Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Michael Fossenkemper, Jan 2, 2004.

  1. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    having been on holiday with friends and family for the last couple of weeks, i've noticed that mp3's are king. everyone I know has some kind of ipod and mp3's everywhere. CD's? well they are just used as a temporary medium to transfer from pod to pod. There base station is a computer that they've ripped all their cd's to and then pack up the old plastic things and shove them in the attic. now there ipod is the main source of music. in the car, the home, with headphones. i've never seen so many people listening to music like this since i was a little kid. It's pretty great actually. as far as quality, sure I can hear the difference on my main system but on a typical best buy system, sounds good to me. But the convience far out weighs any quality issues. It's like music is new again. I've taken to audio books myself and I have about 20 on my ipod encoded in aac from the original cd's. still sounds good, at least the convience of it is much better than lugging on those books around. I'm wondering if anybody else is noticing a HUGE boom in music enjoyment as a result of the MP3 craze.
  2. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

    There is certainly a boom in "compressed audio" devices and I fully agree with your observations that CD's are becoming temporary carriers only. I myself encoded all my CD's onto my computer and just transfer a couple hours worth onto my MP3 player when I go for a jog. And yes, my wife would love for me to pack up all my CD's and shove 'em into the attic. Not happening yet, but the convenience of just clicking on the album sure beats looking for the disk, pulling it out, putting it in the player and so on ... Not that that is hard work or anything but still ...

    I strongly believe that we are currently in an "in-between phase" where CD's are not quite obsolete but new business models for music distribution haven't fully caught on just yet (iTunes, new Napster etc.). I am convinced that the future of commercial audio distribution is "media-less", maybe also wireless. The upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas next week and maybe also MacWorld will attest to that.

    In terms of quality I have expressed my view that we are facing the "digital audio divide" in which recording systems ("The Source") move to higher bit and sample rates (192/24 etc.)while the consumer ("The Destination") cares less and less about audio quality, being perfectly happy with 128k MP3's that are honestly very little enjoyment to me as an audio engineer.

    There is hope, however, in that increasing bandwidth together with decreasing memory cost (be it flash or hard disks) will lead to a situation where better quality will return as it doesn't cost extra.

    Anyway, this is all reality. Whoever disagrees that media-based audio distribution is a "dead man walking" is IMHO in denial. We audiophiles may hate it but we better get used to it or we will simply be left behind in audio business ...

    And yes, video is next in line ...

    Just my opinion.

  3. I personally think that we have to do as ME's is figure out how to master to the different formats. I learned very quickly working with "lo-fi" (24kbps) files that there's a totally different approach involved, and if you don't develop a strategy, your stuff will sound horrible in that format.

    It's actually not as difficult as it would seem. You have to break a lot of rules, and basically produce a product that, at full bandwidth, sounds like $*^t, in order to make that lossy format sound good.
  4. by

    by Guest

    Griffinator, I've seen this type of stuff in the past, with EQ presets like "44.1kHz 64kb MP3" and "Real Player 28.8k Stream" that try to compensate what's being lost in the encoding. They work to certain degree, I guess…
  5. My experience has been that you have to go beyond EQ compensation for MP3 format and step into some really hard compression that would be painfully audible on a stock 16/44.1 audio file.

    YMMV, of course, but when you're dealing with 24K mp3 format, your #1 job is to find some way to make the major elements of the piece stand out as much as possible amidst the noise.
  6. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    EQ's can't salvage the treble portions of a badly encoded mp3. Reason for that is that the treble loss isn't a constant value vs time. Add that to all the weird flanging artifacts we relate to mp3s, and I'd say treble is pretty much a loss.

    Strange as it may sound, sometimes the best approach may be to actually cut the treble and find a way to resynthesize at least a bit by some overdriving and/or harmonic excitation with dynamics processing.
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I'm finding that aac encoding is much better at lower bit rates than mp3. Ipods will play back this format but some of the others will not. I also read that Bill Gates is coming into the game and in Gates fashion, trying to dominate it. Apparently he's trying to push his format as the dominant format.
  8. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    So how does a ME proceed to master a project? This seems to be a big question 'cause if the 16/44.1 CD is going to be dropped to MP3 then what media do we master for?

    Do we do 3 different versions: MP3, CD, Hi-Res SACD/DVD-A????

    Who would pay for that? Not my clients.
  9. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    I don't think MP3s are going to be around much longer. What with the advances in bandwitdh/storage technology and the much newer, better formats (both lossless and lossy), it's becoming increasingly harder to tell the difference between the encodes and and originals.

    My opinion: Doesn't sound good after conversion to a lossy format? That's not for the mastering engineer to worry about. That's for the people coming up with the encoding algorithms to worry about.

    Bottomline: The losses that occur during lossy encode will keep changing. CD audio, however, will always stay the same. Mastering for a "sound" that keeps changing might be counter-productive.

    In any case, the goal of all these formats are to produce a psychoacoustically identical copy of a source, so mastering with regards to the source instead of post-encode would be best. Sooner or later the encodes will literally be so transparent that we won't be able to hear the difference, not just the masses with boomboxes.

    P.S. Yeah, AAC owns MP3.

    P.S.S Lossless formats like APE and FLAC own both AAC and MP3. ;)
  10. Well, FWIW, I get paid (short dollars) by artists at one particular OMD to do exactly that - take their redbook master and produce good sounding 24kbps mp3's.

    It doesn't take very long (about 20 minutes), can be done in a wave editing program, (as in you don't need to fire up your multimilliondollar rack) and it keeps my shop busy in between clients.
  11. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Interesting situation... if it's at all possible, you could try to proselytize the .ogg format to him. It sounds tons better than mp3 (even assuming a really good mp3 encoder like LAME) at bitrates lower than 160. It was designed as a quality streaming format for low-bandwidth, so it works best at low bitrates, though its high bitrate performance loses out *BADLY* to mp3, mpc, aac and the like.
  12. As great an idea as that is, getting a large (5,000 artists/bands and growing) online music distributor to suddenly shift gears and start using a format (Ogg-Vorbis) that is barely supported (as in Joe Sixpack has to go download some utility somewhere to listen, which he won't do) is a task of glacial proportions.
  13. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Ah, I kinda thought he was keeping them for personal use/distribution. My mistake... t'would have been exorbitant to send them for mastering in that case.

    It kinda feels like the whole VHS vs Beta all over again though, and that somewhat annoys me. MP3 is winning out solely because it's firmly rooted, and nothing more. It's larger than it needs to be, and poorer quality than practically everything else out there (except the heterosexually challenged wma)

    I just hope that sooner rather than later mp3's become obsolete. I mean, they *ARE* but people just haven't realized it yet.

    Yes, I'm pointlessly ranting. I'll stop now.
  14. Well, the deal I have with the site owner is that the artists pay me for my services, and they take a cut. The larger portion of my work from that site is from artists who actually want a professional CD to sell, without bankrupting themselves (as a lot of them already did so either investing in recording equipment or working at a studio) - but there's plenty of quick'n'dirty mp3 "enhancement" work to be done as well. Like I said - doesn't pay great, but it keeps my studio busy.

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