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 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 1:36 PM   
 By:   waxmanman35   (Member)

Out of curiosity I loaded the "Chariot Race" in my audio editor, Adobe Audition, and ran stats for clipping. There was no clipping. I think the restoration and recording are first rate.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 2:30 PM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

Out of curiosity I loaded the "Chariot Race" in my audio editor, Adobe Audition, and ran stats for clipping. There was no clipping. I think the restoration and recording are first rate.


The problem is not clipping. Doug Fake's December post on his own forum describes the problem and he is 100% right. And in my opinion there are no re-recordings that better illustrate what he's saying than Quo Vadis and the even worse Conan the Barbarian.

Doug Fake's post in full:

"At first there was pop music in the sixties and the development of "normalizing", where the mastering engineers manipulated the levels literally in a compression method that located the loudest peaks in the music - typically for pop songs - and then raised everything else up as far as possible to make the entire song play at hot levels. Radio station DJ's loved it. It is still in use today, only now it has literally become a "war zone", and is actually referred to in engineering circles as the "loudness wars", where artists are determined to have their songs mastered at the hottest possible levels over other artist's recordings and so forth.

The method has several different names: normalizing, compressing, dynamic compressing. Some listeners now have coined the term brick-walling. The process literally compresses the dynamic range of the music, losing all of the clarity and nuance in favor of just being loud. In pop music it is neither a wrong thing or a right thing, it is just a thing. BUT... in orchestral music, it sure seems like a wrong thing. And it is a sound I personally just can not stand.

Sadly, somewhere along the way a handful of film composers adopted the method, and certain labels have embraced it as well. For me it has ushered in a generation of dreadful sounding soundtracks where the orchestra no longer sounds like an orchestra but instead like some sort of mechanical mass of distorted noise with virtually no clear orchestral timbres.

It is hard to mention the technique without at least naming a few names. With all due respect to the respective parties, it is a sound that Brian Tyler utilizes and I find it a challenge to enjoy. The two Expendables albums are impossibly frustrating for me, especially since the scores are great and sound great in their respective films. I want to enjoy the otherwise spectacular Quo Vadis re-recording made by Tadlow but the mastering is so heavily normalized that virtually everything plays too loud. The climaxes of the marches are actually distorted to a point where the trumpets and horns are indistinguishable from the loud noise. Add an overdose of low end and reverb and the results don't appeal to me. In a new digital-age recording of a large orchestra and all of the colors it produces, this is not the sound I think we should be getting. I appreciate it has become a matter of taste but it just is not my taste.

I am happy to see Varese Sarabande bringing back a lot of great albums from their past catalog, but I am equally saddened that so many of them now sound worse in my opinion than did the original releases. Somehow, even the electronics of Runaway lost something when all of the wide dynamic range Goldsmith originally achieved was later squeezed into a narrow range just to make the album play louder. This also frustrated me with the later incarnations of The Fury, where only the original Arista album (and the first CD releases of it) retained what I felt was the sound Williams and company originally captured at the time. There are many others. Sometimes it is done because the hiss has been squeezed out of the recording, then a heavy dose of reverb and/or EQ gets applied to help make up for the limited sonics after artificial noise reduction has been utilized, and so forth. By the time the album gets to my ears, the music is as artificial as the techniques applied to re-create it. I personally will always prefer natural and realistic sound, hiss and all, over the unnatural processed, compressed... well, you get the idea.

The sound after normalizing actually changes the dynamics of the instruments in relationship to each other because it is a process that compresses the entire audio, in effect turning that incredible sound of an orchestra with all of the amazing colors and nuances and varied dynamics into a headache-inducing loud mechanical beast. Literally a wall of sound where even quiet parts are louder than they should be. It even affects our Once Upon A Time albums. I appreciate it is an artist thing... it just isn't my thing.

Joe Tarantino, our engineer for the last 25 years, says to imagine it visually by thinking of Bart Simpson's head with all of those squares, and then realize that normalizing literally does that to the wave forms: it cuts everything off at both ends and turns the audio into the equivalent of Bart's head. It may not matter that much in the contemporary music scene, but it sure has a negative effect on the orchestral scene. And it just isn't necessary. Maybe on the techno-driven film scores, but on purely orchestral ones, especially classics from the past, it just makes no sense.

It is something I have never encountered in classical recordings. I hope I never do. But sadly, the pop industry's "loudness wars" have invaded the soundtrack scene. I, for one, am not thrilled about it."

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 2:52 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

Possibly allowing for a little more dynamic range, if that is the fault.

If anything, "normalizing" reduces the dynamic range of a recording, and introduces audible distortion. Having said that, I'm not convinced that normalizing was used in the mastering of QUO VADIS.


I don't recall anyone making these sorts of criticism about the Prometheus recording before and the CD was highly praised here and elsewhere. Frankly, I don't see why we should take serious notice of one or two negative posters.

I hadn't previously seen Doug Fake's comment but it always surprises me how the boutique soundtrack label producers are so ready to wade in to criticise colleagues on other labels. It strikes me as the height of unprofessionalism. I don't expect them to be flattering to other labels - they are competitors after all - but they should recognise that they are all in the same business and it's not in their best interests to rubbish the competition.


For the record, Doug Fake praises the new QBVII recording. Consequently I think that he is neither criticizing a colleague nor being unprofessional, but rather stating an opinion based on several decades of recording, mixing and mastering soundtracks, and I think that his opinion about QUO VADIS has to be respected. Ford Thaxton disagrees with Mr Fake; nevertheless the two respect each other's professional opinion.

Furthermore, Basil's opinion should not be dismissed outright. He hears distortion in the CONAN and QUO VADIS recordings, and has attempted to offer objective evidence for it. The truth is that people hear sound differently. A few have perfect pitch, while most of us do not. Similarly, people perceive distortion differently. In another thread, Rozsaphile has recalled:

A favorite memory is time I went to Philadelphia with Page Cook and Myron Bronfeld to hear Miklos Rozsa conduct the great Philadelphia Orchestra in his Piano Concerto in 1968. We had spoken recently of distortion, real or imagined, in some then-current recordings. As we sat in the elegant old Academy of Music (you can see the hall in THE AGE OF INNOCENCE) while listening to the players tune-up, Cook turned to me in mock horror and said, "I hear distortion!".

I haven't heard the new CONAN yet -- what was so bad about the old one? -- but it's undeniable that some of this stuff is psychological.


Rozsaphile's conclusion may be true, but since all hearing is psycho-acoustical, who is to say that anybody is wrong? Are those who have perfect pitch the norm, or the vast majority who do not?

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 3:15 PM   
 By:   RM Eastman   (Member)

Is it really necessary to dreg up criticisms like this after a release has been out for so long? Some
people just like to carp and criticize, masking it as a function of valid critical response. Another example of how some people just don't know when to refrain from valueless criticism and posturing.
To me, the Prometheus "Quo Vadis" is exemplary. Enough said.



Also, agree, outstanding recording which sounds brilliant on my stereo system.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 3:18 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

I don't think the criticism is malicious or out of bounds. People who dump on new releases are more likely to have bad motives. Waiting for the recording to establish itself is a courtesy. Keeping the discussion alive can only help to sustain interest and, perhaps, sales. It's just that I find this particular complaint incomprehensible.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 3:33 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

Is it really necessary to dreg up criticisms like this after a release has been out for so long? Some people just like to carp and criticize, masking it as a function of valid critical response. Another example of how some people just don't know when to refrain from valueless criticism and posturing.
To me, the Prometheus "Quo Vadis" is exemplary. Enough said.


And that, like Sheldon's mother's famous quip in "Big Bang Theory," is your opinion.

Colloquialisms such as "Enough said" do not automatically invalidate Doug Fake's or Basil's "critical response."

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 3:47 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

"At first there was pop music in the sixties and the development of "normalizing", where the mastering engineers manipulated the levels literally in a compression method that located the loudest peaks in the music - typically for pop songs - and then raised everything else up as far as possible to make the entire song play at hot levels. Radio station DJ's loved it. It is still in use today, only now it has literally become a "war zone", and is actually referred to in engineering circles as the "loudness wars", where artists are determined to have their songs mastered at the hottest possible levels over other artist's recordings and so forth.

The method has several different names: normalizing, compressing, dynamic compressing. . . . in orchestral music, it sure seems like a wrong thing. And it is a sound I personally just can not stand.

. . . I want to enjoy the otherwise spectacular Quo Vadis re-recording made by Tadlow but the mastering is so heavily normalized that virtually everything plays too loud. The climaxes of the marches are actually distorted to a point where the trumpets and horns are indistinguishable from the loud noise. . . . The sound after normalizing actually changes the dynamics of the instruments in relationship to each other because it is a process that compresses the entire audio, in effect turning that incredible sound of an orchestra with all of the amazing colors and nuances and varied dynamics into a headache-inducing loud mechanical beast. Literally a wall of sound where even quiet parts are louder than they should be. . . . sadly, the pop industry's "loudness wars" have invaded the soundtrack scene. I, for one, am not thrilled about it."


Thank you for reproducing Doug's post. I certainly agree with his main point. Compressing serious music down to a "wall of sound" is indeed an artistic horror. Pop radio promotion certainly bears much blame for this. But we must look to the audience as well. When so much music is "consumed" in noisy automobiles or through pitiful earbuds while jogging in public, can you blame the producers for dumbing down their product to make it appealing in that format? Indeed, you will find many passionate film music fans complaining in this very forum when a recording exhibits too much dynamic range for their convenience.

If you wish to lodge this complaint against the Prague QV, however, the way to do it would be to compare a quiet passage with an orchestral climax and note insufficient dynamic contrast. Just claiming peak distortion doesn't make your point. Distortion is simply a mistake. I'm listening now to the lovely "Caritas" in track 15. It features delicate woodwind solos with harp filigree and some muted string background. All are suitably quiet. So what's the problem?

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 3:59 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Further on compression. We have to accept that some compression or peak limiting is necessary for symphonic music. Reproducing a symphony orchestra in the the home is an auditory illusion. Can you imagine an orchestra playing in your living room? Even in a very big room? You could, I suppose, bring in brass octet to play one of Rozsa's fanfares. It wouldn't sound pretty! How and where to limit the sound is part of the engineer's art. For it is an art as well as a science. And almost everybody seems to agree that the Prague crew does a good job.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 4:52 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

And almost everybody seems to agree that the Prague crew does a good job.

I agree. I think that that James Fitzpatrick did a great job.

But I will also defend Basil's and Mr. Fake's right to express a reasonable opinion for which they feel they have ample justification.

When so much music is "consumed" in noisy automobiles or through pitiful earbuds while jogging in public, can you blame the producers for dumbing down their product to make it appealing in that format? Indeed, you will find many passionate film music fans complaining in this very forum when a recording exhibits too much dynamic range for their convenience.

All of this is discussed in the complete thread:

http://www.intrada.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5924

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 6:41 PM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)

Out of curiosity I loaded the "Chariot Race" in my audio editor, Adobe Audition, and ran stats for clipping. There was no clipping. I think the restoration and recording are first rate.

On further review, there's no actual clipping (also you mean Chariot Chase). But it's right near the top.
I think it sounds ok -- not super fantastic but certainly enjoyable -- however there is a certain....how to put it...wildness....to the sound. Maybe brightness would be a better term.

 
 Posted:   Jan 26, 2014 - 7:27 PM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

Also from Mr. Fake, on Quo Vadis:

"I just can't play it, at least not through our studio monitors. Through my iPod with my earbuds, yes. But that's not where I want to enjoy a new digitally recorded restoration of a massive and powerful Rozsa masterpiece. The session tapes would not sound this way so perhaps one day a limited release direct from the masters could happen. We all have our dreams."


I second his wish for Quo Vadis (and the similarly-afflicted Conan the Barbarian). Maybe when it's time for a re-pressing it can be looked at, as when a subsequent pressing of Mr. Fitzpatrick's superb "The Big Country" replaced the Main Title in the initial release.

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Stefan Huber   (Member)

I don't remember having any issues with "Quo Vadis" - then again I haven't played it that often thus far. But yes, compression and clipping is a real issue - unfortunately also in the limited edition soundtrack community. There are some extended editions that are virtually unlistenable - distortion generated by clipping is audible at even low volumes. I won't give away the title but I'm currently having a Jarre re-issue in mind...

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Stefan Huber   (Member)

Lesson learned: don't ever post if connection is poor...

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Stefan Huber   (Member)

...

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Stefan Huber   (Member)

...

 
 Posted:   Jan 27, 2014 - 11:54 AM   
 By:   Stefan Huber   (Member)

...

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 30, 2014 - 12:52 AM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)

But I will also defend Basil's and Mr. Fake's right to express a reasonable opinion for which they feel they have ample justification.


Totally agree. I must say it peeves me a little when a complaint about sound or even interpretation is followed by several, "Well I think it sounds just fine. It's never bothered me. Enough said."

Enough has not been said when someone is dissatisfied and wishes to make a legitimate point. Doug Fake is enormously experienced in his field and Basil is not a troll. Their complaints are at least reason for discussion if not agreement.

 
 Posted:   Jan 30, 2014 - 2:54 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

And almost everybody seems to agree that the Prague crew does a good job.

I agree. I think that that James Fitzpatrick did a great job.

But I will also defend Basil's and Mr. Fake's right to express a reasonable opinion for which they feel they have ample justification.



Absolutely agreed.

I mean, I can enjoy the recording of QUO VADIS, and most certainly do.

Douglass Fake made some very valid points about loudness and normalization when it comes to recording orchestral music, and I do agree with his general aversion to excessive loudness compression, but that does not change the fact that I absolutely enjoy the Tadlow recording of QUO VADIS?. It is by far the best available recording of the music in my opinion, the performance is excellent and what a glorious score this is.

 
 Posted:   Jan 30, 2014 - 6:24 AM   
 By:   Thomas   (Member)

The Vocalion 2 disc set is the only recording of ‘Quo Vadis’ that I currently have. I listen to it fairly often, and I’ve been debating whether to get the Tadlow release as well. Reading the comments herein regarding the sound issues with that has me dubious now. I have the Rhino release of ‘Ben-Hur’, but I more often find myself listening to the Vocalion release of that one as well. I have several Tadlow releases and enjoy them all, the only one I don’t really like is ‘Conan the Barbarian’ which for whatever reasons doesn’t sound very listenable to me.

 
 
 Posted:   Jan 30, 2014 - 6:29 AM   
 By:   paul rossen   (Member)

The Vocalion 2 disc set is the only recording of ‘Quo Vadis’ that I currently have. I listen to it fairly often, and I’ve been debating whether to get the Tadlow release as well. Reading the comments herein regarding the sound issues with that has me dubious now. I have the Rhino release of ‘Ben-Hur’, but I more often find myself listening to the Vocalion release of that one as well. I have several Tadlow releases and enjoy them all, the only one I don’t really like is ‘Conan the Barbarian’ which for whatever reasons doesn’t sound very listenable to me.

Do not let the comments above change your mind about purchasing the Tadlow QUO VADIS. It is a monumental score and Recording! While I too enjoy the Rozsa Vocalion album there really is no comparison.

 
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