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Understanding brickwalled tracks vs dynamic range (R128)

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#1
I have two copies of a track from Elton John's - Elton John 1970 album.

Elton John (1970) [1985 - DJM / 827 689-2 / West Germany / CD]


and

Elton John [TIDAL / MQA]


Starting with the 1985 CD pressing - track 10 - The King Must Die you can see it's not been brickwalled:


R128 dynamic range is 15.3 LU.


Now looking at the TIDAL version - same track you can see it's pretty compressed:


R128 dynamic range is 16.0 LU.


I'm confused. I thought a 'brickwalled' track had a limiter applied during mastering to remove transient peaks so that the overall volume can be increased hence reducing dynamic range. How can a heavily brickwalled track in this case have a larger dynamic range than one which has clearly not been volume limited?
 
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#2
Dynamic range is the ratio between the quietest and loudest parts.
So if you leave those quietest parts relatively the same and push the loudest parts to the max, you've actually increased dynamic range.

In the CD version overall loudness is determined by the peak in the right channel around 4:00. In the Tidal version that peak is gone and the overall level raised. The quiet intro didn't change that much, thus the higher dynamic range for the track.

Also the level of a track is dependant on the other tracks on the record. Not every track is equally loud.

That's why DR doesn't tell you the whole story. Tracks with equal DR can sound dramatically different, depending on mixing and mastering.


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#3
Streaming services use techniques to control the perceived loudness, often based on ITU R128 spec. There are differences between the services but they (simplistically) take measurements of peak versus average and make an adjustment... I think that is probably what you are experiencing here.
 
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#4
Dynamic range is the ratio between the quietest and loudest parts.
So if you leave those quietest parts relatively the same and push the loudest parts to the max, you've actually increased dynamic range.
Of course, I completely missed that - by increasing the larger peaks in volume by a greater ratio than the smaller peaks the DR is now greater in this case - thanks for the clear explanation.

That's why DR doesn't tell you the whole story. Tracks with equal DR can sound dramatically different, depending on mixing and mastering.
If DR128 figures only give part of the picture is there something else I should be looking at when comparing different masterings of the same album to determine which one is 'best'?

Also are the waveforms above a reliable indication I should be using to spot good vs bad mastering? (ie. brickwall = bad)
 
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#5
Also are the waveforms above a reliable indication I should be using to spot good vs bad mastering? (ie. brickwall = bad)
In general I would say yes. Though more compressed music can sound great, for me it also tends to be more tiring. The constant sound pressure gives your ears less opportunity to relax/recover.

Also it usually has less depth. A lot of engineers go for a stage setup in their mixes; drums and bass in the back, singer and guitars in the front and piano, synths and backing vocals somewhere in between. Now distance is perceived in loudness differences, if you have two people singing and one voice is louder, you percieve it as being closer to you. So if you increase levels on everything you lose that depth. In some recording it's as if those musicians are standing next to eachother, all sounding equally loud.

So personally I prefer non-remastered versions. Though they can sound thinner, I really like the air and depth in those pre loudness war releases.
 

Wombat

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#7
I don't care about DR number, the reason is obvious as stated above. Fortunately I have many original CDs and LPs to listen still! Remasters suck.
Occasionally a remaster reproduces an old master tape that came before substandard mix-down to accommodate low quality reproducers, e.g. radios, car players, jukeboxes and also increased playing time, etc. However performances, accurately captured, but deliberaty altered for less than stellar 'sound signatures' demanded by the artist or the record company can improve on the SQ of original releases. The Rolling Stones were big on blurring/'dirtying' the mix and pushing the drums and bass lower. A very mid-pronounced sound where vocals and guitar(especially keith) featured. I find some Stones re-masters have more modern fidelity but I grew up with the murky sound and the remasters don't always sit as well with me.

I thought their Stripped album was a good audio product.
 
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#9
One thing that bugs me is I have Spotify but if I play Album X it’ll be a modern remaster. Same with Tidal too as the images in my first post show (Tidal Master rips).

Where/how can one legally obtain or figure out the best version of an album?

You’d think a boutique store offering a variety of various masters of every album would be quite successful amongst obsessives like us. Is there any such place or are we destined to trawl eBay for ever scarcer old album pressings?
 

Wombat

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#10
Google "Best version xxxxxx Hoffman" and wade through the subjective opinions. If enough concur they may be a guide.
 
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#11
Also http://dr.loudness-war.info/ gives you some insight in the available versions of an album.

Finding them for purchase is a pain. I got some luck with second hand record stores (especially with some Lou Reed and Rolling Stones albums). But replacing all my remastered cd's just isn't worth the effort (or the cost).
 
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#12
When a track is brickwalled like below is audio data lost at the highest amplitudes ie. like a RAW photo with clipped highlights?


Google "Best version xxxxxx Hoffman" and wade through the subjective opinions. If enough concur they may be a guide.
Heheh, glad to know I'm not the only one who does this! Although when the forum consensus lands on a MFSL Gold master or a SACD variant long out of print my wallet cries :eek:.
 
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#13
I don't think you'll ever get "the best" from a streaming service. Streaming services target a specific LUFS level for playback and actively change the playback level of each track to meet the LUFS target, and they are all different targets... iTunes is -16LUFS, YouTube is -13LUFS, Spotify and Tidal are -14LUFS. Mastering services know this and pick their target and make dynamic range adjustments accordingly, typically to optimise the for a single service.

What you, I, and I expect most people on this board and most music lovers want is close to maximum, or original, dynamic range. I have 4TB of my CDs copied to lossless files for just this reason. Files at home still sound better than the same thing streamed from any service. We have enough bandwidth and DSP now to have full DR masters stored online and the playback system gives the user the chance to apply whatever compression is required - more for, say, playback in the car or a party and less compression for critical listening at home. Unfortunately we're not quite in that world yet.

Readers might find this interesting https://www.masteringthemix.com/blo...dio-for-soundcloud-itunes-spotify-and-youtube
 

Soniclife

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#14
One thing that bugs me is I have Spotify but if I play Album X it’ll be a modern remaster. Same with Tidal too as the images in my first post show (Tidal Master rips).

Where/how can one legally obtain or figure out the best version of an album?
When I click versions in roon I nearly always see multiple versions of the same album, and there is usually an older master in the list, it's not easy to tell which is which though.
 
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#15
When a track is brickwalled like below is audio data lost at the highest amplitudes ie. like a RAW photo with clipped highlights?




Heheh, glad to know I'm not the only one who does this! Although when the forum consensus lands on a MFSL Gold master or a SACD variant long out of print my wallet cries :eek:.
Yes, data is lost, and new data is created - the limiting/clipping adds distortion.

Exactly what is lost and how much distortion is added depends on how the limiting is done.
 

tmtomh

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#16
On the original CD pressing it's also worth noting that while it is not peak-limited (and that is of course preferable), it's not an especially dynamic mastering. It appears that the loudest peaks of the original are still down around -3dB or some such, and aside from a few of the loudest moments most of the peaks are even lower in volume. Nothing wrong with that - but for a digital track with overall gain that low and such natural looking, non-buzzcut peaks, DR10 is actually not very high. So if you increased the gain on the original CD's waveform to bring it closer to that of the remaster, you might find that the quiet parts of the original CD didn't look so quiet anymore.
 

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