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Author Topic: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks  (Read 34505 times)

Norwood

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2005, 11:41:07 pm »

J.J. wrote on Sun, 27 February 2005 20:35

How about we just remind A&R people that the "A" and the "R" don't stand for "production", "mastering" or "telling me how to mix my fucking album".  LOL.

Laughing  Laughing  Laughing  Laughing  Laughing
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Michael Norwood
Wood Bros. Productions

J.J. Blair

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2005, 11:50:57 pm »

BTW, that article you posted the link on is great, along with those samples.  I just sent this e-mail to my friend (a 'famous' mastering engineer) who mastered that stuff I'm unhappy about.  I'm hoping that he decides he'd like another shot at it.

Dear (name withheld),

This Joker Five Speed thing has really been driving me nuts.  I'm going to send you a copy of the CD you made me and then a copy of the mixes, unmastered.  The distortion caused by the brickwall limiting is just embarrassing.  If you listen to it, I really think you wouldn't want people to think that this is representative of your work.  I know I hate for them to think that it's representative of mine.  I mean, it really sounds distorted.  .

I'm attaching an article you might want to check out on the subject.  I hope all is well with you.  Thanks.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

David Schober

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2005, 12:14:25 am »

Hello all,

Just last month I was one of three mixers on an album released by a major label.  The album was taken to Tom Coyne.   Certainly many consider Tom at the top of the heap of mastering engineers.  My mix, and one other mixer had no problems and he did a great job on them.  (He was also very complimentary on our work.)  However he struggled for days over the third mixer's work.  Those mixes arrived to him already smashed to bits.  In fact it was seven dB louder than ours!  It was so hot, so smashed that it took him multiple attempts to make it sound decent.   Of that mix he said there was hardly anything he could do with it.  He felt it was the kind of mixing that an engineer might provide to the label for a sales conference or something where one wanted to hype the company, but was totally unsuitable for mastering.  He'd hoped there was an alternate mix with usable limiting and compression, but that was all that was given.

In this highly competitve world I understand why a mixer might do this.  Before mastering his mix would be tons louder (as if that's hard to do!) but in the end, the album suffered.  This mixer is one of the busiest in town and yet labels don't seem to be able to know the difference and keep using him.  In the past he has done great work and I've admired his abilities.  But like someone who loves hot food and piles on the sauce, apparently what was once reasonable, he considers not enough.  For him, and apparently the labels, he's gotta keep on piling on the hot sauce to make it seem normal.

Who do I fault?  The mixer first of all.  He should know better about what a mastering engineer needs to make a good sounding album.  Sending up a smashed album gives the mastering engineer little to work with.  Even if Coyne didn't add a bit of compression or limiting (and I don't think he did) it would still sound like crap.

Secondly I fault the labels for not hearing the difference.  Few A&R guys and gals have a clue about what sounds good.  Their job security are usually one album from firing so they go with the "safe" route.  Rather than hire the best mixer, they'll go for one that won't get them in trouble in case the album flops.

In my view the problem originates not at mastering, but with the mixers themselves.  Good mastering engineers cry out for decent mixes that aren't smashed to bits.  Maybe  some of the mastering houses are guilty of this.  But guys like Sax, Ludwig, Coyne, Grundman, Marino, etc are not guilty of this.  They pray for a decently mixed album and don't destroy it when it comes to them.

IMHO it's us mixers that need to put our foot down.  
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David Schober

thesoundguy

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2005, 12:49:43 am »

hi david-

while I dont disagree with your points, there is no shortage of catalog remasters that sound like absolute dogwaste as a result of some of the people you named there.  It may be incumbent upon us as mixers to deliver a "masterable" product, and Im behind you %100 with that idea, but to suggest that ME's are not the problem is beyond naive.  There is an entire generation of kids growing up today on AC/DC remasters and Black Sabbath remasters and Rolling Stones remasters that just simply have no idea what these records sound like.  The parametric EQ existed when Highway to Hell was mixed and they didnt EQ the record originally like it was remastered because back then someone had the sense to realize that it sounded like dog waste notched like that.  Today, that sensibility is lost in the face of ME's going "check out my hot shot moves".  Catalog remasters today rarely resemble the original issues, god forbid some of the "name" ME's out there dont put their fingerprint on these classic records.  Sorry "name" ME, your fingerprint is just simply not appropriate on a record that has a preceeding reputation, a reputation btw that was built when maybe you were in high school.  This bugs me to no end.  

As irresponsible as it is for mix engineers to not provide a decent mix with dynamics to a ME, its equally irresponsible for us as mix engineers to let the ME's off the hook, there is MORE than enough catalog remasters to suggest otherwise.  Ever heard the reissue of "the slider"?  Oh my god.  That wasnt the result of ANY mix engineer doing anything wrong, hell, they didnt even have 350n/wm stocks back then...

dave
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Bobro

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2005, 03:10:12 am »

Here's what's really going on, J.J. I posted this in the mastering forum as well.

The solution will only come when the problem is properly diagnosed. Squashing is a symptom of the true disease, which is enforced homogeneity.

I listened carefully to hours of pop radio the other day (the playlists come mostly from America at the station, I know because I worked there).

Rhythm? Squashed to grids. Limited to move within a tiny range. And not one damn song outside of 4/4 (talk about brickwall), within a limited range of tempi and duration.

Instrumentation? Limited- in general, drums, bass, guitar, vox is obviously the "standard" and anything else is decorative or novelty.

Lyrics? Limited to things "people can understand and relate to" (a self-fulfilling prophecy). After such a dose of pre-digested ideas, the only CD I felt compelled to rush out and buy would be Japanese opera or something.

Styles of singing, voices? Limited to a handful of recognizable stereotypes, it's as strict as the Fach system in German opera houses.

Scales and temperment? Brutally brickwall limited to equal-tempered major and minor- these parameters are even robot patrolled now.

And the last straw, dynamics.

Face it: pop music is heavily limited and squashed in every concievable parameter, has been increasingly so for decades.

Since these advertising jingles masquerading as music are ubiquitious, pouring out of speakers everywhere whether you like it or not (I'm always reminded how my aunt described the non-stop music and speeches over loudspeakers at the factory, working under Stalin), subservient people start accepting these limitations as "normal" or even "natural", God forbid.

So I get jazz musicians digitally editing the shit out of their performances and explaining how it should be loud like the Red Hot Chile Peppers for example. And talented musicians trying to shoehorn their ideas into the limerick forms dominating the airways.

-Bobro





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Paul Frindle

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2005, 05:53:09 am »

Bobro wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 08:10

Here's what's really going on, J.J. I posted this in the mastering forum as well.

The solution will only come when the problem is properly diagnosed. Squashing is a symptom of the true disease, which is enforced homogeneity.

I listened carefully to hours of pop radio the other day (the playlists come mostly from America at the station, I know because I worked there).

Rhythm? Squashed to grids. Limited to move within a tiny range. And not one damn song outside of 4/4 (talk about brickwall), within a limited range of tempi and duration.

Instrumentation? Limited- in general, drums, bass, guitar, vox is obviously the "standard" and anything else is decorative or novelty.

Lyrics? Limited to things "people can understand and relate to" (a self-fulfilling prophecy). After such a dose of pre-digested ideas, the only CD I felt compelled to rush out and buy would be Japanese opera or something.

Styles of singing, voices? Limited to a handful of recognizable stereotypes, it's as strict as the Fach system in German opera houses.

Scales and temperment? Brutally brickwall limited to equal-tempered major and minor- these parameters are even robot patrolled now.

And the last straw, dynamics.

Face it: pop music is heavily limited and squashed in every concievable parameter, has been increasingly so for decades.

Since these advertising jingles masquerading as music are ubiquitious, pouring out of speakers everywhere whether you like it or not (I'm always reminded how my aunt described the non-stop music and speeches over loudspeakers at the factory, working under Stalin), subservient people start accepting these limitations as "normal" or even "natural", God forbid.

So I get jazz musicians digitally editing the shit out of their performances and explaining how it should be loud like the Red Hot Chile Peppers for example. And talented musicians trying to shoehorn their ideas into the limerick forms dominating the airways.

-Bobro








Yes - the lowest common denominator, both technically and culturally Sad But the saddest thing of all is that those who dare to say this in today's atmosphere are immediately termed as arrogant kill joys that yearn for what is increasingly seen as a horrible grey and deprived past. In today's world new must always be better and more must always be synonymous with gain - if this were not so then all the impetus that keeps our societies going - would be catastrophically removed.

And you are touching on another really important effect - the artists themselves fighting radio play processing. A few years back I noticed a worrying trend for artists and producers to avail themselves of the processing radio stations put on their channels so that it could be applied to the mix itself to either;
- hear what a track would actually sound like when the public first heard it,
- or more worryingly, apply the processing to the actual final mixed product to avoid too much further dramatic changes at the stations, in order to get back SOME control of what your audience will actually hear!!!!

Since the way a track sounds on radio is often the lever that encourages people to buy it, the radio stations themselves have actually taken control of your programme by imposing their own processing without your consent or control!! In what other art form would this be acceptable?
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J.J. Blair

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2005, 07:26:20 am »

I wish I could remember who did these particular Stones remasters, but ... he actually referenced the original vinyl to try and match it.  Shocking!  What  a fucking concept!

BTW, I'm somebody that likes to compress the stereo buss, but I never use more than -3db gain reduction at most.  If you can't get your mix to pump with that subtle a dynamic change, then you must have used Sound Replacer on everything.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

maxdimario

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2005, 08:52:50 am »

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 27 February 2005 14:19

J.J. wrote on Sun, 27 February 2005 01:28

...You mastering guys need to put your foot down to the A&R idiots and tone deaf musicians who think that louder = better....

It's really not OUR call! Probably the best thing any of us can do is to return smashed CDs to the artist's management company and demand an undistorted copy of the CD. The only thing they know is that too low a level can hurt how a CD goes over in sales and focus group meetings which is their source of paranoia. If they get the message that too high is not acceptable to the fans, they'll do something about it. NOBODY ELSE in the food chain has the power to turn it down.


Can someone explain how a cd that peaks at -0.5 dB and stays there actually translates to sales?
radio will compress the shit out of it if especially if it's a CHR format.
MTV will compress the shit out of it as well.


The only time a listener will judge the sound volume is at home on their ghetto blaster, after sales.
If the listener has a real hi-fi the cd will sound like shit because of the digital grain you get as an artifact of L2 etc.
and no dynamic range means the records will be listened to few times before it gets 'archived'.

Windows media player has a built in AGC to make all songs the same loudness when mastering cd's


I have tried to buy modern cd's, hoping to find something worthwhile but they sound like absolute shit to me.

sorry mastering pro's but this is really pathetic.

you are basically working as people who know the difference between good audio and crap audio and then you do what is asked of you by people who haven't got the slightest clue of what good audio is about.  This way the standards become progressively lower and lower.

one of these days the quality will be so low that record companies will master in-house on PC's.
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2005, 10:25:19 am »

Paul Frindle wrote on Sun, 27 February 2005 16:32

...Of course the answer the regime is applying (which IMVHO we are suffering now in our art) is obviously and predictably to simply restrict your choices in order to maintain the economic ethos at all costs ...

If only it were that intelligent!

I see no signs of it being driven by anything other than classic middle-management paranoia, a classic example of the Peter Principle. Obviously the result looks exactly the same but the solution is different and I don't think nearly as hopeless.

Bob Olhsson

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2005, 10:34:46 am »

Paul Frindle wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 04:53

...you are touching on another really important effect - the artists themselves fighting radio play processing....
- or more worryingly, apply the processing to the actual final mixed product to avoid too much further dramatic changes at the stations, in order to get back SOME control of what your audience will actually hear!!!!...

Hopefully the myth that more processing to the CD will lead to less processing by radio is dead by now.

The reason for crushing CDs is in order to GET them on the air! This is about how the first 15 to 20 seconds sounds in a meeting.

It isn't about what they sound like on the air where no peak limiting at all generally results in both the best and loudest sound.

David Schober

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2005, 11:00:56 am »

Hello, thesoundguy,

I can't speak to reissue product since that's not in my control.  However the reject buttton for that is, or at least shoud be, in the hands of the artist.  If they don't hear they're albums being ruined there's nothing that can be done.

However, guys like myself, presumeably you as well, should be in the driver's seat when it comes to mastering our mixes.  If a mastering engineer smashed my mix, either he'd fix it or another one will be hired.  Of all the guys I've worked with, Sax, Marino, Grundman, Collins, Hall, Marcussen, Weinberg, and Ludwig, NONE of them would take a good mix and squash it to death...at least that's my experience.  If I heard a smashed album coming out of their den, I'd imagine it was that way when they got it.  If one of them did a reissue and squashed it, then you're right.  Guilty as charged.  But my feeling is that the pressure for this kind of sound has not been a result of squashed reissues forcing the hand of current mixes to be mixed in kind. Its the other way around.  Current trends, as bad as they are, are driving the reissues so when they are played, the stand up to modern levels.

I believe if we mixers can start making the change, the reissues will follow.  Don't think for a minute that the squash masters of today are mixing that way so they can compete with a 20 year old reissue.
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David Schober

hollywood_steve

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2005, 11:47:07 am »

I'm really surprised that no one has commented on the original post and the two sets of wave forms.  Granted the 2nd set is ridiculous, basically a straight line at 0dB.  But didn't anyone else notice that the first set of waveforms is also almost dead flat, only at a slightly lower level?  There are still zero dynamics, its just that the overall level has not been boosted quite so much.  But the big problem isn't that the 2nd set is closer to 0dB, its that both sets have zero dynamics!!!
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J.J. Blair

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2005, 12:08:56 pm »

Steve, the first waveform has little dynamics because it's basically three very loud electric guitars chugging eigths the entire song, and the singer insisted that the guitars were the loudest thing in the mix.  It's "rawk".  Hey, I don't write the shit.  I just record it.  However, what dynamics are there vary maybe 2 to 4db, as opposed to the 0.0db of the mastered version.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

krabapple

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #28 on: February 28, 2005, 02:02:44 pm »

David Schober wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 05:14

Hello all,
In my view the problem originates not at mastering, but with the mixers themselves.  Good mastering engineers cry out for decent mixes that aren't smashed to bits.  Maybe  some of the mastering houses are guilty of this.  But guys like Sax, Ludwig, Coyne, Grundman, Marino, etc are not guilty of this.  They pray for a decently mixed album and don't destroy it when it comes to them.



hmm...then, George Marino *didn't* do this?

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krabapple

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Re: stop the madness!: proof that brickwall limiting sucks
« Reply #29 on: February 28, 2005, 02:13:02 pm »

J.J. wrote on Mon, 28 February 2005 12:26

I wish I could remember who did these particular Stones remasters, but ... he actually referenced the original vinyl to try and match it.  Shocking!  What  a fucking concept!




Bob Ludwig, I presume.

from  http://www.highfidelityreview.com/news/news.asp?newsnumber=1 0158

Quote:

Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering, a member of the panel in today’s seminar is also the person responsible for the Rolling Stones re-mastering process. After playing a few tracks (more on that later), he went on to talk about why the new discs sound the way they do. He said that they had re-mastered the recordings not necessarily at the highest fidelity possible today (using modern restoration techniques), but rather in the ‘spirit’ of the music. While the project team went back and used the original master recordings, they also auditioned all the releases that have been made over the years to get a ‘feel’ of the music. In essence, what this means is that when a recording was found to be below standard, they didn’t try and make it sound perfect since even the graininess has long been considered part of the the music.



The Stones remasters sound really good, no brickwalls there...but I do wonder what reference recordings they were using for 'Ruby Tuesday', 'cos the chorus on the remastered version is unlike any I've heard before on vinyl or CD (Mick solo, no harmony vox).

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