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Old 11-18-2012, 10:18 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Petition for High Definition Music Downloads.

Hi,

I’m trying to start a petition to try and get Record Labels (and Retailers) to release High Definition music downloads (24 Bit) of popular mainstream music that people actually want to listen to and also to stop to the “loudness wars”.

This is where the volume of the recording is turned up to grab the listener’s attention upon first hearing. They make both the loud and quite passages loud, so that there is very little difference between them in terms of dynamic range – The music has become compressed and often distorted.

While this is fine for radio broadcasts, it also means that listening to such music can often become tiring and many people experience listeners fatigue. When music isn’t compressed it actually increases people’s enjoyment and they also hear the music the way the artist originally intended.

You only have to speak to a handful of people to quickly find out that many are not fussed with music and could quite easily take it or leave it. This is a direct reflection on the quality of records available today, the high levels of compression used is making music unlistenable and unenjoyable.

It’s not realistic to expect this situation to change overnight but an increasing number of music lovers are getting fed up and want to access music that hasn’t been heavily compressed. One way to do this is to offer High Resolution - Studio Quality Recordings (24 Bit). This would differentiate uncompressed music in the market place and would also attract many people as they seek the “best” in the process. It would also have the benefit of reintroducing people to music the way it’s meant to sound.

16 Bit (CD) recordings have been available for 30 years now and instead of sound quality improving it has at best stagnated and in terms of downloads has managed to go backwards. It’s about time the industry took a leap forward and offered quality 24 Bit recordings. The playback technology is readily available, even modestly priced equipment and portables such as the iPod can support 24 Bit playback, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t happen.

If you want change then please show your support and sign the petition:

change.org/petitions/record-labels-release-high-definition-music-downloads

There is also a Facebook Group, intended to act as a focal point for anyone who shares the above views and wishes to get involved:

We want High Definition music downloads facebook.com/groups/463034807076103/
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default “Stop the loudness wars and release High Definition Music Downloads”

UPDATE:

After listening to the peoples comments on various forums the petition title has been changed to:


“Stop the loudness wars and release High Definition Music Downloads”

Petition Link: change.org/petitions/stop-the-loudness-wars-and-release-high-definition-music-downloads

Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/463034807076103/

I had emailed all those who signed the petition for comment before doing so.

Please note that while many would like to see a fundamental change within the industry so that no record is heavily compressed, this is not realistic as no doubt the record labels / retailers would argue that many people prefer the music “louder” (Even though we may fundamentally disagree).

Instead the petition focus would be for record labels and retailers to offer uncompressed downloads alongside the “mainstream offering” in the download market in both 16 Bit & 24 Bit format. It’s not realistic to expect an uncompressed CD to be brought to market alongside the “normal” version.

My personal opinion is that if a new product market is created the focus should be on 24 Bit downloads and advertised as “the best”, as even modestly priced equipment is able to playback 24 Bit files and it’s also important for the industry to move forward.

If you agree and haven’t already done so, please sign the petition and ask your friends to do so too.

If change is ever going to happen then we need people’s participation.

Thanks
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:20 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have been asked by a few people what my objective is with the petition and what I’m I going to do with it, for clarification my broad intentions are below. Bear in mind, it’s still very early days, which is why I intent to use the facebook group as a place to take on board peoples suggestions and advice.

Objective: To raise the issue of compression and availability of high quality downloads with major record labels and online retailers

When: Once I / others (facebook group) believe that the petition has reached its peak, or has reached a number that I believe would warrant notice, ideally between 2000 – 3000 people
.
How: By letter to each of the major record labels and online retailers. The letter would bring to their attention the petition and ask them to take into consideration our views and ask them for comments (future plans etc).

I plan on using the facebook group to communicate draft versions of any final letter, to accompany the petition letter for people to comment on and who to write to. I will them email all those who signed the petition before it gets sent for comment.
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Old 11-24-2012, 04:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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All - The petition letter has now been revised. Let me know what you think, ideally through the facebook group. Please try not to burn me at the stake if there are grammar errors! Thanks

change.org/petitions/stop-the-loudness-wars-and-release-high-definition-music-downloads

P.S – 858 signatures now – carry on spreading the word. If you haven’t already signed, please do so.
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Um... wait a minute... you want there to be a standard of 24bit audio because the current mixing/mastering practices push to the very limit of 16bit audio in terms of bits available for loudness without overlimiting?

That makes absolutely no sense to me. That's basically saying we should raise the speed limit on all roads because too many people are speeding. What makes you think that clients won't request that their music be limited even louder with the new-found freedom of not digitally distorting at their previous limits?

What you really need to petition for is educating music listeners that louder does not equal better, and that dynamic range is a good thing, and that if they want the song to be louder, they can simply turn up their volume knobs.

Raising to 24 bit doesn't increase quality. It extends dynamic range, and 16bit has plenty of room for dynamic range if you're not trying to maximize loudness by overcompressing. This is completely in the hands of the artists request when in a studio, and whether the audio engineer obliges. Petition them. Petition the listeners. Don't petition for a higher ceiling to "fix" a problem that doesn't exist because of a ceiling. BTW, overcompression will happen regardless of whether you can raise the overall volume to 16bit 0db, or otherwise. The problem doesn't exist in the limit. It exists in the reason people overcompress to begin with.

You stop the loudness war by stopping the idea that your waveforms need to be straight blocks in order to be "good". Not by giving everyone even more headroom to work with to make their habits even worse. Sorry, but this petition seems like the most ass-backward thing I've ever seen, and that's coming from a hobby audio engineer of 13 years.
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Just to clarify, I want 24Bit downloads as ONE of the formats available. 24Bit downloads are already available for mostly classical music and marketed as Studio Master Quality.

The reason for 24Bit originally because it offers great quality, as it increases the amount of audio data captured. As it happens this part of the petition, is currently being debated, so don't get too worked up on it.

Also, just to correct an assumption, the majority of studio already record in 24Bit anyway, so they already have this extra headroom. The problem is, not the format but the fact they get the music to sound the best they can and are then are told to get rid of all dynamics.

The MAIN focus of the petition, is to stop the "loudness wars" where the quite parts of the song are made loud, so that it sounds in your face, no dynamic range and very fatiguing to listen to.

This links explains what I mean:
youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sometimesuk View Post
Just to clarify, I want 24Bit downloads as ONE of the formats available. 24Bit downloads are already available for mostly classical music and marketed as Studio Master Quality.
So this is more a request for 24bit availability then? I can respect that, not that it makes a worthwhile difference after the track is mastered.
Quote:
The reason for 24Bit originally because it offers great quality, as it increases the amount of audio data captured. As it happens this part of the petition, is currently being debated, so don't get too worked up on it.
Incorrect. Bit depth might have something to do with dynamic range because of the much higher headroom, but it has nothing to do with audio quality at the recording stage. Most people record at 24bit anyway. I know I do. I just dither and truncate down to 16 in the mastering process, because you can still have great dynamics with 16 bits, provided you don't drive up your gains and over-compress, which is purely dictated by how you set your levels and the compressor(s).

What DOES (objectively) affect quality in terms of audio data captured is SAMPLE RATE. CD quality standard is 44.100khz, which basically means the analog material being recorded is digitally sampled in "slices" 44,100 times a second. Think about this in the same way you think of frames per second (let's say, 30 fps) in a movie, where it's actually composed of still images that are captured and play back at a rate as to give the impression that the images are in motion.

An audio engineer can record in higher sample rates and effectively sample more data, which means more of the digital material itself is more accurately representative of the analog material. The debate arises, however, in how far one can go before the human brain can notice an improvement. Generally, most agree that going much higher than 48khz is unnecessary for general-purpose listening, however many audio interfaces (including my own) go up to 96khz, but this all gets converted down to 44khz prior to exporting a master anyway, for compatibility purposes. The theory is, that it's better to capture at a higher sample rate, because conversion down to a lower sample rate is preferable to the audio slices never being there at all.
Quote:
Also, just to correct an assumption, the majority of studio already record in 24Bit anyway, so they already have this extra headroom. The problem is, not the format but the fact they get the music to sound the best they can and are then are told to get rid of all dynamics.
I'm aware that 24bit recording is commonplace. I record at that bit depth myself. What you are unaware of is the fact that when you record in 24bit, a lot of that headroom goes unused. 24 bits of headroom does not mean you can hear the lowest bit, all the way up to the highest, nor would you want to, as the lowest audio would be imperceptible, and the loudest would be over-limiting and causing massive amounts of digital distortion. This is one of the reasons why, when recording in 24bit, it's generally advised for the lowest parts of the audio to peak around -24 decibels (for noise floor considerations) and the highest parts to peak no more than -6 decibels (for headroom considerations) with the average needing to dance between -18 and -12 decibels. This gives you plenty dynamic range, which, depending on the style of music, will probably be compressed to various differences, as applicable.

If I were recording a live orchestra, I'd still be able to maintain virtually the same dynamic range after converting to 16 bit (assuming I didn't compress), because the level differences, as they are applicable to human hearing and practicality, are completely within the scope of 16bit music. 24bit music is not preferred because of some arbitrary "better quality" factor, as bit depth doesn't affect it. It's preferred because it allows more room to accidentally record beyond 16bit depth without hitting a decibel ceiling and introducing distortion irreversibly into the saved material that is to be mixed. Recording at 24 bits simply gives you a wider level margin that can be reduced to appropriate listening dynamics in the mix without being stuck with over-limiting mistakes at the recording stage.
Quote:
The MAIN focus of the petition, is to stop the "loudness wars" where the quite parts of the song are made loud, so that it sounds in your face, no dynamic range and very fatiguing to listen to.
And the main point I'm trying to get across is that converting to 16bit audio has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with how much compression is applied to audio in the mixing and mastering stage, as to maximize the RMS level of the audio, aka, the "perceived loudness". 16bit audio can accommodate excellent dynamics. If I apply the same, over-compression to one mix, and export it as a 24 bit wav, and apply that very same compression and export it as a 16 bit wav, there will be absolutely no difference in dynamic level. Guaranteed. So, it should be obvious that bit depth has nothing to do with loudness wars.
Quote:
This links explains what I mean:
youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ
Just watched it, and if that's what you mean in regard to bit depth, then you are unwittingly agreeing with everything I've said. That video is explaining the effects of compression in the mixing and mastering stage. It is not talking about 16bit vs 24bit audio.
I'm not sure how knowledgeable you are in the technical side of audio engineering, but I can tell you right now that your gripe (and the gripe of the Loudness War opponents, which I also agree with) deals with compression practices, not bit depths. If you are unaware of what I mean when I say "compression", I'm not talking about converting down from 24 bits to 16 bits. I'm talking about either an analog, or digital, or software digital compressor that is used in a mix or a master that receives the signal and limits the highest peaks to a certain level so that it can raise the lowest parts more without the entire song going over that limit. That's (limiting) compression, and it is irrelevant to bit depth, except for where you set the upper limit and whether it will introduce digital distortion if you pass it.
Compression is used in different ways, for different effects. Vocals are often compressed so that there is a more even level than the original recording.
Drums too.
Bass, all the time.
Mixes, all the time.
Mastering, all the time.
The problem is how hard this compression is being applied. It has been around for ages and ages, before "loudness wars" were ever even an issue. The issue is that, over time, people began to use this compression in less and less subtle ways, until we get to today, where virtually all the dynamics in a song is lost because of such aggressive compression.

Again, this has nothing to do with bit depth, and everything to do with today's in-mix/mastering common compression practices. (converting 24bit audio to 16bit audio is not compression in this sense, it's truncation of bits. And if you do it correctly, it's truncation of UNUSED bits, regardless of the practical dynamic level that lives in that bit range, of which 16bit is definitely capable, and you can even consult your favorite digital 16bit oldie of which you approve of its dynamics)

Anyway, I'm not sure if this whole thing is you not understanding what is actually involved in this loudness war, and why 24bit is used in the first place, and why bit depth is irrelevant to the loudness war, and why 24 bits offer no perceptible advantage in terms of dynamics in any practical application.

Thanks for the debate, though.
I really do enjoy talking about this stuff!
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:07 AM   #8 (permalink)
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To avoid all doubt - I agree with what your saying!

My main concern is the "loudness wars" and the dynamic compression used by brickwalling all the levels.

The term 24 Bit, has now been dropped from the petition title and letter. It was only there originally as many people do believe they sound better, HOWEVER, as you pointed out, its most likely because of the greater sampling rate - 96/192 is common place.

Have a listen to the different files and let me know what you think:

soundkeeperrecordings.com/format.htm
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sometimesuk View Post
To avoid all doubt - I agree with what your saying!

My main concern is the "loudness wars" and the dynamic compression used by brickwalling all the levels.

The term 24 Bit, has now been dropped from the petition title and letter. It was only there originally as many people do believe they sound better, HOWEVER, as you pointed out, its most likely because of the greater sampling rate - 96/192 is common place.

Have a listen to the different files and let me know what you think:

soundkeeperrecordings.com/format.htm
I'll be glad to whenever my audio interface returns from repairs at the manufacturer. The flash chip went out on it (after 5 solid years of service!) and 800 bucks is a bit too much to opt for buying a new unit.

With that said, I don't trust my onboard Realtek for anything beyond playing the Windows startup sound. lol
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