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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Please, Compact Discs Blow

posted by on December 27 at 9:54 AM

London Bridge Studioís Geoff Ott doesnít describe himself as an audiophile, but he likes his vinyl. And he likes his vinylís warmth and dynamic range.

Geoff says, “I prefer listening to music without having to get a computer involved. I know it sounds stupid, but the Ďexperienceí of vinyl is what listening to music is all about for me. You know, taking the record out, going through the physical motions of putting it on the turntable, and setting the needle. Holding the artwork on the album, the whole deal. It gets you closer to the artist or band. Can I say itís more intimate?”

I guess I will give you permission to say it’s more intimate. Do you sit back and let vinyl overtake you like a cool breeze?
Oh, it definitely overtakes me. I close my eyes and see exactly what the band is talking about. I have KISS concerts in my head. I can smell the pyrotechnics. I see that Love Gun they are talking about. CDís donít allow me to do that. CDís can be too clean. It needs to be more human for me. Hearing J-Lo all auto-tuned is a bummer. Thatís like the fake breasts of music.

You mean J-Lo has no Love Gun?
No, she has a squirt gun, that P. Diddy Daddy gave her. The other thing that gets me about CDís is how hot they are mastered these days.

So you donít think J-Lo is hot?
Ok, sheís kind of hot, Iíll give her that. But the way CDís are mastered and compressed to be as loud as possible is ridiculous. Some CDís lose their life. I think when a song has a quiet part, it should actually get quieter on your speakers. Then when the song gets loud, it has more of an effect on you. Thatís the KISS concert in your head moment Iím talking about.

I found a great article in Wired - here that sums it up for me. They link to a Mr. Show video where heís such an audiophile that he pulls out a mini Victrola in a donut shop to listen to music. And look at the ABBA wave files here:


The top image is taken from the original Polydor CD release. The bottom one is taken from the 2005 remaster. There is a heavy amount of compression and the dynamics and “snap” of the original track have been lost as a result.

I think if we all gave vinyl a chance, we could all have KISS concerts in our head.

Mr. Showís Audiophile:

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this should yield some fun responses about the necessity of nuance in music playback. fighting with audiophiles is an impossible battle because they are all stubborn and cannot see the obvious reasons of why cd's replaced vinyl (portability, lifespan, accuracy).

i would like to talk about that wave form comparison. the 1983 waveform, like most mid 80's albums where the length of the album came at the sacrifice of the sound quality of putting grooves into records, is mastered like dogshit. the remastered waveform fills the stereo field much more and doesn't appear to clip at any point. i don't understand the problem - what nuance is missing? hiss? people are saddened that they don't have to turn their stereo up to 11 just to hear what is happening?

also, bitch please... this is an abba record. we are not listening to 'music for airports', we are listening to scandinavian pop music. are there audiophiles who are abba fans? venn diagram anyone?

Posted by cosby | December 27, 2007 10:14 AM

also, as an aside:

my favorite format is 7" 45 singles. i can't explain why i like them so much. just because it is my favorite format, that doesn't mean it is the best format. vinyl junkies take note.

Posted by cosby | December 27, 2007 10:19 AM

If you are a true audiophile, you pretty much have to talk about ABBA wave files. At least once a day. Or else you are mainstream.

Hey Cosby! I thought the same thing. The ABBA reference is so random, but it added to it for me.

Posted by trent moorman | December 27, 2007 10:23 AM

Regardless of whether that Abba album is an example, there are plenty of albums out there that are totally amped to fill up every bit of headroom, and they sound ten times more like dogshit, I promise (I can't even listen to the Flaming Lips' last album, one recent example of this).

Thing is, this is only tangentially related to CD technology. You can have CDs that are mastered like this and you can have CDs that are mastered intelligently and dynamically. You could probably have vinyl LPs that are mastered way too loudly and harshly as well. Two different issues: digital technology and bad mastering. He's making it sound like the CD demands this uber-loud, ridiculous mastering, which is not the case at all. But I agree that we must stop the Loudness Wars once and for all.

Posted by Levislade | December 27, 2007 10:35 AM

Vinyl stills is the queen of sound. Perhaps you could do Queen sometime to go with Abba. Did you see the new turntable that plugs into your computer? No 45 capacity but there's always next XMAS.
Play on.

Posted by Tante | December 27, 2007 10:49 AM

i'd have to say-- the 2005 abba remix actually looks pretty conservative compared to most modern day mastering 2-mixes. there's actually some headroom left in the intro.

Posted by graig | December 27, 2007 11:03 AM

haha, my co-worker just alerted me of this awesome story. the loudness wars have officially come to an end (thanks to apple):

from dvice
"If Apple follows through with one of its new patents, your iPod may start paying attention to how long you're listening to music, and how loud. Sounds a little intrusive but, If you think about it, pretty much any audio player out there won't stop you from cranking up the volume until you're ear drums explode.

Apple's new control technology would turn down your tunes if it deems it too loud for the period of time you've had it at that level, and, if you try to listen to music too soon (and too loud once again), you'll find that you can't turn it up as high until you've given your ears a rest."

intrusive technology to stop potential lawsuits: 1
usability: 0

Posted by cosby | December 27, 2007 11:03 AM

ABBA is the only band anyone can reference about anything. Only ABBA. And maybe Duran Duran.

Posted by Like the Wolf | December 27, 2007 11:26 AM

...and journey.

journey anecdotes are pretty much currency at this point.

Posted by cosby | December 27, 2007 11:38 AM

"Please just pick one more donut."

Posted by Val | December 27, 2007 11:55 AM

um, 45s are the best format. One song, one side...ONE channel, that is MONO...sounds so sweet! Fuck CDs.

Posted by nipper | December 27, 2007 12:08 PM

The analog vs. digital war is so tired. By now everyone should know that there is crap and gold to be found in both formats. From a purely aesthetic perspective, I'm in 100% agreement w/ London Bridge dude re: vinyl.

On a related note: in my local, hip indie record store the clerk told me last week that they've been selling way more vinyl then CDs these days. and according to this guy, it appears to be a national trend (at least among the hip and indie). Funny though, i'm sure the majority of the new vinyl releases are tracked digitally.

Posted by bosch | December 27, 2007 2:05 PM

Funny though, i'm sure the majority of the new vinyl releases are tracked digitally.

oh, for sure - are there any new vinyl releases that are true analog to analog transfers? a very good point.

Posted by cosby | December 27, 2007 2:29 PM
are there any new vinyl releases that are true analog to analog transfers?

The latest Mission of Burma records are still produced this way from what I've read.

Posted by sparkrobot | December 27, 2007 2:57 PM

Mr show has shown me the light. Nice articles. I'm breaking out my victrola in my corolla in front of victrola.

Posted by spence | December 27, 2007 3:20 PM

I'm sure there are definitely records still recorded, mixed and mastered in the analog realm (Dead Moon comes to mind, are they still around?), but these have been rare for awhile. Studios like Albini's Electical Audio in Chicago used to be stubbornly analog-only, but I just checked their website and even they have apparently succumbed, as they list Digidesign/Motu in the "Tape Machine" section.

Posted by bosch | December 27, 2007 3:51 PM

I grew up on cassettes and 8 tracks and AM radio, so I could care less about audio quality or dynamic range. That said, @1 is right about the absurdity of an "audiophile" needing a certain range of sound to enjoy pure shit like ABBA or KISS. That's like NEEDING to get the fine china and silver to eat Jack in the Box.

Posted by Peter | December 27, 2007 4:28 PM

I have to agree with Peter here, plastic dinnerware and utensils are indispensable.

Posted by rice crispy treat | December 27, 2007 10:30 PM

A far, far better example of the hot-mastering problem is Dark Side of the Moon. The most recent remastered versions amp the shit out of the slow sections. Also, for a bonus, Dark Side of the Moon is actually a good album, unlike anything produced by Abba.

Also, blaming auto-tune on the CD format is retarded.

Posted by Greg | December 28, 2007 7:12 AM

If only those records played in my car....

Posted by zwbush | December 28, 2007 10:31 AM

Auto-Tuning is retarded.

Posted by Retarded | December 28, 2007 2:09 PM

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