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Review of the Dire Straits album Money For Nothing with comparison between CD, Cd remastered in 1996, streaming and vinyl of the new 2022 remastering

levimax

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I have spent a fair amount of time chasing around "the best" versions of some of my older favorite music including LP, CD, SACD, DVD-A, and Hi-Res downloads. I look at the wave forms, DR Meter, and Lufs level and try to corelate that to what I hear. I absolutely agree that the audible differences of compression are MUCH less apparent than what you "see" in the wave forms or DR Meter or Lufs. However even though the differences are subtle I will almost always prefer the less compressed version and since this is a "Hi-Fi" site there is no doubt that information is "thrown away" during compression so the compressed versions are by definition "lower-Fi". To me it seems this loudness war started as a way to "stand out" but has now become a "style" that is now expected for all music new or re-mastered. A perfect example to me is the new Adele 30 album. This is the loudest album I have ever heard and the waveform and measurements confirm this yet listening to it you can not hear any distortion and it just sounds clear, clean, and loud. Contrast this to "Portrait of Shelia" recorded in 1963 with equipment with orders of magnitude more noise and distortion (some of which is clearly audible) but where the style of the day was to capture and preserve the dynamics of the music as best they could. I prefer this earlier style of recording despite it's obvious shortcomings. While all this is "subtle", recording and mastering and re-mastering styles have a much larger impact on what you hear than the difference between 60 SINAD and 120 SINAD.
 
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Geert

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Reminder, brick-wall limiting is not the same as compression. It's not just terminology, it's about how it sounds.
 

levimax

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Reminder, brick-wall limiting is not the same as compression. It's not just terminology, it's about how it sounds.
What is the difference exactly? Isn't "brick-wall" just heavy compression or is it a specific technique? Engineers over the years have certainly found ways to "aggressively compress" music without making things sound obviously different (except louder at the same volume setting).
 

KSTR

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What is the difference exactly? Isn't "brick-wall" just heavy compression or is it a specific technique? Engineers over the years have certainly found ways to "aggressively compress" music without making things sound obviously different (except louder at the same volume setting).
Brickwall limiting usually refers to an extreme compressor setting with infinite compression above a threshold and no compression at all below threshold with a hard knee, and with fast time constants for attack and release. Usually it is look-ahead type of compression as well.
For low- to mid-frequency this is effectively simple clipping, capping the top of the waveform, whereas for higher frequencies it actually reduces level.
And that's how it sounds, almost like simple clipping.
 

Geert

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What is the difference exactly? Isn't "brick-wall" just heavy compression or is it a specific technique?

Cross posting, but since I had my story almost finished...

It is a different approach. Brick-wall limiting is clipping the signal at a hard limit, and then reshaping the square wave like signal peaks to get rid of audible artifacts. With compression there's usually no hard limit, the signal can still get louder but with a reduced gain. Compression is also relatively slow, it takes time to kick in, and to return to unity gain. So it's less capable of capturing peaks. When you aplly very aggressive compression it's called limiting, but the process is still different from brick-wall limiting.
 

levimax

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Cross posting, but since I had my story almost finished...

It is a different approach. Brick-wall limiting is clipping the signal at a hard limit, and then reshaping the square wave like signal peaks to get rid of audible artifacts. With compression there's usually no hard limit, the signal can still get louder but with a reduced gain. Compression is also relatively slow, it takes time to kick in, and to return to unity gain. So it's less capable of capturing peaks. When you aplly very aggressive compression it's called limiting, but the process is still different from brick-wall limiting.

Brickwall limiting usually refers to an extreme compressor setting with infinite compression above a threshold and no compression at all below threshold with a hard knee, and with fast time constants for attack and release. Usually it is look-ahead type of compression as well.
For low- to mid-frequency this is effectively simple clipping, capping the top of the waveform, whereas for higher frequencies it actually reduces level.
And that's how it sounds, almost like simple clipping.


I definitely have some brick-walled re-masters that sound like clipping but it seems to me that the engineers have moved on from that for the most part. See below a song from Adele 30... that middle section looks "brick walled" yet if you listen to it to me at least it does not sound "bad" like clipping. Don't get me wrong I do not like this style of recording / mastering but if sounding as loud as possible without sounding distorted is the goal Adele 30 is masterpiece.

Adele_30.jpg
 

KSTR

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that middle section looks "brick walled"
As mentioned before, don't look at the whole song, you have to zoom in to see what type of limiting/compression is going on.

This one looks heavily brickwalled, even when zoomed in to show about a minute:
1656092981741.png


Zoomed in,1 second right at the beginning:
1656093075480.png

Really compressed to death, but not the typical brickwall pattern.
Zero dynamics left but not distorted. This likely is the product of many compressors and limiters stacked on top of each other.
 

Geert

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that middle section looks "brick walled" yet if you listen to it to me at least it does not sound "bad" like clipping.

As mentioned, decent brick-wall plug-ins reshape the signal so it won't sound bad if you don't take it to far.

This likely is the product of many compressors and limiters stacked on top of each other.

Indeed. Not uncommon to have 2 compressors in series on a lead vocal for example, and a separate compressor on the stereo master out. And then the mastering engineer might add some more compression and limiting.
 

sweetsounds

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I have the SACD how does it compare?

I don't have all the right software, so I tried with what I have.
I have the 2019 MOFI SACD version of Tunnel of Love, which I ripped and converted to DSF for analysis, (noise shaping visible above 30k):
1656149979996.png

Dynamic Range Meter says 12.


I converted to FLAC 44kHz to cut off the HF noise:
1656151097950.png




This is the "Money for Nothing" CD Version, Dynamic Range is 14:
1656150432183.png



Difficult to ABX compare audio as the sound level is quite different.
The SACD sounds much smoother on the e-Guitar and has a different spatial arrangement / wider soundstage, even though the soundstage isn't great on both.
Overall I don't like the SACD on my Genelec speakers, sound is too dense. This has nothing to do with the DR, I don't like the mastering.
 

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Jean.Francois

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But are we going to get a thread for every album he looks at from now on?
Hello,

I can post for each new album test, if you want.
After working a lot on the development of my system, I'm more interested in the supports, because a bad support on a good system will not be great. At the beginning I was testing for myself, then I thought that it would be interesting for other people, that's why I share my work of comparing different editions of the same album to help find the best version(s).

What's interesting is that there are no fixed rules, it can change from one album to another.

In the Money For Nothing album, it's the 2022 remaster which is the most compressed in dynamic for streaming.
While in the review of Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene album, it's the 40 years anniversary remaster (DR9) which is the less compressed in dynamics than the original version (DR6), while on media CD it's the opposite, the original has a DR12 vs the 40 years anniversary remaster (DR9).

There is not only a focus on the DR, the bandwidth can also be impacted. For the Money For Nothing album, when looking at the vinyl response curve (white yellow red arrows), there is a problem above 10 kHz when comparing it to the digital version. We lose the linearity, it is a problem during the cutting.
Vinyl in white, Digital in blue.
Spectrum - Money For Nothing - Vinyl (white) vs CD 1988 (blue).jpg

This is not the only vinyl album affected by this problem.

My goal is simply to share and exchange
 

sweetsounds

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I can post for each new album test, if you want..
What's interesting is that there are no fixed rules, it can change from one album to another.

In the Money For Nothing album, it's the 2022 remaster which is the most compressed in dynamic for streaming.

This is not the only vinyl album affected by this problem.

My goal is simply to share and exchange
It would be good to find this data. Together with speakers and room, the mastering determines sound quality.

It goes beyond DR, though. Frequency range and timbre, noise level etc. are important.
And I don't know of a metric for "soundstage quality" (centered vs wide) and "dynamically sounding vs laid back". But any information is useful.

Steve Hoffman's Forum is a good source, but in lack of a consistent characterization, one has to wade through lengthy recordings.
 

restorer-john

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In the Money For Nothing album, it's the 2022 remaster which is the most compressed in dynamic for streaming.
While in the review of Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene album, it's the 40 years anniversary remaster (DR9) which is the less compressed in dynamics than the original version (DR6), while on media CD it's the opposite, the original has a DR12 vs the 40 years anniversary remaster (DR9).

I have Jarre's original Oxygene purchased by me in 1983/4 pressed in Germany and Equinoxe purchased maybe a year later, also both with original smooth-edge cases. They are the first releases.

I heard the disc at the release of Compact Disc in Australia and ordered Oxygene at that time.
 

Newman

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Personally I consider it to be the exact opposite: a useless reference and with a high potential to be utterly misleading.

People who keep ‘pointing to it’ will invite this comment from me every single time, along with a suggestion that they stop. In an ideal world it wouldn’t exist (in discussions of the dynamic range of final masters of recordings), but hey it’s the internet.
 
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Ken Tajalli

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I have Jarre's original Oxygene purchased by me in 1983/4 pressed in Germany and Equinoxe purchased maybe a year later, also both with original smooth-edge cases. They are the first releases.

I heard the disc at the release of Compact Disc in Australia and ordered Oxygene at that time.
And I have the original LP as well! Bought myself in 1976.
In pristine condition! as well as 1971, 1973, 1975 ... Pink Floyds, and later in MFSL versions.
Inheritance for my girls.
Probably they will sell the lot in a car boot!
 

restorer-john

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Probably they will sell the lot in a car boot!

In the future, they will be the electric car version of the car boot sale- the 'frunk sale'. ;)
 

Anonamemouse

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Personally I consider it to be the exact opposite: a useless reference and with a high potential to be utterly misleading.

People who keep ‘pointing to it’ will invite this comment from me every single time, along with a suggestion that they stop. In an ideal world it wouldn’t exist (in discussions of the dynamic range of final masters of recordings), but hey it’s the internet.
I use it too, and I don't think it is misleading as long as it is used as a "guideline" (although I already think that is too strong a word).
It *IS* flawed though. Most people don't realize that adding 0.5 dB of low end to a mix or master instantly makes the DR go down by several points. It also says nothing about distortion, brickwalling, compression, limiting, etcetera.
A LUFS database would be much better, but I don't think there are any free tools to measure that in the same way the DR meter does.
 

Ken Tajalli

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I have Jarre's original Oxygene purchased by me in 1983/4 pressed in Germany and Equinoxe purchased maybe a year later, also both with original smooth-edge cases. They are the first releases.
I forgot to mention, I bought the LP for movie "Lawrence of Arabia" too as a child, I still have that, but not in good condition.
Relevance?
I let you guys guess that . . . :)
 
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Jean.Francois

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Personally I consider it to be the exact opposite: a useless reference and with a high potential to be utterly misleading.

People who keep ‘pointing to it’ will invite this comment from me every single time, along with a suggestion that they stop. In an ideal world it wouldn’t exist (in discussions of the dynamic range of final masters of recordings), but hey it’s the internet.
I use it too, and I don't think it is misleading as long as it is used as a "guideline" (although I already think that is too strong a word).
It *IS* flawed though. Most people don't realize that adding 0.5 dB of low end to a mix or master instantly makes the DR go down by several points. It also says nothing about distortion, brickwalling, compression, limiting, etcetera.
A LUFS database would be much better, but I don't think there are any free tools to measure that in the same way the DR meter does.

The "DR" seems to be criticized, but it doesn't exist because there is internet, it exists because there is a real problem with the compression of the dynamics with the digital.
The problem was not present when we were in full analog, we did not ask the question of DR. But with digital, we can do everything, the best and the worst.
Nowadays, you have to sound loud, so we use brickwall limiters to meet this demand.

Concerning the DR, it's not a perfect measurement, but it corresponds to something (based on RMS and peak). If we would use the integrated LUFS with the True Peak, we would get the same conclusions when comparing. If the streaming services have rules for the value of the integrated LUFS and the True Peak, it is because there is a problem with the average level and therefore with the dynamics. Even if these rules are not followed today!

But, it is not necessary to be satisfied with the DR, it is also necessary to look at the wafeforms to see that there is something happening, and especially to listen to realize that there is a problem on certain albums or tracks. The real problem is that it has an impact on the quality of listening, otherwise, we would not talk about DR.

But like any measure, it must be moderated and interpreted in its context by crossing it with other measures.
 
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