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Old 06-13-2013, 01:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Navigating the "Loudness War" and etc..

Hi everyone. All too unqualified audiophile in budding here.

When buying CDs, what kind of information do I need to look for that will ensure that it is a high quality recording? I am specifically wary of albums mastered during the advent of the CD which, I've read, sounded inferior to their vinyl predecessors due to poor sound engineering. The "Loudness War" phenomenon is another thing to worry about. Am I missing anything?

The only navigational guideline for the former that I have encountered is to avoid CDs that were produced in the early 80s. I find this too vague to be effective. As for the latter, I don't even know where to start.

Is there anything apparent on an album itself that will give clues about the quality of the recording? Are there any databases and resources that could help me?

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Old 06-13-2013, 03:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I would say don't become an audiophile

I believe that when you're already listening to high fidelity stuff, having your enjoyment of the music reduced because the sound quality could be just a tad better is basically nocebo (like placebo, only it does you harm rather than good). I've read tests and studies that check if people are able to discern which of two sources of sound have higher quality and when the quality is quite good, people are just not good at it. People who are good at it often have exceptional ears and have learned exactly what it is they should listen for, f.ex near-imperceptible compression artifacts. Either way, those who let it get in the way of their enjoyment of listening to music are making up a problem for themselves which needn't be there. The passion some audiophiles claim quality is important with reminds me of passionate believers of homeopathy. I think it's only as relevant and important as you make it.

CD is a digital medium and an analogue medium can have the potential of higher quality sound than digitals. The reason is the way the sound is recorded onto the medium. Analogue mediums can capture more of the sound information while digital mediums are by nature lossy, meaning they lose something, but this difference is generally not audible. Besides, an analogue medium like an LP needs to play on a very good sound system (or preferably good headphones) on a very good record player under very good conditions for this superiority to be apparent. After all, an LP playing has a stylus scratching the surface, picking up the sound information. That's a step where sound information will be lost and where "noise" will be introduced.

Today, music is generally recorded digitally in the studio and then pressed onto vinyl so then of course the whole superior LP quality thing is a fantasy (but LP sleeves are still awesome).


As for the loudness wars, it's really about getting the volume as high as possible on the recording (rather than during playback) by compression. Think of a classical piece which starts of very lightly and the becomes very dramatic with big changes in volume. Then think of a pop song which has a similar intensity throughout with little changes in volume. Super-compressing the classical piece and making the volume more uniform throughout would ruin a lot of the drama of the music, but the pop song might handle it just fine. That's pretty much how I think of it. Compressed music makes for a simpler listening experience because you don't have to adjust the volume as much f.ex (remains more stable), but on the other hand you lose dynamics. I am generally in favour of dynamics, but I also listen to a lot of long prog songs so I guess that's why. How much of a problem it really is definitely depends on what sort of music you're talking about.
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I disagree. Being interested in higher quality sound doesn't prevent me from enjoying the music on a weaker system than my own - it just means that when I have it on a better system, I get an extra level of enjoyment out of it.

Knowing how something can be better, doesn't make it any worse. It just means when its better, its better :P


That said, **** trying to avoid the loudness war. The music *IS* more important than the mastering or production - for me to bag on something down to production it has to be really shocking. Californication is terribly mastered for example, but its still a decent album. Sure, theres an unmastered version floating around which some people prefer, but **** it, that just means you have some choice.
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Old 06-13-2013, 06:58 AM   #4 (permalink)
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If listening to CDs generally has become a problem for someone due to sound quality, then I'd say audiophilia has turned into a problem
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Old 06-13-2013, 09:59 AM   #5 (permalink)
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True, but he doesn't say that, he says he's looked into avoiding bad CDs.

Again, I agree that its pointless - good music trumps good production. He shouldn't care, and I certainly don't unless its so bad it hurts the music outright.

I just disagree with the idea that being interested in Higher Fidelity is a bad thing - Higher Fidelity is perfectly pleasurable in its own right, as long as one approaches it as "More is More", rather than assuming higher fidelity can "reveal" hidden nasties and diminish your enjoyment - it sometimes does reveal some odd things in a record, like background noise in a studio or something, but its not going to turn a good recording into an unlistenable one, or the other way round.
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Old 06-15-2013, 08:59 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Aside from what all others said...

If you have an average system, you won't notice much of a difference between vinyl and CD; realistically, you can only tell on a hi fidelity system. Go with the CD. In most cases, the change in sound quality is negligible.

I don't know about 1980's CDs being bad, I really can't see how they could be any worse than the record. Usually on vinyl, they didn't cut the bass as heavy because the lines would get too wide or deep or something, I don't exactly remember why, but I remember hearing this and that could explain remastering such albums rather than simply changing format.

Every time you play a a vinyl record, no matter how well you maintain it and your equipment, it degrades. For this reason, people used to only play their vinyl once to record it to a cassette tape. These degrade too, but not as fast.

Hell even today, I never open any album I purchase if I can find a download online and I burn it to a CD. The CD medium will never degrade when taken care of, but who has a room with climate control and can perfectly remove a CD from its jewel case perfectly every time and never touch the disk (front or back) and never put a scratch on it?

Remastered CDs are usually labelled with three letters, a combination of a's and d's. That tells you the process. Recorded - mix/master - this format. Usually you see ADD, which would he recorded on analogue, mix/mastered on digital, presented on digit (the cd). At least I think how that system works.

As far as analog vs digital, analog usually gives you a "warmer" tone, but this is far more important in debating tubed (analog) volid state (digital) guitar amps.

The biggest difference is caused by the way the sound is amplified. Digital has a hard, set limit and all exceeding gets shoved back. With analog, it is "physically" pushed back causing a slightly unevenand fluctuating response, aiding that warmer tone.


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Old 06-16-2013, 06:15 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Aside from what all others said...

If you have an average system, you won't notice much of a difference between vinyl and CD; realistically, you can only tell on a hi fidelity system. Go with the CD. In most cases, the change in sound quality is negligible.

I don't know about 1980's CDs being bad, I really can't see how they could be any worse than the record. Usually on vinyl, they didn't cut the bass as heavy because the lines would get too wide or deep or something, I don't exactly remember why, but I remember hearing this and that could explain remastering such albums rather than simply changing format.

Not exactly. Records are cut to the groove after RIAA equalisation has been applied. This equalisation cuts the bass a ton, for a couple of reasons - 1 is, if you have a groove where the bass frequencies are very loud, then the groove becomes very wide and very deep, which can make the needle skip, and makes the record more susceptible to damage over time as the needle's movement is greater and more momentous.

The other reason is that if you make the bass frequencies quieter, you can make the grooves thinner, which means fitting more of them onto a single side, and getting more time out of the record.

Of course we don't hear this - the RIAA equalisation applied to the record is reverted, later in the signal chain, by the phono stage before the amplifier. This means there's no reason to cut vinyl with less bass than you would otherwise use, because this process eliminates the need to do that in all but the most extreme cases.


Every time you play a a vinyl record, no matter how well you maintain it and your equipment, it degrades. For this reason, people used to only play their vinyl once to record it to a cassette tape. These degrade too, but not as fast.

Hell even today, I never open any album I purchase if I can find a download online and I burn it to a CD. The CD medium will never degrade when taken care of, but who has a room with climate control and can perfectly remove a CD from its jewel case perfectly every time and never touch the disk (front or back) and never put a scratch on it?

Remastered CDs are usually labelled with three letters, a combination of a's and d's. That tells you the process. Recorded - mix/master - this format. Usually you see ADD, which would he recorded on analogue, mix/mastered on digital, presented on digit (the cd). At least I think how that system works.

As far as analog vs digital, analog usually gives you a "warmer" tone, but this is far more important in debating tubed (analog) volid state (digital) guitar amps.

The biggest difference is caused by the way the sound is amplified. Digital has a hard, set limit and all exceeding gets shoved back. With analog, it is "physically" pushed back causing a slightly unevenand fluctuating response, aiding that warmer tone.

I think a lot of analogue audio-heads would take issue with your analogy of Analogue Compression, but its roughly correct.

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Old 06-16-2013, 12:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I knew lowering/thinning the bass for vinyl had something to do with the grooves in the record, but I wasn't sure.

Yeah, I understand analog compression, I just can't make a good analogy for it.


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Old 06-16-2013, 01:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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OK,here's my two cents on this.


You will find problems with loudness on many recent releases and on a lot of old albums that have been recently remastered. For the new albums there isn't really much you can do,for the remastered albums your best bet would be to buy the non remastered versions or at the very least get informed and decide on a case by case basis.



Regarding some early 80's cds,it's true that you might find some albums that have been poorly transferred to the digital realm. However there are some notable exceptions ,like the Barry Diament Led Zeppelin masters.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:45 AM   #10 (permalink)
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http://www.musicbanter.com/games-lis...litz-game.html is the reason that I’m bumping this thread today.

I don’t know how much the CD/vinyl sound war still rages, but at one time a couple of MB's finest thought it was worth discussing at length. How about you?
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