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Ouch So many Distorted CD's!

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by sdevino, Jun 30, 2002.

  1. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    I was doing some reference listening through some recent CD purchases the other night. I was shocked at how much distortion is on vocals and acoustic instruments on some CD's. Some specific examples:

    1. Alison Kraus and Union Station: Should have been a nice dynamic, clean recording. Instead the vocals and mandolin are seriously distorted. The overall RMS level rides between -4.5 and -3 dBFS! That is louder than Godsmack or Dr Dre!!!

    2. Paul McCartney: Flaming Pie: Distorted vocals!

    3. The Wallflowers fisrt CD, Sounds great, plenty of dynamics, no distortion.

    Don't these guys havce access to decent monitors? Its not even pleasent to listen to the 1st 2 CDs except on a hyped hi fi (sound quality wise).
     
  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Ok...Ready?

    Three forms of distortion:

    1. Bad x fer at press plant. I have sent totally nice product to the press plant..one off was fine as proof. Glass mastering got screwed up..20K units that has nastyness.

    2. High output (running 0dB/rms of -10) is too much for the consumer machines playback line out. It spews distortion. I master at a conservative level that does not allow machine (consumer) line out overload. My mastering played on FM is plenty loud..if not louder than the pushed up stuff.

    3. Gain management, (mastering) not compensating for the cd. Inexperienced staff doing it without having lived the realum. It will be more wide spread.

    Listen to headphone out of CDP. If it is nasty at moderate vol..then 1 or all 3 (Previals) are the culpret.
     
  3. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Bill,
    I am listening through a Pro CD player via my main monitoring system. I think that some of what I hear is also excessive use of analog "Warmers" i.e Tubes run a little too hot while tracking.

    I will playback through s/pdif via the 192i/o to see if it sounds any better.

    My Earthworks Sigma's are great tattle tails.
     
  4. BOBMIX

    BOBMIX Guest

    While all of the aforementioned are plausible reasons for distortion, the main one that I see constantly is artists, producers, and thus mastering engineers quest for a "louder" cd. I work with some of the busiest and highly regarded mastering houses in the world, and it has become a practice (unfortunately) to master so hot (either at the a/d on input or inside Sonic) that all of the leading edge peaks are lopped off. I hear it first (lack of punch, pop, lo end definition on R n' B where the kick drum is usually leading the pack), and then see it when I look at the ref in the protools. I won't let this pass. but is is not only common, but many times the norm.
     
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    A very Good subject to jaw about...My question being "WHY???" yer point being taken and it does appear to be industry-wide..Every so often I'll sit back behind the ole sound craft and slip some famous successful high budget CD ito the ole sony machine and listen to them little genelecs...what i hear is for the most part incredible...as in bad...HEY I Paid for this CD...$15!!!...now on the home stereo with its nice old beograms it sounds okay...but not up close and in a clean environment...THUS...what do WE as PROFESSIONALS and SEMI-PROFESSIONALS do about this? Its been mentioned that its industry policy(?)to master for huge gain amounts...I dont remember any of my old Zep recordings not having enough gain..or anything that was produced by Sir George not having any gain...and All of my John Hiatt stuff is so very sweet and loud.....could it be that the digitalization of the recording world has reached that point of diminishing returns...Imean after-all most of the posts on this and other industry related sites concerning recording in the digital realm talk almost exclusively about 'warming up' the sound with this and that little trick or 'plug-in'.....oh heck...there i go again...sorry...whut was i think'n
     
  6. I recently had the expereince of attending a party at my brothers house. He asked to bring some of my original stuff to throw in the carousel cd player along with other favorites of his. When my tunes came on, the levels dropped to the point where the tunes could not be heard enough to be enjoyed. I could just imagine how a client would feel in such a circumstance. It seems to be continuous battle to find a balance. I think the people who are to do this the best are able to compress the $*^t out of a mix but still retain the illusion of dynamics. I suppose that's what I'm striving for.
     
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Gee, Bernard, thats a sad story...really..i would HATE that...doesnt it seem then in light of that and I'm sure many other similar stories, that we're in an equipment 'cold-war'...? someone who's got an across-the-bus exceptional piece of gear has an advantage that shmoe's like me with absolutely zero budget could never match...and i'm not the only one...so for me ,at least, its a matter of being absolutely damn sure careful at the tracking end of it to get a clear and undistorted uneq'ed signal onto the ole harddisk thingy and rely on the mixdown to pump it all up to such levels....it takes time and care but my demo cd's are as loud as them other guys...(you know who are)..and at one-tenth the budget...but then i dont do this for a living so pleasing a client for me is as easy as getting up between takes and seeing what kind of new and tasty beer products my sweetie was able to score at the store...Perhaps some of the big timers on here will lend their considerable expertise on this very subject....that being 'Distortion at Mixdown and how to Overcome it Without Buying a Bank'...is good?
     
  8. droog

    droog Active Member

    i feel the pain

    the first cd i ever produced was (thankfully) rejected by the mastering engineer for being too distorted

    it's a little different to what you're saying, bill, as the distortion was in place prior to mastering, but i thought i'd mention it, because it was a good lesson for me to work out the various reasons for the distortion:

    1. overdriven cheap pre-amps (think mackie)

    2. cheap converters impart a certain harshness/edginess, not unlike distortion

    3. 'tube' plugins are the worst offenders, imo
     
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have heard songs that sound great on TV but when I hear them on even a moderatly priced stereo they sound horrible. I think a lot of stuff is mixed to sound good on CMT, MTV, VH1 etc. Video killed the radio star. Fats
     
  10. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Sting's "Brand New Day" CD is a great example of a truly great recording/mix/mastering job. It is plenty "loud" it has superb dynamics and the performances are top shelf.

    An aweful lot of it was done in his home studio on really good converters into Pro Tools (the tracking anyway). But it really shows the importance of performance and arrangement in a mix.

    We should all pay more atention to this kind of work.
     

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