The Distortion of Sound


Just wondering how many have viewed this presentation, by Harman International: http://www.distortionofsound.com It’s been on you tube for quite some time, as well. Another site that may be of interest to some: http://dr.loudness-war.info/
rodman99999
The dr dynamic range database reveals with more than 85,000 listings of original and the various incarnations of CDs, vinyl, SACDs, and downloads the twenty year old systematic institutionalized insidious suffocation of the dynamics of much of the music we love, all apparently to make a buck. The biggest fraud and scam ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting and naive public the world has ever seen.
EXACTLY!   Then again: if more were familiar with the dynamics of live music, the outcry might be louder.
Ironically, the video presents a slightly "distorted" view of reality by generalizing and blurring the details to help make its argument.  Much like most of the media does these days as well.  Is there no shame?

I've recently heard some mp3 steams that sound quite good, on both headphones and good quality home audio gear.  So it does not always have to be as bleak and dismal as one might be convinced to believe.
In absolutely quiet room with great audio system uncompressed music is great, but for the rest of the people who listen on smaller systems, radios, in the car etc. it would be a disaster.  Even piano solo has such high dynamic range (in order of 90dB) that would make smaller speakers buzz all the time.  HDTV sound is compressed beyond believe because it is intended for tiny TV speakers, most people use.  There is a reason for everything.
Is not that the CDs are compressed, they have always been a little compressed, just like vinyl. Everything is relative, but obviously most systems, ever audiophiles systems could not take unrestrained dynamic range. There are some but not very many examples on the dynamic range database of CDs with exceptionally high dynamic range, much higher than the average normal CD that we would probably call uncompressed. But what I’m referring to is not the average normal CD with some compression built in, I’m talking about CDs that are aggressively compressed. If you take a look on the Dynamic Range Database you’ll see what I mean. Instead of having LOW, AVERAGE, HIGH dynamic ranges in the GREEN which is high dynamic range, or even YELLOW which is marginal Dynamic Range, the numbers are all in the RED, which means the recording is overly compressed. If you look for recordings that are your favs on the database you will probably find they are not overly compressed.

I bet, that owners of small boomboxes (that buy more CDs than audiophiles) would prefer red over green. 
My intention was NOT to address boombox or car stereo users, though(I'm certain) SOME AudiogoN denizens could probably satisfy their listening tastes with such.   Those live music afficionados, that check the sites, may find information useful to them.   Especially if the aim in their listening and assembly of their system, is suspension of disbelief.    
Compressed CDs sell better, because most of people have tiny systems (minitowers, boomboxes etc.) Compression is intentional. Audiophiles with better gear have very low buying power.
As a technical note, it's not compression, but limiting and compression.  Limiting chops off the dynamic peaks and then compression is used to raise the average signal strength.

The modern loudness wars was the result of iTunes type random order playlists becoming the dominant listening format.  Artists, engineers and record labels did not want their songs to sound softer (less impactful) than the songs that came before or after them on a playlist.  It's not really different than what happened to AM radio in the 1960s, just different technology.  Early Motown was considered highly compressed (loud) for its time and other labels tried to be as loud.
I don't look at a lot of album reviews but if I were to recommend an album or for that matter do a published review I can't imagine not calling the DR Smasher's out - anything less than an 11 just sounds terrible to me. I just don't care how good the material, musicianship, etc is.
If the music companies (Columbia, Sony, etc.) were smart they would issue two different versions of CDs - one for the boom box and iPod generation and one for those that want the dynamics, audiophiles and whoever. The movie companies offer DVD, Blu Ray and violet versions of movies, actually they force you to but all three, why can’t the music industry wise up? I absolutely refuse to buy CDs with numbers like 7, 8 and 9. Give me a break!
Great idea- GK. There are SACD titles for us audiophiles!
SACDs?  Yeah, like I'm going to go buy an SACD player or Blu Ray player so I can listen to audiophile recordings.  Besides SACDs are being compressed too.  Didn't you get the memo? ;-)

Most people including boom box and car stereo owners don't play their stereos at full blast with the volume turned all the way up.  The little AM portable transistor radios of the 60s were played with the volume turned up, so I se the loudness benefit to them but t them alone and people use ear buds now with down loaded files for music, once again not played all the way up.  I am surprised that this is still an issue.

I got an OPUS 3  Show Case  sampler CD/SACD  as a gift from another forum and it's really beautifully recorded.  It shows you, CDs  can be done well if the producer wants to.

Of course it should be pointed out just in case, that volume and dynamic range are not you can't for example reduce the dynamic range by turning down the volume. Apparently the powers that be at a lot of the big music companies got together and decided, gee wouldn’t it be great if all those young dudes and dudettes with boom boxes, iPhones and iPods could turn up the music loud without clipping their tiny little players and without destroying any speakers? Well, guess what? They compress the dynamic range and increase the level (loudness) on the CDs. That’s why some of your CDs at the same volume setting on your preamp or player are louder than others. That’s because they’re compressed. But the peaks are a lot lower. Problem solved! Lol
Us Classical Buyers can but the Swedish BIS offerings which are musically superior and have as much dynamic range as the media can have .
The Hyperion label has good dynamics as well.
I never did understand why pop music fans need more than a good boom-box and I'm not trying to be funny .
Only a very small % of listeners (commonly referred to as "audiophiles") care about a recording seemingly sounding like an original performance. Few are equipped to even have a prayer of achieving this. Most people just want things to sound clear and perhaps with no clearly audible distortion. Most modern recordings outside the pure commercial pop genre seem to accomplish this fairly well on the variety of listener gear commonly in use today, including "high end" systems where the recording itself is mostly the bottleneck, not the playback system itself.

So the angst of audiophiles in the know looking to get the most out of their big investments in gear is understandable but as a music lover (as opposed to "audiophile" which I might well be labeled as well given the time and money invested in getting good sound at home) I find no shortage of good quality recordings with engaging dynamics. In general more CDs I listen to these days sound very good to me than ever before. Some even achieve the level of perhaps providing the illusion of sounding live, sometimes even compared to listening in the good seats at the best venues.

Like all art, recordings are what they are, human renderings of something real. Even the best works of art or photography, despite their unique pleasures or drawbacks, are no substitute for experiencing the real thing.

The dr dynamic range database is a useful and interesting resource that seems to clearly depict general trends in how recordings are made over the years in regards to dynamic range, but I have found the metrics there insufficient to account for whether or not I find a particular recording to be good or enjoyable or not. There is more to music than dynamic range, though that is something that audiophiles in particular tend to obsess about. Myself included, but more so in the past than in the present. If one is a music lover it really does not pay to obsess about things like recording dynamic range metrics. It will just tend to get in the way of potential enjoyment of music in general, which is based on so much more.

But I would say it still makes sense to invest in a system that has a good chance of never being the bottleneck in regards to dynamics and all the rest. That is needed to help assure an audiophile gets maximum enjoyment possible out of their music library or sources, including those releases that truly excel sonically in some way.

Schubert, 1) there is not just classical and pop but everything else in between as well and 2) even the purest pop tends to have some softer things going on as well as all the loud "noise". An "audiophile" listening wants to hear everything in all recordings. If just a pop music fan and nothing else, a boom box will likely suffice.
Mapman, as usual, has contributed eloquent and insightful commentary.  He's a tough act to follow.  :)

I can't say with certainty that my enjoyment of recorded music has increased commensurately with the improvements I've made to my system.  Almost without exception, the pleasure that music provides me has little to do with the hardware.  Once my system got to the point of being "good" or "excellent" much of that satisfaction was due to figuring out the usual audiophile conundrums and concerns.

Full disclosure: I must say, however, that I've never met a boombox I've truly loved.
ps, thanks for those kind words.