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alskinner
12-18-2004, 10:06 AM
Is it just my imagination or is the quaility of recordings in general gotten worse over the years. I am mainly speaking of the mixing process itself. IMO part of the problem lies in the commitment of the larger studios taking the time it takes to get a recording as close as possible to the actual artist and part of the problem seems to lie in some of the new digital equipment being uses. I know of some independent studios that use a lot of the older equipment like Pultec, Teletronix, Fairchild and Neve and the sound difference shows even in digital recordinds like CDs. A lot of this equipment used tube or discrete solid state Class A circuits. I know there is a lot of new equipment out there that is great but there is something to be said for the sound of this vintage recording equipment. I can definitely tell a difference on some of the 70s and 80s recordings like The Tempations "Papa was a Rolling Stone" produced by Norman Whitfield and some of the new pop and rock being produced "cookie cutter" style today. Anyway, If any of you all have differing opions please share them with me.

By the way after lusting over Ken's White 4400 equalizers I got me a pair and am one step closer to audio nirvana.

Happy Holidays

Mr. Widget
12-18-2004, 10:49 AM
Welcome to the 4400 club.

I am not sure I agree with you about the state of recording. I would say in general there have been great and terrible recordings from every decade going back to the '40s. In general I prefer a more "live" sound with the drum kit recorded as an instrument instead of as a group of them, and I am always amused by the way engineers feel the need to make the piano spread across the sound stage as though somehow the best way to listen to one is by being inside it.

I do agree that the early digital recordings lack any sense of life. The digital recordings of the late '70s through the mid '80s are in general a bit mechanical sounding to me.

I think that today's better digital equipment is quite good and it allows the engineer opportunities to create real magic. Of course they usually don't.

I suppose to some extent it is also a matter of personal opinion. While some might find a multi-channel mix with instruments all around the room to be their ideal, others find it distracting at best and down right annoying at worst.

In general I would say that today's studios (the actual rooms) and the mics (some of the new ones and the vast collections of well preserved vintage ones) are the best that musicians and engineers have ever had at their disposal. As for the boards and outboard gear, there are great vintage analog pieces still in use and some pretty spectacular new digital gear too.

Widget

alskinner
12-18-2004, 11:27 AM
Thanks Mr. Widget

I think my first statement was too broad. You are absolutely right, there is some great digital equipment out there, if fact I use a use a mixture of digital and analog equipment, I have a dedicated computer remotely controlled with two sound cards for casual listening. So, I am not anti-digital, I guess you could say I am more of an old nostalgic that likes a bass guitar to sound like a bass guitar and cymbals to sound llike cymbals without engineering the recording so that it's hard to say if you are listening to a piano or an organ. As you noted trashy recordings have been made from the begining of the industry, There are many Jazz recordings made in the 50s that have still not been topped for the feeling that you are in the recording studio with them. I will concede that you are right in some of the best equiment being available, both analog and digital, but also think that as you alluded to, the comitment to spend the time, talent and money to make true audiophile recordings is at times not there. As has been noted elsewhere a lot of recordings are now being made for the Boom Box generation, mastered on small nearfield monitors. Anyway thanks for the input as I found out a long time ago I don't know everything and that's what's great about this forum. often my way of thinking of things has been changed by persuasive debate.

Again Mr. Widget it always great to have a response from one of the great sages of the forum.

Ken Pachkowsky
12-18-2004, 11:37 AM
By the way after lusting over Ken's White 4400 equalizers I got me a pair and am one step closer to audio nirvana.

Happy HolidaysLet me know if you ever find that elusive place http://www.audioheritage.org/vbulletin/images/icons/icon10.gif

As far as recordings today compared to 60's-70's-etc. I tend to agree with Widget. It's tough to listen to a bad recording on a good system. I will tell you something you may not be aware of.

In my early years I worked for 3 recording studio's , one of which being a true "state of the art" facility. I worked as a tape jockey and had the privelege of working for John Smith who cut his teeth at Apple Records.

John almost always did his master mixes over small, full range, single driver no name brand nearfields. The finished product sounded damned good over a cheap AM/FM radio but sucked over the studio mains. I watched in horror the first time I saw him do this and his comment was "Welcome to the real world". Over the next few years I found it was common practice and am sure it still is today.

True story my friend.

Ken

Mr. Widget
12-18-2004, 11:48 AM
John almost always did his master mixes over small, full range, single driver no name brand nearfields. Most likely Auratones. They were small wood grained vinyl boxes with 4.5" CTS "full range" speakers in them. Everybody used to use them. They were later replaced by the Yamaha NS-10s which are still in use and everybody agrees they sound like sh_ _.

An interesting thing about the Auratone is that the same driver was used by Dr. Amar B. in groups of 9 for those other spectacularly successful speakers.

Widget

Ken Pachkowsky
12-18-2004, 11:53 AM
An interesting thing about the Auratone is that the same driver was used by Dr. Amar B. in groups of 9 for those other spectacularly successful speakers.

Widget
Now there is an interesting little tidbit!

FYI, I just got a Adcom GFP-750. Will be here in a week. Will post my impressions of going to an all balanced system.

Ken

SteveW
12-18-2004, 12:05 PM
Excessive compression.:banghead:

It is rationalized and implemented for lots of lousy reasons.
There is a growing concensus (re: revolt) within the industry claiming it's gone too far.
To be fair....there are good uses for compression. After technical and artistic application :), lies the world of commercial application :biting: .

So......you get 3 DB dynamic range on storage media worth 90.....real progress!

scott fitlin
12-19-2004, 10:41 AM
Excessive compression.:banghead:

It is rationalized and implemented for lots of lousy reasons.
There is a growing concensus (re: revolt) within the industry claiming it's gone too far.
To be fair....there are good uses for compression. After technical and artistic application :), lies the world of commercial application :biting: .

So......you get 3 DB dynamic range on storage media worth 90.....real progress!Exactly! Compression is most of what we are hearing these days as no sense of life, no jump, no whatever it is you arent hearing!

Certain genres of music are using compression as a musical effect, it,s always been this way, dance music and hip hop most notably, but compression has become totally overused these days!

The other side of the coin is in fact that the music is being mixed and mastered,( if they even bother to do proper mastering at all, which in many cases these days, they dont, ) to sound good on car stereos, and walkmans!

And its amusing, as digital audio is coming to market with products that have extrememly high dynamic range, and we have music with so little dynamic range!

majick47
12-19-2004, 09:59 PM
A few months back I posted a similar thread on the same basic issue. Maybe one out of ten CDs sounds like someone put some effort into it. The lowest common denominator is the rule of thumb, ie TV, movies and DVDs.

Mr. Widget
12-19-2004, 10:10 PM
Maybe one out of ten CDs sounds like someone put some effort into it. The lowest common denominator is the rule of thumb, ie TV, movies and DVDs.

Sure, but that was true in the '70s when Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, and a handful of other "pop" acts were really trying. There was well recorded classical and jazz then as now. When you get into the music of mass appeal the lowest common denominator has a nasty way of creeping in.

As far as too much compression??? Probably true, but it hasn't been a problem for me as almost none of the music I buy or listen to has all that much compression. I have some classical CDs that I wished they had used some form of compression because it has such a wide range that outside the quiet of a concert hall it is hard to enjoy the quiet passages without being blown away by the loud parts.

Widget

alskinner
12-20-2004, 04:04 AM
I would have to agree with Mr. Widget. Compression is not neccesarily a bad thing. One of the original uses of compressors was to bring soft passages of music above the signal to noise ration of LPs and Tapes. Without some compression some of the music information would be inaudible. Not to mention on some recordings going from 0-100 decibals instantaneously could cause a nervous breakdown and nose bleed. Also compression is used judiciously by engineers to bring out one instrument or voice above others.

Noise levels in a typical home without special treatment can be as high as 25 decibals and in a car as high as 60. Again without the use of compressors some of the music would be lost.

The problem I have is when compression is used so much that there is only a 30 decibal dynamic range, often the vocals and instrumentation become a murky soup that is at times almost unintellagable. At these times imaging and "breathing" around the instruments is all but lost.

Art J.
12-20-2004, 06:13 AM
I hate it when I buy a CD and its maxed out the moment
I crack the volume. The mix is for boom-boxes and the car right?
Here is my favorite rant on the subject.

http://georgegraham.com/compress.html

SteveW
12-20-2004, 08:45 AM
I started with a 4 track, and like everyone else found the benefits of tape saturation. A very smooth 'compression' and even-order harmonic distortion was created by ramming the needles into the red. Most instuments sounded great - particulary drums. The only real bugger (by-product) of this was bleed (crosstalk) to adjacent tracks. When bouncing (mixing) tracks about on the same machine you would try to prevent all this. Vocalists generally practiced good microphone technique (a lost art), so the vocals were hit with a relatively low compression ratio during tracking, and maybe a bit more during the mix. The compressors that alskinner refers to were a part of the sound. The final mix was as dynamic as the vinyl would tolerate - particulary classical. Those guys love their dynamics, and the grooves were wide enough to drive a small car into. Radio squeezed out any remaining life in the quest for the ultra-competitive 'apparent loudness' scheme. This is what makes you stop at a station because it 'comes in so good'.

Enter digital and the CD ....
No headroom at all. No saturation. The 'sound' sucks. Techniques changed big time. Compression (limiting) is required during tracking. SSL consoles come with compression built into every channel. Nowadays frequency dependent compressors are available, and are mainly used at mastering.

Enter pro-consumer gear.... Everybody's got a 'digital studio'. The majors battle with home studios. Budgets and quality suffers again and the world is subjected to yet another dummy-down. Now the pro-consumer world is littered with junky 'tube saturators' to mimic analog tape. Some pro units are quite good however - and cost a mint. MP3's sound just fine to the ignorant kids, particulary on their parents Bose stuff. I did what I though was a good live-sounding dynamic mix for a younger band and they wanted it compressed to sound 'big and in your face' like radio. OK...10-1 here we come. Geesh. When was the last time you heard of a bunch of kids getting together at whomever's house that had a real stereo (JBL's) :p and listen to the latest 'album' 100 times, ala Floyd etc?

Enter DVD-A and SACD.....both marketing disasters to date. Line up ten kids and ask them what they know of it. You would think after VHS and Beta the industry would have learned.

The audiophile should feel fortunate that these formats even exist. A lot of studios have significant investment in 5.1 gear and most are underutilized.
If you want quality this is where you will find it.....for now.

PSS AUDIO
12-20-2004, 09:13 AM
... One of the original uses of compressors was to bring soft passages of music above the signal to noise ration of LPs and Tapes. Without some compression some of the music information would be inaudible. Not to mention on some recordings going from 0-100 decibals instantaneously could cause a nervous breakdown and nose bleed. Also compression is used judiciously by engineers to bring out one instrument or voice above others.

Noise levels in a typical home without special treatment can be as high as 25 decibals and in a car as high as 60. Again without the use of compressors some of the music would be lost.


That is why, one of the most important number, for a power amp, is the S/N ratio, 105 is a minimum!

Greater the S/N ratio will be, better the sound quality will be (distortion, damping factor, slew rate, and all other means quite nothing).

Reaching 110 dB blows the walls, opens the stage, gives wider stereophonic image, in a word sounds becomes more natural.

Oldmics
12-20-2004, 02:12 PM
You can never have too much compression !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Isn"t music supposed too be squeezed to death with NO dynamics ???

scott fitlin
12-20-2004, 02:24 PM
The Levelling amp!

Hey Oldmics, you got a Fairchild in there somewhere?

What do you NOT have?

:D

PSS AUDIO
12-20-2004, 02:39 PM
... What do you NOT have?

:D

A xxx amp!

SteveW
12-20-2004, 04:10 PM
I just get off a good rant - thinking that I successfully got off my box, don't see any bullets coming my way.....and BOOOM your dead!
http://audioheritage.org/vbulletin/images/smilies/jawdrop.gif
Oldmics, you are cruel.
Please add me to your will.

alskinner
12-21-2004, 04:15 PM
Sorry Folks
But I couldn't resist. There is a Fairchild 670 stereo tube compressor on e-bay. Starting bid is only $30,000.00 and the seller has zero feedback. Don't know how to paste an e-bay link but the item number is 3770837548. I just know someone wants to jump in and bid on this. Also I promise to write 100 times that I will post in the marketplace Forum from now on. Just felt that since compression was in the thread might as well do it right with the right compressor.

http://audioheritage.org/vbulletin/images/smilies/blah.gif (http://audioheritage.org/vbulletin/misc.php?do=getsmilies&wysiwyg=1&forumid=6#)
AL

SteveW
12-21-2004, 06:31 PM
Are you paying attention Oldmics? :D

Oldmics
12-21-2004, 06:42 PM
I did have one of them awhile ago.You might be surprised where they can be found.(think jukebox equipment)

Now the one that I had was sold for stupid money but the real reason that I sold it was that it just was not magical in its preformance.

Some of this old stuff sounds fabulous and some once it is rebuilt sounds great.

No two true vintage pieces sound quite identical-thats the problem with vintage.

Oldmics

Steve Schell
12-21-2004, 07:34 PM
Fascinating thread! Thanks for all the enlightening, informed posts so far.

I think it has to do with the skill and attitude of the engineer more than the era or the equipment used. I used to service a piano in the recording studio of a masterful engineer. He could make a recorded instrument or a mix sound any way he wanted with a few deft movements of his board controls. If an engineer gives a high priority to natural timbre and dynamic range, he'll find a way to capture it with accuracy.

Since I'm a tube fan, I can't help but think that the studio equipment of the 1950s and into the '60s gave engineers a leg up on getting good sound. Pop recordings seemed to die of strangulation in the early to mid '70s, which I suspect is due in part to those shiny new consoles with their complex circuits and multiple op amps. This was also the era where recordings started having to be so damn polished and perfect. I don't know much about studio recording, but have read that heavy compression is one way of making a lame instrumentalist who can't control his volume sound fairly decent. Anyway, so much of the music I grew up listening to has been hammered so flat that it is not much fun to listen to on good equipment.

Seems to me that many classic recordings of the early stereo era must have gotten a great sound down on the master tape, but much was lost in the disc mastering process. Many modern reissues simply blow away the original LPs, even with a 40 year old master tape. Collectors love the early Mercurys and RCAs, but many of them sound thin and screechy to me compared to the reissues.

One way to gain a perspective on recording quality is to make some yourself. I used to do quite a bit of of amateur recording years ago, on a pretty decent heavy JVC portable cassette machine, later on open reel. With a decent mic and machine anyone can make recordings that embarass most of what you can buy in terms of sheer naturalness.

SteveW
12-23-2004, 07:06 AM
I posted these links in another thread running in off-topics, but thought I should stick them here so you guys don't miss this. Check it out, it's quite good! If the links don't work go to the DVD out thread.

http://users.bigpond.net.au/christie/comparo/index.html
http://users.bigpond.net.au/christie/comparo/part2.html
http://users.bigpond.net.au/christie/comparo/part3.html
http://users.bigpond.net.au/christie/comparo/part4.html