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Have you noticed the sound quality in popular recordings getting worse?

Blumlein 88

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#21
That is very interesting to see-- you don't even have to listen to it to tell how compressed it is. To my mind, there is no reason to release an alto/acoustic piano artist with this treatment. Compare that with Norah Jones' first record (probably the template for this new generation of piano singers?) which was very well-recorded and performed. It seems clear that hyper-compression is a sonic choice now, just like autotuning, quantized rhythm section, etc. So this is an example of a producer taking a $250,000 acoustic piano and a good singer using a $10,000 mic and making it sound like 49 cents.
I believe it isn't an example. I believe it is the overwhelming norm. Adele's voice is among the biggest reasons to listen. In most of this album, its swallowed up nearly all the time. We could offer additional examples, but a list a couple orders of magnitude smaller are finding those not like this.

This is from the album 25 which was the #1 selling album of 2015 world wide. Is that because the sound production is so good, or because it was Adele's first album in 5 years?

Telefunken U47 microphone on her voice. So yeah, not far from $10k.

Here are the culprits behind the sound though maybe they were just making a customer happy. Lists mastering and mix people.
https://sterling-sound.com/discography/25/

The mastering guys won two Grammies for their 'masterful' work. Album of the year and record of the year for mastering.

Doing a little looking for more info. 5 layers of reverb were uses on her voice prior to mastering. 4 layers of compression on her voice just during the initial tracking. Along with EQ, multiple delay steps and some other bits of gear along the way to add color and vibrancy.
 
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garbulky

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#22
Color me the opposite. Though I'll agree that the older recordings still had that magic. But come to a more recent time period before home recording had taken off, the music quality was just butt-awful by the pros. I'm talking about early 90's. How horrendous was that sound! The 80's was also a rather terrible time for terrible quality. I've always been driven by the sound of acoustic instruments captured in a natural acoustic environment or at least made to seem like they were playing in the same acoustic or played at the same time.
Youtube was the savior imo where quality sound started to creep back in. When Youtube went to HD and finally upped their mp3 quality to 128 kbps (Not that great, but at least some semblance of quality was now there) I found myself awash in a whole bunch of unique songs put out my home made artists. They didn't necessarily have expensive production value but the sounds were great and the fact that they were all playing together in their same recording - usually with stereo microphones really helped the sonic appeal of it. Through them I got tons of intiimate recording detail and cues, simply because they weren't overly processed. Most of the time when I hear the professionals record their acoustics, it doesn't sound quite as realistics as these raw captures from stereo microphones. Now I will admit that these same artists will then pay a bit more money and get a more professional take, usually with a music video with more production value, and imo these songs don't sound near as good as them simply singing live in their more amateur takes. Here the treble is bumped up, the voice is autopitched, the bass is bumping. Too boring because the pros are trying to sell to the mass market. Give me the excitement of real life using simple stereophonic recordings please!
 
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GrimSurfer

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#23
The mastering guys won two Grammies for their 'masterful' work. Album of the year and record of the year for mastering.
Another sign of how messed up the entertainment industry is.

Under what category did they win, the "Harvey Weinstein, it-doesn't-matter-what-you-do-as-long-as-it's-profitable" category? Or maybe it was the "Phil Spector, bat$hit-crazy, hey-is-that-gun-really-loaded" category?
 
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GrimSurfer

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#24
Too boring. Give me the excitement of real life please!
At a certain point, real life excitement becomes impossible. It can happen slowly when stardom fades or quickly due to accident or illness. Then the world is left with recordings. If they are good, then the music lives on. If they are bad, they go further into the back catalogs until they are forgotten.

I'm sure that the ancient Greeks warned its artisans to be careful what they wrought, because they realized that is what they would be remembered by.
 

garbulky

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#25
At a certain point, real life excitement becomes impossible. It can happen slowly when stardom fades or quickly due to accident or illness. Then the world is left with recordings. If they are good, then the music lives on. If they are bad, they go further into the back catalogs until they are forgotten.

I'm sure that the ancient Greeks warned its artisans to be careful what they wrought, because they realized that is what they would be remembered by.
I was trying to say that the more "pro" recordings feel less real life than the rawer recordings recorded in somebody's living room with a bunch of friends using just a stereo microphone - warts and all. Due to less processing, I hear the imperfections (and details) of a normal performance. I wasn't able to hear it in the pro-recordings due to all the technical flashiness happening.
 

RayDunzl

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#26
I don't listen for sound.

I listen for the composition.

I sampled this week's Billboard Top 40.

Click - start someplace in the first half - click - restart someplace in the second half to see if anything changed - repeat with next tune.

Lots of sound...
 

Veri

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#27
Color me not so impressed with pros in recent years either. Here is the view of an Adele recent release. Sounds about like you'd expect too. A shame. Definitely pros.
View attachment 27324
Here is the same thing with the level reduced 2 db so you can see how flat the tops and bottoms are. I can do much, much better being a total amateur. And you know what, I bet being Adele it would have sold just as well only with improved sound quality. I don't think the general reaction would have been, 'this new Adele sucks, doesn't even make my ears ring, and I can hear her voice too much".

View attachment 27325
That just hurts to see :(
 

MZKM

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#29
I think the "I Wish You Were Gay" example you posted is a cover. Probably recorded in a bedroom. This is the original
As pointed out, it’s her original SoundCloud upload from a few years back.

Somewhat interesting tidbit, all the vocals she recorded for her album were done in her brother’s bedroom:

Not recording a vocal booth is pretty commonplace with newer artists.
 

Soniclife

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#30
The mastering guys won two Grammies for their 'masterful' work. Album of the year and record of the year for mastering.
That post was depressing, so depressing I went to investigate, and I don't see technical awards for Adele, the nearest category I can find is the following.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammy_Award_for_Best_Engineered_Album,_Non-Classical
It's a good illustration of what's wrong with music, in film the technical awards go to people who are real know their craft, but in audio it looks like the category has been hijacked to give more awards to popular albums.
 

andreasmaaan

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#31
I believe it isn't an example. I believe it is the overwhelming norm. Adele's voice is among the biggest reasons to listen. In most of this album, its swallowed up nearly all the time. We could offer additional examples, but a list a couple orders of magnitude smaller are finding those not like this.

This is from the album 25 which was the #1 selling album of 2015 world wide. Is that because the sound production is so good, or because it was Adele's first album in 5 years?

Telefunken U47 microphone on her voice. So yeah, not far from $10k.

Here are the culprits behind the sound though maybe they were just making a customer happy. Lists mastering and mix people.
https://sterling-sound.com/discography/25/

The mastering guys won two Grammies for their 'masterful' work. Album of the year and record of the year for mastering.

Doing a little looking for more info. 5 layers of reverb were uses on her voice prior to mastering. 4 layers of compression on her voice just during the initial tracking. Along with EQ, multiple delay steps and some other bits of gear along the way to add color and vibrancy.
That is a truly horrible-sounding recording :mad:
 

Tool

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#32
It's no only about today popular recordings getting worse but all old classic remastered are just butchered becouse of Loudness War. I would like you show you couple of pictures of "HD" Metallica remastered. Let me just say it's awfull... All the pictures with Rem it's the same song but a little bit remastered by me, mainly Used Thimeo Perfect Declipper. Sound way better. The point is that before anyone will judge the sound equpment or is Hd music Is worth it he has to be shure what recording he's using for a judgment. Please belive that That Loudness BullS... is sneaking in to Jazz and classical music as well. I mean WTF?
 

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q3cpma

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#33
Since I mostly listen to 80s/90s extreme metal and prog rock, I don't often encounter this retardation. Imagine my reaction when trying Celtic Frost's new album "Monotheist", of which I included some waveforms. First time I had to seek the vinyl version of an album.
 

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MattHooper

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#34
I've noticed that the recording/production quality of a lot of new releases is of very odd quality, in particular of acoustic-oriented music like jazz and off-shoots like beat music.

I've got an organ/drum/guitar trio release that sound almost like it was recorded mono, with the drums being like "viewing" a one-dimensional sound at the end of a tunnel, and the other instruments piled up in front. Other titles have just weird drum sounds.

My take is that this is a result of the democratization of recording, the "anyone can put together music cheap" allowed by digital recording systems.
Acoustic music is particularly hard to get right, especially drum kits which can take lots of experience. So you get just odd sounding acoustic instruments and weird mixes. I've also been spinning lots of older acoustic instrumental music, early to late 70's - horns, drums, bass, pianos, strings et - and it's amazing how even lots of lesser or unknown stuff sounds so polished and professional compared to the newer releases.
How richly all the instruments are capture,d how beautifully mixed and placed and balanced. Back when they had tons of experience recording acoustic instruments, vs moving from playing with digital samples to trying to figure out how to mic a drum kit.
 

Blumlein 88

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#35
I've noticed that the recording/production quality of a lot of new releases is of very odd quality, in particular of acoustic-oriented music like jazz and off-shoots like beat music.

I've got an organ/drum/guitar trio release that sound almost like it was recorded mono, with the drums being like "viewing" a one-dimensional sound at the end of a tunnel, and the other instruments piled up in front. Other titles have just weird drum sounds.

My take is that this is a result of the democratization of recording, the "anyone can put together music cheap" allowed by digital recording systems.
Acoustic music is particularly hard to get right, especially drum kits which can take lots of experience. So you get just odd sounding acoustic instruments and weird mixes. I've also been spinning lots of older acoustic instrumental music, early to late 70's - horns, drums, bass, pianos, strings et - and it's amazing how even lots of lesser or unknown stuff sounds so polished and professional compared to the newer releases.
How richly all the instruments are capture,d how beautifully mixed and placed and balanced. Back when they had tons of experience recording acoustic instruments, vs moving from playing with digital samples to trying to figure out how to mic a drum kit.
Without knowing which recordings you are referring to, it would be hard to say for sure. But I don't think it is democratization of recording. Check who made the albums you are writing about and see who did them. I bet they are a legit studio or mastering place. The weird sounds are the result of heavy processing using digital processes not available in years past. If you handed them the mix tapes from those 70's albums, they'd do so much stuff to them they wouldn't sound that way if mastered now.
 

Wombat

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#36
Without knowing which recordings you are referring to, it would be hard to say for sure. But I don't think it is democratization of recording. Check who made the albums you are writing about and see who did them. I bet they are a legit studio or mastering place. The weird sounds are the result of heavy processing using digital processes not available in years past. If you handed them the mix tapes from those 70's albums, they'd do so much stuff to them they wouldn't sound that way if mastered now.
It would be interesting to have a list of 'engineers' who produce these recordings and see if this is their trademark sound across their work or just giving the clients what they demand.
 

Wombat

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#37
I have noticed the poor ability/quality of many new popular artists being propped-up by apps.
 

Zerimas

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#38
I don't have listen to a lot of newer recordings. I've found some to be pretty decent. I don't know if this still considered "recent" but Futuresex/Lovesounds sounds pretty good to my ears—on CD or vinyl. I don't believe it is too terribly compressed. The VU meter on my receiver seems to indicate it is not.

I recently tried to listen to Black Clouds and Silver Linings by Dream Theater. Not only was the mix awful, but the songs were super-boring as well. Out of all the albums I've listened to I've found the mixing of this one in particular to be the one that I like the least.
 
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#39
Truly a mixed bag. Part generation( remember when rock and roll was "the devils music"?). Part Genre ( rap, edm and the rest of the "new" genre scene. Part understanding the fundamental structure of music (most artists of my time were classically trained at places like Giulliard). Part lack of experience relating to the engineering of capturing sound well. Part lack of experience in producing a good structured tune. Part minimising the importance of involving skilled people in the production process.

Mostly using effects- loudness, reverb, delay, doubling etc.- to attempt to create a great Artist from a good Artist. Adele is at her best when any enhancement used is not perceived until it is not there- applies to all great vocalists.

The positive to all of this is that by lowering the cost of entry into the music business it allows the artist to take the journey from good to great without selling their soul to the devil (the powerful entities which influence and control what we hear and who we hear).

True talent is a beautiful thing.
 
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#40
Sourcing good sounding music has become so very challenging. There are many artists that I would be happy to listen to, unfortunately the cd's are just so darn fatiguing. Only hope is that one day they will see some benefit to releasing well recorded music and engineer and produce it to bring out a quality piece, but I suspect as long as portable music remains the norm...forget about it.
 

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