Post by Philemon Phonon
Post by Johnny B Good Post by Dirk T. Verbeek
Interesting and possibly insightful, thanks.
I'd go further and restate that as, "Interesting and insightful" :-)
[...Snipped lots of interesting and well-written stuff...]
Post by Johnny B Good
Once such end user DSP based 'replay tuning' controls become a standard
feature of modern digital playback systems, we just might see a "Cease
Fire" issued to the recording studios to finally bring the whole sorry
"Loudness War" to an end.
There was, and always will be, some legitimate need to modify the
dynamics of a recorded musical performance. However, the illegitimate
(or, more aptly described, Bastard) levels of compression that were
being applied indiscriminately by a younger generation of
over-enthusiastic but audiologically incompetent 'record producer', no
longer has any justification for its existence in the modern recording
Hopefully, this practice will die out as the current generation of
studio producers mature and lose their childlike fascination with
DSP technology. After all, once such DSP based dynamic control becomes
a standard feature on consumer grade media players, the end consumer
will be able to ruin the playback to his/her heart's content without
any such studio inflicted assistance. :-)
 Meaning they'll realise the truth of the adage, "The Customer Is
Always Right!" and let go.
I hope you are right that a "Cease Fire" will eventually happen: the
"Loudness War" has begun more than 20 years ago now and is still going
Well, to be fair, I did pontificate on this more in hope than
expectation but you never know, there may come a day when the "Record
Producers" will finally realise the pointlessness of the whole exercise.
However, the origin of this 'loudness war' goes way further back than
just the past couple of decades of "The CD Era". It just wasn't spoken
about until its effects had been taken to the extremes only made possible
by the abuse of 'modern' DSP processing techniques that could be applied
to media and playback systems free of the limitations inherent in the
analogue vinyl recording system.
Prior to that, it had been applied in the 1950s to the "Three Minute Pop
Record" primarily to give them 'the punch' that not only improved their
reception by the target audience tuned into the AM Pop Radio stations in
America, which were the mainstay of advertising the availability of the
record industry's pop record products, but also to literally improve
"reception" by the radio sets themselves used by that audience.
Post by Philemon Phonon
Meanwhile, despite the fact that I am a potentially big music consumer,
I find myself buying used pre-1995 CDs, ripping DVDs' audio tracks
(motion pictures and music DVDs generally have better Dynamic Range due
to standardization: THX, etc...) and supporting the rare pop artists
that care about this matter (KBush, for instance: if you know of any
others, please let me know !).
I don't know any 'modern' artists/bands/groups who specifically claim to
care about preserving the dynamics of a recording, whether 'live' or
'studio' based but I would imagine most modern artists and groups, who
followed and were inspired by the Beatle's ground breaking "Sergeant
Pepper's..." 'concept album' to create recorded performances that went
beyond the "Three Minute Pop Song", did wrest more control of the
recording process from out of the hands of their 'record producer'.
The most obvious exception applying to the artists who had placed their
faith in Phil Spectre's, oh so recognisable, winning "Wall of Sound"
formula. The "Wall of Sound" effect was so recognisably a signature of a
Phil Spectre produced recording that the artists involved could almost as
well have been an anonymous bunch of session musicians. Luckily for the
artists themselves, this wasn't quite true enough for PS to get away with
reducing production costs to quite such an extreme as this.
Post by Philemon Phonon
I do not buy vinyls myself but understand the one who does, even if only
for ripping them to digital audio files... Admittedly, in our digital
world, the situation could be better.
I wasn't much interested in the craze of the Pop Culture Single when it
was at its height in my own teenage years in the sixties. The only
'single' I ever bought new in a record shop was the Beatle's very fine
double A sided "Strawberry Fields/I Am The Walrus" 7 inch 45 rpm disk
(and that, primarily for the "I Am The Walrus" A side rather than the
"Strawberry Fields" A side that most of the Beatle's major teenage girl
record buying audience were attracted to).
My younger brother had bought the "Sergeant Pepper's..." album when it
was first released half a century ago and I borrowed it off him shortly
after so I could record it onto a 3 inch spool of reel to reel quarter
inch tape on a Philips portable tape recorder.
I think this used the same 4.76cm/s tape speed as cassette tapes. The
wider half track mono format and the larger, 4 inch diameter, built in
speaker provided a much better replay audio quality compared to the
typical portable mono cassette recorder of the day and I often used to
listen to it whilst at the workbench when stationed on site in a major
customer's PABX room.
I got to borrow it again, about ten years later after I had upgraded to
an Akai GX630DB tape deck (and a similar record deck upgrade from a
Garrard SP25 to a Thorens TD125 MkI with SME 3009 Series 2 tone arm with
an ADC XLM cartridge) recording in glorious Dolby stereo to the less than
glorious Scotch Dynarange 7 inch spool of LP tape I had earlier chosen as
"A Quality Brand of Tape" to use with my previous Akai 4000D tape deck.
As magnetic tapes went, it wasn't a bad choice at the time but it was
well and truly outclassed by the newer Japanese brands of tape, such as
my newly discovered favourite brand, Maxell UDB (and 2nd best, TDK SA)
which I started stocking up on to properly do justice to that Akai GX630DB
which outclassed all the competition before (or since).
My digital copy of this album was captured from this tape dubbed copy of
the vinyl record. If I wanted to re-digitise it today, I'd do it direct
from my record deck's built in phono pre-amp to bypass the analogue tape
stage to marginally improve the quality to best possible.
I have never heard a CD re-release version of this album so I have no
idea whether this has ever been re-issued on CD nor whether it suffered
any co-lateral damage from the "Loudness War" as a result. Considering
the original effort that had been put into its production, I would be
extremely surprised if it were to fall victim to such sacrilege and
vandalism. Since it was released on the EMI Parlophone label rather than
Apple Records which Sony got their grubby mitts on, I'm hopeful that the
or a subsequent re-issue on CD will be free of any Sony Tricks(tm).
 AM radio reception was badly afflicted by both man made noise (QRM)
and natural background static (QRN) where such sources of interference
competed directly against the modulation of the AM carrier wave (the
music content riding on the top of the transmitter's carrier wave).
The 'louder' the music, the more it could stand out from the background
of QRN and QRM. However, if the transmitter was modulated beyond a
certain level, it would cause not only distortion but, more importantly,
generate interference to other transmissions and bring down the wrath of
the FCC upon the radio station operators.
The problem of unwanted interference by over-modulation of the carrier
arose from excessive negative modulation where the carrier would be
completely reduced to zero voltage (power) in a rapid transient event
that would create uncontrolled distortion products at radio frequencies
outside of the allocated band and into adjacent channel allocations
resulting in the characteristic 'sideband splatter' affecting listeners
tuned into the adjacent radio stations.
Fairly early on in the history of MW AM broadcasting, the transmitters
were equipped with automatic modulation controls to prevent such
interference by detecting *both* the level and polarity of the asymmetry
of the modulating signal from the studio so as to prevent carrier cut off.
Most natural audio generators, human voices, trumpets, drums, pianos etc,
don't produce perfectly symmetrical sine wave forms, so merely guarding
against excess negative modulation of an AM transmitter by automatically
adjusting the level of the modulating signal from the output of a studio
mixing desk can result in very different experiences for the distant
listener, depending on the phasing of the microphone and that of the rest
of the audio chain feeding the transmitter.
The normal operation of the phase reverser relied on making the switch
during the quiet parts of the radio programme so as to avoid the rather
loud clicks and bangs that would otherwise result during a fortissimo
segment. Since even switching phase during quieter moments still has this
undesired side effect of clicks and bangs, the circuit was designed to be
sparing in its activity.
For most programme material, the modulation limiter could operate with a
ruthless quiet efficiency. However, some carelessly produced records or
album tracks could result in a dramatic reduction of an AM radio
station's service area. Typically, the microphones on the two lead
vocalists in a duet would have been wired in anti-phase and the error not
corrected in the final stereo mix used to cut the disk.
The human singing voice in most cases, exhibits a very strong asymmetry
in its waveform as observed on a 'scope trace corresponding to tall
narrow compressions with wide shallow rarefactions of the air pressure in
front of the vocalist's microphone. The transmitter's modulation limiter
circuits will detect this asymmetry and force the narrow tall pulses to
correspond to positive modulation so as to allow the maximum modulation
without interrupting the carrier on the negative peaks which would
otherwise bring down the wrath of the FCC for causing unnecessary and
avoidable interference to other radio station operators using the
adjacent frequency allocations.
When such a track with a duet between two vocalists is played out, it
may start off with the first vocalist phased to produce narrow positive
modulation peaks ok but as soon as the other vocalist takes over, the
modulation limiter is forced to reduce the level and wait for a quiet
enough moment to sneak a reversal in to allow it to turn the wick up
again. Unfortunately, this happens during the handover back to the
original vocalist so that when he starts up, the phase is now switched
but in the wrong sense for the original vocalist forcing the modulation
limiter to keep things quiet. Of course, this cycle repeats until the
track is finally played out to its end.
There were a few famous examples of such studio cock uppery way back in
the 80s and 90s, the details of which escape me right now other than
recalling that at least one of these infamous tracks involved a Stevie
Wonder duet. I don't know whether any of these tracks were ever remedied
in later "Digitally Remastered" re-issues or the lessons totally ignored.
 It seems we have the sexually frustrated teenage girl audiences'
propensity to hysterical screaming their adoration of the 'Fab Four' at
their live concerts (and the lack of a readily available supply of dildos
and vibrators in those dark and unenlightened times) to thank for the
revolution which was kicked off by the Beatle's retreat into the Abbey
Road studio to produce that ground breaking "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band" concept album. :-)
Johnny B Good