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 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 9:10 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

You want more sources? How about:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110809/04114515451/umg-watermarks-audiophile-files-pisses-off-paying-customers.shtml

If you have listened to a few of the offending scores, I think it should be pretty obvious that there is something wrong with the audio.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 9:20 AM   
 By:   Ford A. Thaxton   (Member)

You want more sources? How about:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110809/04114515451/umg-watermarks-audiophile-files-pisses-off-paying-customers.shtml

If you have listened to a few of the offending scores, I think it should be pretty obvious that there is something wrong with the audio.


Perhaps, but the piece you link has lots of ranting, but it's mostly that and more then a bit of guesswork.

but it's short on FACTS.

I'm not saying they are wrong, but this piece dates from mid-2011.

If this is such an issue, there would be a lot more on it then what has been posted thus far.

Ford A. Thaxton

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 9:42 AM   
 By:   lexedo   (Member)

Pretty lame if true, but they are a client, so I pick all the physical CDs I like anyway. (The office walls of executives are lined with punched-out discs, so they just let me grab whatever.) I hope this wouldn't apply to Deutsche Grammophon CDs - that would definitely suck.

I am very very busy, so I can't investigate technically, but try 4C12bit.exe to see if the files are in fact watermarked; redirect the output to a file so it's saved and can be inspected. Or send me an audio file on the same fsm id on aol, and I'll look at it over the weekend if I can.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 9:56 AM   
 By:   musicpaladin2007   (Member)

Pretty lame if true, but they are a client, so I pick all the physical CDs I like anyway. (The office walls of executives are lined with punched-out discs, so they just let me grab whatever.) I hope this wouldn't apply to Deutsche Grammophon CDs - that would definitely suck.

I am very very busy, so I can't investigate technically, but try 4C12bit.exe to see if the files are in fact watermarked; redirect the output to a file so it's saved and can be inspected. Or send me an audio file on the same fsm id on aol, and I'll look at it over the weekend if I can.


Pardon my ignorance but how would you know the difference between a watermark and compression artifact anyway?

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 10:06 AM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

I've posted about this issue on this board a few times in the past. I'm glad someone gave it its own thread.

This issue was bothering my ears for about 2 years before I stumbled upon those links about 6 months ago. In other words, it was something I had noticed without prompting, and that was really driving me nuts, and for which the linked articles finally provided a plausible explanation.

I first noticed it on numerous MP3 purchases of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips classical releases, starting in about 2009. Then I noticed it on all MP3s of Disney soundtracks I bought. Then two different Universal soundtrack releases. Then the Geffen download of Chinatown. Then the Steely Dan (MCA) catalog on Spotify.

Always the same defect: the rapid fluttering of volume level on any long tones of certain timbre, especially chorus, cymbal crashes, acoustic guitar, long reverbs, and ESPECIALLY piano.

Then, when I found the research posted on that techdirt message board, and looked up a list of UMG owned labels on Wikipedia, I realized that all the releases on which this audio defect had bothered me were UMG related. Even Disney had a deal with UMG to handle their digital music distribution. I had never experienced this sonic defect listening to EMI or Sony/BMG digital purchases. I had no confirmation bias from the articles linked in this thread; the articles provided a convincing explanation for something I'd already noticed for years, and been extremely vexed by, on my own.

So, as far as I am concerned, the existence of the defect and the attribution of it to UMG releases is a closed case; it's real. Whether it is because of their watermarking process is not totally certain. It IS a confirmed fact that they use watermarking, UMG have stated this. it was actually trumpeted in a press release when they began the practice in (iirc) 2009. The watermarking is ostensibly 'inaudible', per the designers of the technology.

Why isn't there more outcry about it? I have no idea. I think it's a crying shame-- I am a huge classical music fiend and the world's single largest and most important library of classical music recordings is unavailable in listenable MP3 form. Some of UMG's classical holdings are first-time reissues which are ONLY available via digital download, for pete's sake, meaning there is no watermark-free option.

But here's an interesting thing: as of earlier this year, at least on SOME new releases in my experience, UMG seem to have either stopped the practice or tweaked it so as to make it more truly 'inaudible'. When Elfman's OZ score came out, I auditioned it on Spotify, prepared to listen past the watermark distortion in order to see if I liked the music enough to purchase the physical CD. (According to my previous bad experiences, the fluttering distortion would be audible just the same on Spotify as it would from iTunes, Amazon MP3 or eMusic).

Listened to the Elfman Oz all the way through. Loved the music, and the cymbals, choruses etc all sounded perfectly fine. Listened again, closely and with focus on those elements. Same. Bit the bullet and bought the download from eMusic. No problem! Then more recently, the Jurassic Park anniversary edition came out. This also sounded just fine.

As I understand it, UMG supplies lossless source files to the digital vendors like itunes, emusic etc. The vendors then run their own conversions. It has been assumed that the lossless files supplied by UMG to these vendors already had the watermark in them. Now, if correcting this issue would mean RESUPPLYING UNCORRUPTED LOSSLESS FILES of the entire UMG library to all digital vendors, I do not think that is going to happen ever. It would be a tremendous amount of work for someone on their payroll and most importantly it might open them up to liability as it would constitute some form of admission of error or wrongdoing on their part. BUT maybe they have quietly discontinued the practice for new files going forward. Which is something at least! And would be consistent with my experience of how corporations correct issues. A quiet, poker-faced 'running change' as they call it.

But the recorded bodies of work of Alfred Brendel on Philips, Pierre Boulez on DG, Ernest Ansermet on London/Decca, The Coltrane on Impulse, Richard Thompson on Island, The Supremes, Steely Dan, etc etc etc? Maybe when the next rounds of remasters happen and there is occasion to supply new files, but not, I'm guessing, before.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 10:08 AM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

I should have also mentioned: in all cases where I was driven to distraction by a digital purchase of a UMG property and then bought the physical release, the issues were not present on the physical. Nor on my MP3s (usually 256 or 320 rate) ripped from the physical.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 10:24 AM   
 By:   wackness   (Member)

Yes:

http://www.mattmontag.com/music/universals-audible-watermark


You might not have noticed you are citing the same source as the original poster did, not a second on the record CREDIBLE SOURCE.

Because folks, it looks like everyone seems to be citing the same person saying this.

Has anyone found a ON THE RECORD source who asked UMG about this?

Everyone seems to be taking this one source as the word of god on this topic.

I'm not as accepting.


Ford A. Thaxton


Ford, we may never get UMG to admit any of this but I want to ask everybody this...if this is a problem why aren't more blogs or reviewers posting about this?

I too would like to see more on this from more than one guy. So many conspiracy theories in life, so little time to uncover them all frown

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 10:45 AM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)



Perhaps, but the piece you link has lots of ranting, but it's mostly that and more then a bit of guesswork.

but it's short on FACTS.


Well, I know MANY times in this forum, you've told people to "use their ears", instead of relying on the facts (wavforms, etc)
People here are chiming in that they ARE....and you want the facts.

Can't have it both ways.

 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 10:56 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

The reason there isn't a bigger outcry is the same reason there isn't as big of an outcry when bands have audible distortion from clipping. People just don't have the quality of listening equipment or they don't listen close enough. I'm astounded when I am the only one who seems to notice obvious clipping when it occurs on a major rock or metal release. Just because there isn't a huge outcry doesn't mean it isn't there or the people who notice it are untruthful.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 11:17 AM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

I'm not so sure of that with this watermark issue. There have been some tracks where it was so bad it leaped out at me on the horrible little built in speakers of my MacBook.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 11:21 AM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

Whereas on some other material (e.g. 60s recordings of the Supremes, the Police's albums) you have to be on decent (but not great) headphones to hear it. The effect varies tremendously depending on the characteristics of the particular recording.

 
 
 Posted:   May 10, 2013 - 6:35 PM   
 By:   musicpaladin2007   (Member)

Again, I will ask; how do you know it's this watermarking and not just a crappy compression/mastering job? Maybe UMG just has crappy quality control on their digital releases

 
 
 Posted:   May 11, 2013 - 11:33 AM   
 By:   wackness   (Member)

Again, I will ask; how do you know it's this watermarking and not just a crappy compression/mastering job? Maybe UMG just has crappy quality control on their digital releases

I agree with this.

I bought some of UMG's HDTracks releases and they sound awesome. Compression does nutty things to any recording.

 
 
 Posted:   May 11, 2013 - 3:53 PM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

Like I said, I don't know for sure that it's the watermarking process at the root of this audible defect. It does not sound like a compression artifact to me though. All I can say for sure is that every UMG property I bought from iTunes, emusic or amazon MP3 during about 2009 to 2012 sounded like certain instruments were being played through a Leslie rotating speaker. I have UMG purchases from 2007 in my library that don't have this issue, and two releases from 2013 that don't have it. And UMG announced they were going to begin watermarking at roughly that time.

I've not bought any lossless UMG files online so I don't have any first hand experience with that.

 
 
 Posted:   May 11, 2013 - 8:16 PM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

At this juncture I'd like to point out that, regardless of the cause--planned or not, compression or watermarking... there shouldn't be any freaking noise to begin with.

 
 
 Posted:   May 11, 2013 - 9:53 PM   
 By:   musicpaladin2007   (Member)

At this juncture I'd like to point out that, regardless of the cause--planned or not, compression or watermarking... there shouldn't be any freaking noise to begin with.

Agreed. I just don't like the grand conspiracy theory of accusation that someone set out to deliberately jack up tracks in the name of piracy protection. It just doesn't make sense.

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2013 - 7:24 AM   
 By:   Jon Lewis   (Member)

I think the audible defect was not deliberate ahead of time. My guess is some ridiculously huge batch conversion process was run when the watermark program was rolled out, and wishful thinking made them say "well, it's a LITTLE audible, but it's so slight no one will notice". And frankly, it is LEAST audible on the most popular genres of music where long, exposed sustained tones are less common and the sound picture is usually filled with rapidly pulsating beats and figures. This tends to mask the fluttering of the distortion.

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2013 - 9:01 AM   
 By:   Mike_H   (Member)

At this juncture I'd like to point out that, regardless of the cause--planned or not, compression or watermarking... there shouldn't be any freaking noise to begin with.

Agreed.

 
 
 Posted:   May 12, 2013 - 11:21 AM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

At this juncture I'd like to point out that, regardless of the cause--planned or not, compression or watermarking... there shouldn't be any freaking noise to begin with.

Agreed. I just don't like the grand conspiracy theory of accusation that someone set out to deliberately jack up tracks in the name of piracy protection. It just doesn't make sense.



I get exactly what you're saying, but on the other hand, it's not necessarily a conspiracy theory when it's shown to be true. For instance, remember Sony's little rootkit "experiment" a few years ago? Boy, I bet they'd all love to pretend that one never happened! big grin

I have no doubt that such things may still be going on. We just don't learn about them until they're exposed.

 
 Posted:   May 12, 2013 - 3:51 PM   
 By:   lexedo   (Member)

Pretty lame if true, but they are a client, so I pick all the physical CDs I like anyway. (The office walls of executives are lined with punched-out discs, so they just let me grab whatever.) I hope this wouldn't apply to Deutsche Grammophon CDs - that would definitely suck.

I am very very busy, so I can't investigate technically, but try 4C12bit.exe to see if the files are in fact watermarked; redirect the output to a file so it's saved and can be inspected. Or send me an audio file on the same fsm id on aol, and I'll look at it over the weekend if I can.


Pardon my ignorance but how would you know the difference between a watermark and compression artifact anyway?


The watermarks would be at fixed discreet intervals. The "artifacts" could appear anywhere, but wouldn't be distributed uniformly, generally speaking.

Anyone try to analyze w 4c12bit.exe? It would be interesting to see the results.

 
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