreciate learning more as well, within the limitations I explained before). First of all, you confuse being able to "discern" sound differences, and being able to "name" them or associate them with a specific instrument. I certainly hope that people can hear differences in sound even if they cannot explicitly name the instrument being played.

     

    I am trying to find out whether we can actually compare equipment and assess their accuracy even if we were not in the recording booth (which rarely happens, I think we can agree on that). I think it is a valid question as most of us here actually spend quite some time discussing the merits of various equipment.

     

    I don't understand what we can conclude from your explanations other than "don't waste your time buying equipment if you don't know the difference between x and y instruments". What are your recommendations ? That we spend time learning about all these different instruments before we go out and purchase an audio system ?

     

    You've made your point (you had already made it in your articlese).

    Your continued misinterpretations and misrepresentations of what I keep saying tells me that I've failed miserably to make my point...at least, to you.  I absolutely do NOT "confuse being able to 'discern' sound differences, and being able to 'name' them or associate them with a specific instrument".   I said in my preceding post in this thread that "whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant".   In a prior post, I said that "I don’t give a rat’s rectum if an audiophile knows anything about musical instruments and I don’t base respect for people on such isolated and largely unimportant knowledge".  I've said this so many times on AS in so many ways that I'm beginning to wonder how attentively you're reading.

     

    My main recommendation is that those with the desire to do so can learn more about the nature of the music and instruments to which they love to listen.  Many find this knowledge to be valuable, in that it enhances their enjoyment of their hobby by opening up new listening experiences for them.  My second recommendation is that people who don't hear differences of the magnitude I'm discussing and don't think they're important should continue to enjoy the hobby however they wish.  They should buy whatever equipment pleases them.   But I wish they would not pontificate about sonic accuracy, because I think they're confusing accuracy with their perception of realism.

     

    I respect everyone's opinion and wish them nothing but joy in pursuit of their goals.  I'm simply uninterested in the judgments of audiophiles who can't hear and/or don't care about grossly audible sonic differences that matter to many of us.

  6. 6 hours ago, hopkins said:

     

    If I did not care about the accuracy of my system I would not be discussing all this now. So what you really mean is that I don't care about knowing which instruments (models, brands) are being played.You are right on that point, I am not so interested in that aspect of music. My loss. I do respect the fact that you are; whether you respect "audiophiles" like me who do not share your point of view is another question...

     

    Not knowing which guitar model Freddie Green plays, can I still make a difference between a good and a bad recording of Freddie Green? And can I make a difference between a more accurate system (if there is such a thing)? Your answer is no to both of these questions. Thanks for your contribution. 

    You’re making many unwarranted, inaccurate assumptions and interpretations.  First, I never said that anyone doesn’t care about accuracy. I said that many audiophiles assume that their systems are accurate because they hear what they expect to hear, whether or not it sounds like the performance (or the master, if they differ).

     

    Second, I said that whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant.  No one can judge accuracy without being able to discern the difference in sound between two instruments that truly and objectively sound grossly different but have the same name, eg kick drum, guitar, piano etc.  

     

    I don’t give a rat’s rectum if an audiophile knows anything about musical instruments and I don’t base respect for people on such isolated and largely unimportant knowledge.  My point is simple and consistent: I don’t think that anyone can critically judge the accuracy of playback without being able to hear differences of the magnitude of those between a small and a large kick drum, an electric and an acoustic guitar, or a Fender bass and Brian Bromberg’s 300 year old upright acoustic bass in excellent and relatively unprocessed recordings.

     

    I introduced the specifics of players and instruments only because most audiophiles I know didn’t have any idea there was so much variation.  Many seem interested and appreciate learning more.  Some take umbrage and assume they’re being belittled in some way.  I never said you couldn’t assess accuracy because you don’t know what kind of guitar Freddie Green played. But you truly can’t assess accuracy if you can’t tell that there’s a difference between the sound of Freddie Green’s guitar and the sound of Grant Green’s guitar. And that’s a task that can be accomplished without even knowing who’s playing each instrument or what they are.  All you need to do is recognize that you’re hearing two different guitar sounds.

     

    Whether or not anyone can do this has nothing to do with my level of respect for him or her.

  7. 1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    If people think they can judge accuracy of a playback system, then they should be clearly able to identify every instrument on the album, and I mean specific instrument not just guitar, but the model, the drum set and its make up (size of kick drum), the material on the walls of the studio (absorptive, reflective, etc...) the EQ used in mixing and mastering, and everything else involved. 

     

    If you can't identify those aspects perfectly, then you can't judge accuracy because you need to know these in order to judge it. 

    Unless you’re exaggerating for effect, ya kinda lost me here, Chris.  Anything and everything in the chain from mic element to the final product can and often does diminish the differentiators among instruments etc. So it’s simply not possible to do that for many, if not most, commercial recordings.  Only if the recording is accurate can reproduction be judged for accuracy.

  8. 8 hours ago, Mike27 said:The entire disc has been mastered about 3 dB out of balance. Oopsie!

    6167ED22-B399-4680-981F-C36F50F96149.png

    Then again, that may be the dynamic of the original recording.  Musical performance is not perfectly symmetric - it’d be pure coincidence if left-right balance were exactly 50:50 even if one or more performers (or their sound reinforcement or pan placement) had been dead center.  You could try “remastering” it to balance content exactly, just to see if it sounds different.

  9. 1 hour ago, Mike27 said:

    Ha, I never got past opening a few files; was already using an old version of Studio One for a few simple projects, & have enough I/O to mix analog if I want. None of which is germane to the article. But I do sometimes make certain... adjustments... to favorite music I find “lacking.” It’s really just an outgrowth of decades of making safety copies, maybe using a click reducer or other such toy. So I’ll be interested in any observations, discussion of technique, etc. 

    That’s exactly what I had in mind when I came up with the topic and approach!  There are many pro tricks available to us too. And even those who won’t be doing this to their own files will benefit from knowing more about how recordings are made.  The mid-side decomp is particularly useful and common, but there’s an endless stream of tweaks out there.  Enjoy!

  10. 11 hours ago, Mike27 said:

    As often happens, I’m starting this series here, will circle back to the first two articles. But I wanted to mention that Tracktion DAW is available as a full-featured free version. This started with their making earlier versions free a few years ago. I may want to update mine...

     

    https://www.tracktion.com/products/waveform-free

     

    But in all honesty I use Audacity more often, partly out of familiarity, but mostly because it’s often the most efficient tool, at least for low track counts. 

    I have Tracktion 7 on my Win10 PC and agree that it's well worth considering.  Strengths include good VST instrument support and a simple one window GUI with logical work flow from left to right.  As I recall, it does not have a separate mixer window and I missed that.  I've also installed it on Linux boxes, RPi 3 and RPi 4.  It's still a 32 bit RPi program, so it doesn't take advantage of the latest 64 bit Raspberry Pi OS (which means that it can't access more than 4 gigs of RAM).  It works very well on my Ubuntu 20 media center.

  11. 8 hours ago, Rexp said:

    Can you link the unprocessed wav files again? Sorry i missed it

    There are no raw tracks because the processing projects described in the article are done on stereo mixes.  So there are 3 links to wavs in the article, and all 3 are stereo mixes of multiple studio tracks of individual instruments. The first is a mixed and normalized but otherwise unaltered segment with an acoustic guitar, a resonator guitar, and a harmonica.  The second is a complete basic master track of these parts plus the vocal, and the third is a “remastering” of the second one using mid-side processing that added the delays, EQ etc described in the article.  
     

    You could go back to raw original tracks and both re-edit and re-mix them before making a new master recording, i.e. the final version in the final format(s) to be copied for production of distributable / salable recordings.  But remastering alone is done on an already mixed file.  A complete remix of raw tracks is both much more involved and beyond the scope of this simple introduction to the life of a recording between capture and consumer.
     

    The second link provided in the article is a basic stereo mix of the original instrumental and vocal tracks for one song from a CD made for and sold by the Philly Blues Society.  I performed and recorded all parts myself in my studio, and I provided this stereo mix to the commercial lab that mastered and issued the disc last year using this file.  It’s excellent for experimenting - the instruments and voice are simple, clear, and very responsive to editing.

     

    The third link is an example of remastering the second file using mid-side processing with EQ, delay etc as described in the article.  It’s just one example - there’s an endless spectrum of possible results.  I hope you enjoy and benefit from this!

  12. 12 hours ago, LucaS said:

    The reason why I am talking about the headphones output in the computer is because that's what I would use to connect the computer to the DAC (the one provided by ELAC, see my previous reply), using an optical digital cable (Toslink).

    Most headphone out jacks are purely analog and are driven by the DAC on the computer's MOBO.  Several Mac models over the years have had a combination analog headphone jack and 1/8" optical output, as do Chromecast audio and a few other devices.  This doesn't take a standard TOSLINK cable - it needs either a cable with an 1/8" optical connector on it or an adapter (cheap and easy to find).   If you insert an 1/8" TRS headphone plug into those combo jacks, you'll get analog output.

     

    The Apple support page to which you linked above is from 2017, and it only identifies late 2014 Minis as having the combo jack.  The latest Mini specs do not show an optical audio output at all, and there's no mention of it in the "connectivity" list for the current Mini on the Apple website.  So I'm not sure the new Mini still has that feature.

     

    I assume from your posts that you have the ELAC AirX 403s and not the newer ARB51s.  As I recall, the wireless base station for the AirX has a USB input, although I don't know the specs on it and have no idea what resolution is supported by either the optical or the USB input.  Assuming it supports the highest resolution you want to play, I'd use USB from computer to base station if my memory is correct and there is a USB input.

     

    But there are many other options, as described by others.  You can run a music server on many NAS units (I do it on my Asustor).  You can run a music server with excellent SQ on a Raspberry Pi - there's even a JRiver version for it that works very well on my Pi 3s and 4s.  You could buy a basic clearance sale Windows PC with enough processor and RAM to do the job, and use Foobar2000 for excellent sound and great flexibility. You could also get an i3 NUC - I love mine for Roon ROCK.  I'd stay away from used computers unless you find a great bargain in a properly checked and refurbished one.  The above choices are so inexpensive that the risk of a used computer far outweighs the benefit for this purpose.

  13. 1 minute ago, sphinxsix said:

    As for the bagpipe version - please don't feel obliged to go to a great length with attempts to find it (saying it also taking into account @bluesman's participation in this thread) ;)

    It's OK with me!  It's not exactly music to my ears.  But if it's in the interest of science and education, I'm all for it.

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