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USA Today: Music lovers pursue technologies to return to high fidelity
jamesbaud
post Feb 5 2012, 12:14
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http://m.usatoday.com/article/tech/52963362

I thought this was interesting.
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C.R.Helmrich
post Feb 5 2012, 12:36
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Here we go again. I had to stop at page 5.

QUOTE
In mathematical terms, a typical Blu-ray song contains 2,304,000 bits of information. A CD contains a third of that about 705,600 bits.

But a digital version an MP3 downloaded from iTunes or the Internet captures just 70,000 bits.

For all of the hundreds or thousands of minute human-driven adjustments of microphones, sound boards, mixing and mastering that go into constructing a professional album, it's a computer software program that uses a standard algorithm that decides which of the millions of bits of information aren't necessary for the human ear in effect, which parts of a song a listener can do without.

Dynamic ranges (louds and softs) and frequency responses (high and low notes) are often casualties of the compression process.

Must be a very short "typical song". Only one argument is true here: high notes are often casualties. But guess why they are. And I feel kinda insulted by the "standard algorithm".

Chris


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Kohlrabi
post Feb 5 2012, 12:39
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The article, if you may even call it that for it's lack of real information and extreme brevity, to me shows a good trend and a bad trend. The good thing is sound quality appears to become a concern for some engineers, and I hope we will see better mastering in the future. The bad thing is that the article, as so many recently, fails to grasp what the real problem is. I assume the article aims at "selling" high-res masters to the crowd. The "3%" number (3% of what actually?) is a meaningless sales pitch to bring people to believe that possible "studio quality" masters will give huge benefits over well encoded MP3s. The things described as missing can be captured by good recording and put on CD with no problems, or are not perceptible by humans. In my book the main problems are bad mastering habits and poor end-user audio reproduction hardware, but maybe the former might improve in the future. I think the businesses should invest into teaching and learning about digital audio and understanding what is available now, rather than expensive new gear and formats, which aim at reproducing inaudible parts of the music. The sad thing is that the resurgence of proper mastering habits will probably coincide with the advent of the sale of high-res audio, and most people will attribute the "better sound" to the latter rather than the former.

As a sidenote, I hope the screenshot doesn't show the engineer comparing waveforms of lossless and lossy encodes to bring his point across. What is often missed is that lossy encoding aims towards perceptual reproduction, not data reproduction.


EDIT: OK, I just noticed how to expand the article at the bottom below the facebook comments. How inconvenient. And the article itself looks like it has even more horrific claims than the excerpt, Chris already picked one of them, but the parts talking about Vinyl look just as horrible.

This post has been edited by Kohlrabi: Feb 5 2012, 13:05


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skamp
post Feb 5 2012, 13:10
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Here's the full page article.


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derty2
post Feb 5 2012, 14:12
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Speaking as a music lover and consumer of high-fidelity digital audio, even if hi-rez digital downloads became a common item for purchase, that fact in itself is not a good enough reason for me to purchase. The presentation of the product is just as important to me as the actual consumption.

For example, there is an official vendor on the internet named "HDTracks" who supply such content right now. But every time I look at the presentations for an release, I feel insulted; my intelligence is being insulted; I don't want to be a hi-rez consuming rabbit. I want to be presented with ALL facts about the product from every possible angle; presentational, technical, engineering, artistic, fanatical, historical, factual ...everything!

Publish some screenshots of the audio waveform and spectrum ...I am fascinated in the technical details; let me have a look!

Publish the facts about the engineering facility and the engineers names and all the other behind-the-scenes stuff!

View the product page as a thread in a forum; allow the users to leave comments and interact (such as done at Amazon.com).

Basically, what I am trying to say is this...
Until the day comes where I see an album presented to me by an official site that looks like a cross between Discogs.com and 'unofficial' vinyl ripping blogs, then that's the day I will be a regular official consumer.
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zima
post Feb 5 2012, 14:20
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With small assault of such articles recently (say, there's also one ~from Neil Young floating nearby, and I think I've seen one more under discussion). it starts to look like some orchestrated attempt to create artificial demand which otherwise would be hardly there (and with good reasons)...

...like if some media-influential Big Music™ execs just decided that the already high-quality* music is becoming too much of a ~commodity, and of course that might get in the way of extracting maximum prices.
*Well, at least technically high-quality; mastering is another issue and I don't really believe "HD music" would help - not for long.

Kinda like what also happens recently, again, with stereoscopy (of the visual, cinematic, TV kind), under the "3D" label (a bit unfortunate label BTW; there are for example more impressive, less flawed, much "more 3D" methods than stereoscopy, which are "just" beyond our present technical capabilities, mass-implementation probably a few decades away - but in the meantime, it looks like marketers are working hard to put off people from "3D" overall) - I guess largely because nice & big "normal" LCD TVs are getting pleasantly inexpensive, the horror!

This post has been edited by zima: Feb 5 2012, 14:42


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db1989
post Feb 5 2012, 14:45
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QUOTE (derty2 @ Feb 5 2012, 13:12) *
HDTracks

Who, in addition to anything else that might be said, have a rather questionable approach to marketing their products (emphasis mine):

Q: Will I really hear the difference between the various formats?
A: You should hear a substantial difference when listening to the music on a home stereo. The music will sound cleaner, the bass will be tighter and you will notice a higher definition in all the instruments. If you are going to pay for digital music, you might as well own it in the highest-quality format available.

Q: Why do you charge more for tracks?
A: Many web-based music downloading sites sell tracks for $0.99. However, they are selling you low-quality MP3-compressed files. Full CD-quality files use more bandwidth and storage space so our costs are higher. In addition, we use specialized audiophile encoding processes to get the best sound. With HDtracks you might pay more per download, but you are getting a much higher-quality product.

Perhaps this brings them quite neatly in line with the article being discussed.
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hlloyge
post Feb 5 2012, 17:37
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So, it's not article worth of reading, then? wink.gif
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db1989
post Feb 5 2012, 17:51
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Because the article is by default displayed as a short page, actually the first of nine, and the link to display it all at once is buried away down the page, here is said link for convenience:
http://m.usatoday.com/article/tech/5296336...ViewMode=single

QUOTE (hlloyge @ Feb 5 2012, 16:37) *
So, it's not article worth of reading, then? wink.gif

Well, I am no expert, but this seems so silly that that would seem to be no prerequisite! Some quotations:

QUOTE
By the time a recording makes its way to fans via iTunes or over Internet radio, it possesses a fraction of the total sound information captured in the studio as little as 3% of the original, live sound waves. Even CD formats are stripped of up to 90% of the live recording to fit onto a 4 3/4-inch disc.

Often gone are the last lingering notes of a bass guitar, the echo of a drumbeat, the very high and very low notes.
QUOTE
Still, the steep drop in sound quality as digital music has taken hold remains a source of aggravation for artists and music professionals and audiophiles among consumers who argue that music is losing many of the subtle qualities that gave it emotion, spaciousness and depth in order to make songs Internet ready.
QUOTE
Analog captures the entire spectrum of sound, as does vinyl, because the music isn't compressed or squeezed to fit.

Digital recordings, on the other hand, are captured by computers, which record only certain slices of sound at split-second intervals that are then encoded into computer language.
QUOTE
Although no medium is capable of duplicating exactly the quality of a live performance, the best audio recordings and playback equipment capture the entire range of sound in the studio.

Vinyl is the most faithful medium, with no compression or translation of music.

So, I guess not!

QUOTE
Bandwidth probably will expand, allowing for bigger digital music files that store more sound frequency.
This is almost word salad . . . which fits with everything else.
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kraut
post Feb 5 2012, 19:53
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QUOTE
So, it's not article worth of reading, then?

No, not when reading obvious bull like:

QUOTE
Digital recordings, on the other hand, are captured by computers, which record only certain slices of sound at split-second intervals that are then encoded into computer language. All those 1's and 0's end up representing a numeric interpretation of sound.



I have - maybe most of those here have done so too - compared records in AB with CD, and the sound quality was at best indistinguishable, at worst noticeable (not in favour of the LP) because of the increased noise of the lp between tracks.

QUOTE
Vinyl is the most faithful medium, with no compression or translation of music.


The idiot writing the article doesn't even have the foggiest about the RIAA compression curve.

This post has been edited by kraut: Feb 5 2012, 19:55
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Speedskater
post Feb 5 2012, 20:30
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Was the video demo of the difference between MP3 and WAVE done correctly? That is, time aligned and no gain changes.


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smok3
post Feb 5 2012, 20:58
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Can we have this logo:



pretty please?


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Carledwards
post Feb 5 2012, 21:25
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I would characterize this article as completely worthless nonsense. But it's rather typical of a certain faction of poorly-informed consumers with lots of disposable income. The audio equivalent of tin foil hat wearers to me.
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C.R.Helmrich
post Feb 5 2012, 21:46
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QUOTE (kraut @ Feb 5 2012, 20:53) *
No, not when reading obvious bull like:
QUOTE
Digital recordings, on the other hand, are captured by computers, which record only certain slices of sound at split-second intervals that are then encoded into computer language. All those 1's and 0's end up representing a numeric interpretation of sound.


Uh, if you call an A/D converter a computer, what's so wrong about this statement?

Not everything in this article is bull, but there are dozens of dubious "facts" without any sources cited/referenced.

Speedskater: I seriously doubt it. From my experience, when done correctly, you should hear only shaped noise, and it should be impossible {Edit: or at low bit-rates, difficult} to identify the fundamental chords / pitch. Here it's easy to hear, so either gain or time alignment - or both - are a little bit off. Anyway, yet another wowdifferencesignaljusthearwhatsmissing!

Chris

This post has been edited by C.R.Helmrich: Feb 5 2012, 21:51


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MichaelW
post Feb 5 2012, 22:01
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I wonder if part of the point of this kind of rubbish is anti-piracy: make people believe MP3s (and other lossy codecs, though they probably don't really know there are such things) are low quality, so the cool kids won't collect pirated MP3s. Could be one reason for capitalizing on the vinyl fad, too.
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kraut
post Feb 5 2012, 22:41
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QUOTE
Uh, if you call an A/D converter a computer, what's so wrong about this statement?


I do not consider a DAC/ADC a computer, but part of one, and not a necessary one unless you enter analogue signals into your machine. I used to digitize all my analogue signals via a sample rate converter to be processed further via deq's.
I then later switched to a PC setup that included all the elements.
The use "computer" in this case is clearly used to impress the big unwashed with verbiage.
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wakibaki
post Feb 6 2012, 02:45
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QUOTE (C.R.Helmrich @ Feb 5 2012, 20:46) *
QUOTE
Digital recordings, on the other hand, are captured by computers, which record only certain slices of sound at split-second intervals that are then encoded into computer language. All those 1's and 0's end up representing a numeric interpretation of sound.


Uh, if you call an A/D converter a computer, what's so wrong about this statement?


This, in particular...

'which record only certain slices of sound at split-second intervals that are then encoded into computer language'

..is a misrepresentation of the digital recording process. It's weighted to suggest that 'only certain slices of sound ... are ... encoded'. It implies that certain other slices of sound are not encoded. Which, of course, is a misrepresentation in the case of PCM.

It's fascinating to see how much misinformation, distortion and evocation of prejudice can be crammed into a short text.

'All those 1's and 0's' - it's terrifying to think about them all running amok in there doing their disgusting digital thing

'end up' - they started out as good little normal alphanumerics but they ended up the same as all the rest

'representing a numeric interpretation of sound'. What a hideous conception. How could anybody in their right mind imagine that music, pure, sweet music, could be represented by philistine, crass numbers. It's like saying that an astrophysicist could play the guitar, Brian.

Veils lifted.


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2Bdecided
post Feb 6 2012, 12:42
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QUOTE (Speedskater @ Feb 5 2012, 19:30) *
Was the video demo of the difference between MP3 and WAVE done correctly? That is, time aligned and no gain changes.
Not to my ears.

Having done this kind of thing a lot myself, I believe there was a gain mismatch. That's why some of the original music, as well as the expected coding artefacts, was audible.

It could have been a time alignment issue instead. It's quite easy to tell the two apart when listening properly (small time alignment = mostly high frequencies break through; small level alignment = all frequencies break through) - but on a recording of this poor quality, captured through crappy speakers, it's not easy to be sure.



This is just journalists doing what journalists do: writing about things they don't understand to make a living.

I guess parts of the industry in some conscious or not so planned way, have decided that this is the way audio will re-invent itself. Or at least, some people have always believed this, and now the time is somehow right for them to spread their vision of the future, and get some people to write about it.

Doesn't mean it will happen. CD was the last worldwide physical audio format. mp3 is a worldwide virtual audio format. It's a brave person who can predict what the next worldwide virtual audio format will be - or if there will be one.

I suspect it's like FM radio - no single worldwide successor.

Cheers,
David.
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hlloyge
post Feb 6 2012, 16:55
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QUOTE (MichaelW @ Feb 5 2012, 22:01) *
I wonder if part of the point of this kind of rubbish is anti-piracy: make people believe MP3s (and other lossy codecs, though they probably don't really know there are such things) are low quality, so the cool kids won't collect pirated MP3s. Could be one reason for capitalizing on the vinyl fad, too.


Yeah. They will download pirated FLAC files; torrent trackers are full of them.
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andy o
post Feb 6 2012, 17:08
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QUOTE (db1989 @ Feb 5 2012, 08:51) *
Because the article is by default displayed as a short page, actually the first of nine, and the link to display it all at once is buried away down the page, here is said link for convenience:
http://m.usatoday.com/article/tech/5296336...ViewMode=single

That's still the mobile link, the normal link is in post #4.

BTW, HA favorite Michael Fremer makes an appearance in the comments, indignant at a critic, as always.
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dhromed
post Feb 6 2012, 17:47
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I had to stop reading. My blood pressure is more important than trying to parse this gibberish.
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2Bdecided
post Feb 6 2012, 18:01
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QUOTE (andy o @ Feb 6 2012, 16:08) *
HA favorite Michael Fremer makes an appearance in the comments
Ooo, thanks for that - straight through to his facebook page.

I like the photos of his record collection. I can sympathise with the lack of space! He also has interesting screen caps showing the result of the loudness wars on vinyl mastering.

...but how can he believe things like this...
QUOTE
I know many well known recording engineers---and they agree that vinyl sounds more like what they put to tape than does the CD version. if it's a high resolution digital recording, the vinyl is more likely than not to sound more like the file than is a truncated CD version. I wish I could post here an MP3 of properly played back vinyl...even in that awful format you can hear what I'm talking about.
(from the comments section of http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/20...62/1?csp=34news )

If you add in the indisputable facts that mp3 is either worse than, or equivalent to, CD - and that mp3, decoded, can be losslessly written to CD - then what you have there is that vinyl sounds better than CD, and to prove it, Michael will send you a messed up recording of some vinyl (i.e. an mp3) which you can copy perfectly onto CD to hear how much better it is than CD!!!??!?!

Or simply...
master > vinyl > mp3 > CD
is better than
master > CD


I think the guy is trying to explain what he thinks he hears - i.e. that most of the time, vinyl sounds better than CD. But he can't find a rational explanation, so falls back on irrational non-logic, pseudo science, and things-we-don't-know / can't-measure / our-ears-are-too-clever.

Cheers,
David.
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andy o
post Feb 6 2012, 19:11
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Feb 6 2012, 09:01) *
I think the guy is trying to explain what he thinks he hears - i.e. that most of the time, vinyl sounds better than CD. But he can't find a rational explanation, so falls back on irrational non-logic, pseudo science, and things-we-don't-know / can't-measure / our-ears-are-too-clever.

Don't they all? No one does righteous indignation better than Fremer too.
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db1989
post Feb 6 2012, 23:33
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QUOTE (andy o @ Feb 6 2012, 16:08) *
QUOTE (db1989 @ Feb 5 2012, 08:51) *
Because the article is by default displayed as a short page, actually the first of nine, and the link to display it all at once is buried away down the page, here is said link for convenience:
http://m.usatoday.com/article/tech/5296336...ViewMode=single

That's still the mobile link, the normal link is in post #4.
Yeah, thanks; I missed that the first time round and only noticed it after posting. Oh well!
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Kohlrabi
post Feb 7 2012, 01:28
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Feb 6 2012, 18:01) *
QUOTE
I know many well known recording engineers---and they agree that vinyl sounds more like what they put to tape than does the CD version. if it's a high resolution digital recording, the vinyl is more likely than not to sound more like the file than is a truncated CD version.


That's the real problem right there. Even the people who should know better, the engineers, have no clue. If they don't trust in what they can measure and/or prove anymore, and start to believe in irrational assumptions, they are just charlatans.

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