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Great Interview with a Music Producer/Engineer

MattHooper

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#41
It was interesting when the engineer explains he is not trying to recreate the natural, realistic sound of the real event, but rather an idealized artistic expression, especially one in concert with our expectations of recordings. (I have sympathy with this as all day long I'm doing sound effects where sometimes I'm trying to cobble together something that sounds natural and real to the ear, but other times it's deliberately idealized as to how we expect, or think it should sound).

That had me thinking about the various "audiophile recordings" I bought over the years - Chesky and others - in which they were trying to reproduce the sound of the singer and instruments in natural acoustic spaces, to sound as "real" as possible for the audiophile.

While there was in indeed a certain naturaliness, virtually all of them were limpid in terms of their musical effect, IMO. They actually had some decent talent in the artists here and there, but the production left the musical impact of a wet noodle - lacking vividness, excitement, drive. Boring.
I'm sure I'm not the only audiophile around who bought in to those things at one point, still have them around and never listen to them.
 

pozz

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#42
It was interesting when the engineer explains he is not trying to recreate the natural, realistic sound of the real event, but rather an idealized artistic expression, especially one in concert with our expectations of recordings. (I have sympathy with this as all day long I'm doing sound effects where sometimes I'm trying to cobble together something that sounds natural and real to the ear, but other times it's deliberately idealized as to how we expect, or think it should sound).

That had me thinking about the various "audiophile recordings" I bought over the years - Chesky and others - in which they were trying to reproduce the sound of the singer and instruments in natural acoustic spaces, to sound as "real" as possible for the audiophile.

While there was in indeed a certain naturaliness, virtually all of them were limpid in terms of their musical effect, IMO. They actually had some decent talent in the artists here and there, but the production left the musical impact of a wet noodle - lacking vividness, excitement, drive. Boring.

I'm sure I'm not the only audiophile around who bought in to those things at one point, still have them around and never listen to them.
There are some great pieces on Chesky. The B&K HATS setup and binaural filters make for very nice stereo presentations overall.
 

pozz

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#43
@MattHooper What recordings do you find well-engineered? Do you mind posting a few favourites?
 

Thomas savage

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The Watchman
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#45
Could we talk about translation? Studio guys sweat over it greatly. Audiophiles say they want to hear what the sound was in the studio, and the studio is trying to make tasteful adjustments for what they think things are like on the playback end. Most interesting dichotomy don't you think? A self amplifying circle of confusion if one goes too far down the rabbit hole.

I think the great majority of mastering people use more than one monitor due to translation concerns. So which one is the true sound of high fidelity? There isn't one.

Which is worst, having to master for the old 6x9 car speaker or for Apple ear buds?

An idea I think would be good, and I know it's never going to happen, is rather than bull like MQA authentication, is a different folding. A folding where you get masterings for big home speaker use, ear bud use, and in between like good phones or good car audio. All in one file. And maybe something like movies which have the Director's cut, we'd have the Mastering guys master or some such.
That's what's needed but why not just offer the master aimed at a hifi then let users use software to convert it for phone / earbud use?

What happens now is the reverse, music is not only mastered but arguably made to suit it's playing environment and that's earbuds , MP3 and portable speakers .

It's such a shame but it's always been this way and likely always will.
 

Blumlein 88

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#46
That's what's needed but why not just offer the master aimed at a hifi then let users use software to convert it for phone / earbud use?

What happens now is the reverse, music is not only mastered but arguably made to suit it's playing environment and that's earbuds , MP3 and portable speakers .

It's such a shame but it's always been this way and likely always will.
Money and market. You can put the stuff folded in available to those with better gear. Those with lesser gear rule in numbers and overall market size. So offering a top quality audiophile recording and asking low end music players or phones adulterate it with DSP just isn't in the cards.
 

Sergei

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#47
Could we talk about translation? Studio guys sweat over it greatly. Audiophiles say they want to hear what the sound was in the studio, and the studio is trying to make tasteful adjustments for what they think things are like on the playback end. Most interesting dichotomy don't you think? A self amplifying circle of confusion if one goes too far down the rabbit hole.
It was confusing to me at first, yet after a while I believe I started grasping what the translation is about. My current thinking is that it is mostly about making sure that the most important parts of artistic intent get through even the most inaccurate varieties of audio delivery chains.

It is not so much about trying to tune a record to this generalized end user system and also to that generalized end user system, but rather about making the composition outright simpler and cleaner, so that it has a good immunity against severe distortions.

Examples: Frequency range is cut. Dynamic range is reduced. Subtle echoes are removed. Emotions-conveying voice overtones are kept in check. Vibrato, chirps, and other effects based on frequency modulation are avoided. Genuine transients are replaced with noise bursts.
I think the great majority of mastering people use more than one monitor due to translation concerns. So which one is the true sound of high fidelity? There isn't one.
Well, there are different approaches. Used for many decades. So as examples I'll use some pioneering ancient compositions, expressing the approaches in very pure forms.

Some of the songs are just made super-simple. Like "Fly, Robin, Fly" by Silver Convention:


Those translate to everywhere, and that's the single high fidelity version. A lot of pop music and EDM is done that way to this day.

A more subtle approach is to make a composition simple and clean enough to translate well, yet still keep some of the subtleties in a softer form, to be safely sacrificed while delivering through less resolving chains, yet still available from the same record to more discerning listeners.

One of my favorite examples of the subtler approach is Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley (apologies, you'll have to go straight to Youtube to see it):


Composer's own rendition illustrates the artistic intent even better:

Which is worst, having to master for the old 6x9 car speaker or for Apple ear buds?
Apple ear buds, when new and connected to an iPhone, are much more consistent than the 6x9s, made by many manufacturers, driven by various head units, in vastly different car acoustic environments. I understand why sound engineers prefer mastering for the ear buds rather than for car stereos.
An idea I think would be good, and I know it's never going to happen, is rather than bull like MQA authentication, is a different folding. A folding where you get masterings for big home speaker use, ear bud use, and in between like good phones or good car audio. All in one file. And maybe something like movies which have the Director's cut, we'd have the Mastering guys master or some such.
I think this is a great idea, and may fully flesh out one day. Hybrid SACD releases, and multiple Blue-ray audio options on a disk are approximations of that.
 
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#48
The "translation" issue is exactly why so many studios used the Yamaha ns-10. It wasn't because it was a great (neutral) speaker. It was because it was a terrible speaker. But it was discovered that if a mix sound good in NS-10, then it tended to sound good (ie translated) to many systems. In my short stint in the studio, we would go back and forth between the main studio speakers (which were awesome) and the NS-10s (which sounded terrible) and we would find a balance between sounding good in the mains and sounding ok in the NS-10s. For hobby engineers, the key is to "learn" your monitors; learn how they translate across several playback systems by checking every mix in different systems.

And I've never heard of "translation" going so far as simplifying arrangements or composition to suit lower fi systems. Maybe that mentality exists, but I don't think its typical. In all the recording tutorials I've seen, its typically about mixing and EQing the tracked instruments so that the song sounds good on a variety of systems. So - for example - say you have a killer sub bass line that sounds great in the studios main monitors. However, it gets completely lost in small systems with bad low frequency response. So you might compensate by boosting the high end of the bass track up to get more of the bass harmonics and attack in the mix. That way, listeners on a bass challenged system will still "hear" that killer bass line, even if they don't get the full physical impact. That may conflict with where the electric guitar is sitting in the spectrum, so you might compensate by eq'ing the same range down on guitar or trying panning the guitar left or right so it sits in its own space.
 
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