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Why? Recordings and surround sound

MattJ

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[dinosaur] Why do so many rock recordings suck. The technology is there. The know-how is there. Surely the budget is there for the major acts. And yet a lot of them sound like they were recorded - poorly - back in the 1960's. A lot of classical recordings from that era are very good, and some modern classical recordings are even better.
Take an album like Primus "Pork Soda". I happen to like some of their music, but the recording quality varies tremendously, even on that same album. "My Name is Mud" is a typical example - (imho) far too much reverb, and especially muddy drum sound. Weak bass drum and cymbals. Now cue up "Wounded Knee" on that same album - much better (drum, I know, I'm a drummer, shoot me) recording, realistic bass drum impact. WHY ONLY THIS TRACK.

Surround sound for music. Why? Stereo is an effect. It's never going to be but so realistic. Simply going brute force with 7 or 9 or 19 channels is doing what? Why not just have 360 for TOTAL IMMERSION. And what, do we expect that first violin is going to run back and forth from the stage to the lobby while he's playing? I don't get it. Help me understand. Now get off my lawn before I call the cops. [/dinosaur]
 

DVDdoug

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From a fellow dinosaur...

I like the music I like ;) and IMO most of the recordings from the 1960s are OK (remastered or not) but the record production generally wasn't great. A lot of the records had rolled-off highs, and maybe some distortion and the CDs much sound better (plus you don't get the record noise). Recordings from the 1950s and earlier don't have the same quality.

Most modern music (and some remastered music) is over dynamically compressed for my taste. It's constantly "loud" or constantly "intense" with no dynamic contrast (or "dynamic compression"). Rock music was never that dynamic but with "advances" in digital processing it's worse! But, that's a matter of taste and obviously people are buying highly-compressed music or they wouldn't make it.

I don't think it's just the over-compression... I think new music just doesn't touch older people like it does young (more emotional) people. Sometimes new music "sounds good" to me and I want to like it, but it doesn't do anything for me emotionally.

far too much reverb, and especially muddy drum sound. Weak bass drum and cymbals. Now cue up "Wounded Knee" on that same album - much better (drum, I know, I'm a drummer, shoot me) recording, realistic bass drum impact. WHY ONLY THIS TRACK.
It might have been recorded at a different time in a different studio with a different producer and mixed & mastered by different mastering engineers. Although it's usually the mastering engineer's job to make an album sound coherent. (But he only has what he's given to work with.)

Surround sound for music. Why? Stereo is an effect. It's never going to be but so realistic. Simply going brute force with 7 or 9 or 19 channels is doing what? Why not just have 360 for TOTAL IMMERSION. And what, do we expect that first violin is going to run back and forth from the stage to the lobby while he's playing? I
Theoretically, stereo isn't supposed to be an "effect". It's supposed to simulate a realistic soundstage with some instruments on the left, right, or center. But with studio-recorded rock it's completely artificial.

Surround music is still rare. But once you go "artificial" you can start using surround sound. Or, with classical music you can re-create the effect of a concert hall with reverberated sound coming from all-around. I have several (rock) concert DVDs with surround sound. There is usually some delayed reverb from the rear (most-likely artificial) and the crowd noise/applause comes from all-around.

And personally, I like to use a Pro Logic "soundfield" to get delayed reverb in the rear from regular stereo recordings. Basically, I'm trying to simulate a concert hall even though rock isn't normally performed in concert halls.

I'm a drummer, shoot me) recording, realistic bass drum impact.
I think it's compression that kills the drums. When everything is the same loudness a strong drum-hit or cymbal crash can't stand-out.

Sometimes drums sound better (to me) on a concert DVD than a CD. It seems like drums should be easier to record in the studio... Maybe there is less compression on the "live" DVDs but I don't know. If you are a Creedence Clearwater Revival/John Fogerty fan two DVDs come to mind - The Long Road Home and Premonition have "good sounding drums" (at least they sound good to me).
 

Kal Rubinson

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Surround sound for music. Why? Stereo is an effect. It's never going to be but so realistic. Simply going brute force with 7 or 9 or 19 channels is doing what? Why not just have 360 for TOTAL IMMERSION. And what, do we expect that first violin is going to run back and forth from the stage to the lobby while he's playing? I don't get it. Help me understand. Now get off my lawn before I call the cops. [/dinosaur]
Been explained many times. The totality of a musical performance includes the performers and the sound of the performance space. (The same performance in a concert hall, a small club, a gymnasium and a football stadium will sound vastly different.) Multichannel recording captures more of and better renders the ambiance of the performance as well as the performance, itself.
 

Sancus

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Surround sound for music. Why? Stereo is an effect. It's never going to be but so realistic. Simply going brute force with 7 or 9 or 19 channels is doing what? Why not just have 360 for TOTAL IMMERSION. And what, do we expect that first violin is going to run back and forth from the stage to the lobby while he's playing? I don't get it. Help me understand. Now get off my lawn before I call the cops. [/dinosaur]
[dinosaur] Why do so many rock recordings suck.

Please experience just 1 classic rock album that was written for surround(quad, ofc) from day 1 on a good surround system. Many of Pink Floyd's albums were. Or one of the Steven Wilson King Crimson, Tears for Fears, Yes, or Jethro Tull remixes. These remixes also tend to have much better dynamic range than even contemporary stereo masters, among other improvements.

If you don't at least understand after that why people think it's better than stereo, then I can't help you lol. If you don't have access to a good surround system, unfortunate, but don't knock it till you've tried it :)
 
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MattJ

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DVDdoug -
t might have been recorded at a different time in a different studio with a different producer and mixed & mastered by different mastering engineers. Although it's usually the mastering engineer's job to make an album sound coherent. (But he only has what he's given to work with.)

Good point. Although I would assume that the artists would get to hear it before it gets finalized, and if I was the drummer, I would sure want that Wounded Knee sound on every track!

I think it's compression that kills the drums. When everything is the same loudness a strong drum-hit or cymbal crash can't stand-out.

I agree with that. I also think that drums are hard to record period, and for instance, miking only the top head, or miking mainly the top head of snares and toms robs them of both attack and body, resulting in dull whack or thud sounds. Excessive reverb makes it even worse, dulling the attack, IMHO. Now I know some people like that type of sound (Hello, Ringo!). I guess I am not one of them. I don't have much experience in recording, but I have done it a few times.

Kal -

Been explained many times. The totality of a musical performance includes the performers and the sound of the performance space. (The same performance in a concert hall, a small club, a gymnasium and a football stadium will sound vastly different.) Multichannel recording captures more of and better renders the ambiance of the performance as well as the performance, itself.

I get that. I just wonder about the ever increasing complexity of trying to achieve that sound. When is enough? 19+ channels? At that point, how much is it to just rent the orchestra? I kid. ;)

Sancus -

If you don't have access to a good surround system, unfortunate, but don't knock it till you've tried it

Good point. To be fair, while I have heard quite a few surround systems, I've never heard a high end one.
 

Kal Rubinson

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I get that. I just wonder about the ever increasing complexity of trying to achieve that sound. When is enough? 19+ channels? At that point, how much is it to just rent the orchestra? I kid. ;)
5-7 work fine for me.
Good point. To be fair, while I have heard quite a few surround systems, I've never heard a high end one.
A better distinction is between surround systems set up for video/HT and those set up for music. High end is a distracting complication here.
 

Pogre

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Okay, maybe off topic but I'm still a newb at understanding compression with relation music recordings and loudness. Intuitively when I think of something being compressed it means to make smaller or maybe even remove something. What is being compressed that makes everything louder? The way I understand it they turn everything up so it's all the same volume, killing dynamic range and makes the whole recording sound louder overall. Which is then perceived as sounding cleaner to some than a non compressed version, right?

I just never understood exactly what it is that's being compressed.

*Edit- I mean with regard mastering the recording. Not how it works with different digital formats like mp3, flac, etc.
 

Tom C

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Most pop is multichannel mono, right? That is, one mono mike on the cymbals, one on kick, one on each vocal, etc. All recorded to multiple mono tracks and subsequently mixed and remixed over the years to whatever flavor-of-day format the studio wishes to sell the same material for the umpeenth time in. These days the drummers in Seattle, the guitar player’s in LA, and the singer’s in New York. They may not ever be in the same room playing together at the same time.
Relatively few recordings were made in true stereo, in real time with a stereo pair, stereo array or stereo mike. The ones that are made this way sound better. It is true stereo.
Other recordings are a mix, with the vocals record with a stereo mike, and the background instruments recorded in multichannel mono.
Now days, there are recordings available in true multichannel, but again the minority
 

Kal Rubinson

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Most pop is multichannel mono, right?..................................................................................Now days, there are recordings available in true multichannel, but again the minority.
In pop, mebbe. Not in classical.
 
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MattJ

MattJ

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Okay, maybe off topic but I'm still a newb at understanding compression with relation music recordings and loudness. Intuitively when I think of something being compressed it means to make smaller or maybe even remove something. What is being compressed that makes everything louder? The way I understand it they turn everything up so it's all the same volume, killing dynamic range and makes the whole recording sound louder overall. Which is then perceived as sounding cleaner to some than a non compressed version, right?

I just never understood exactly what it is that's being compressed.

*Edit- I mean with regard mastering the recording. Not how it works with different digital formats like mp3, flac, etc.
The difference between the loudest parts and the quietest parts are being compressed. That can have the effect of making the whole recording sound louder, but mainly it limits musical accents. To me, that robs the music of emotional content. I want to hear when the drummer (or guitarist or whoever) goes from quiet to THUNDEROUSLY LOUD (or vice versa) to make a statement in the song. That gives "startle factor" or "jump factor", which I like, but I suppose some do not. Now compression can be useful when you are listening and you *don't* want startle or jump, such as listening at night, when you want to be able to hear the quiet parts of the song listening at low volumes. IMHO, it doesn't really have anything to do with "cleanness", which I associate with detail retrieval and lack of distortion. If it's not there, compression is not going to illuminate it.
 
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MattJ

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Most pop is multichannel mono, right? That is, one mono mike on the cymbals, one on kick, one on each vocal, etc. All recorded to multiple mono tracks and subsequently mixed and remixed over the years to whatever flavor-of-day format the studio wishes to sell the same material for the umpeenth time in. These days the drummers in Seattle, the guitar player’s in LA, and the singer’s in New York. They may not ever be in the same room playing together at the same time.
Relatively few recordings were made in true stereo, in real time with a stereo pair, stereo array or stereo mike. The ones that are made this way sound better. It is true stereo.
Other recordings are a mix, with the vocals record with a stereo mike, and the background instruments recorded in multichannel mono.
Now days, there are recordings available in true multichannel, but again the minority
Yes, I think for Rock/pop etc that is true. I know many drum sets are mono multi-miked. But I think most of them are still presented as a stereo soundstage in front of the listener.
 

Pogre

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The difference between the loudest parts and the quietest parts are being compressed. That can have the effect of making the whole recording sound louder, but mainly it limits musical accents. To me, that robs the music of emotional content. I want to hear when the drummer (or guitarist or whoever) goes from quiet to THUNDEROUSLY LOUD (or vice versa) to make a statement in the song. That gives "startle factor" or "jump factor", which I like, but I suppose some do not. Now compression can be useful when you are listening and you *don't* want startle or jump, such as listening at night, when you want to be able to hear the quiet parts of the song listening at low volumes. IMHO, it doesn't really have anything to do with "cleanness", which I associate with detail retrieval and lack of distortion. If it's not there, compression is not going to illuminate it.
Ah, your first sentence I can wrap my head around. I now understand why it's called compressed.

I agree that it isn't necessarily cleaner. Thats why I put it as "perceived as by some". Turning up all the quieter parts to match the louder parts or vice versa doesn't make it literally cleaner, I get that. I prefer it uncompressed myself. I'm a drummer and you miss a lot of nuance and emotion if you don't have those dynamics.
 

blueone

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Been explained many times. The totality of a musical performance includes the performers and the sound of the performance space. (The same performance in a concert hall, a small club, a gymnasium and a football stadium will sound vastly different.) Multichannel recording captures more of and better renders the ambiance of the performance as well as the performance, itself.
Agreed. The issue is how far in expense and annoyance one is willing to go to get the advantages of multichannel sound. The annoyances are, of course, speakers and cables everywhere. Having discussed this question with several people over the years, the factor that needs to change is readiness of the recording industry. Most recordings, even in the classical and jazz realms, just aren't created for multi-channel masters. And I refuse to become one of those audiophiles who choose their recording library based on how well it complements their equipment. If anything, I see the music industry focusing more on headphones, earbuds, and car audio than they are high quality home environments, as I've bitched about multiple times before in this forum. For the time being, L/R speakers and subs are as far as I'm willing to go.
 
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MattJ

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Kal Rubinson

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Agreed. The issue is how far in expense and annoyance one is willing to go to get the advantages of multichannel sound. The annoyances are, of course, speakers and cables everywhere. Having discussed this question with several people over the years, the factor that needs to change is readiness of the recording industry. Most recordings, even in the classical and jazz realms, just aren't created for multi-channel masters. And I refuse to become one of those audiophiles who choose their recording library based on how well it complements their equipment. If anything, I see the music industry focusing more on headphones, earbuds, and car audio than they are high quality home environments, as I've bitched about multiple times before in this forum. For the time being, L/R speakers and subs are as far as I'm willing to go.
I cannot dispute any of your points. These are issues that I have been dealing with for decades.

That said, I have made the investments (physical and financial) in two multichannel systems and reap the reward of enjoying a great deal of music in multichannel. More than half of my collection is multichannel:
Total collection: 81,560 tracks
Classical Multichannel: 38,216 tracks
Non-Classical Multichannel: 5,676 tracks
 

blueone

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I cannot dispute any of your points. These are issues that I have been dealing with for decades.

That said, I have made the investments (physical and financial) in two multichannel systems and reap the reward of enjoying a great deal of music in multichannel. More than half of my collection is multichannel:
Total collection: 81,560 tracks
Classical Multichannel: 38,216 tracks
Non-Classical Multichannel: 5,676 tracks
Fascinating. How did you find over 15,000 classical multi-channel classical tracks? SACD recordings?
 

Kal Rubinson

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Fascinating. How did you find over 15,000 classical multi-channel classical tracks? SACD recordings?
Primarily but also DVD-As, DVDs, BDs, BDAs and, more and more, downloads.
 

Sancus

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If anything, I see the music industry focusing more on headphones, earbuds, and car audio than they are high quality home environments, as I've bitched about multiple times before in this forum.
Headphones ARE multi-channel though. That's what headphone virtualization is all about, and the best implementations(smyth realiser) are *extremely* good.

Headphones are our friends, because mch music produced for headphones sounds great on a real mch system as long as it was mixed/mastered well. And it's the only real way we'll get enough demand for the process, due to the logistics of physical speakers.

Fascinating. How did you find over 15,000 classical multi-channel classical tracks? SACD recordings?
I think there's a misconception about multi-channel rarity just cause it's not shoved in your face by streaming etc. There are ~8500 multi-channel albums listed on hraudio.net and about 7100 of them are classical. Classical multi-channel is not actually too difficult to find -- it's mostly the other genres. Much of it is SACD but some download sources are: Pentatone, 2L store, nativedsd.com (there are others).

That said, Apple Music is pushing Atmos/multi-channel hard. I'm pretty sure they're already approaching 1000 albums, it's hard to be sure since there's not really a global list. There's 3-4 new ones every other day. Not all of them are good or anything, but it's an astonishing rate of production considering the total of all (non-film/tv) multi-channel albums ever produced is probably something like 10,000, and it seems like they're going to increase that by maybe 10% per year on their own.

Most pop is multichannel mono, right? That is, one mono mike on the cymbals, one on kick, one on each vocal, etc. All recorded to multiple mono tracks and subsequently mixed and remixed over the years to whatever flavor-of-day format the studio wishes to sell the same material for the umpeenth time in. These days the drummers in Seattle, the guitar player’s in LA, and the singer’s in New York. They may not ever be in the same room playing together at the same time.
Recording a wide variety of "perspectives" of the music is the standard in modern recording studios. It's *not* just per-instrument mics, it can be anything. There are mics to record the room sound a few feet above the players, mics to record sections, mics to record soloists, sometimes instruments in iso booths by themselves. Even mics to record 30 feet above the musicians.

Personally I think it's a misconception that pure stereo recordings are common or a good thing, even for classical. Historically maybe, but here's an interview with Tony Faulkner, an old and relatively purist recording engineer who's recorded thousands of classical albums where he discusses the close or spot micing he does for certain situations. "I can't be too dogmatic otherwise the musicians all hate me". These are pros doing a job, purity is not a goal, results are the goal.

Even the classic Decca Tree had 3 mics, and while they were originally mixed down to stereo in the recording studio, it makes absolutely no sense to do this with modern equipment. It's much smarter to keep every track you record separate so you or the client can do anything they want with that raw material in the future.

There are certainly recording studios using an expanded Decca Tree to produce albums without a lot of post-recording mixing, but those also use more than 2 channels.
A better distinction is between surround systems set up for video/HT and those set up for music. High end is a distracting complication here.
I don't actually think there needs to be that much difference. There's not much I'd change about my current system(in my signature) for pure music other than to bring the center up, but it's close enough right now that there's no audible difference. This may also have something to do with the fact that I'm using coaxials so there is 0 vertical FR shift whatsoever at any angle.

Honestly you can put your TV pretty high up as long as you're willing to recline to watch it so completely resolving the center issue is possible.
 

MattHooper

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I listen to music in stereo (on my two channel system) and also on my home theater system (a meagre 7.0 system). I don't have any music actually recorded for multichannel, but I quite enjoy listening to some music upmixed to surround by my AV receiver. It can be quite pleasant and engaging.
 

blueone

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Headphones ARE multi-channel though. That's what headphone virtualization is all about, and the best implementations(smyth realiser) are *extremely* good.

Headphones are our friends, because mch music produced for headphones sounds great on a real mch system as long as it was mixed/mastered well. And it's the only real way we'll get enough demand for the process, due to the logistics of physical speakers.
I think it's more accurate to say that some headphones support multi-channel, but the very large majority by sales volume don't. I'll be more hopeful when I see multi-channel Beats headphones. (Not that I'd want anything from Beats, but I see them everywhere, so I use them as an indicator for popularity.) I'm not convinced that multi-channel headphones are driving the recording industry in any way.

I think there's a misconception about multi-channel rarity just cause it's not shoved in your face by streaming etc. There are ~8500 multi-channel albums listed on hraudio.net and about 7100 of them are classical. Classical multi-channel is not actually too difficult to find -- it's mostly the other genres. Much of it is SACD but some download sources are: Pentatone, 2L store, nativedsd.com (there are others).

That said, Apple Music is pushing Atmos/multi-channel hard. I'm pretty sure they're already approaching 1000 albums, it's hard to be sure since there's not really a global list. There's 3-4 new ones every other day. Not all of them are good or anything, but it's an astonishing rate of production considering the total of all (non-film/tv) multi-channel albums ever produced is probably something like 10,000, and it seems like they're going to increase that by maybe 10% per year on their own.
Moving beyond stereo, like Amazon Music and Apple Music are, is definitely emerging, but in the case of those two companies their target markets appear to be smart speakers (Echo & HomePod). Yuck.
 
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