archives of 2003 - certainly there may be intersting stuff here, but
not updated since then. Much has changed, but read ahead if you like!
Q) How, in fact can any audiophile
justify spending more than $1000 on a CD player, when the CD drive in
my PC costs less than $100 and can read the data effortlessly and
without error at 40x the required rate for digital audio?
guarantee, a state of the art CD player will out perform a stock
computer CD player. Just the example I stated above due to physical
handling and vibration would make that apparent. But the key for you
would be to take your PC down to your local audiophile store and give
it a whirl. Set up your unit plugged into some converters, and have a
plug ready to go to compare it with a big CD unit. Play the same CD and
challenge the sales person to show you a difference. Be sure to be
listening on their finest speaker system, like some $20k Dunlavy's or
something better. Use the $1.5K cables and the $15k power amps. Then
email me and let me know what you find!
Musical instrument cables and high-end mic cables make
a difference too.....
Q) I am assuming here that the DAC used is
external to the CD player, which would be the case more often than not
in an audiophile rig or studio. I'm not sure what I'm missing here.
Digital Audio Converter was external to the computer which was
playing the audio files. It's key here to have speakers, amps and a
room that reveal the differences. On
a typical home system, or
on some less-defined studio monitors the differences are masked.
Q) If CDRs are so error prone, I don't see
how they can be used as a data storage media.
question. Perhaps for data, they can take redundantly rechecked
data, rewrite it, and notate it such that the entire file is accounted
for. I'm not a programmer by any stretch of the imagination... my
strength is music. Here's a great article to check out: http://www.emedialive.com/EM2000/starrett5.html
As far as your punchy snare is
concerned... I suspect the difference was the contact of the computer
with the floor which changed the characteristics of the room,
is nearly 19' x 19' and the computer was 15' away from the
speakers below ear level (on the floor) next to the mastering console.
The computer was lifted 2" off the floor on the isolator pads. Would
you say there's much change in the room acoustics there?
I find it easier to believe that the effect
was more placebo than anything else.
doesn't always provide the answer. One of the two other engineers
who heard exactly what I heard is a 30 year+ veteran with name credits.
The musician in the session who didn't hear the difference was a 19
year old guitar player involved in his first professional recording.
was predicted to be a flawless medium at one point - and look
at how much effort is put into improving it's sonic qualities! 44.1 48
88.2 96k etc.... Next generation digital audio - already in the making
- will be a great improvement over what we're hearing now. We'll see if
you can get me away from analog then...
In the meanwhile I've come to understand
the problem of 'jitter' quite well. I understand completely why a CD
burnt at 2x, even though it may contain less errors, can sound worse
than one burnt at 1x. There are a few more links I came across -
particularly good was jitter.de which explains jitter (the cause of
your problems with 2x cds) very well, with photos of an oscilloscope
showing the effect very clearly.
CD reading with
audio error correction:
of info on digital audio:
digital audio and CDs than I have time for...
CDR recording error study:
explanation of 'jitter' - This is a good one!
new CDR writer with anti-jitter features for audio CDR burning.
another day or so - and a little extra time while it loads....?
Start here http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/
While I've heard some
state that CDR
lose quality, I also received this email: "I had to advance to a fifth generation copy before
the difference became "crystal clear" to [other folks who didn't
believe the "digital myth"]. Now they are "warning" me to NOT [count
on] backup the data [sounding the same]!" -David
Whew! Let's get back
Q) John, there is an over all harshness to my CD, especially in the
vocal sound. I used a Neumann 149 mic into a tube pre, a DBX 160
compressor with no eq into my Roland VS 1680. I know I made the mistake
of having the CD replication company handle the mastering, but if
everything is digital, why am I getting that harsh sound? The level of
my CD is softer and not as full sounding as most commercial cds. -Paul
A) I would recommend
a de-esser to soften any peaky
sibilance which can be a source of harshness....but I suspect more.
Just to be sure, tell me the other recording events that led up to the
>I eq'd and compressed everything in the
1680, then made a dat mix. I transferred the dat mix back to fresh 1680
tracks to finalize my levels, sequence, and overall eq. I mixed that to
another dat and sent it to the factory for mastering and pressing.
you change eq, compress or change levels in a hard disk
system, you are making calculations in the computer. The actual word
length is changing and the original "analysis" made by the A to D
converters is being changed. The sound is being altered, and generally
this means that some depth and resolution in the tone is lost. This
translates into a harder, shallower, less detailed sound. Smoothness,
width, depth, and openness are some of the first qualities to go
whenever these new calculations are made.
Key: Transferring your
dat mix back to the 1680 means a loss of 2 digital generations. Dat
machines and hard disk systems have moving components, moving tape that
are subject to jitter and errors particularly if your digital cable
isn't the best money can buy.
you are using "mastering" presets or plugins, keep in mind
that the recalculations are being applied to everything in your mix,
not just some individual tracks. In other words, if you compress one
track, it's just that track being compressed. Let's say it's a vocal
track. You add some reverb to the compressed vocal, but the reverb is
open and unaffected. When you compress the stereo mix buss, now you are
recalculating the reverb as well as the kic drum, the vocals, the
keyboards... everything. While the new calculations may help make the
mix sound louder, the detail and depth of your reverbs (room sound,
spatial effects) will start to lose some of their coherence.
there's no tape hiss. But if you eq'd a lot in the Roland,
transferred back and forth, eq'd some more, didn't have a high-end
mastering engineer refine your master (and the plant may have cut glass
at 2X or more) it's no surprise that the sound is harsh.
Solutions: Use a de-esser,
use an analog eq on your vocals going into the 1680 and through an
insert when mixing. Then, either bring the 1680 to the mastering
session (which gives you the flexibility to actually make mix changes
on the spot!) or mix to analog 2 track. If you can't get an analog
machine, rent some high-end A to D converters going into your DAT
machine, Masterlink (best) or CD burner. Don't use TDK DAT tapes -
unfortunately there are fewer and fewer brands - try Dennon. Finally,
bring your original source masters to a pro mastering place, and you'll
be much happier with your final product. Remember to mix using a monitor controller that
has instant level matching ablities!
Q) I am pre-mastering to CD. When I
"normalize to peak", is the subtracted headroom helpful to the
mastering engineer? Should I not normalize to peak? -Larry
Normalizing is a commonly misunderstood function, and it's not a
huge benefit for the mastering engineer. Once a musician gave me his CD
with a song on it that was 10 dB lower than the "standard" volume today
for that kind of music. When I showed him how low the level was, he
replied, "But I normalized it!" What he learned is that it takes
serious mastering to make a hot
retains the dynamics too.
only does one thing. It brings up the level of the entire
song or file to "digital zero"... the loudest possible level without
overload errors. This level, however, is only as loud as the highest
peak point within the file. So if your song hangs at around -20, but
then one peak snaps out at +5, everything will reference to that peak,
and go down from there.
Everything stays proportionally the
is the amount of available signal prior to clipping or
distortion of the sound. If a mastering engineer is loading in your
music using analog processing first, then it doesn't make any
difference whether or not you normalize, because he/she will simply
adjust the analog processing devices to accommodate whatever level is
if the mastering engineer is taking a digital signal into the
mastering system and processing it in the digital domain, then the
answer to whether you should normalize is based on these questions: Who
has the better digital system, you or the mastering engineer? What over
all volume level are you looking for on your final CD?
normalize your song/file, your computer is going through
calculations that change the one's and zeros of your original signal.
Huge amounts of level change will add some hardness and shrink the
"sound stage". If you want more level, decide if you think your
computer is better than the one the mastering house uses. If you're
using Pro Tools and the mastering house is using Sonic Solutions, let
the mastering house do the level changing. Optimize your gain structure
within your system to get a good meter level on your mix, but don't
compress the stereo mix buss, "brick wall limit", or go into clipping.
Let the mastering engineer take it to the correct volume level.
Q) If I save the contents of a
hardware sequencer back to a zip disk, is there a possibility of data
suspect that's the case, but one never knows.
Sometimes after saving my arrangement to
zip and loading it back into the sampler I am surprised by a change of
if there's time between hearing the music and the reloading
of data, it's easy to be in a different "space" such that things would
have a different feel. Things that can effect the sound also can be the
temperature of the amps, synths, air, board, etc. Things do sound
better after they warm up - much of my gear stays on 24-7.
think you're loosing sequencer data (a different animal than
audio data since jitter isn't an issue) I would record something into a
reliable DAT or CD burner, then go through whatever you do that's
causing you to question (wait a day, reload, whatever. Once
everything's warmed up the same amount as before, and assuming the mix
is exactly the same, record to DAT and then compare. If you're losing
lots, I'd call the manufacturer and ask what they recommend.
Q) I once bought some memory for my sampler
and noticed it was a different brand from my existing memory, not
expecting any difference at all I loaded the new memory and proceeded
to sample some drum sounds that I was very familiar with. Immediately I
heard a difference in sound almost as if the frequency extremes had
been stretched. Unfortunately, because the supplier had sent the wrong
type of memory, some of the available memory was disabled. I had to
reorder the correct memory type.
Again quoting an email from Lee du-Caine:
For this mystery, it sounds like completely the wrong kind of memory
really was sent. i don't mean just a different brand of the same kind,
but some kind of memory which operates in a slightly different way, for
instance it may have been outputting the bytes and stuff in slightly
different order, which would make a BIG difference to the sound! Though
I would have thought such different memory would be a different
physical shape/connection, to avoid such problems! But who knows, it
may have been some strange old-fashioned RAM type which didn't have a
unique connector shape.
the available memory was disabled" makes me think the memory
was not being dealt with correctly at all, perhaps it was even a faulty
chip. for a device like a sampler, the RAM is only being used to store
digital audio data, so the sampler will just send RAM data straight to
the output. it would probably assume that the correct RAM type has been
installed and is working properly, particularly if its not a modern one.
Special thanks to Peter Lindsey for all
the cool links,
and Lee du-Caine for the info!
11/28/99 • Last
to The Digital Myth Part 1