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Where did the dynamic range go?
knutinh
post Nov 28 2006, 13:14
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I have seen numerous claims that the "loudness war" is killing dynamics. It makes a lot of sense. But did anyone actually test this hypothesis?

How does one define dynamic range within a musically usable setting? Is it the difference between peak amplitude and ReplayGain value of every track? In that case, it is more precisely the "peak-to-perceptiveloudness-ratio". Or does one compare the rms values of every track to its peak value and then to other tracks? Id say that an album where some tracks are 50% quieter than others is probably "dynamic".

It seems to me that RG is targeted at finding the percepted loudness of the loudest timeslots - usable for finding out how loud a track is. But for finding out how dynamic it is, one would probably be just as interested in the quiet passages. The ratio between the 50% quietest timeslots to the 50% loudest timeslots?

Of course, if RG implies that a track is very loud, then it probably is not very dynamic. But that would seem to add some uncertainty? Some music probably is very loud naturally (Rock n roll music), with or without quiteter passages (long time-scale). At the same time, it may or may not contain loud percussive peaks from eg drums and bass that leads to a reduction of the rms level (short time-scale). And of course, with only the CD to judge from, no program can guess what the actual raw mix sounded like :-)

If a relevant number can be found - ideally calculated by existing statistics such as RG, then it should be quite easy to plot "perceptual dynamics" vs "production year" and possibly "genre" from tags of a large music collection. Will this produce a y(x) =a-b*x kind of function? =)

-k

This post has been edited by knutinh: Nov 28 2006, 13:17
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boombaard
post Nov 28 2006, 14:57
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QUOTE (knutinh @ Nov 28 2006, 14:14) *
I have seen numerous claims that the "loudness war" is killing dynamics. It makes a lot of sense. But did anyone actually test this hypothesis?

How does one define dynamic range within a musically usable setting? Is it the difference between peak amplitude and ReplayGain value of every track? In that case, it is more precisely the "peak-to-perceptiveloudness-ratio". Or does one compare the rms values of every track to its peak value and then to other tracks? Id say that an album where some tracks are 50% quieter than others is probably "dynamic".

It seems to me that RG is targeted at finding the percepted loudness of the loudest timeslots - usable for finding out how loud a track is. But for finding out how dynamic it is, one would probably be just as interested in the quiet passages. The ratio between the 50% quietest timeslots to the 50% loudest timeslots?

Of course, if RG implies that a track is very loud, then it probably is not very dynamic. But that would seem to add some uncertainty? Some music probably is very loud naturally (Rock n roll music), with or without quiteter passages (long time-scale). At the same time, it may or may not contain loud percussive peaks from eg drums and bass that leads to a reduction of the rms level (short time-scale). And of course, with only the CD to judge from, no program can guess what the actual raw mix sounded like :-)

If a relevant number can be found - ideally calculated by existing statistics such as RG, then it should be quite easy to plot "perceptual dynamics" vs "production year" and possibly "genre" from tags of a large music collection. Will this produce a y(x) =a-b*x kind of function? =)

-k


the discussion as i see it isn't so much about the differences between tracks, (though that's probably a result of it) but mostly a discussion about how tracks themselves have almost no dynamic gradation to them anymore.. it might start with 3s of 'intro' softness, but after that it's (literally) full volume/amplitude for the remainder of the track.. any parts that might've in the past been softer parts to build up dramatic tension or function as an interlude between subsequent passages/parts of a song are gone, to ensure that nobody 'forgets' they're listening to the song in question (an odd notion to be sure, but it seems to be the case nonetheless)
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knutinh
post Nov 28 2006, 15:26
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This is the phaenomenon that I am talking about:
Robbie Williams cd:

Adagio Karajan cd:


The question is how to estimate its historical and cultural progress (as well as existance) when we dont have access to the original mix. I am guessing that ABBAs hits looked more similar to the RW CD than the classical one, and one might argue that heavy processing is a part of the ABBA sound...

-k

This post has been edited by knutinh: Nov 28 2006, 15:27
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Societal Eclipse
post Nov 28 2006, 17:37
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QUOTE (knutinh @ Nov 28 2006, 10:26) *
The question is how to estimate its historical and cultural progress (as well as existance) when we dont have access to the original mix.

Well as you'll see here there is a lot of comparison between multiple generations of the same recording. Whether it's a newer CD remaster or a LP -> digital conversion compared to the official CD release. Though we do not have access to the original studio tapes we can quite easily in many cases see the damage done over ~10+ years as the label re-releases an album.

For a practical instance I had to buy the new version of Blue Oyster Cult's first album for the demo tapes from their previous band, Soft White Underbelly. However the album itself being much much more compressed than the original what I did was rip just the bonus tracks and apply album gain independently of my earlier rip from the regular/original CD version. To me that was a better route than listening to the newish mastering of songs that just didn't sound right to me as I expected them to sound.

Another, one of Ministry's songs "Just One Fix" has a "12" Edit" version (from the LP single) as well as a differently named version (but the exact same song) on the CD single. However as I discovered the box set contains the 12" Edit and could tell with EAC's wav editor that it was not clipped as badly as the CD version. What clipping was left, I assume was probably there straight from the studio due to the nature of the music. Once again, it replaced the squashed track in my playlist. In those cases the difference was enough for me to hear, and enough that it made the newer/louder version unpleasant in comparison.


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Iain
post Dec 10 2006, 06:35
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Something to consider is the availability of technology to compress a signal to reduce the dynamic range without introducing traditional compression artifacts (pumping and breathing). Within the last 10 years or so we have seen the introduction of powerful multiband compressors and limiters. Now we have 5-band linear phase limiters that will squash the life out of anything if you want it to. 20-30 years ago these thing did not exist. I suspect that ABBA will have more dynamic range than Robbie because ABBA didn't have the technology to reduce the dynamic range even if they wanted to.

Also it is intersting to look at the differnce between the peak and RMS level. Small differences typically mean that the track is heavily compressed.
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gaillard
post Dec 10 2006, 07:50
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why would one want to?????
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Woodinville
post Dec 10 2006, 08:44
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It seems to me that answering this question would be simple.

In fact, I've analyzed quite a few recordings over the years, starting with analysis using an audio VTVM with its output quantized 4 times a second (yes, after lots of "dampling" of the meter), and moving on eventually to 20 bit recordings of live orchestra.

I've also analyzed the data on a lot of CD's.

I have found many examples of recent CD's where the data is at "over" level for several samples in a row many times. I have found examples (try "La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin, the live album) where the waveform looks like the one posted above.

These recordings have no dynamics at all to speak of.

Let us take, for example, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" as digitized from the original issue LP (yes, I have that). Even in LP, it's got enormous dynamic range, compared to the dynamic range available in most modern buildings and offices.

Look at "Sticky Fingers" by the Rolling Stones. It has dynamics. Look at "Ballad of Sally Rose" by Emmylou Harris, it has dynamics. Look at "General Taylor" by "Great Big Sea". Lots of dynamics.

Now look at a recent recording. Where's the dynamics? There aren't any.

Use a loudness model. Measure recordings loudness on a 10 millisecond basis. Look at the histogram. Again, you see a vast difference.

There is a "loudness war" and many modern CD's are compressed to the point of utter unlistenability, while we hear the labels complain that their sales are dropping off.

You figure.


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wodney
post Dec 10 2006, 10:34
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QUOTE (Woodinville @ Dec 9 2006, 23:44) *
There is a "loudness war" and many modern CD's are compressed to the point of utter unlistenability, while we hear the labels complain that their sales are dropping off.

You figure.



The "loudness war" has bot all to do with declining CD sales. Loudness and bad mastering might matter to a few in here and elsewhere, but in reality we are a tiny minority in the music buying domain. The truth is most people don't give a damn about the quality of CD recordings. My girlfriend and work colleagues are perfect illustrations of this - their idea of a good sound system is something costing <150 and they're happy listening to music on a cheap portable CD player, a pc with 10 speakers or an mp3 player with 3 headphones...they just don't care about quality.
People have a finite source of money for which there's more and more competing attractions - inevitably it means there's less left over to spend buying CD's.

This post has been edited by wodney: Dec 10 2006, 10:35
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Danny Kaey
post Dec 10 2006, 16:50
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here's an excellent analysis of "loudness wars"...

http://www.mindspring.com/~mrichter/dynamics/dynamics.htm

I have noticed that in the last 6-12 months a few mainstream publications & newspapers have in fact picked up on this topic... who knows, if enough people make note of it we may be able to force changes...

The problem is that record labels for mass market dreck look at the most bang for buck, ie. where will the stuff get listened to? The sad truth is that with mobile phones now offering mp3 playback on tiny 0.25" drivers you have to squash dynamic range to 0 otherwise you won't hear a thing!

This post has been edited by Danny Kaey: Dec 10 2006, 16:51


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Woodinville
post Dec 11 2006, 19:53
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QUOTE (wodney @ Dec 10 2006, 01:34) *
People have a finite source of money for which there's more and more competing attractions - inevitably it means there's less left over to spend buying CD's.


Indeed, especially when they don't sound engaging and comfortable to listen to, eh?


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