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ASR burning the wrong witches?

Waxx

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“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

—Brian Eno
This makes me think about this kind of music. This is a kind of reggae that cherish the lofi'ness of early digital equipment, and it has a huge following. This style (8bit digital reggae) started in the mid 1980's when jamaicans in the ghetto's discovered the cheape synths of casio (especially the MT-40) and was a kind of the punk of reggae. The song i link is made in 2009 in Germany with a french singer with a terrible accent altough...

 

JJB70

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I think the OP goes to the heart of what people want from the hobby and raises some pertinent questions.

I think most of use would take a step back and say the foundation is that whatever is being recorded should be something we want to listen to, which means the composition and performance. If we accept that then we can move onto to the OP's point and discuss what really matters, and that then does raise the question - what is audio gear for? It's one of those questions which is so obvious that it seldom seems to be discussed by audio enthusiasts yet what we want out of the hobby is pretty fundamental to how we should view the hobby. And the answer to that one is personal, we each have our own passions and interests and it is one of those questions for which the right answer is the one which is right for you.

For me, there are two separate but over lapping hobbies, listening to music, and audio gear. The first is what matters, but I do like gear. I still have an old Sony ES set-up which I serviced a year or two ago to keep it going as long as I'll need it to. I love it, and one day I would still like an Accuphase system, but the reason I love it isn't because it sounds better, it is the industrial design and sense of absolute quality. As an engineer I like well engineered, well built stuff which is a pleasure to own and use. For listening to music however I am happy with my smartphone, a generic dongle and my ER4SR IEMs because I think Peter Aczel was absolutely correct, it is the recording that matters. The gear really doesn't matter much. A really great recording (or something we want to listen to) will shine through on anything, however if it is a poor recording then nothing we can do downstream will correct that (as we say in English, you can't polish a turd).

Where it becomes difficult is that because sound engineers exist at the interface of science (the recording hardware and technology) and art (the music, or whatever is being recorded) it will always be rather subjective. Use of compression is a good example, compression gets a very negative press, but some use of compression can be hugely beneficial to facilitate playback. I have some classical music recordings where the dynamic range does mean I sometimes adjust volume during playback as to have certain passages at a reasonable volume would be way too loud at other points. Compression is like most technologies, in itself it is neither good or bad, what matters is how it is used.

For all that, I have loads of old recordings which are technically awful but which I love because of the performances they capture.
 

goat76

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Thanks for the reply. So far, i dont think anyone ever measured a recording and post results. So, without any data, how can someone objectively say that a recording is good or bad?
Different masterings of the same recording can be objectively compared with a program called MasVis. With the program, it's easy to see if the master has been limited just to make it louder for example.

But the recording itself can never be measured objectively and ranked by a program. The different tricks and things that the mixing engineer has done to create the stereo illusions in the mix, like delays, different layers, pannings and stuff like that can never be measured and ranked by a program.
The result of all that is of course subjective and can only be ranked by the individual listeners.
 

Marc v E

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Different masterings of the same recording can be objectively compared with a program called MasVis. With the program, it's easy to see if the master has been limited just to make it louder for example.

But the recording itself can never be measured objectively and ranked by a program. The different tricks and things that the mixing engineer has done to create the stereo illusions in the mix, like delays, different layers, pannings and stuff like that can never be measured and ranked by a program.
The result of all that is of course subjective and can only be ranked by the individual listeners.
There is also a database on the web that shows dynamic range of recordings: https://dr.loudness-war.info/ Afaik this is a good indication of a good recording. (You can search by pressing the menu top right)
 
OP
Shadrach

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Yeah, this and other examples I referred to as "aggressive language" that I think buried the merit of the idea in animosity.

With nothing but good intent, let me try to strip the OPs theme down into a linear series of questions.

1. Do some recordings today optimize for lo-fi systems at the expense of hi-fi systems?
2. Does the proliferation of these lo-fi optimized recordings risk materially decreasing the value of owning a hi-fi system?
3. Can the practices used to optimize for lo-fi systems be objectively determined and measured by investigation of the published recording?
4. Would there be value in informing consumers of lo-fi optimized recordings so they can make informed choices for the music they consume?
5. Would #4 influence producers to reduce optimizing for lo-fi systems at the expense of hi-fi systems?
6. Should ASR perform objective critiques of recordings?

My request is to answer these honestly. The questions build on each other, so a "NO" answer at any point means the following questions are moot, but feel free to expound on all. I'll go first ...

1. Do some recordings today optimize for lo-fi systems at the expense of hi-fi systems?
Yes

2. Does the proliferation of these lo-fi optimized recordings risk materially decreasing the value of owning a hi-fi system?
Yes. Probably the most subjective of all the questions as the value of the owning a hi-fi system is unique to everyone. But in the aggregate, more recordings that are made targeting hi-fi systems, the more value I get out of my system.

3. Can the practices used to optimize for lo-fi systems be objectively determined and measured by investigation of the published recording?
Yes. But I'm unsure, so could be convinced otherwise.

4. Would there be value in informing consumers of lo-fi optimized recordings so they can make informed choices for the music they consume?
Yes. Better informed consumers is always better.

5. Would #4 influence producers to reduce optimizing for lo-fi systems at the expense of Hi-FI systems?
No. Probably just not enough of an audience to make any dent. Counter argument is that it would be better than doing nothing and just letting the lo-fi optimized recordings squeeze out everything else.

6. Should ASR perform objective critiques of recordings?
No. Maybe as a sub forum if there is enough interest. But it should not take away resources from the current focus on playback hardware.
I enjoyed this post. It might have been better if you had not provided sample answers.
I did struggle with making a choice on a couple of the questions.
Also there are some definition problems which is inevitable, but making a few assumptions of your intentions, I voted yes to all 6 questions although a maybe option would have made choosing easier.

A sub forum would be fine. While Amir is the owner of ASR there are other contributors who post reviews and give advice and while unlikely in the present climate, it's possible that a healthy discussion of the merits of particular recordings and the role the recording engineer might attract people who have the knowledge and expertise to provide interesting and useful input.
 
OP
Shadrach

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Reading some of the other posts I find it difficult to understand why some posters believe they have the authority take on the mantle of defender of the ASR ethos, should there be such a thing. The phrases like, we at ASR and what ASR is about, are particularly worrisome.

Such hostility is in my experience driven by fear. What is it that people who post in this manner are scared of?

For those who consider the thread to be ridiculous etc, they have the option to not read it and not comment on it. The off button and ignore button are your friends in times of stress.;)
 
OP
Shadrach

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering.
I can recal when amplifier builders in particular would describe their trade as art. I don't want art in my amplifier thanks. I want sound engineering.
This is in a way a central point to my complaint about recording engineers. If they want to make art then pick another job.
I want to hear what the performers, the artists sound like; not what some engineer thinks they should sound like. The recording engineer may as well scrub the artists name off the label and substitute their own.
It would all sound dull and boring if the engineers didn't tweak the recordings. Didn't we hear a similar arguement when digital recording and digital media became more widespread. Comments like "but CD sounds so clinical and cold compared to vinyl" come to mind.
 

DanielT

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There will be trends in recording technology, which will become popular, for example:

The Wall of Sound (also called the Spector Sound)[1][2] is a music production formula developed by American record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios, in the 1960s, with assistance from engineer Larry Levine and the conglomerate of session musicians later known as "the Wrecking Crew". The intention was to exploit the possibilities of studio recording to create an unusually dense orchestral aesthetic that came across well through radios and jukeboxes of the era. Spector explained in 1964: "I was looking for a sound, a sound so strong that if the material was not the greatest, the sound would carry the record. It was a case of augmenting, augmenting. It all fit together like a jigsaw."[3]


Even those that are not so popular, among audiophiles in any case:

Auto-Tune (or autotune) is an audio processor introduced in 1997 by Antares Audio Technologies.[4] Auto-Tune uses a proprietary device to measure and alter pitch in vocal and instrumental music recording and performances.[5]



What audiophiles can affect regarding the development of recording quality (question asked in the thread) or why not the development of lossless,is probably extremely marginal. Especially when audiophiles (whatever that means audiophiles, ... let's say interested in good sound reproduction, HiFi) do not seem to care so much about lossless, see:

(not too unexpectedly, in that thread, much thoughts about what one can and cannot hear regarding lossless)
 
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BeerBear

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I agree with some of your points, OP, but
I want to hear what the performers, the artists sound like; not what some engineer thinks they should sound like.
There is no such thing as the "objective sound of a performer". The sound depends on several factors, such as room acoustics, mic choice or mic placement, for example. The recording, mixing and mastering jobs all include some creative freedom and, for the most part, that's inevitable.
 
OP
Shadrach

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There is some interesting history behind this recording which I won't go into here apart from mentioning it was I believe recorded on a two track.
I think this sounds excellent. Great dynamic range.
What do others think?
P5211060.JPG
 

JJB70

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Terms such as natural sound and objective sound of the performer are protean in nature. As has been stated if listening to a live performance it will depend on where you are in a venue, venue acoustics, sound levels etc. In a studio or orchestral venue there are issues like mic placement, sound levels, mixing etc. Performers do not hear their performance as such, their foldback monitors will have the sound levels set to their preference to assist them to perform. Different musicians ask for completely different foldback levels. Which means there is not really any such thing as the sound as heard by the performer (well, there is, but it's unlikely to be one many would want to listen to). And that's before getting to use of compression which is largely about playback equipment. Which means that sound engineering is a confluence of art and engineering, you need at least some musical sensibilities to be good at it and usually musicians will be guided by their engineers in terms (I'm not sure it ends well very often when they get too involved and start telling the studio guys how to do their jobs). Much of this isn't actually that affected by the recording technology, whether it is digital or analogue, it's not unusual to listen to orchestral and operatic performances made in the 60's that still sound superb despite the limitations of the technology of the time.
 

bluefuzz

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering.
What century are you living in?

The idea of a recording being simply some kind of objective documentation of a musical performance was antiquated by the 1930s. At least since the mid 50s it has been impossible to separate the 'performer' from the 'producer' or 'engineer' in any meaningful way for the vast majority of popular music. Was George Martin's involvement with the Beatles recorded output any less artistically important than Ringo's? Nowadays the writer, artist, performer, producer, engineer, and promoter is as likely to one and the same person with a laptop in their bedroom ...
 

anmpr1

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Completely agree, I've never heard a pop recording done with "audiophile" ideals that rocked.
I remember purchasing the MFSL half speed mastered Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers record. I also had the standard commercial release. The Mobile Fidelity record was quite amazing regarding the stuff you could pick out in the mix... things I never heard on the regular record. Funny thing though. It didn't 'sound' like I thought a Rolling Stones record should sound. That 'compressed' raw and rough sound was missing. It didn't have that 'need to crank it up monophonic AM car radio feel'. It was too good, sonically. LOL

On the cover was a disclaimer. That the distortion you will hear was a part of the original recording, and a trademark of the band. Not a fault of the pressing. As if anyone needed that reminder.
 

DanielT

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What century are you living in?

The idea of a recording being simply some kind of objective documentation of a musical performance was antiquated by the 1930s. At least since the mid 50s it has been impossible to separate the 'performer' from the 'producer' or 'engineer' in any meaningful way for the vast majority of popular music. Was George Martin's involvement with the Beatles recorded output any less artistically important than Ringo's? Nowadays the writer, artist, performer, producer, engineer, and promoter is as likely to one and the same person with a laptop in their bedroom ...
Or another example (there are many):

Bo Michael Tretow (born 20 August 1944 in Norrköping) is a Swedish record producer and audio engineer, musician and composer, best known for his work with the Swedish pop group ABBA (1970–1982), and with the musical Chess. Tretow experimented with different recording techniques, and played an essential part in creating the "ABBA sound".[1][better source needed][2] He has also composed several themes and jingles for Swedish national radio and television.


 
OP
Shadrach

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I agree with some of your points, OP, but

There is no such thing as the "objective sound of a performer". The sound depends on several factors, such as room acoustics, mic choice or mic placement, for example. The recording, mixing and mastering jobs all include some creative freedom and, for the most part, that's inevitable.
Terms such as natural sound and objective sound of the performer are protean in nature. As has been stated if listening to a live performance it will depend on where you are in a venue, venue acoustics, sound levels etc. In a studio or orchestral venue there are issues like mic placement, sound levels, mixing etc. Performers do not hear their performance as such, their foldback monitors will have the sound levels set to their preference to assist them to perform. Different musicians ask for completely different foldback levels. Which means there is not really any such thing as the sound as heard by the performer (well, there is, but it's unlikely to be one many would want to listen to). And that's before getting to use of compression which is largely about playback equipment. Which means that sound engineering is a confluence of art and engineering, you need at least some musical sensibilities to be good at it and usually musicians will be guided by their engineers in terms (I'm not sure it ends well very often when they get too involved and start telling the studio guys how to do their jobs). Much of this isn't actually that affected by the recording technology, whether it is digital or analogue, it's not unusual to listen to orchestral and operatic performances made in the 60's that still sound superb despite the limitations of the technology of the time.
What century are you living in?

The idea of a recording being simply some kind of objective documentation of a musical performance was antiquated by the 1930s. At least since the mid 50s it has been impossible to separate the 'performer' from the 'producer' or 'engineer' in any meaningful way for the vast majority of popular music. Was George Martin's involvement with the Beatles recorded output any less artistically important than Ringo's? Nowadays the writer, artist, performer, producer, engineer, and promoter is as likely to one and the same person with a laptop in their bedroom ...
I remember purchasing the MFSL half speed mastered Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers record. I also had the standard commercial release. The Mobile Fidelity record was quite amazing regarding the stuff you could pick out in the mix... things I never heard on the regular record. Funny thing though. It didn't 'sound' like I thought a Rolling Stones record should sound. That 'compressed' raw and rough sound was missing. It didn't have that 'need to crank it up monophonic AM car radio feel'. It was too good, sonically. LOL

On the cover was a disclaimer. That the distortion you will hear was a part of the original recording, and a trademark of the band. Not a fault of the pressing. As if anyone needed that reminder.
I'm not trying to seperate the performer from the recording engineers. We wouldn't have any recordings otherwise. It's a question of competency and care.
Much like the other products reviewed here on ASR, there are those that are well designed/produced and others that are not. Most of the products Amir are functional but there is a range and in this range are those where it is quite apparent that the designers/producers are either incompetent, or just don't give a shit and rely on some slick bullshit, or lack of consumer discernment to sell the product.
Such is the nature of the market some may say and shrug their shoulders. Fair enough, they can buy the stuff.
When it comes to the music which is what I am led to believe all this stereo equipment is for, I can't see why anyone should object to any measures that may weed out the crap from the decent. It might even be fun.
Many of the music lovers I know look for the better recordings of their favourite artists. I do so myself. Someone mentions that such and such a recording is better, or they prefered it to another I may well check it out much as anmpr1 has above.
Sal1950 makes a very valid point regarding The Cowboy Junkies Trinity sessions which I agree with, it's seriously boring, but they are seriously boring, but the recording is half decent.
I find the RMP series of the Rolling Stones a more pleasurable listening experience to the MFSL offerings so of course there is going to be personal preference invloved.
I find the same with the original Reprise releases of Jimi Hendrix. We even did a rough ABX test between this and another remaster years ago and the difference was discernable.
The drum work in Metallica's Enter Sandman would not have the same effect without compression, but there is I suggest an acceptable and competent use and then there are the so called engineers who compress the crap out of a recording so you end up listening to a wall of sound.

The recording is important. Whether one believes it is the most important aspect doesn't really matter. It's important enough to warrant some discussion and maybe some kind of grading if it can be achieved.

Compressors, microphone types and placements all have their part in the reording process but the knowledge and experience in their use has nothing to do with art.
 

DanielT

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering.
I can recal when amplifier builders in particular would describe their trade as art. I don't want art in my amplifier thanks. I want sound engineering.
This is in a way a central point to my complaint about recording engineers. If they want to make art then pick another job.
I want to hear what the performers, the artists sound like; not what some engineer thinks they should sound like. The recording engineer may as well scrub the artists name off the label and substitute their own.
It would all sound dull and boring if the engineers didn't tweak the recordings. Didn't we hear a similar arguement when digital recording and digital media became more widespread. Comments like "but CD sounds so clinical and cold compared to vinyl" come to mind.
It is probably very varied. A technician whose job is to practically make sure that it is "just" recorded (what it means?) probably does not add a special, own uniquely created sound image (on their own or actively with the musicians). My guess is that the technician mixes based on current standards, generally how music "should sound".I'm guessing about something I do not really have a clue about how it works in practice.See my thinking more as a question than a statement.:)

But examples above so (Phil Spector, George Martin, Michael Tretow), another thing. Then it is more a question of creative innovative process together with the musicians.:)
 
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iMickey503

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This makes me think about this kind of music. This is a kind of reggae that cherish the lofi'ness of early digital equipment, and it has a huge following. This style (8bit digital reggae) started in the mid 1980's when jamaicans in the ghetto's discovered the cheape synths of casio (especially the MT-40) and was a kind of the punk of reggae. The song i link is made in 2009 in Germany with a french singer with a terrible accent altough...

If a strip club had a soundtrack? This would be it.
 

Hipster Doofus

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“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

I offer to the debate that mood, lighting effects, time of day, length of listening session, number of beers also add to wether your system sounds good.
 

billyjoebob

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Don't be sorry.

"A bad recording will always be a bad recording and there's not a lot you can do to fix that"

In that case remasters, or the work undertaken my companies such as Musical Fidelity Sound Labs to improve recordings a) doesn't work and b) is a waste of time.
????
 

IPunchCholla

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I would really like not hearing the people cough in the old classical recordings (had to do with the conditions of the time).
Will I stop listening to it?Of course not,I absolutely adore this recordings.
The only thing I try to do is to extract as much I as can through it.Listening is not an obligation,is fun.
And I want to keep it this way with all the respect to the people who worked to produce it.
We all know the limitations,the compromises,bad choices some times.

One example.I mostly listen to classical but I like bands like Low.The recordings are horrible.So?I listen to Lullaby and I sink into it without caring for the "system",sinad's and the rest.
There always something or someone to blame.
That's until the first note plays.
Out of curiosity, how are Low’s recordings horrible? By what measurements? Which recordings? I ask because I love their music and I haven’t thought much about the recording quality, but I have them on vinyl and lossless so could actually listen for these flaws since I’m curious if it matters given the style of their music.
 
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