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CD Sound Quality

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by GW43, Sep 8, 2005.

  1. GW43

    GW43
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    Picking up on a comment in an earlier thread about Madonna's "Ray of Light" sounding flat and lifeless, what other CDs sound crap, through either poor production, too much compression, or whatever. Suggestions...?

    My worst would have to be Coldplay's "Rush of Blood to the Head"
    2nd and 3rd Oasis albums peel paint if played too loud
     
  2. Timbo21

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    All modern pop is recorded on pro-tools now, which I think sounds pants.
    Some bands, e.g. Magic Numbers, record drums & some other elements to analogue first & then transfer, which does sound a bit better. However, I think the
    yanks are doing better. It's a whole different world over there, loads of top notch
    kit all specialy moded by their maintenance guys. Over here we fix things if they don't work. Over there, they look at how they can make it better.

    Modern mastering has got into the loudness wars, using digital limiters, and the Americans started it all! (and are the best at it). A & R guys won't use you for mastering if you're not making it as loud as everyone else! They think people actually mind if they put a CD on & it's not as loud as the previous one :rolleyes:
    They also think this matters for the radio, but since everything is compressed so much for it, it doesn't make any difference. I like SACD because they don't use
    digital limiters :thumbsup: I'm not completely against them though. I think sometimes the effect works well, if it's not over done.
     
  3. tonka

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    I'm happy with madonnas album - ray of light...and the magic numbers...tho, I haven't played it really loud...
     
  4. Timbo21

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    Magic Numbers I like, but Madonna needs brightening. That is, if your system
    isn't over-emphasizing the top-end.
     
  5. Knightshade

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    Having one bad album is usefull when demoing. If the system can make it sound OK then it's a good system. It shows up a lot of flaws in lesser systems.
     
  6. eviljohn2

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    The first Moldy Peaches is very poorly recorded by design.

    I can't think of a single good reason for a band releasing a poorly produced album. They managed just fine 40 years ago so why shouldn't they be able to now? :)
     
  7. nsherin

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    Knightshade - agree. I've got two albums I use - Phil Collins' Testify album can sound compressed on some tracks. Chicago's album '21' can sound quite compressed as a whole, so again, both those CDs make excellent test discs. In fact, having moved from an AV receiver back to a stereo amp, these two CDs sound much better on my system now.
     
  8. jradley

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    While this may be true in some cases I have often found the converse to be more often true. A revealing system does exactly that, reveals the source for what it is. If the source is bad (ie the CD content) then a good system will let you hear the flaws, whereas a lesser one may hide it.

    Just my 2p worth.

    John
     
  9. eviljohn2

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    That very much depends on what you listen to though. I'm a big fun of the often mentioned badly recorded 70s punk, admittedly most of the important albums have been remastered now but it certainly helps to have a system that smoothes over some of the coarseness in the recording. :)
     
  10. dynamic turtle

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    I've always found U2 to be very flat sounding, compressed and heavily processed. This is also the case with their vinyl transfers. Truly awful.

    I would've thought a band/product as prominent as U2 could afford to take the necessary time, care & diligence to produce a quality recording. This does not seem to be the case, unfortunately :(

    Still, their music is good enough to perhaps turn a blind eye....

    DT
     
  11. Knightshade

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    Hate to say this but what's the point of having a good system that you can't listen to half your CD's on? To me that's a bad system. Guess it's whether your into listening to music or into listening to your Hi Fi.:)
     
  12. KoThreads

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    i just bought U2's HTDAAB as it was cheap at BangCD. But the sound and production is awfull. At first I thought someone had messed with the amp. But after sticking on other CD's realised it's either a bootleg, in which case I copuld have done a better job, or it's just a crap recording. Unfortuately I bought ATYCLB when that came out and to me that sounds the same. But why when they are such a big band?
     
  13. dynamic turtle

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    God knows, but it isn't any better on vinyl either. Truly unacceptable, given the production sums invloved and their prominence in the industry.

    DT
     
  14. GW43

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    I agree about the U2 albums - I had forgotten those. Not too bad at low-ish volumes, but turn the wick up and it's painful.

    Perhaps most rock & pop stuff these days is being mixed to sound good on an i-Pod. The more you spend on hifi the worse it sounds? Hmmm - something wrong somewhere!
     
  15. Timbo21

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    The last U2 album I really listened to was 'The Unforgettable Fire'. I remember
    thinking how bad it sounded. Someone told me that they had used the DBX
    noise reduction system on the multitrack, which really did horrendeous encoding/decoding. However, since this system became old hat very quickly I don't know what their excuse is for any other albums. I think it was Daniel Lanois who produced the above, & I was surprised since he did Peter Gabriel's 'So' around that time, which was a great sounding album.

    Maybe we should blame U2. They might be leaning on their engineers to crank
    the compression.
     
  16. jradley

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    That is actually a very good point and one that I think is often forgotten about by many when discussing hi-fi and the like.

    I used to have a hi-fi system that was far from purist but suited my needs just fine. I was happy with how my CDs sounded on it.

    I then upgraded to a much better system. I can now hear far more detail in the music than I ever did before. For many of my albums it is a whole new experience and the music sounds so much better. There are some CDs however that now I really don't like listening to, Madonna's Immaculate Collection for example being one of them.

    In my mind that doesn't make my system bad and I'm not disappointed with it. If I come a cross a badly recorded or mastered album I simply write it off as bad luck and move on to another. In most cases the benefits of the system being more revealing outweigh the downside of the occasional dud album.

    That said, coming back to the original poster's point, I think the percentage of duds released is increasing with time.

    John
     
  17. KoThreads

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    So are you really telling me that loads of money is put into production, then they listen to it on expensive mastering kit, then at the end of it, dumb it down for the singles/mp3/ipod market as that in total is the largest paying audience share?
     
  18. Knightshade

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    Jradley,
    I hear what your saying and can understand. However, and i'm not joking here. The mark of a truely good Hi Fi should make bad sound at least listenable. If it doesn't to me it's flawed in some way.
    Unless you go down the audiophile recordings route you're always going to have to suffer the odd bad recording.
    I think a lot of modern pop type music will suffer especially considering the quality of some of the so called 'artists' How does the expression go? 'You can't polish a turd...'
     
  19. music1st

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    My mate played me a track from Gabrielle greatest hits on his Linn the other day. Pants. :eek:
     
  20. jradley

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    Hi Knightshade,

    I see your point entirely and can see why many would agree, and I agree to a certain extent, but still feel that the best combination is a very accurate and revealing system with a good recording - something that can't be achieved if you deliberately fudge something somehwere to help improve bad recordings.

    I just noticed your equipment list - interestingly I would have thought your system totally adequate to show poor recordings for what they are.

    Comment for Idoexist - I don't think they dumb down productions to cater to the mp3 culture, I think they don't put in the effort/cost in the first place because of the mp3 culture.
     
  21. Knightshade

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    Hi JRadley,
    It will show up bad recordings but it does pull every last ounce out of the CD so even bad sound OK. Good recordings sound outstanding. And you are right A great recording on a great system makes it all worthwhile.
    Trouble is its not just the system. The room, placement and matching of components all have a huge bearing on what a system sounds like. We've all heard friends systems costing thousands that to our ears sound rubbish. Just because it costs a lot doesn't magically mean it's good.
     
  22. nsherin

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    Agree with you there. I've heard a few expensive systems - mainly at shows, but one or two at other people's places and the gear has left me unimpressed. It's always a rewarding feeling when you go home and prefer the sound of your own system, which you've paid less money for.

    I run a system of NAD C521BEE/Pro-Ject Debut II/SB Audigy 2 for sources, NAD C320BEE/PP-2 for amps and Mission m70 speakers/Sony MDR-CD-480 'phones and I must admit, I'm pretty amazed at the quality of sound I've managed to achieve, considering the reasonable cost relative to many 'higher-end' systems. It certainly sounds good to my ears! But then again, sound/equipment is very much down to one's personal taste, as is the music!
     
  23. Timbo21

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    Idoexist, I master CD & vinyl at one of the prominent music studios and I have seen quality steadily drop over the last few years.

    The reasons for this I feel are:

    1. The over use & bad implementation of Digidesigns pro-tools as a multitrack recorder. This is not a patch on 2" 24/48 track recording, especially when
    tracks are over bounced internally, increasing jitter giving a bad 'digital' sound.

    2. The death of properly trained recording engineers. Before I got into mastering I trained as a recording/mixing engineer when people knew how to
    record a real drum kit & guitars using microphones :eek: , not digital plug-ins.
    Many of the engineers using pro-tools have not been properly trained & really
    don't know how to minimise digital nasties. Unfortunately, pro-tools have become the main tool for synthesizer & drum programmers who are doubling up as engineers, but they are making a hash of it IMO. Additionally, many experienced engineers have become lazy relying on digital plug-ins for the sound rather than working at getting something which needs to be recorded
    via a microphone.

    3. Record companies are always looking for cheaper options.

    4. As I think I've mentioned before. We have the loudness wars. A & R guys
    wanting the records to be loud, using digital limiters. A little is okay, but the
    Americans took it to new heights, & this is what record companies want. It's
    a sort of ego thing I guess. It's destroying dynamics & increasing distortion.

    5. Many stereo finished mixes are delivered to us on 24 bit AIFF & WAV files from pro-tools. These sound horrible IMHO. They have very bad jitter & sound thin & digital. Give me a 16 bit DAT tape anyday, or even better 1/2" analogue.

    T.
     
  24. KoThreads

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    So have all the old analogue multitrack recorders all been dumped for pro-tools. Are the days of the old AAD (still to my ears the best sounding CD's) completely gone?
     
  25. Timbo21

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    Basically, yes. We have several 48 track studios & I was dismayed last year when I found out nobody used the 2" multitrack's anymore :( . One of them is sitting in the next room to mine gathering dust. Also, most of the pro-tools users are not even using high quality A/D converters, but some rather grainy & digital
    sounding ones.

    Like I said, some are using both, like the Magic Numbers I previously mentioned.

    I guess there isn't much chance for SACD of new pop material.
     
  26. huwg

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    I believe Pulse was recorded on analogue equipment - using kit recovered from a skip (or certainly left for dead). As you'd expect from PF, the sound aint bad.
     
  27. KoThreads

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    It was, because I think Delicate Sound Of Thunder is DDD and was thought too clean for a live recording.

    But what's the Pulse DVD going to be like as it looks like they are hurling everything including the kitchen sink at it.
     
  28. dynamic turtle

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    Very interesting post, Timbo. This explains a lot! Its very sad to see things go this way, but perhaps not unexpected. I'm sure some studios/artists will continue to use 2" & multi-track desks over pro-tools, particularly those with a history of producing well-recorded material.

    I think we all agree that 90% of pop music is instantly forgetable, disposable trash. TBH, 2" recording/mixing of this type of music would not persuade me to purchase it, so I don't see the problem. If it keeps costs down for the record label, and prices down for my teenage brother (thereby leaving more disposable income for cigs & booze :rolleyes: ), then fine. Its "McDonalds music" for McDonalds-grade customers, IMO.

    I have faith (misplaced, perhaps) that serious recording artists turn their noses up at pro-tools and opt for 2" instead. It is important that the audiophile community become more vocal about our opposition to quality artists/musicians using inferior recording methods. If we don't complain, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    DT

    btw, I've never heard a positive thing said about pro-tools. Everyone I've heard talking about it, slates it! I think the word "pro-tools" will soon enter the popular vernacular as a swear word, given the vitriol and venom directed towards it!
     
  29. Daneel

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    I'm with Knightshade on this.

    When I first got into hi-fi I thought the goal was a neutral response and hearing exactly what is on the CD (deciding what this is, is harder than you might think). I still take this view w.r.t. AV systems, but for music I want what sounds good and that often isn't the most neutral, accurate response.
     
  30. alexs2

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    Timbo is right on the money....unfortunately not only have a lot of the good engineers gone,along with the arrival of Pro-Tools,but also the session musician scene has completely collapsed,and with it,the number of musicians who could walk into a studio,and play,with only one or two takes,and no need for the awful proTools.

    So many Cd's are mastered now with little regard for what it's actually capable of,and are aimed straight at the lowest common denominator of a distinctly low-fi system or player.
    The rise of home produced singles etc has also added to this.
     

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