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The zzz in music today

Discussion in 'Recording' started by audiokid, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Every mix I get, every song I hear on the radio, every remix I've done has the similar freq that is around 6k to 9k. It sounds metallic and I hate it. I'm sure its the sound of conversion and compression inherent to digital audio. Do you hear it or am I suffering from some hearing issue, possibly like servants do with noise?
  2. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    are you talking about that horrible digitial noise that sounds like a aliens screaming in agony? it gets worse on higher tones, like crash cymbals. I can hear it on everything that is of less quality than a 320kbps mp3. I can't even listen to Sirius radio anymore. Watching TV I can tell all the commercials that were made on a computer. I hate it.
    bigtree likes this.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    exactly. I stopped my subscription to Sirius.

    I have a track that I want to post but cannot as its not released yet. But I'm going to post the isolated freq soon. Its in everything. Its the same sound I used to think was most common to Avid. I just mixed another pro tools session and it drove me nuts.

    I'm so scared from this freq, its effecting my ability to mix without force of habit, to remove. If I remove it, it also removes the good. I'm going nuts with this.
    As you can tell, I'm on some sort of war path lol, but not to be on some elitist path, its to bring all this crud to the forefront so we get some help lol. Are there any digital drugs available? Oh right, thats what software patches are right? Drugs to buffer the habits we know we should stop doing in the digital realm lol.
    kmetal likes this.
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I was just listening to an artist on ReverbNation and it sounded like a bunch of buzzing flies.

    I won't discount converters, but I think monitoring problems and becoming used to mp3 artifacts are to blame for a lot of it.

    I routinely hear on national level TV productions all sorts of LF stuff like plosive thumps. They must be monitoring on small speakers that don't reproduce that stuff or they would have high-passed it. If that's the case they probably have their speakers on a desk aimed at their chest instead of at their ears, which may explain some of the HF stuff you're hearing.

    And now there's a whole generation of people recording and mixing who grew up on mp3 sound. They mix to that standard, in the same way I tend to mix like FM radio. Hm, I better get my turntable out, and fix up that open reel deck.
    bigtree likes this.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    PCM. it's like smashing a mirror into 98 thousand bits and then reassembling it. you're still going to see the cracks. the issue is when they did the math initially, they made a mistake which has never been corrected. ask Neil Young. he'll tell you.
    kmetal likes this.
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I happen to be reading some pro Q&As over at GS, here's what Michael Beinhorn has to say regarding DSD.

  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here's my take on DSD.
    The only way DSD makes sense is tracking first generation to it. Like having 32 channels of DSD. Anyone that says a capture from a DAW to DSD is worth it is in my opinion hearing something I never did. All you are doing is capturing something exact to how it is . DSD doesn't improve what Pro Tools sounds like ITB, Okay, maybe DSD is a great archive but how is that any better than the original session> Okay, maybe DSD is a great way to capture my analog/ hybrid mix, but it still needs to get bounced down and thats where this gets goofy. Its better to capture at the destination SR imho.

    In fact, I sold my DSD and took the uncoupled approach which has better end results, one less conversion lol.
    Capturing a DAW session on DSD is about as misleading as the 10 M is to internal clocking. I do look forward to multichannel DSD or better though. But then we're right back to the weakest link, the playback devices.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that perhaps there's also another reason as to why we hear that hyped range...

    Part of my income involves working with home "studios" as a consultant, and the one thing I encounter over and over again is that so many of these home "studios" are completely covered from floor to ceiling with Auralex/Sonex.

    They have so much high frequency absorption installed, that these people who are mixing end up adding way too much top end to their mixes, because their room(s) are lying to them in the top end range. They've got so much absorption happening, so much deadening material in the 1k region and up, that they think they need to add that top end presence hype, when they really don't need to add it at all.

    I'm not saying that I don't hear this zzzz effect in pro commercial releases as well, because like the rest of you, I do.... but it's not helping things any when most of what we hear on the novice level is actually making things worse by adding even more of that range... The inherent zzz that is already there is being negatively enhanced even further by the home crowd, who feels the necessity to "treat" their spaces with miles of acoustic foam.

    Also... and this is just a personal observation thing...

    Condensers worked well with tape; they helped to add - or at least enhance - a clarity and presence to a medium that could be known for attenuating those frequencies. Fast Forward twenty-some years, and these same mics, with their hyped top end, are being used on a format which can be cold and clinical to begin with. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use condensers with digital... I'm saying that you should be careful about reaching for old habits in terms of EQ, because what used to work with tape doesn't necessarily work anymore with digital - primarily with the top end. This might help to explain the recent return of interest in ribbons and dynamics.

    The surge of cheap Chinese condenser mics into the market - many of which are harsh sounding to begin with - married to cheap I/O's ( with cheap converters), and over the top foam "treatment" has all played a part in making a cold format sound even colder, and at times, downright harsh and brittle. Adding to this recipe is a general lack of knowledge on the part of the operator, and it goes a long way in explaining why so much of what we hear is damn near un-listenable.

    As a personal confession, I've been guilty of this myself - in terms of using old muscle memory with EQ settings. I used to do quite a bit of hi end lifting to get the silk and sheen out of analog, and I've been guilty of doing it in digital as well from time to time. I have to constantly remind myself that digital isn't tape, and that it's a completely different animal in terms of top end.

    IMHO of course.
  9. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    this is interesting.
    i find myself cringing at bright top ends alot in modern music. seems to be alot of older recordings didnt even have much content past 14 or 16k. was that intentional or more a product of the medium(s) of the day? Its definitely smoother and more pleasing to my ears, and i find myself wanting to lpf just about everything.
    maybe thats a knee jerk reaction to mp3's and my mackies being too bright?
  10. natural

    natural Active Member

    <<Do you hear it or am I suffering from some hearing issue>>

    We can't rule out hearing changes as we get older. (this does not necessarily mean hearing loss)
    I recently had my piano tuned, and then called the tuner back to dbl ck the hi end because I was hearing different overtones with certain chords that I never heard before. I thought they were perhaps coming from some slight intonation anomalies between some intervals. He made some adjustments, but I still hear it as being out of tune. Then I noticed that I now hear it not only on my acoustic piano, but also on the keyboards in the studio and in recordings, and it does create the sort of buzzz.
    I've come to accept that the body is changing/morphing and dissolving.

    I don't pretend to have any better hearing than anyone else. However, I have developed a certain skill set over the years to know what to listen for in certain situations. This may create the illusion of better hearing and I admit that it's sometimes difficult to know the difference.

    Having said that, it doesn't mean that, that is your only problem. It may be a combination of things. (multiple failures are what trouble shooting nightmares are made of right?)
    Digital recording has the potential to capture the entire freq range of a live performance. So there's a real possibility you would hear the same anomaly if you were standing in front of a live band. (and not wearing earplugs of course)

    But if this was a true problem, all the audiophiles in the world would have been up in arms with pitchforks and torches for the past 15 years. They tend to gripe about things that seem so much more insignificant than this.
    So it may be a combination of things,( all bets are off when discussing anything less than WAV files) but there doesn't seem to be any real support for any specific DAW platform inadequacies.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Interesting take on this, Donny. I actually have a fair amount of foam in my room, a mixture of traps and auralex. Its dead, but great for mixing, brutal for tracking.
    I think its the sound of conversion and code crunching. It also sounds compounded, not unique to just one instrument which I suppose, could be what people are doing on the 2-bus.
    The tone I'm referring to is in a consistent 6k to 9k slot, not usually where I would be reaching for most boosts. . Its not sibilance. Most people add top which is easier to deal with, this is so dominant.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "But if this was a true problem, all the audiophiles in the world would have been up in arms with pitchforks and torches for the past 15 years."

    Oh, I'm not so sure about that. Many "audiophiles" I've talked with have a tendency to simply regurgitate what they've been told by other "audiophiles". This can run from the sublime (gold cables) to the ridiculous ("crystal purification waves to cleanse vinyl")... and, everything in between.

    Many of these audiophiles focus on the esoteric... and the more eccentric and more outside the theory or product is, the more they adhere to it.

    One thing I've noticed along the way, is how recording and mixing engineers have been somewhat left out as viable members of the current audiophile communities and circles, as if it doesn't take as much critical listening skill to do our jobs as it does for those to listen for the "differences" between the monkey feces-encrusted mahogany - and the teak wood - soaked in bat guano - volume knobs.

    The subject of digital having its own anomalies and distinctive sound, for better or worse, is nothing new. Personally, I've always thought that digital was brighter, more 'sterile" sounding than tape. This isn't exactly a new concept for me. Nor is it a new concept for other audio professionals, either.

    Now, it didn't stop me from entering into the digital production end of the biz, because at the end of the day, we all still need to make a living.

    But, if you don't think that the digital "sound" is a problem, or an issue with many people, then explain why there has been such a recent resurgence in analog processing?

    Tube pre's, vintage channel strips and classic gain reduction models, all which are famous for lending warmth and even coloration to signal, are very popular these days, and it's not because of the power of suggestion. This is something you can actually hear. A few more examples would be, in the last few years, the once nearly-extinct ribbon microphone - it has been saved from the same list that includes the homing pigeon and the dodo bird...and is now becoming popular again in many audio production houses - because it has a tendency to sound warmer and darker than the shrill and brittle cheap Chinese condensers that have flooded the market.

    None of these things are placebos... You can actually hear the differences. They aren't sold on the premise of minutiae specs that can only me measured by electronic analysis in nano-increments. You can absolutely hear the differences.

    "Digital recording has the potential to capture the entire freq range of a live performance."

    I don't believe that Chris's opinion on the matter is a flawed one. He may have some hearing issues, as many of us who came up as musicians in loud nightclubs and who are now in our 50's and 60's have had to contend with, but if his was a question of hearing loss, he would actually be hearing less of what he says that he is hearing, not more.

    And, as far as digital goes, it may indeed be able to capture a much wider frequency range than analog, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that it's capturing the entire performance.
    To be exact, it's capturing segmented samples of a live performance. And while converters can be high quality ( and high cost), they can also be cheap, and cheap sounding, too.

    Just because a recording is digital in source, doesn't mean that it will always be a good sounding recording.

    IMHO of course.


    niclaus and kmetal like this.
  13. natural

    natural Active Member

    Some good points.
    I don't have any answers to your questions. (although Monty Pythonesque logic of 'What makes you think she's a witch' comes to mind)
    From your statement:
    <<but if his was a question of hearing loss, he would actually be hearing less of what he says that he is hearing, not more.>>

    it seems clear that you are not experiencing what Chris or I are experiencing.
    Also I don't think your statement is entirely true. It sounds logical (python again), but may not be true. BTW- Just as an attempt to be clear - I did not say it was necessarily a factor of hearing loss
    Although it could be. People who have Hi Freq loss often complain about mid freq being very loud and even distorted.
    Hearing is funny thing. I don't quite know how it all works, except that it doesn't work as well as it used to (fact)
    and I think that, coupled with other unknown factors can produce side effects and anomalies (conjecture at best)

    But, there's a good chance that my intended point was that it's not platform specific, and more importantly, possibly not any one thing but a combination of factors.
    And since you're not also experiencing it, perhaps the answer is someplace else.

    In hindsight, I'm not sure that's any clearer than my first post.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I have audio examples that we all will hear when I get a chance to post it . An interesting addition to this thread now, since I bought this to attention, my kids now hear this. It really isn't a hearing loss issue but I am more concerned about my hearing and loss than ever before. You all don;t notice that in music eh?
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I mostly with Donny on this subject. I'm one of those few that never spent my earlier life/current life in a rock 'n roll band. My hearing is too precious to me to screw around with it like that.

    Plus in a hearing test that I conducted, I have discovered that as people age, and they're hearing deteriorates, they actually become more sensitive to sound. I believe the reason for this, is because of their loss of hearing, the brain does not know how to process that? As a result, it is perceived as something annoying? And it seems to increase with aging? I almost became an audiologist. But I really wasn't interested in what other people were or were not hearing. Most of those people go to audiologist because they can't hear worth a damn. I hear too well. So I'm really not all that hot, dealing with deaf folks.

    I think part of the other problem here is that the male hearing apparatus loses its elasticity more so than the female hearing apparatus? I mean how would you feel if the diaphragms of your microphones and the cones of your speakers, were more highly restricted in their movement? I also believe that women on ERT (estrogen replacement therapy) during menopause, have better hearing than the women who are not taking ERT? Because the estrogen preserves some of the elasticity that is lost through age and a reduction of certain hormones as we age. This is more than just a perceptual change. It's a physiological change.

    There is also something I find even more annoying. And that is the thinning out of all the diaphragms on condenser microphones. Old Neumann microphones, the most highly coveted older units, all had thick, 6 mil. diaphragms. And what are over 80% of condenser microphones today? They are mostly 3 mil. and 1.5 mil. I hate that sound! And that's really just made for guys. Because when I got here is more high end... they always perceive it as better. Because they were rock 'n roll musicians/are rock 'n roll musicians. So we have a boatload of equipment today that isn't worth the salt on your food. It's thin, crispy, metallic, brittle.

    As Donny indicated, what I've been yapping about since I was a teenager, are ribbon microphones. My mentor (and George Massenburg's mentor) Thomas M. Bray turned me onto ribbon microphones when I was just 15. My life has never been the same since LOL. I mean I think men have some kind of OCD when it comes to condenser microphones? In fact I have been reading in the trade publications that more and more top engineers today, they were all using condenser microphones, back in analog tape days, have switched over to using SM-7's, in place of 87's. Screw that, I'll use of 57 or 58 because they sound just as sweet going through Neve or an API. And good engineers are shying away from that nasty condenser sound with him the digitization of our equipment. It was important to have that condenser microphone to be able to cut through the nonlinear transference of analog tape. And we still have folks using 1960s designed consoles and preamps. With lots of Transformers to add a mushy smoothness to otherwise, empty, thin, metallic, crispy, wispy, fizzy sound of digital.

    When I heard DSD, it was jaw-dropping 10 years ago. It came the closest to E to E, straight through a console. It sounded nothing like PCM barf. And when I was able to pick out, in a lengthy double blind listening test, original source material from 24-bit, 192 kHz state-of-the-art, digital converters? I just bout lost my mind! I didn't figure I should have heard any difference? But the difference was mind boggling. That listening test made me painfully aware that regardless of bit depth or sample rate, PCM sounds like PCM sounds like PCM, at any bit depth or sample rate. You can't tell me that the higher bit depth and sample rates is any better than what we started with, 16-bit, 44.1 kHz. Because it isn't any better than that it's PCM.

    DSD won't catch on with ProTools or many of the other DAW software because you can't have real-time effects running in a multitrack DSD originated recording. And if children can't have their plug-ins? How could they ever make a decent recording? Please dear God give me a break. And I'm an atheist! Well it's possible. But only in old-fashioned analog control rooms with analog processing. Which is about the only way to enjoy and to be able to stomach the quality of digital sound. And that's why only the top people are doing that. Because they can afford to do that. Folks would shop at Guitar Center can't afford to do that. They're just looking for the best condenser microphone from China for $100. They don't think that a 57 or 58 is worthy. Well...they become a lot more worthy since we went digital. I went digital in 1983. But that's just the recorders.

    I mean even my analog recorders, the sound of Dolby A and DBX, pretty much made me want to barf. Oh but I still had DBX type I and a couple of Dolby 361's. Only basically because, ya had to have them on hand when it was requested. Otherwise I certainly never selected to use that on my analog recorders. That's why God created downward expanders, that are broadband. Multiband ones also have their place. However I don't find those to be as universally usable?

    So Chris I think what you're suffering from is the improved clarity in your equipment, I'm sorry to say? You've taken it too far. There is a point of diminishing return. All that glitters is not gold, it's fizzy. For our profession and trade, to me, I frequently find aluminum to be more valuable than gold. Why do you think so many folks use ribbon microphones for room microphones? It's because condenser microphones pick up everything that you don't want. And you can't eliminate what you don't want when it's part of your recording. That came from equipment selection. You don't remove an appendix with a chainsaw. Just because you want to do it quicker. Or that it's supposed to be more efficient or better. Because anybody in their right mind or hearing, would definitely know otherwise. But people are little bit like sheep and lemmings. Perhaps because of religion? And I could understand that. Because I'm an atheist. Whatever God I believe in? Exists within me. So I'm not totally or literally an atheist but an agnostic. So sometimes I use condenser microphones LOL.

    Just give me a bag full of 57 and 58's and I'm happy. Because I plug it into the right stuff that makes it sound every bit as good as my 67's and my 87's. Believe it. Take it from someone who knows. I'm a professional at this so don't try that at home. You might go deaf?

    I did not say I like eating flypaper!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Remy may be on to something here. why bother with the high end? all it does is highlight the deficiencies of the medium (PCM).

    i'm gonna trade in all my pres and analog compressors and get some areennpee's.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Ya, and too bad I hear this in my truck lol :whistle: Better sell that too.

    But that being said, even though I've heard this since PT Mix 888 /16 era, well even further back when I bought my first sampler in 1979, I didn't know quite what it was ( or if it was avoidable) until I started working with better conversion that had less of it. So, ya, having quality helps awareness but I too am still not exempt, no one is in the digital domain.
    Its ugly sounding and very audible in multitracking. It has always been tolerable but not until I started doing Indaba Remixes, and did a Christina Aguilera remix, "Your Body", did I really know how bad it is in Pop music today. Its part of the fabric of music.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Audio clip of this in a vocal coming... but until then,

    For those who have worked with the early DAW called a "sampler" lol ;) you will know exactly what I'm talking about.

    Doing more research, I'm I pursuing Temporal anti-aliasing?

    Spread one sample across a keyboard and as you go further away from the original pitch, a glassy sound pops out. Even though the pitch detunes, a similar 6k to 9k tone is there.

    I grew up in the sampling era and everytime a better sampler came along, I wanted it because it had less aliasing, you could spread one note further out from its original pitch. Thus, get more mileage on one sample. HD space was a big problem so being able to spread a sample further was a big deal.

    Those who came off of analog and went straight to Pro Tools, may not even think their DAW is a sampler? Who here even thinks about this?

    So, a lot of you don't even know what I am talking about because by the time you got to Pro Tools (the DAW era) its is less noticeable. . But you still hear but may not be aware of it.

    Are we getting used to it?
    The new generation must think this is what music sounds like. When people say converters don't matter, and pitch shifting / round trip processing isn't a problem, ROTF! I can't help but think about all the sampling I've done in the last 35 years and what happens when you shift any wave or do SRC.
    When you quantize to something, there is an effect. Further more, it gets really goofy when we try and crunch acoustic music with VSTi's. How many of us today are using both in a mix?

    Another area I hear aliasing, that drive me nuts is with the DJ's with that low FM voice! Ya know the ones that add the extra bottom and top sizzle ? There is a tickle of 6 to 9k in there popping out. Its the beginning of this aliasing that eventually compounds in multitracking to what I'm talking about.


    Anyway, I'm rambling and will source a clip for us.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Just for the record,:) I'm not in any way suggesting we can't record great music on the lowest interface going. I've done really cool tracks using my old Akai S1100 or Emulator II that was a marvel in its day. Its actually becoming popular again for the 8 and 12bit sound. I think people like that because it sounds like analog emulation lol ;) the next craze... Grunge already came and left. Distortion is always a part of youth and an important texture to attitude.

    I hear endless great music today, but I still hear that happening. So, I take steps to try and avoid it. One of which is uncoupling the capture. Or, avoiding too many plugs and processing itb. But thats another topic.
    I think EQ does have a lot to do with it because EQ shifts as well. So I think you nailed that Donny.

    These topics always go sideways when someone will eventually pull that card out and say, there have been endless hits made on "". I agree, so I've said it now :)
    So, we discuss because we are a Pro Audio community reaching for knowledge and sharing our experiences. Feel it and let it go... or, take what you get out of it and move on.
    Its all fun or annoying but we are so addicted to it all regardless. Music that is. Its just another topic, this one being about the zzz in music today ;) removing the inherent zzz, but adding in a purposeful 8bit noise seems like a smarter way to go about it.

    So, maybe when we are EQ the top for sizzle, we are creating the aliasing even more, and its all compounding. Add that to MP3 compression and we have zzzzzzz, dominant in the upper mid area, maybe where it is most sensitive to my hearing.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "Those who came off of analog and went straight to Pro Tools, may not even think their DAW is a sampler? Who here even thinks about this?"

    Every DAW is a sampler. You are converting sound to a digital signal, at a sampling rate and bit resolution that you choose (44/48/88/96... 16/24/32...)
    Josh Conley likes this.

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