Joined: Sat October 27th, 2007, 12:44 GMT
Location: Valley of the self-pitying unemployed
Ok, ok...but whoever produces the damn thing, can they make sure it doesn't get screwed up during the mastering???
If anyone doesn't know, look up loudness wars or watch this youtube description of the problem in general: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4h ... r_embedded
Also, here's some cut and paste bits from http://www.cinchreview.com/bob-dylan-audio-scandal/570/
I’d heard about this issue of compression. It’s not the kind of compression that is used to create mp3 files; that is a compression of data, for easier portability, which undoubtedly results in varying degrees of fidelity loss, but is a completely different subject. Dynamic range compression (see Wikipedia here), on the other hand, has long had legitimate uses and still does, but lately there had been complaints that it was being employed excessively on popular music CDs, with the goal of making the music just sound louder, so that it would seem to pop out more on radios and computer speakers and music players of every description, and people would presumably be more likely to notice it and to buy it. A simple example of this process in action is the way in which commercials on TV generally sound louder than the TV shows themselves. At some point some of those who work for record companies decided that it would be good to make their artists’ music jump out of speakers also, in order to better grab the attention of listeners.
Intrigued now, I read up further on the so-called “loudness wars”. The more I read, the more that what I read spoke to me regarding the very problems I seemed to be having listening to the latest Bob Dylan albums. Dynamic range compression reduces the distinction between the quiet parts of a recording and the loudest parts, making every part of the recording sound louder. In some ways, this might seem a good thing, because it means you won’t miss the quiet parts.
A recording so compressed might even sound better and brighter to your ears on first listen. But, especially when abused and taken to extremes, what the process does is flatten out the entire recording, removing all nuance both at the upper and lower levels. What you’re left with is a recording that is stripped of its natural variation and complexity. It is, if you like, static, in the sense of being relatively unchanging, all the way through. It is as if every aspect of the recording is just blaring out at you with equal force.
In the end, many believe that what it does is render the music boring to your ears and to your brain, although you may not realize it at first, and you may never quite figure out what’s wrong without having a point of comparison...
However, for me, merely reading about all this was never going to clinch the issue. Inspired by Pete Bilderback’s comparison of the vinyl Bob Dylan albums to the CDs, I made the decision to order the vinyl editions of Modern Times and Together Through Life. This was no small expense, by my standards. I’m frugal by nature, and I have excellent reason to be so these days. I certainly can’t see buying music twice (although thanks to changing formats there are quite a few albums I’ve bought three times during my lifetime, so far). But Bob Dylan’s music is important to me. Something was denying me the enjoyment I should be getting from it, and this was the best lead I had yet found on what that something might be. Could it be that this issue of dynamic range compression was in itself the beginning and the end of the problem?
A couple of weeks later, I received the long-playing records in the mail. Now, I do not want to risk overstating it, but, in all honesty, when I put the needle down on Modern Times, and heard Thunder On The Mountain, a chill went up my spine. It went on and on, and into the delicate Spirit On The Water, and in no small way I felt as if I was hearing the album for the very first time. This was a Bob Dylan album. This, in fact, was a great Bob Dylan album. It was alive, it was natural, it had depth and nuance and poignancy and richness and warmth. My ears and my brain (and indeed my heart) had plenty to keep them interested and occupied. There was nothing boring and nothing blaring about these recordings. The producer “Jack Frost” had nothing to be ashamed of after all: his production was beautiful...
Comparing the CDs with the LPs and using my own ears left me in no doubt. In an effort — apparently — to make the music more marketable, somebody at Sony/Columbia has been applying extreme levels of dynamic range compression to Bob Dylan’s recordings as mastered for CD, hoping that they would therefore compete better with other contemporary music and jump out of radios and other audio players. Meanwhile, the versions marketed to those audiophiles who are motivated to purchase the vinyl LPs were being left intact, as if those buyers would be the only ones interested in hearing the actual recording with all of its natural quiet parts and loud parts.
The question must be asked: Is Bob Dylan himself aware of this? Well, there are reasons to think that it could well be a case of “something is happening here but you don’t know what it is.” I quoted Dylan earlier in this piece, seeming to struggle (at least in 2006) for a way of describing the problem he heard in modern recordings, but not coming up with a specific diagnosis. Further, in the recording session for a 2005 song called Tell Ol’ Bill, a copy of which has circulated among fans, Dylan at one point is heard saying words to the effect of: “Well, it sounds great in here. I don’t know what it’ll sound like on the record …”. Is it possible that he doesn’t know what’s ultimately happening to the recordings, even though he’s producing the recording sessions himself? We know that he works with recording engineers in the studio, who handle the technical aspects. He’s not into turning knobs and pressing buttons, but he knows what he likes to hear and what he doesn’t like. When he’s recording an album, he ends up with something that he’s happy with, obviously. It may well be unknown to him that the version mastered for the CD later has this dynamic range compression process applied to it, and what that even means might not be properly understood by him. He may have heard the term — indeed, how could he avoid it? — but he may not have a tangible sense of what it does to his own recordings. Perhaps he’s one of those who just presumes that vinyl must be inherently better than compact disc, as a medium, and he thinks that this is the explanation for what he hears and doesn’t hear on his CDs. (Yet, in reality, the compact disc as a medium can handle even greater dynamic range than a vinyl record, if called upon to do so.) There certainly are artists who are aware of the problem and who protest it. Dylan so far has not publicly and explicitly done so.
In any case, this is what I believe: Anyone who bought these CDs has in effect been cheated. They are not getting the music as it was intended to be heard.
Can anyone who has heard the vinyl versions (even an mp3 of a recording made from a vinyl version) disagree?
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