Bring back dynamic range: the sequel

another view into the painful reality of the current state of the recording industry.

I have so many stinking "loud" cd's that no matter what setting the preamp is on the result is truly loud and annoying when played over my wide dynamic range rig. These cd's are better served by a discman into my dog's ears.

This was an excellent article.
I think my next "upgrade" is one of format: Vinyl.

Now who would like a cookie?
If you want to listen to music, vinyl is where it's at, but with a few caveats. I think to really make it worthwhile your musical tastes have to run pre early 80's when digital recording really started to take off. Frankly, with a decent analog front end, I think it's a waste of time purchasing vinyl (especially new vinyl) that's been digitally recorded and transfered to vinyl. If your musical tastes are concentrated in the newer music area, stick with CD.

Secondly, if you take this approach (essentially buying used vinyl-I buy the odd new re-issue if it is really difficult to obtain an original), you have to invest in proper wet cleaning equipment. That is not to say you have to spend a fortune. $200-$250 will give you very high quality vinyl wet cleaning.

Finally, you need to have a bit of patience.

I've been buying a bit off E-Bay recently, but what I really like to do is hit the thrifts and in the summer, the garage sales with purchases that I'm not interested in traded off to dealers for credit. It's been a quiet summer for me as I simply haven't had the time to hit the garage sales, but once in a while you hit the big score. Happened for me this past weekend.

From a local Craigslist ad:

Jimi Hendrix: Axis Bold as Love, Are You Experienced and Electric Ladyland
Van Morrison: A Sense of Wonder, Wavelength, Tupelo Honey, A Period of Transition, Live in Concert Los Angeles and London/Summer 1973
Joe Cocker: S/T and With a Little Help From My Friends
Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones and Nighthawks at the Diner
JJ Cale: Troubador
John Lee Hooker: The Best of and Endless Boogie
John Mayall: The Turning Point and The Blues Alone
The Stones: Exile on Main Street, Ya Yas and Beggars Banquet
Iron Butterfly: Inagaddadavida
Ahmad Jamal: S/T, One and Count Em 88
Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars, Barney Kessel, Hampton Hawes: Lighthouse at Laguna & Howard Rumsey's All Stars Vol. 3
Shelley Manne and his Friends Andre Previn and Leroy Vinnegar
T Bone Walker: Good Feelin
George Benson: It's Uptown with the George Benson Quartet
Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy
Charlie Byrd: Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros
Steely Dan: Greatest Hits
The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Gerry Mulligan and Jimmy Witherspoon
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in London
The Essential Coleman Hawkins
Gene Ammons: Juganthology
Kenny Burrell: Guitar Forms
Bob Marley and the Wailers: Blackout
Ray Charles: The Ray Charles Story Vol. 1
The Best of the Lovin Spoonful
CCR: Cosmos Factory
The Doors: S/T (original tan label Elektra)
Jefferson Airplane: Volunteers
Stanley Turrentine: Don't Mess with Mister T
Sir Roland Hanna: A Gift from the Magi
Stanley Clarke: Journey to Love

Man, this guy had good taste. Some of the titles I already had, but at a buck a piece I couldn't resist. 54 records for $54! Except for one of the Hendrix titles which has a deep scratch across the first 3 songs on one side and the Best of John Lee Hooker having a tough warp which may render only one side playable, everything else appears to be in great condition albeit in need of a decent cleaning.
"So even if audiophiles wanted to spend upward of $300 for a DVD-Audio or SACD player, ..."

That is laughable isn't it :) 300 bucks can get us audiophiles a cheap low-grade interconnect. What do these "others" know anyhow...

On a different note it really saddens/maddens/disgusts me to once again fully realize that we are totally being ripped off on performance; there is a good 90 to 95 dB of dynamic range (we really don't even need SACD; redbook formats if produced,mixed, and mastered corretly can yield spectacular results, however if the same were applied to SACD it gets us that much closer to the true performance dynamics)... The trends today use a fraction of that available range!! What remains is a sound that is the sonic equivalent of bright hazy overcast at high noon in a hot humid nasty place. Sunglasses? You bet.

Perhaps this is the dying gasp of the cd music industry...what they may not realize is that they are accelerating the pace by allowing such puking trash out the door. There should be lawsuits against those (that demand such hideous compression) for distorting the truth of the performance so badly. Disgusting really. These recordings truly sound as bad as the marketing schemes in place that create them.

Thanks for sharing this very well written article. Those who bother to read it will now understand why it is worth paying attention to the Mastering Engineer. Some have garnered a reputation for not mixing "hot" and for better preserving dynamic range.

This also explains why many people find digital fatiguing as compared to vinyl. The average CD is ten times hotter (more compressed) than the average vinyl. So Vinyl is less fatiguing on a consistent basis.

Some are free to continue in the misguided belief that digital formats are inherently bad, however, the main issue is the Mastering Engineer and the Producer, who often dictates to the ME how hot to make it. Unfortunately, it is the CD's better dynamic range which is so cruely exploited to get extremely high average loudness and a fatiguing sound! The irony of it....
A perfect example would be the latest Red Hot Chilly Peppers cd. I love this band and the music on the latest disc I think is good and I have fun listening to it, but I only attempted to play it once on my main rig and was done listening to it fairly quickly.
Yeah, I agree. Compression kills the music. But we also have to remember that audiophiles make up the minority.
The majority of people who buy CDs couldn't give a rat's ass about compression. They don't even hear it. It sounds fine to them on their boomboxes and iPods ripped in MP3. So why would a recording engineer, assuming he even knows what he's doing, go the extra mile to please a very small and selected group - the audiophiles?

Vinyl? May be a solution. Excellent assesment by HDM about the music to get on vinyl! I completey agree. I recently decided to give analog a shot and do not regret it one bit. I'm buying used records, getting better at it with time as I gain more knowledge, but, as HDM says, the records I do get are older records(although I did buy one "digital LP" by mistake). Classical, jazz and older rock is what I buy. I think to recommend trying vinyl to someone is a tough thing to do. First, you have to know that the person is going to enjoy the tweaking and finally the process of playing a record. Yes, CDs are much easier to listen to. You can sit down and listen to a cd from the beginning to an end without getting up.
With vinyl it may not be as simple to some. Besides the fact that you have to get up and flip the record, you have to also brish it before you play the side again. Besides, there are vibration, isolation, static and all the other good stuff that comes with it. On some recordings you may actually preffer a CD, on some you may give a nodd to vinyl. I can not really say that all records sound better than their CD counterparts. Let's not forget that there are some CDs that are recorded nicely and sound pretty good. It's a different sound between the 2 formats and not what sounds better. At least that is how I see it.
Vinyl could be a pain to some people.
Me? I enjoy it. At least for now.
CD can be and is a pleasing and convenient format, I find it silly when I see folks who refuse to buy any cd and call themself a true music lover, even more silly when you wont buy an LP from a digital master. For those who feel this way more power to you but you are only hearing less then one percent of music released, and there is alot of good stuff out there. While I would love everything to be on Vinyl and enjoy hearing it more then digital, the fact remains you have to buy digital if you want a vast and current collection of music, and there are many times where my health or mood doesnt jive with the 25 minute LP listeing cycle.......poof in goes a 65 minute disc!
HDM: nice post, thanks. Patience eh? With a 20 month old and a 4 week old, patience is something I need more of. Heck i'm getting antsy "waiting" the 20-30 minutes for my tube amp to stabalize. I guess I could do the prewash and all that other LP hocus pocus while the amp is warming up...but i'm so bedraggled I might try to warm the bottle on the amp while juggling with cleaning fluids..or worse...

Audphile1, sadly this is what we must contend with, as audiophiles. It's like a snooty dog who turns his nose to scraps, but only snatches that filet mignon when it rarely comes his way. Poor ba$tard.

Enjoy the music anyway you can.
Chadnliz, in regards to ditigal LPs...
I buy a cd of this recording instead. If it is a digital recording, why would I need to bother with pops and clicks and static and cleaning get the picture.
I'd pop a cd in and enjoy it. That is what I was trying to say. Anyway, you are entitled to your opinion and make your choices in music purchases.
Are someone else's choices right or wrong, is not for you or me to decide.
I buy them becaue they are cheaper then cd's, my ultimate comment was they sound fine...even very good when done well.
Agreed, the digital LP of Dvorak symphony I bought sounds good. But I have the same recording on CD and it is good as well.