None of us noticed; it seems like the labels and sound engineers may have; take this image comparing the dynamic range of the CD and youtube releases of Pharrell's "Happy"- I thought at the time it might just have been a mishap or random occurance, but now it looks like it was a very deliberate move.
So, rather than ending the loudness wars on CDs and radio, we might end up long-term with the ludicrous situation where CD's sound worse than technically inferior Youtube videos. Youtube is the new vinyl.
E: I added links to the YT release and (presumaby) a CD-sourced video for anyone who wants to listen to the difference. Pay attention to the claps and drums (but I think it's obvious even on my laptop speakers).
Some of the worst CDs in my record collection are:
1. Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full (this is the worst album I own - considering Sir Paul left The Beatles over the mix of The Long and Winding Road, he should leave his own band over his master of this album.... I wonder if Phil Spector bribed Bob Ludwig to do that in time-delayed revenge???)
2. Rush - Vapor Trails (not helped by distortion during recording; it's one BIG square wave)
3. The Fratellis - Costello Music (distortion all the way through the album)
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium (there's no possible way to make the first track sound quiet, try it!); apparently the vinyl has a different master and sounds infinitely better.
5. Foo Fighters - One By One (boxy drum sound and non-compliant CD format aside [chock full of copy protection so you won't see "Compact Disc" on the CD at all....], it's loud loud loud).
I could go on.
Considering the effort musicians go to get the best sound engineers, recording equipment, A to D converters, studio time and instruments, to throw it all away on a LOUD CD seems stupid to me. It means the album won't stand the test of time, and will sound as abysmal in the future as the day it was released; it is very short-sighted to release a LOUD CD for commercial gain (radio??? does anyone master just for radio still?) in the short term.
So much so that people ended up downloading the rip from the Guitar Hero version as it was far better.
It's noticeable on almost every track basically as soon as the drums kick in. (About ten seconds into "A Proper Story", for example). It's depressing that this has occurred even on a piece of indie content for which so much care has otherwise been taken— Darren Korb was the sound designer for the game and gave a terrific presentation at GDC 2012.
Since the drums sounds all started life as hi-fi samples, the detail is certainly there in the original Logic sessions. It would be an interesting experiment to do a listening test comparing the CD versions of the tracks against versions mastered with more headroom, either less loudly or to a 64-bit format.
It may well be that a certain degree of the grunge is artistic versus technical, but I suspect that in a blind test I would still prefer a version with slightly less muddy drums.
I'd love to hear what somebody who actually knows what they're talking about compare the original with the remix. I'm a huge Rush fan and could discuss them for hours.
It's odd how much difference a mix makes: listen to Deep Purple's Roger Glover remixes of earlier DP albums (subtle), or Dream Theater's "official bootlegs" of Scenes From A Memory (massively different, like a different album).
That first SOAD album is an impressive piece of mastering though.
I haven't heard their first album but I'm surprised at this. In my experience, most indie acts have greater creative control over mastering and just about every indie act I listen to (with the exception of some of the heavier stuff) is very light on the "loudness". By contrast, some of the more "pop" stuff I like, even songs that should be clean and distortion free, are unnecessarily jacked up way past the redline. A great example is John Mayer's "Heavier Things" album, with clipping and distortion on the lightest, cleanest tracks, and it gets worse with each of his albums after. It's frustrating because I know he's a brilliant musician who knows better, but I imagine it's the label who has the final creative control over what sound is heard on the CD.
It already makes 2 albums from Rick Rubin in the list.
Add reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Magnetic#Criticism_regard...
Just out of curiosity, did you ever listen to the Vapor Trails remaster that came out last year or so? What were your thoughts on that?
It would be interesting to hear it though. The bass drum is completely lost in the first one (no punch at all).
Their most recent album was also full of reverberation and distortion, which made listening to it in the car very very difficult. It fared better in a quieter environment I thought.
How long have you been playing bass? In a band or anything? All good fun!
Older recordings from the 70s (perhaps early Kansas) have a different sound (not such harsh compression), so the snare drum has a sharp crack on them and they sound like this: CRACK
To get that "sound" Foo Fighters layer distorted guitar on top of more distorted guitar (they use Vox AC30s apparently!). Doing this does make it sound thick but you'll get tired listening to an album of distortion. The bass is also distorted (a tube/valve amp in use). Then Dave Grohl will resort to shouting all the way through the song (In Your Honor was the worst), so his added edgy raspy voice will be added to the distortion soup for maximum distortion.
Listen to some Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin and compare the snare sound to the Foos. Led Zeppelin is a good example because even though Led Zep 1's drums were only recorded with 2 (or 3) microphones, there is real dynamics in the drumming (listen to how the drums come in on Good Times Bad Times). You can tell how few microphones were used because the panning on the drum fill for the toms at the end of How Many More Times pans the entire drumkit, not just the toms. Modern setups would perhaps have close-miked drums panned around the stereo image so as the drummer does a fill on the toms, it doesn't take the entire kit with it (8 microphones for a kit, one for each drum + hi hat and overheads).
The parent poster's observation is that labels are uploading different, less-compressed mixes to YouTube now than the mix they release on CD, so that they sound better given YouTube's normalization.
.mp4 in 720p:
AUDIO: 44100 Hz, 2 ch, floatle, 192.0 kbit/6.80% (ratio: 24000->352800)
.mp4 in 360p:
AUDIO: 44100 Hz, 2 ch, floatle, 96.0 kbit/3.40% (ratio: 12001->352800)
(compared using : mplayer -vo null -ao null -frames 0 -identify videofile.mp4
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube#Quality_and_formats (click the "show")
"Better heard on Beats headphones" maybe?
Your example seems to show a completely clipped sample (in the CD) and a more reasonably mastered copy (in the YT clip) with greater dynamic range. Once the dynamic range has been destroyed through compression (not digital compression, I'm speaking of gain compression http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gain_compression) it would difficult or nearly impossible to restore without affecting the quality.
My guess - in this instance, I think the CD and YT clips come from different masters.
> None of us noticed; it seems like the labels and sound engineers may have
They noticed and adjusted their YouTube masters accordingly.
I've tried to give people advice on volume levels, but it feels like no one is willing to do it. Hopefully Twitch will do something similar soon, too.
It's like watching a series on TV and then getting blasted with EXTREMELY LOUD COMMERCIAL BREAKS (and they do that shit on purpose too).
Call me cynical, but I immediately thought that formed part of YouTube's motivation for this.
Yet I feel it would be more fair to all listeners and all people creating the music if everyone at least had the choice to hear the music as it was made to be heard originally.
I'd be cautious before celebrating.
Youtube, by adjusting all tracks to have the same average loudness, is basically saying "to those of you who would give up essential dynamic range, to purchase a little temporary loudness, you deserve neither dynamic range nor loudness"
The hope is that eventually labels will quit sacrificing dynamic range for loudness if all our digital music sources set the average loudness to be the same for all tracks.
I love this adaptation.
The record company's mixers have been escalating a loudness war for years, in an effort to make the most impression on listeners. And the result of that is poor sound quality.
Now YouTube comes along and says "we're resetting you all back to a standard overall volume". Suddenly all that escalating loudness hasn't accomplished anything (or very little; probably there are ways to game the system a little), at least when listened to through YouTube, which as we said is hugely important.
If they're no longer able to compete in loudness, and the vain attempt to do so damages the quality of the recording, then in the long run the mixers ought to quit doing that. It's not going to save Death Magnetic, it's too late for that, but maybe we can reclaim fidelity in future recordings.
That's not quite true. Listen to this: https://soundcloud.com/amp-33/sets/uncompressed-vs-compresse...
Those two things have a pretty similar loudness(A-weighted RMS) and yet the compressed one sounds louder than the measured difference - ~3dB A-weighted which is not obvious to perceive untrained.
As a test - download them both, amplify the Uncompressed one at -2.7dB and listen to them again. They have the same A-weighted RMS yet the Uncompressed one sounds louder.
A-weighting - http://www.diracdelta.co.uk/science/source/a/w/aweighting/so...
RMS - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_mean_square
Measurements done with Audacity, wave stats: http://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?p=248505#p248505
edit:to add the quote
So, actually, there's not much evidence that points to this. We see albums with good dynamic range selling just as well as ones with shitty dynamic range that is louder.
The FM radio has long normalized volume for songs - so the only places this mattered was on purchased CDs.
It's some weird feedback loop. The initial input was true - to a point, humans think louder things sound better - but that idea has now been as distorted as the audio tracks they're putting out.
In other words, there is no reason for the studios to master for loudness (at least for Youtube audio).
You can adjust playback volume between tracks all you want, but if they all have like 6dB of dynamic range, they're going to sound like garbage.
You're not really eliminating the loudness wars unless you find a way to Command-Z all of that ridiculous limiting (or convince people not to do it in the first place).
I'm not sure that's going to stop. It's just the way that people think they have to do things. Cargo cult mastering techniques, basically.
All the good reasons for compressing music or audio in general certainly apply to YouTube. The average viewer will probably listen through laptop speakers in a noisy environment, and a large dynamic range is not helpful to them.
Also, does this mean they actually lower the volume of high RMS/LUFS videos?
If you use compression on the assumption that a chunk of your audience will be listening on shitty speakers you ensure that anyone not listening on shitty speakers also gets a shitty experience. Perhaps Google would like YouTube to be a non-shitty experience for people with nice speakers (or headphones or whatever).
The right answer depends on the content, context and audience. The choice is with the content creator, not with YouTube, and for many content creators optimizing for people with bad speakers is the right choice. Lowering the volume is not going to make "shitty" compression unshitty.
This hyperbole serves no one. Modern limiters are tremendously transparent, and only people who are listening for it will notice the increase in compression.
That said, there is a case to be made for listener fatigue. Personally, I'm not on youtube for extended periods where that would be a problem, but I can see how it might be.
Further, as a musician and engineer, I have long had to live with the fact that none of the streaming services (not even iTunes the app) are transparent. After having spent days on a mix and master, it's quite a shame I don't get to decide how the exact final product is sonically presented.
Agree. Though, I'd add a qualifier - "...are tremendously transparent when used correctly..."
The one thing even audiophiles with the best speakers on the planet need to realize is that no speakers can approach the dynamic range of what modern digital audio have to offer us. Therefore, some tasteful compression (or limiting) will be needed, or the signal will launch the speaker cones out of their baskets.
Compressing music (in the loudness sense) at the source is never a good thing for the consumer; if it is required for a specific end user case then it should be done at that point rather than ruin music for every use case.
I don't buy for a second that it's necessary or helpful with the music that it is done to; which rarely has quiet passages. Compare the two masterings of Pharrell's "happy" I posted, the less compressed version sounds far better even on my 11" laptop's speakers, which should be pretty much 'as bad as it gets'.
Even the cheapest headphones make halving the dynamic range obvious on typical top of the charts pop tracks.
VLC supports a dynamic range audio compressor, meaning you can configure it to make the quiet parts loud, and the loud parts quiet.
If they want to play those bullshit games with the volume of commercials, then I'll play dirty too by using pirated content that has every single commercial removed, and will employ the dynamic range compressor as well to make sure the quiet parts of shows are audible and the loud parts aren't irritating. I just feel sorry for the poor saps who have to tolerate these bullshit shenanigans when even the regulators have been calling out inexplicably loud commercials.
Then again with how cheap Raspberry Pis are, maybe we're closer to everyone using pirated content than we are to get Hollywood and producers of commercials to stop the BS.
Balls in your court Hollywood.
The sole reason I started using adblock, was when I lived in Istanbul for couple of months, their ads were out of hands. Imagine having to control the volume, every time ad plays, in playlists or in front of videos.
This is why the 'Happy' YouTube mix is less loud than the CD version linked to - the author asserts that the studio has done this because the incentive to apply dynamic compression on YT is now gone...
This is a good move. Sorry music guys, but on the whole, this is a win.
Blesser - The Seductive (Yet Destructive) Appeal of Loud Music:
Psychoacoustic tricks such as compression and EQ allow us to increase perceived loudness without crossing the threshold of pain.
3, 4, and 6 in this article explain this psychoacoustic phenomena pretty well:
And this article argues in depth, that the relationship between actual/perceived dynamic range is ultimately an artistic choice, yielding different feels. What people who complain about loudness are really objecting to is the improper use of these techniques:
Anyone know what he's alluding to?
>But the loudness won’t be lifted if clipping would be caused in the process
That would have been my first guess, thankfully it isn't the case.
Maybe that's it. Due to its nature, YouTube tends to lend itself to album fragmentation. It's not uncommon for people to have an entire album on their playlist where no two tracks were uploaded together, let alone even share the same uploader.
In this scenario, barring some sort of mitigation strategy, any seamless transitions between tracks would most likely be destroyed. Each track would have been normalized individually.
Maybe he means the fact that if you don't have an adblocker YouTube ads seem to be as loud as the ones on TV used to be. It might be that this will now fall under the aegis of the FCC :) but I'm not really sure about that. Video ads on Youtube are a betrayal of the Google Adwords approach anyway, and the people who gave them the green light should be shot, but with very small calibre bullets so we can keep shooting them over and over until they get the message about how annoying advertising in temporal media is.
If the article is true, youtube/google is using their market power in one sector to limit artistic and creative decisions in another sector. If mastering houses simply make a youtube mix next to their CD mix than the title is wrong.