• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

God of SINAD vs. reality we get from most available music files

krabapple

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
1,910
Likes
2,021
Precisely. BUT it's interesting. If I make 6 versions of a track, each 1dB apart (intensity, not loudness, note), any comparison of two adjacent (in level) tracks will almost always favor the higher level track.

***BUT*** Comparing the highest level to the lowest level may very well (not always, of course) have the listener pick the LOWER level track.

It's not a transitive property.


Yup, I *almost* hedged 'louder' with the phrase 'to a degree' but I was unsure what that degree is. Has it ever been studied? I'd guess it to have some content dependency too.
 

Inner Space

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 18, 2020
Messages
1,117
Likes
2,400
There is no mystery to why; the louder of two presentations typically gets reported as 'better', at least at first. When mixes are auditioned casually, no attempt at level matching, as producers and record company flacks and clueless artists do, you can almost guarantee the more compressed will get preferred in a snap judgement. On top of that, by the late 1980s you had portable 'Discman' type CD players and later, digital files on the go, with music being enjoyed via earbuds in public spaces. Last but certainly not least, you had top 40 radio play, mainly in cars, where loudness wars have raged since at least the 1960s.
Well ... not really. As both a clueless artist and clueless recording engineer since the late 1970s, I suggested, in answer to @Blumlein 88's question about the entrenchment of the kind of nth degree compression we hear today, that it's being used as a panacea for unskilled and inexperienced mixers.

Heavy compression has been around a long time, but nth degree is new. Not driven by natural evolution, either, because the problems compression traditionally solved, CDs in cars and Top 40 radio etc, are long forgotten. They get zero consideration. Everything is a pretty standard streaming mix now, which needs to be competitive, sure, but as @j_j alluded, given more than a snap to judge, especially between substantially different options, more people migrate toward heavy-ish compression than subtle, but no one likes approaching the maximum, and it was never heard commercially, because it's like getting hit in the head with a fencepost. Oftentimes the preferred mix was somewhat less compressed than it could have been.

But now we're heading for the max. I feel the only reason can be a kind of software-driven logic that says that if the quietest parts and the loudest parts are almost identical in amplitude, then the mixing stage can be bypassed, thereby saving time and money.
 

krabapple

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
1,910
Likes
2,021
Well ... not really. As both a clueless artist and clueless recording engineer since the late 1970s, I suggested, in answer to @Blumlein 88's question about the entrenchment of the kind of nth degree compression we hear today, that it's being used as a panacea for unskilled and inexperienced mixers.

My answer didn't come from my personal experience, true, but it was informed by testimonies I've read of industry pros since the start of the 90s loudness boom.

Heavy compression has been around a long time, but nth degree is new. Not driven by natural evolution, either, because the problems compression traditionally solved, CDs in cars and Top 40 radio etc, are long forgotten. They get zero consideration. Everything is a pretty standard streaming mix now

And how/on what devices and in what environments is streamed content being listened to? That's still playing a role, surely.

, which needs to be competitive, sure, but as @j_j alluded, given more than a snap to judge, especially between substantially different options, more people migrate toward heavy-ish compression than subtle, but no one likes approaching the maximum, and it was never heard commercially, because it's like getting hit in the head with a fencepost. Oftentimes the preferred mix was somewhat less compressed than it could have been.


What JJ noted was that a big jump between A and B is less likely to be perceived as better than a smaller jump between A and B . Now, if you incrementally approach 'Nth degree,...using only small jumps ...I wonder....

(In case there's any question, I am by no means endorsing standardized use of extreme dynamic range compression.)
 

Inner Space

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
May 18, 2020
Messages
1,117
Likes
2,400
And how/on what devices and in what environments is streamed content being listened to? That's still playing a role, surely.
Probably the streaming platforms can tell who is using what, but before the event all we can do is supply something we feel will sound good through a reasonable system, and below that, will cooperate with the increasingly developed DSP in lifestyle products. The serious negative (for me anyway) is most such products drive a migration toward a "fat mono" mix inside a halo of spurious reverb. Pretty soon I think we're going to see two separate mixes - one for immersive-headphone algorithms, and one for the homepod on the kitchen counter. For one thing, they'll need radically different compression!
 

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
15,876
Likes
26,636
Precisely. BUT it's interesting. If I make 6 versions of a track, each 1dB apart (intensity, not loudness, note), any comparison of two adjacent (in level) tracks will almost always favor the higher level track.

***BUT*** Comparing the highest level to the lowest level may very well (not always, of course) have the listener pick the LOWER level track.

It's not a transitive property.
I've done something like this with compression once. Recorded a small band. Did some modest compression. And a little more and a little more and a little more. The final copies were heavily compressed (though not brick wall limited). I had the musicians listen and pick a favorite. Each step of the way they picked the more compressed one. We took a few minutes to discuss some other things, then I had them listen to the first moderately compressed version against the most compressed. They all made a funny face, and asked what happened to that 2nd version because it sounded all messed up, bad, not really like what they remembered and a few other comments.

So what is the right level of compression? I remember a comment by a couple musicians that was basically "well it can sound nice, but we want to at least be able to listen to it in our car". I wouldn't necessarily do that for everything, but for lots of music enough compression to hear it pretty well in a average car seems a good touchstone. That isn't enough to be offensively bad listened to in your living room or over headphones. It does make it useful in some moderately noisy environments.

For some of the compression done in recent years to pop music, I guess it makes sense if you are listening over ear-buds while operating a jack hammer or riding a lawn mower.
 

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
15,876
Likes
26,636
Well ... not really. As both a clueless artist and clueless recording engineer since the late 1970s, I suggested, in answer to @Blumlein 88's question about the entrenchment of the kind of nth degree compression we hear today, that it's being used as a panacea for unskilled and inexperienced mixers.

Heavy compression has been around a long time, but nth degree is new. Not driven by natural evolution, either, because the problems compression traditionally solved, CDs in cars and Top 40 radio etc, are long forgotten. They get zero consideration. Everything is a pretty standard streaming mix now, which needs to be competitive, sure, but as @j_j alluded, given more than a snap to judge, especially between substantially different options, more people migrate toward heavy-ish compression than subtle, but no one likes approaching the maximum, and it was never heard commercially, because it's like getting hit in the head with a fencepost. Oftentimes the preferred mix was somewhat less compressed than it could have been.

But now we're heading for the max. I feel the only reason can be a kind of software-driven logic that says that if the quietest parts and the loudest parts are almost identical in amplitude, then the mixing stage can be bypassed, thereby saving time and money.
But now we're heading for the max. I feel the only reason can be a kind of software-driven logic that says that if the quietest parts and the loudest parts are almost identical in amplitude, then the mixing stage can be bypassed, thereby saving time and money.

I don't really think that is the reason. The people doing this spend considerable time compressing and limiting. It isn't a case of just jam it up tight and be done with it. I think if anything the mixing might be more involved than previously. Mastering traditionally is the final mix to two channels turned over to the mastering person. Any compression there is global. Mixing will have different amounts and types of compression done to each track that contributes to the final mix. Of course stem mastering is often done now where the mastering has more than a single stereo track to work with.

Compressors have attack and release times, different knees in how they operate and levels. It can be frequency filtered as well as level dependent. Just getting drum sound you want is almost a specialty type of using compression and limiting. Side chain compression is common now too. Side chain compression is when another track has the compression of that side chain activated by what is going on in another track. All of that is rather complex and making adjustments to all the elements and giving it a listen takes time and effort. In a sense it is amazing the people doing this can compress something so much and it not sound worse (which still doesn't mean I like the sound of it).

I'm just an amateur who records a little. I've tried doing some of this just to figure it out, and it is hard to do without a complete and total mess as a result. Maybe it is a fashion in the sense those developing these skills are just trying to out-do each other. Rather like a male peacock or fiddler crab where evolutionary competition gets out of hand. But make no mistake, there is skill in doing this even as it is something at least some of us don't want done.

If you are interested here are a couple of basic explanations of how some of this is done.

 
Last edited:

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
39,111
Likes
174,553
Location
Seattle Area
Most of us needn't get in a tizzy over SINAD ranking, in the scheme of things that need fixing in our home systems.
We do need to get in a tizzy where for no reason performance is left on the table, while in many cases more money is charged as well.
 

j_j

Major Contributor
Audio Luminary
Technical Expert
Joined
Oct 10, 2017
Messages
1,513
Likes
3,087
Location
My kitchen or my listening room.
And how/on what devices and in what environments is streamed content being listened to? That's still playing a role, surely.
Well, the place to do that is with a sensor at the actual environment, doing sensible things (this is not rocket science, never mind how poor the stuff in cars is) to adapt the material to the environment.

 

krabapple

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
1,910
Likes
2,021
We do need to get in a tizzy where for no reason performance is left on the table, while in many cases more money is charged as well.

Now you're conflating two things. I was talking about stuff we're likely to hear versus not. Now I'm supposed to care about people who believe that the more money they spend, the better something must sound.

Yes, we should call out *manufacturers* when their claims don't measure up. If they claim their DAC to be manufactured to the highest standard of measurable performance, but it isn't, go get 'em . ( Though I don't recall any whose ad copy is 'behold our SOTA SINAD!')

But when what matters most to us is what 'we' will *hear*...I would ask, why 'we' are paying so much in the first place for a commodity item like a DAC?

Or from another perspective:
Does my heart bleed for the superyacht owner who gets into a tizzy when the gold plating on his boat's cleats measures only 0.3 mm instead of 0.5 mm? It does not. Find something else to worry about.
 

jhaider

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
2,038
Likes
3,014
We do need to get in a tizzy where for no reason performance is left on the table, while in many cases more money is charged as well.
I agree. The performance I see left on the table, however, is not solving a solved problem a little better, but the absence of tools to improve fidelity from the weakest links.
 

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
39,111
Likes
174,553
Location
Seattle Area
Now you're conflating two things. I was talking about stuff we're likely to hear versus not. Now I'm supposed to care about people who believe that the more money they spend, the better something must sound.
No, I covered two scenarios. One where the product is expensive, and one where it is not. Think of me as the food inspector. I don't care if you are not going to get sick if there is a violation of food safety. My job is to make sure that doesn't happen. You as a consumer can decide if you still want to eat at a restaurant with such violations. Don't tell me to not do my job.
 

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
39,111
Likes
174,553
Location
Seattle Area
I agree. The performance I see left on the table, however, is not solving a solved problem a little better, but the absence of tools to improve fidelity from the weakest links.
It is not either or though. In testing headphones and speakers, I always provide EQ to solve their response issues for example. And in the next review I point out a DAC that could do better.
 

jhaider

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
2,038
Likes
3,014
It is not either or though. In testing headphones and speakers, I always provide EQ to solve their response issues for example. And in the next review I point out a DAC that could do better.
Again my point is if the hardware can’t apply the fixes they’re useless. So hardware needs to be designed to be more useful. See my earlier post for the long form on that.
 

blueone

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
797
Likes
1,091
Location
USA
They are already a pain to fix. They want me to ship the monsters to some repair shop in LA as Harman no longer services them. I am sure they just going to swap boards and charge thousands of dollars for each. I don't think they will give me the service manual but I will ask at some point.

Boy do I wish I had some lightweight, module based class D amps.
I feel your pain. I loved my Levinson No39 CD player/DAC/preamp, but when the digital board failed, Harman's shop wanted nearly $1400 to replace it, and that was years ago. I replaced the board, but then sold the No39 for about 80% of what I paid for it new from the dealer. No more luxury electronics for me since then, especially Levinson.
 

jhaider

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
2,038
Likes
3,014
That requires making a business case that such enhanced product creates a bigger business for the company. I am loathe to try and make a case and be accountable if it becomes otherwise.
You’re looking at it from the industry side, not the consumer side.

Look at it this way - you created demand from whole cloth for stuff that measures better than other essentially perfect stuff. That is valuable to weed out the real junk, but also created incentives for companies to improve measured performance without regard to utility. However, a lot of us see the next DAC/headphone amp or integrated DAC/amp that measures another dB SINAD closer to the AP’s limits but with nothing to address the remaining big problems in sound reproduction as just yet another pointless me too who cares whatever.
 

tomelex

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 29, 2016
Messages
942
Likes
505
Location
So called Midwest, USA
You’re looking at it from the industry side, not the consumer side.

Look at it this way - you created demand from whole cloth for stuff that measures better than other essentially perfect stuff. That is valuable to weed out the real junk, but also created incentives for companies to improve measured performance without regard to utility. However, a lot of us see the next DAC/headphone amp or integrated DAC/amp that measures another dB SINAD closer to the AP’s limits but with nothing to address the remaining big problems in sound reproduction as just yet another pointless me too who cares whatever.

Well, even when the industry makes that "integrated everything I want" product, bet you want Amir to measure it so you can get the best one!
 

jhaider

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2016
Messages
2,038
Likes
3,014
Well, even when the industry makes that "integrated everything I want" product, bet you want Amir to measure it so you can get the best one!

Amir already does measure them. He’s measured several miniDSP products for example and noted the functionality. More problematically, sometimes he reviews something without indicating why one should care about it over something with similar (or much better) performance of digital to audio conversion. Quedlix 5k for example.
 

Jim Taylor

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 22, 2020
Messages
1,153
Likes
2,440
More problematically, sometimes he reviews something without indicating why one should care about it over something with similar (or much better) performance of digital to audio conversion. Quedlix 5k for example.

Because no one can know what an item really does .... or, more importantly doesn't do ..... until it's tested and measured. Different customers in different countries, on different continents and in different markets might be facing different choices. With reviews, every little bit helps ..... everyone and everywhere. :) Jim
 
Top Bottom