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I'm hearing crackling sounds in some tracks. Is this normal?

MartinDL

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Having purchased some nice headphones and a dac for my PC, I now sometimes notice weird sounds when playing tracks. The noise sounds like crackling, clipping, tiny pops in the background. Like overloading an amp. Very distorted. (Yes, yes, I realize this is hard rock/metal and distortion is a thing, but I find this noise sounding just like errors in the recording)

I'm hoping this is simply a matter of the recordings being this way and I can just hear it more easily now. So I'm thinking maybe some of you can help with a second pair of ears with your headphone setup and see if you hear it as well?

Here are some tracks and timestamps. The links are to Tidal by the way (I have tried other services, like Spotify and it's the same there):

* Iron Maiden - Still Life: Listen at 3:30 and forward (during the solo)
* Night - Under the Moonlight Sky: Listen 0:00 -- 0:15 (the intro)
* Tool - Invicible: Listen between 7:20 - 7:40

You may need to increase volume a bit. The noise in the Maiden song is more subtle than the next one, and the final one (Tool) it is very noticeable. I used Tool because that's supposed to be a modern great hifi mastering and Maiden is from the 80ies.

Lots of thanks!
 

Paolo

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This things can be maddening, so I hope you may reach some peace of mind by knowing that yes, there’s distortion in those tracks.
I’ve listened through Apple Music lossless, and it’s clearly audible in the first two tracks even from a less than stellar setup.
I’m on holiday and I only have my iPhone with a pair of HD560s…
Not sure about the tool track though, I hear what you describe, but I will need something more resolving to better understand, it may just be the natural resonance produced by percussions, which is still noise, but not induced by the recording.
 

Paolo

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Btw, may I go a bit off-topic and rant about my personal pet peeve?
I hate with passion when artists use static noise in songs, it always make me stop listening to check the equipment, then realise is part of the track and begrudgingly endure the true evil side of creativity.
Note that I otherwise love noise and other kind of distortion when wisely used, heck, my favourite artists are NIN and John Hopkins…
 
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MartinDL

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This things can be maddening, so I hope you may reach some peace of mind by knowing that yes, there’s distortion in those tracks.
I’ve listened through Apple Music lossless, and it’s clearly audible in the first two tracks even from a less than stellar setup..

I hear the crackling also in Spotify on all 3 examples. I think it's in the recordings.

Thanks y'all for listening as well! Its nice knowing I'm not the only one hearing these noises. It has been driving me crazy, not to mention getting pathologically sensitive to this type particular noise. When you're comfortably in the zone listen to a nice piece of music and that crackling noise occurs, it's like getting slapped in the face. Ok, slight exaggeration, but it is extremely off putting and disappointing.

So I guess the next question if it's in the recording. Why? I mean, the studio guys ought to notice this and fix it. Also I wonder how common it is, and if it's only a bad rip or if it's the same on the master or maybe the vinyl.
 

JWAmerica

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According to everything I've read, the master contains these flaws and all versions of Fear Inoculum are affected. The band and producer will probably never acknowledge it.
 

khrisr

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You could be getting clipped. I frequently run into clipping issues when playing digital streams via apps (especially recordings that are already too loud). I’ve found Roon level normalization with volume pass through to DAC to work well for taming loud recordings with my current setup.

To test this theory try turning on Tidal loudness normalization and see if the noise goes away. I don’t find their implementation good though so I don’t recommend keeping it on.
 

3125b

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Those flaws are definitely in the recordings in this case.

I mean, the studio guys ought to notice this and fix it
I'd think so too, but apparently not?
I find it quite weird how many bad sounding recordings are out there. A hundred years ago, when recordings were made on a wax cylinder, I guess that was fair enough, however even (most) modern recordings have blatantly audible flaws in times with 120dB SINAD signal chains.
But then again, it's not difficult to find recordings without any clear flaws or other distractions from maybe the 60s onwards.
In many cases, especially common with modern pop and metal music, the loudness war still takes its toll with basically constant clipping and only ~6dB dynamic range for many songs. That's clearly deliberate albeit no less terrible.
 

Paolo

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You could be getting clipped.

It’s part of the recording, you can hear it even from other services like Spotify or Apple.


So I guess the next question if it's in the recording. Why? I mean, the studio guys ought to notice this and fix it.

There are many possible reasons, ranging from sheer incompetence, to hard deadlines. Only who was there can know.

Also I wonder how common it is, and if it's only a bad rip or if it's the same on the master or maybe the vinyl.

Not really that common, but you will hear distortions from time to time, and obviously more revealing gear lets you uncover more of the problems, but also more of the virtues of good recordings.

What is common is to experience different recording levels and, for old albums, is not that strange to notice poor details, is what sometimes is called “muddy sound”.
 

Daverz

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R-4501716-1366669607-5180.jpeg.jpg
 

khrisr

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It’s part of the recording, you can hear it even from other services like Spotify or Apple.

To clarify what I meant was … those clipped 0dB spikes in your recording could be getting further exacerbated downstream eg Roon will do this unless volume control is passed down to the DAC (not sure if this is a general bug but that’s the situation with my current setup)
 

JWAmerica

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I'm sorry to say it, but Tool is just phoning it in for a paycheck these days. 10,000 Days sounded like A Perfect Circle featuring Danny Carey and Adam Jones. The producer's studio is Joe's House of Compression. They used to be one of my favorite bands, but they've gone the way of the Metallica.
 
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MartinDL

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Iron Maiden's brand new album, Senjutsu, have a few of these really nasty crackling songs. Personally I can't listen to them, at least not on my head phones :-(

Feel free to confirm this yourself:

BUT!

I just noticed something really weird... I can only hear these distortions when listening on Tidals Master/Hifi/High settings. If I switch to "Normal" they go away. The same happens on Spotify as well (ie low quality setting makes it go away). Does anyone have an educated guess why that is???

(For reference, I also tried it with my low-end head phones on my iPhone as well. It's the same issue there.)
 
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LeftCoastTim

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Iron Maiden's brand new album, Senjutsu, have a few of these really nasty crackling songs. Personally I can't listen to them, at least not on my head phones :-(

Feel free to confirm this yourself:

BUT!

I just noticed something really weird... I can only hear these distortions when listening on Tidals Master/Hifi/High settings. If I switch to "Normal" they go away. The same happens on Spotify as well (ie low quality setting makes it go away). Does anyone have an educated guess why that is???

I can hear it on spotify low quality, although it does seem less loud. Crackling At 5:08 and 5:13 mark (The Parchment). Also very obvious on Apple AAC/256 and spotify high (not highest. I don't have premium).

Perceptual codecs remove high frequencies (<16khz) and smear very short attacks when using low bitrates. The "crackling noise" would fall under both categories and would be smoothed over for low bitrate mp3/vorbis/aac. Clearly, apple aac and spotify low quality has enough bits to preserve the crackling. I don't know what tidal uses.
 

Sharur

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If your headphones have low distortion and you're not maxing the volume knob on your amp you can be confident in stating that any audible distortion is in the recording.
1630904930631.png
 
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MartinDL

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If your headphones have low distortion and you're not maxing the volume knob on your amp you can be confident in stating that any audible distortion is in the recording.

Yeah, that's seems to be the case. I don't quite understand the graph though. 'Cause on these songs, the distortions are very noticeable and not always in the mix, but rather show up in intervals; typically when there's lots going on with guitars and stuff.

Anyway I wonder if distortions like these are possible to detect using a waveeditor? And if that's the case would it be possible to filter them out?
 
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MartinDL

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I can hear it on spotify low quality, although it does seem less loud. Crackling At 5:08 and 5:13 mark (The Parchment). Also very obvious on Apple AAC/256 and spotify high (not highest. I don't have premium).

So I guess these distortions are just more obvious in lossless formats and high end gear.

Anyone have an educated guess as to what's cause these noises on the recording? A faulty microphone in the studio? Mixing gone wrong? Some filter acting up? Out of whack master to streaming conversions?

To my ears, this just sounds like serious errors in the production. And it's not just on one occasion, it's all over these songs. I'm having a hard time accepting that Maiden (with pretty much unlimited recoding budget) accidentally let this crap through the mixing/mastering process.
 
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