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 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 1:54 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

. . . emitted by a CD when 'now playing.' No, I don't just mean the thing you fiddle with when you're finding the right setting with your level adjust. I refer to the absolute level determined by the configuration of the CD itself.

It has not escaped my notice, as I'm sure is the case with yourselves, that not all CDs play back with the exact same volume. Let's say I have a player with arbitrary volume settings from 0 through 32. And let's imagine my usual selected range is somewhere between 8 and 12. OK, the volume is set to 10. Not too loud and not too low. If I play all my CDs one after the other, most of them will vary considerably with each other in their audibility at my default volume 10 position. There are those that will need to be racked up to about 15 while others may need toning down to about 7 or 8.

What I'm driving at is that some soundtracks are barely audible at what I would term, based on the above discussion, normal volume level typically set for playback. They tend to be the ones with murky sound and a distinct lack in clarity. And, there are those with terrific sound volume at my preferred settings. These are the ones that sound terrific, even when turned slightly up or down with respect to the normal volume position.

Does anyone know how the parameters of a production CD are arrived at? To a certain extent, the latest in professional tools will be the key arbiter of how a CD will feel to an end user. I'm just curious, that's all. I've been meaning to post this question for a while. It kept on slipping by, until now.

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 2:04 PM   
 By:   BasilFSM   (Member)

All CD volume levels are set so that at least one person runs to a film music message board and complains of clicking.

(Not referring to you, by the way~)

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 2:17 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Forgive me friend, but your answer falls under the category of evasion. Wait there, a tick, will ya . . . while I go search for my thumb screws! big grin

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 2:23 PM   
 By:   Perky_Norm   (Member)

It's not a direct answer, but more or less contains the information you're looking for. It makes reference several times to 'the loudness wars' or dynamic (that is to say the ability of a CD to reproduce the very softest of sounds to the loudest) compression wars. Thankfully this never seemed to reach the world of soundtracks (or I'd stop buying them!) but has been a real problem with many CDs by popular bands over the past 10 years.

It's an interesting read...

http://www.cdmasteringservices.com/dynamicrange.htm

- John

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 2:25 PM   
 By:   Charles Thaxton   (Member)

Depends on when the CD was digitally processed and mastered. In COOL EDIT you can look at waveforms from various CDs and see the amazing range of differences. My studio engineer who masters my CDs says optimum levels should be at minus point 2 from "zero". I see older CD waveforms WAY below that. (for example...the Sony Williams/Spielberg CD....very quiet levels. If you play that CD by itself from beginning to end it sounds fine but then put on a newer CD and push play with the volume set from previous disc and it will blow your speakers.
Mastering techniques have improved and progressed from the first CDs to present day. The equipment & software and the person mastering are all responsible for the varying levels.

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 2:47 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Well now, Charles, you've got a point. There's a score (very famous) that is quite hard to listen to. It suffers from bass distortion when the volume is opened up. It can be very much enjoyed but one has to allow for the fact that it probably could have been engineered, you know, a little differently.

Edit: Thanks all for input. I've just found this site. For the interested I used this google search term "cd volume extent engineering in soundtrack recordings"

http://www.auldworks.com/bbrec1.htm

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 7:15 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Thankfully this never seemed to reach the world of soundtracks (or I'd stop buying them!) but has been a real problem with many CDs by popular bands over the past 10 years.

Well it has certainly happened with varese releases (new release soundtracks, not club) and more recently a few lossy mastered scores from Silva and whoever released Legend of the Guardians. Most varese stuff it doesn't reach the level of clipping but they do apply a lot of gain. Intrada, FSM and La La Land tend to apply normal amounts of gain to releases quite consistently.

The biggest problem seems to come from Japan where a number of labels think it's cool to apply a ton of gain to big orchestral/choral tracks such that there is audible clipping.

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 8:18 PM   
 By:   drivingmissdaisy   (Member)

I wish parts of Deep Impact were louder, some parts are so quiet, even putting the volume up to the max, you can barely hear a cue and such.

 
 Posted:   Feb 15, 2011 - 8:44 PM   
 By:   ZapBrannigan   (Member)

I wish parts of Deep Impact were louder, some parts are so quiet, even putting the volume up to the max, you can barely hear a cue and such.

The City of Prague re-recording of "The Wedding" sounds a lot better than the OST. It's on Silva's THE ESSENTIAL JAMES HORNER set.

In a similar vein, the re-recording of the "Rose" piano solo on TITANIC: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION sounds better than Horner's version on BACK TO TITANIC.

In both cases, the Horner versions are mastered too softly or something.

The DEEP IMPACT CD level has been discussed before:

http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=43017&forumID=1&archive=0

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 6:21 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

not all CDs play back with the exact same volume.

Why should you want them to? Should a soloist's softest intimate shadings sound as loud as the thunder of the late Romantic orchestra of Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss? Even within the world of those composers there needs to be an enormous range of sound. Wagnerian climaxes call for true musical thunder, but there are many moments in Goetterdaemmerung where the music is scaled down to a ghostly whisper. Film music comes in a wide variety of styles, even within an individual score. Do we really want everything flattened down to the level of pop pablum?

 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 8:14 AM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

Why should you want them to? Should a soloist's softest intimate shadings sound as loud as the thunder of the late Romantic orchestra of Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss? Even within the world of those composers there needs to be an enormous range of sound. Wagnerian climaxes call for true musical thunder, but there are many moments in Goetterdaemmerung where the music is scaled down to a ghostly whisper. Film music comes in a wide variety of styles, even within an individual score. Do we really want everything flattened down to the level of pop pablum?


What Grecchus refers to is the differing levels of volume respective to one another in different recordings. He's talking about overall variations in volume over many CDs, not within one. The control experiment would be to take two releases of the same PERFORMANCE, and compare them.

In the case of old material remastered, it's simply a matter of the remasterer's preferences. Unfortunately, there's actually a market for clipped recordings where the elements have even been resampled at the wrong level to start with. It's misinterpreted as a 'dry' sound. Most good recordings try to stay within the waveform limits of course, but the settings for final pressings on CD can be adjusted (or cocked-up) too at the last minute by people just pressing the CDs.

But a CD is a complete work, it is its own reference point, it needn't concern itself if the next CD remastered elsewhere is lower or louder in volume. That's part of the 'art'. It's an art and not a science. That's why we have all those controls and equalisers etc.. A particular released CD mix is only a choice.

 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 11:33 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

To Rozsaphile I'd say that I can well remember receiving my Naxos - The Planets (RNSO) and putting it on, then wondering why it hadn't started. It had started but was so faint and muted it caught me totally by surprise. Believe me, the volume was not turned down. I must admit, I was not actually fully cognizant of there being such a thing as a 'Loudness War.' It all seems very involved and complicated - at least to me.

 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 11:52 AM   
 By:   AndreaDanna   (Member)

The City of Prague Philharmonic recordings have an higher volume than almost all the other film music cd's... Every time I put in my stereo one of those Silva Screen / Tadlow CD's, I must turn down the volume.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 12:24 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

What Grecchus refers to is the differing levels of volume respective to one another in different recordings. He's talking about overall variations in volume over many CDs, not within one.

I must be missing something here. Of course a triple forte in the Concertgebouw will sound different from one recorded on a Hollywood sound stage -- and different still from the loudest parts of a Segovia guitar recital. (Homogenized pop recordings are another matter entirely.) So why shouldn't different recordings sound different? I continue to think that the ultimate goal ought to be fidelity to some kind of genuine musical experience rather than the convenience of lazy radio engineers or automobile drivers whose minds are (I hope!) not really focused on the music.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 12:31 PM   
 By:   AJ   (Member)

Optional compressors should be built into playback equipment. Automatic compression should not be "baked into" recordings.

AJ

 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 12:33 PM   
 By:   Creepshow2   (Member)

Louder does not always mean better. Unfortunately the people who remaster older music or master new music for that matter seem to think it does. It really is unfortunate. I refuse to buy any remastered "pop" CD's that have a remaster date of 1998 to the present, unless it is a MOFI, DCC or Audio Fidelity mastering. Sorry to get off topic!

 
 Posted:   Feb 16, 2011 - 3:06 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Of course, the ultimate aim for any soundtrack recording is undoubtedly fidelity. I wasn't really bemoaning not being able to climb the walls under a volume attack. It's just that some recordings I've heard need to be cranked up by quite a margin just to be heard comfortably, and in so doing, all the artifacts that go with that extra adjusting, such as background hiss and noteceably muted and flattened sound is the best that can be got out of the experience. It's a bit like magnifying a whisper. I'm sorry I don't have the technospeak to delineate exactly what it is that I'm trying to communicate. I can see there are those out there who have understood the undercurrents to my thoughts herein.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 17, 2011 - 7:44 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Of course, the ultimate aim for any soundtrack recording is undoubtedly fidelity.

Yes, but fidelity to what? To the pumped-up, flattened dynamics of most movie soundtracks or to the way music actually sounds in a real hall? It's a curious fact. Old movie soundtracks lacked dynamic range because of the optical medium's technical limitations. But we've had Dolby NR for decades and digital audio for years -- yet the dynamics are often as compressed as ever. The moviemakers are just like the radio stations: they're afraid to let go.

 
 Posted:   Feb 17, 2011 - 2:01 PM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Ok. My last word.

Once upon a time there was a Memorex commercial. The punchline was "is it real, or is it Memorex?" The idea being conveyed was that a recording could be made that captured the actual moment in the same way that Microsoft's "as real as it gets" slogan tries so hard to convince that here is the best your money can buy. 'Fidelity' as in all the sounds can be heard, all the bass packs a punch and all the light moments are still distinct. Isn't it obvious?

Rozsaphile, your last extract encompasses alot that I don't get. At the end of the day, the bottom line is the state of the 'input' tapes. Everything depends on them. Are there any kinks . . . how much oxide growth is there on the reels? Etc, etc, etc. There's a limit to what you're gonna get out of them. It so happens that most of my soundtrack interest is largely history. There's no way that is going to be improved upon since the forces of chaos and entropy always conspire to degrade that which exists. Of course, much stock has been placed on recording a classic all over with the benefits of what's new and current. One can argue these points over and over again. It's just a plain fact of life that the medium upon which my hopes and fears rests upon is as changeable as the weather. Getting the most out of that medium stretches the limits of what we call art and science.

Do you know I almost forgot what my original question asked?. Oh yes, how is the in-built volume level encoded on the compact disc, and how does one decide what that level is going to be given the state of the source material and everything else besides? The answer seems to be that it all boils down to the owner of Schrodinger's Cat! Now, would whoever that is be ever so kind as to stand up?

 
 Posted:   Feb 17, 2011 - 11:49 PM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

So why shouldn't different recordings sound different?

As I stated, the correct control experiment to illustrate what Grecchus is about would be to use different releases of the same performance. Some would be considerably louder than others.

I continue to think that the ultimate goal ought to be fidelity to some kind of genuine musical experience rather than the convenience of lazy radio engineers or automobile drivers whose minds are (I hope!) not really focused on the music.

It's a different question, but the problem here is that unless you delegate all the emphasis onto the original mics and recording ambience (in which case you'd hardly need people called sound-mixers at all), there will have to be some sort of 'creative' accounting in the mastering, to achieve the effect you seek. If you say, 'Well, in real life, in a concert hall, I'd not expect to hear the woodwinds this upfront, so I'll lower them', then you've interfered in the so-called 'performance'. Fair enough, but that's not to be called in some perfectionist way 'authentic'. Ot will be a subjective art of the mixer.

As stated above, compression, normalising and limiting are sometimes built into the playback programmes unfortunately.

 
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