Adventures In Audio

I listened to 26 unmastered songs. Did they sound bad?

Learn how to become a better producer in your own home recording studio >>

This is a companion page to my YouTube video I listened to 26 unmastered songs. Did they sound bad?

You should probably watch the video on YouTube, then come back here to hear additional material.

The first video on this page is hosted on YouTube. It contains reviews of three songs. Although this is fair use as described in the UK government's guidance on copyright legislation, YouTube's Content ID will raise a problem. Therefore the audio in the video is muted.

However, the clips are available WITH audio in the following videos. You can see the whole video and the four clips with audio on this page. You can also read recent YouTube comments. You will however need to return to YouTube to comment yourself.

The original video...




Estonia on Spotify...

Comments on this video

You can comment on this video at YouTube

Bence Toldi:  Thanks!

Terry Zhong:  Major recording studios would probably re-release the same albums in the future with better dynamics just to "milk" more money. Either just add water and/or follow the copper💰 smell.

John Scrip:  If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you made this video just for me. I'm probably wrong - but thanks anyway.

Douglas Blake:  Interesting to note how many audiophiles claim "golden ears" that can hear even the most minute changes in sound... but ... can't spot a brickwalled recording or very low dynamic range in their sources.

VPR2B:  Good video - thanks! Sad to say though that in the U.S. it's virtually impossible to hear ANY dynamics on broadcast (or cable/satellite) as virtually all channels use very heavy-handed compression/limiting. It not only sucks the life out of everything, but totally ruins the mix as background music/effects are pulled up to be as loud as the dialog. Then when someone speaks, it punches holes in the background. Just terrible. I've gone to 100% streaming to get away from this madness.

Lance Gfoin:  A bit pointless without the audio but well done! 😂 YouTube strikes again!

Audio Masterclass replies to Lance Gfoin: I could have done it with the audio but it's a lot of bother. I've made quite a few videos that review music, normally technically. I expect to get copyright claimed, but since my use is always fair use according to UK legislation, all of these claims have been waived without exception. But I have to fill in forms, perhaps appeal, wait 30 days for a claim or longer for an appeal before the video is monetized again. And a stubborn copyright owner could always dig in their heels. This would be fraud of course, but there's nothing in practical terms I'd be able to do. DM

The Eyles:  ITV's Dancing on Ice always seems a lot louder than the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. The announcers as well as the music. One has prerecorded music and the other a live band, but no idea how much effect that has. Any chance you could compare their volumes, when their next series eventually come round in autumn/winter?

Audio Masterclass replies to The Eyles: I might be able to do that. It largely depends on whether my memory lasts that long. DM

Douglas Blake:  More unmastered audio ...

One pass recording, no edits, no remixes, one mic...

sorepaws:  This and the previous episodes go a long way to explaining why when I got my first CD player there was a significant variation in volume between discs. This was 37 years ago, when I was just moving from Vinyl to CD and discovering the pleasure of crackle/hiss free music. Thank you for the insites from a professional perspective. It does seem a shame that we are in some cases losing, dynamic range in exchange for "louder" recording. 😁

Tim Harbert:  Thank you for your videos.

I STAN Kim Jong-Un but Can't STAND Trump:  I wonder if there is a place to hear all my EDM jams "unmastered"....

jack speed:  My thought is that all song's were mastered as "usuall" (maybe a bit less crushed) but just the output level was brought down to the level which Eurosong demands.

Douglas Blake replies to jack speed: Yep, they're still brick walled, but now at -16lufs. The dynamic range is still near 0.

Mike S:  3:39 This was one of the things that drove me away from broadcast TV and to only streaming. Oddly here in Canadaland about a decade ago, the audio for Agents of Shield on over the air HD broadcast was noticeably more dynamically compressed than the audio from the streming source (Netflix I think).

45 th Parallel:  A concise explanation of the volume wars.I will pass this on as it is A great tutorial. 👍 Montreal, Canada.

Anna Lundholm:  I really really really really, no I really mean it, hate the loudness war and just want it to end. I have a hearing disability and dynamics is very important for me in song and speak in order to distinguish things from each other.

Big Babatunde:  With the exception of Later....with Jools Holland, the BBC is notorious for having bad sound with music broadcasts.
As for TV ads? Where have you been?
Their sound is now louder and more grating than ever across the industry.
With few exceptions, I permanently have my TV sound as low as I can get away with and rely on rubbish subtitles for dialogue because modern sound on TV is so bad.

Metalvision Song Contest:  That joke used to be about football and the Germans winning. Which used to be our main coping mechanism for Eurovision. But by now, we’re great at losing both in Eurovision AND in football.

Paul Stubbs:  MMM, thanks, now I know to leave Spotify alone.
I run the sound etc. at my church, I usually record any bands, yes there is quite a bit that is unusable, but I do get some gems, anyway, it sounds so different to commercial releases it's not funny. after listening to this I can hear the compressors and limiters screaming on your average CD.

It would be interesting to hear what you say about the band AC/DC, it can be played on most systems with you been totally unaware when the volume is wound up so severe clipping occurs, no real difference.

Mikexception:  I record (for my own archive) music and vocals which I perform myself since almost 20 years. All settings were done with home no pro equipment and in advance of planned preformance. Later was no mastering. Within that long time I used different speakers and headphones - have hundreds of them on CDs

I would say that with my audio setup in comparaison they top originaly brand produced and purchased. They are no predictable in sounding and are surprising by not standarized apparent balancing , Their dynamic is also no comparable do those masterd original albums

In my own view they could be appreciated by demanding listeners without any mastring and use pf today music industry

David from America:  WOW, you deserve a Trophy.
That is a spectacular achievement. 😀

BurninSven1:  I am just so glad to be an amateur so I do not have to bother about stuff like that. What a relief try it. People do not buy records any more and people complain about the low quality of audio and video over the internet and how many owns a good hifi system these days that can be hooked up to the internet? So what do you gain for what you pay I say pretty much nothing. But you might say but people do buy and download music, yes but what do they listen to it on? Well I guess it is a handheld device of some sort not a good hifi system with good speakers.

Douglas Blake replies to BurninSven1: I'm betting you're wrong on this one...
Most people stream music and movies rather than downloading, these days. That includes people with very high end home theatres and high value stereo systems. Trust me the "good HiFi system" is alive and well.

My flagship system, installed at a friend's house, is using 3 top line Crown XLS amplifiers connected to Fluance Signature speakers and a custom subwoofer... and it's fed by an HTPC that gets it's joy directly from the internet... In case you're wondering that's over 2,000 watts on tap, in a dedicated listening room.

K. Gergő:  Commercials are still twice as loud than anything in Hungary.

Classical LP Vault:  I'm a producer of uplifting trance using FL Studio. Since this genre is heavily oriented at sharp transient kick drums combined with parallell side chain compression on the synths and drums, as well as confining individual sounds to a specific EQ range, way more than any piece of acoustically recorded music, already applied before mastering, the difference isn't quite as big as in many other genres as even brickwall limiting has less effect because the sound, to some degree, has already been flattened on every attack of every single quarter note/beat.

Andrea Boi replies to Classical LP Vault: Some weeks ago I listened the soundtrack of Nausicaa, a double CD from 1986 where the second disc where a mix with synth beats that blow my mind how deep the bass was! Also with spectacular use of highs going up smoothy. All this without any distortion, so clean. That is a lot better than any average EDM modern music produced today.

john gabris:  most of the euro contest was badly mixed vocals lost and lost of shounting

Tisbonus:  You sir, just earned yourself a subscriber. Thoroughly enjoy the vids. When you mentioned the tv standard for loudness in the UK, my interests peaked! I remember some 20 years ago in the US, a law was passed prohibiting the same behavior of louder commercials to program content. Nothing changed. The American voters should have seen the writing on the wall, then. But this isn't about politics thank goodness! Love the content and the attention to detail.

John Fraser Findlay:  WhTever happened to the “richter” scale😊.?

John Fraser Findlay:  Very interesting!, broadcast versus streaming😮

Rory Troy:  The bass player in my band has worked as a studio engineer in the past and does all our mixing. He's a genius IMO. Because of time constraints we normally use LANDR to master. We used them on our debut EP and were pleased. Our bass player did such a good job with the mix on our latest single however that we could have easily done without mastering it. All we maybe need to to was put on a limiter and bring it up a bit. He mixes so the sound bar doesn't look like a tube. We plan to continue with old school mixes.

Douglas Blake replies to Rory Troy: Very good ... even if your music were to tragically suck, I would applaud you for this one decision, alone!

Jim Allen:  All that's needed is.... MORE COWBELL. 🙂

Really Nice Audio:  Great video. Now I know why 'Angela' by Bob James sounds so good!

fredy gump:  in America, TV advertisements are 100% in yes, they are louder, not 100% as loud....which would be the same level... If you have quality speakers, you will feel like the advertisements are attacking you, and then the show's audio feels distinctly under-produced. But if you have bad TV speakers, you don't really notice the difference! Horray for cheap speakers.

Douglas Blake replies to fredy gump: Which is why I don't listen to broadcast music or watch television.

Mike Koss:  You may be the one man who knows the answer to this: when I watch music performances on Saturday Night Live, the vocals always sound mixed WAY below the instruments. Is it just me? Just my equipment? Some deranged audio engineer on the SNL staff??? I have wondered about this for years.

Michael Beeny:  While watching the BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY MOVIE 2018 in my home theater, I remember thinking how good the sound was. Next day I purchased the CD of the film's music. I was so disappointed, sounded flat, lacking dynamics and extreme low end. It was hard to believe it came from the same material. Not what I had expected from a CD.

Neal Smith-Amies:  If you want it louder. Turn up the volume. Classic example. Listen to something from the 70s with dynamics. Fleetwood mac rumours. Turn it up to reasonable level then put on something new and you'll be reaching to turn it down immediately. They compress the life out of the music!

nukiepoo:  God, I love this channel. Intelligent commentary… witty in a deliciously British way… and we are of the same generation.

sides up:  LETS all go back to CASSETTE! If. they won't give us dynamics anyway. I have a cassette rewinding as I write this. Sure there's some slight tape hiss if you don't listen with Dolby (the way to go), but listen to that smooth liquid sound; the tonal beauty. And they're cheap. A little old lady put some out a yard sale. Only a quarter each. Not much more than that in some thrift stores; and they're compact. More compact than a compact disc. And best of all; they're all analog. You need a thousand dollar player like the one I have that's rewinding; to hear their true capabilities though. My expensive machine even rewinds faster than the others. You can hear a fabulous loud vibration sound from the cassette as its being rewound....Wait a minute, I hear a different sound now; all of a sudden. Only one reel is spinning and it's spinning like mad. Drats!.... It snapped the tape.

Tim Goldich:  It should be acknowledged that there are exceptions. I bought the 50th anniversary remaster/remix CD of Dark Side of the Moon and was astonished to find that they hadn't added a bit of compression to it!

Joe Smith replies to Tim Goldich: @Audio Masterclass I did hear that Dolby Atmos mixes/mastering DOES retain a lot of the dynamic range as it requires a LUFs -18. Atmos is a bit of a fragmented format because it’s not mix and mastered in stereo and is often down mixed. It’s also rare to get the true lossless files of dts and they require a Blu-ray player

Audio Masterclass replies to Tim Goldich: That would have been sacrilege of the highest order. DM

Editing SECRETS revealed!:  I'm just here to appreciate the dry wit. Jokes are so subtle that they float by at -30 below most people's awareness. Delightful presentation of an un-delightful subject, other than Eurovision's showmanship. Will there ever be a way for those who prefer clean and full range audio to buy it?

Sjoerd de Jong:  Love this! Don't really like the contest but dynamics and no distortion I do! ;-)

Tim Goldich:  Yes, at its worst this added compression for LOUDNESS is ruinous. So many exquisite, meticulous remixes from scratch have been "brick-walled." The average volume level has been brought up so close to maximum volume that the result is unlistenable. Thanks Audio Masterclass for being among the very few to complain about this dreadful practice. Too few are even discerning enough to be aware of it.

Douglas Blake replies to Tim Goldich: True ... we now have at least 1 generation who have grown up with this garbage as normal. Until they get exposed to real music they simply have no clue how much better it could be.

I recently sat down with a client's kid and showed him some of how I set up a system and what to listen for. When I put on "Sultans Of Swing" (by Dire Straits) which is one of my go-to demos, the kid's jaw was right on the floor... "I didn't know music could sound like that" ....
We definitely gotta work on that one.

Paul Grant:  Network commercials were louder so they could still reach you if you went for a snack in the kitchen, or the bathroom

Editing SECRETS revealed!:  Youtube homepage today has five different people whose thumbnails show incredulous shock at the virtual watermelon they envision shaking in front of their face. That's one scary, dismaying giant piece of fruit they're all trying to help us see before it's too late. Now, on to the video.

Mr. Cool:  The loudness war is a positive thing in a counterintuitive way. Since it protects your hearing by keeping everything at a similar volume so you don’t have to turn it up and down to hear what’s going on in the quiet parts. And you don’t get sudden loud peaks which are terrible for your ears. It’s good when in a loud environment too since everything is up front in the mix. But some people take it to far these days and like you said they crush the track at all costs. I am not a fan of hard clipping which many people do now. Hard clipping is also harsh on the ears and defeats the purpose. But yea just a silver lining to think about.

Andres Jacobsen replies to Mr. Cool: ​@Douglas Blake Well said

Douglas Blake replies to Mr. Cool: @Mr. Cool "Audiophiles don’t know anything because engineers are the ones who actually know how this stuff works."

No sir... engineers are people who think they know how this stuff works. Having designed both home and pro-audio gear you can believe this humble technician knows exactly how this stuff works... well enough to build and fix the silly toys you use to screw it up.

CDs and digital files actually have enough dynamic range to accurately reproduce an uncompressed symphonic performance... and here you lot are cramming all that talent up into the top 5 db or so and calling it "engineering" ... It's more like demolition, than engineering. It takes the humanity, the feeling, the frailty and the power right out of the experience for your listeners.

Don't even dare to try and tell me your horrible sausage recordings are an attempt to save our hearing... loudness of the kind you depict, with it's consistent high concentration of energy, has probably sold more hearing aides than anything else. For a fact I know it sells lots of power FETs as it has a rather nasty tendency to overheat even the most robust of amplifiers...

Mr. Cool replies to Mr. Cool: @Douglas Blake probably the same thing that a 20 decibel peak does when it suddenly hits out of nowhere because your drums are overlapping and you decided not to compress them. Don’t argue with science. Sudden loud quick noises cause more damage because your ears don’t have time to adjust. Look it up. And you must be blasting your music because most brick walled music is saturated. Not distorted. And harmonics are naturally occurring. If the song is distorting, it’s on purpose. Using the correct attack and release times you could technically squash all the transients and have no distortion with modern plugins. And if the artist purposely distorted it, dynamics won’t make that distortion go away. Audiophiles don’t know anything because engineers are the ones who actually know how this stuff works. If audiophiles had there way music would sound like frail trash. If you have a track that is dynamic then you have to turn up the volume for it to sound as loud and then the peaks are going to be much louder and cause more damage. That 20% distortion you speak of comes from clipping, not compression.

Douglas Blake replies to Mr. Cool: With all due respect ... Bullshit.
Those brickwalled tracks average about 20 to 25% distortion. What do you think that does to your hearing?

Nick Wallette:  "I suppose that label bosses know what they're doing"

You suppose an awful lot, there. ;-D

Ruud de Boer:  Allright, the huge differences between tv commercials and tv programs are gone. Instead, you get too much of dynamics in a tv programme itself, wich isn’t fun to watch on a flatscreen. Also, during evening hours you don’t want to bother your neighbours when you crank your tv set up to understandable dialogs. So it’s not all glory. And don’t forget radiostations, they don’t bother as long it’s LOUD. And also: you can brickwall a mix for tv, you just get minus punichment points to meet the LUF-standard.

Douglas Blake replies to Ruud de Boer: @Ruud de Boer
Yeah that's exactly what is needed ... automatic volume control to turn down the loud parts later at night so you aren't bothering family or neighbours.

The absolute last thing you want is Dynamic Range Control (compression and limiting) burned right into the TV shows or music or movies... that's the whole point... this idiotic brickwall limiting is completely destroying modern entertainment.

Ruud de Boer replies to Ruud de Boer: @Douglas Blake Absolutely true. But they can’t compete with professional limiter/compressors. Most of those ‘night mode’ limiters haveslow attack and long release times making them more like levellers (you don’t want that 😊)…

Douglas Blake replies to Ruud de Boer: Most TV sets have a "night mode" for the audio... it basically enables a compressor as an active volume control.

cdl0:  I would venture to suggest that on the question of to what extent the mastering methods presently used for popular music might apply in future to classical music has an obvious answer: it would never be tolerated by listeners. Classic music recordings necessarily must attempt to reproduce as closely as possible what a listener would hear when physically present at a performance, otherwise it will be completely rejected. Notice also how BBC Radio 3 VHF FM broadcasts sound significantly quieter on average than other channels, until there is a crescendo in the music, when the blast of sound will easily awaken anybody who has nodded off during the performance. There are many live performances, as well, which serve as a good reference for the reasons covered in this excellent video.

Freaky Studio:  splendid, you are so funny and educational, let's get rid of Spotify's ridiculous "standards" immediately!

Andrea Boi replies to Freaky Studio: ​@Audio Masterclass That's true, even -14LUFS is too high, especially for some genres, but way better than average music mastered at -7 or also at crazy levels of -2!! The unpleasant sound don't go away after the normalization because they are too compressed or clipped. Many music are bad even at background volume. As the Audio Engineers Society suggest, must be implemented a serious control on dynamics and not just a integrated value!

Audio Masterclass replies to Freaky Studio: It isn't really Spotify's fault. Their standard of -14 LUFS is, in my opinion too high, and I'd need to make another video on that. But the masters that are being sent to Spotify can be 6 dB louder than that. This is getting into the zone where audio will be unpleasant for most listeners. And when Spotify turns that down to -14, the unpleasantness doesn't go away. DM

Paul Mack:  I wish other YouTubers would use the camera the way you do for vlogging...the blurred background literally puts you right in my living room.I nearly offered you coffee once 😂👍

Audio Masterclass replies to Paul Mack: Sufficient coffee will lead to the continuation of pleasantly blurred backgrounds. DM

When Better Cars Are Built:  I have heard songs and artists that sound great on Youtube or TV and when I buy their CD, it HURTS to listen to them. The examples are legion. So now before I buy a CD I listen to it on Spotify first. Needless to say, I seldom by CDs anymore. Nor do I listen to them on Spotify after the first listen.

prutser67:  I owned over 2k CDs, quite a lot of them are popular music and I didn't like listening to them because of poor sound quality. Most of it caused by mastering and the loudness war. I sold most of them. I still buy CD and BluRay DVD, but only if the recordings are nice.
The labels under estimate the effects of bad mastering on the sales.
The loudness was originated from poor portables and poor car stereo, but nowadays both are quite decent. It only seems that the minds of the labels doesn't understand it. On the long term they are digging their own graves.

Andrea Boi replies to prutser67: I refuse to listen any average modern music on CDs and streaming for the same reason. Most music is mastered like crap, I don't blame audio engineers, usually not their fault, but labels for asking them these stupid loudness levels. Even if many engineers and artists are so used to this sound that cannot hear this crap. For a lot of albums I must to search the vinyl, usually is the best version with better mastering. The loudness is not the only problem, also lacking bass due to poor quality mainstream devices and stereo mix narrored without instruments separation, everything in the center like mono - maximizing mono compatibility. Fortunately there're amazing recording on SACD, old CDs and some labels making great recordings in DSD/DXD. There're even faboulous reel to reel copies.

David Sotomayor:  Technically in an ideal world nothing would be mastered (in terms of volume/dynamics) and the listener just uses their volume knob and their own comp/limiter if they want.

Douglas Blake replies to David Sotomayor: @David Sotomayor
I probably should have been more specific... "Noise" meant, environmental noise, such as a running vehicle, busy street, industrial noise, etc.

Trust me I'm completely aware of what modern recording equipment can do.

David Sotomayor replies to David Sotomayor: @Douglas Blake for modern digital recording noise isn't even an issue anymore; there's more than enough room there to make a recording that's loud enough to render the noise floor of both the recording itself and playback equipment inconsequential, while also retaining a respectable amount of dynamics.

Douglas Blake replies to David Sotomayor: Which is how it should be ... If compression is needed to overcome noise, do it at the playback end... DO NOT burn it right into the recording.

Audio Masterclass replies to David Sotomayor: This is the way things should be. DM

Digital Vinyls:  If anyone `s asking himself, what the hell this lady is doing at the end, as a Slavic, I must give you explanation. It`s has nothing in common with milking and cows. It`s for dried paprika grinding. You put paprika in it and hit it with a bat (preferably steel one), until it became powder. And you got yourself a good spice . Sometimes is even hot like chili.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Digital Vinyls: Wonderful how music helps us appreciate diverse cultures more than ever

Audio Masterclass replies to Digital Vinyls: Everyone over here thinks she's churning butter. Thank you for the enlightenment. DM

David Harper:  Certainly there must be some sort of limiter in the audio/broadcast chain, especially with the -23 lufs standard in place... I doubt very much that the music mixer is not using any compression on the main bus... And what about the vocal compression on the live sound? Again, I am sure there is plenty of that going on...

David Harper replies to David Harper: @Audio Masterclass I have the visual analysis done of the 2 Estonia tracks and will email the jpg... the Estonia track is really crushed...

David Harper replies to David Harper: @Audio Masterclass I will download both files on to my DAW and check the dynamics of both signals after setting them to same volume level... I will get back to you with the analysis...

Audio Masterclass replies to David Harper: Yes of course, I mentioned all of that. The broadcast audio, even so, is clearly different from Spotify. DM

David Harper:  Wow, did they crush the Estonia song on Spotify... It essentially brick wall limited the lead vocal at the top of the track sound level... Sounded like it was coming from a 2 inch speaker with no backing track...

Ships Ahoy:  😎Great video as usual DM 👍☕️

Ships Ahoy:  -23 LUFS makes a lot more sense for music that needs to have some dynamic range than -14 LUFS, which seems like just short of pushing limits in many cases, but -7 LUFS is just asking for trouble and unhappiness for the enlightened. It’s all kind of ironic with 16 bit audio capable of 80 dB DR fairly easily, and the best of vinyl probably barely reaching 50 dB a half century ago before digital supplanted it for
a spell. I don’t know if anybody even ever addressed the sweet spot for amplifier gain in our playback systems. I remember back in the day, I had a high compliance Shure cartridge, and I always felt the phono preamp gain was on the low side by about 6 dB.

tubeie07:  I worked in television through the period when 'Optimods' were installed when they laws changed for 'loudness' levels - us audio engineers had a nightmare scenario... The bosses would yell BRICKWALL IT from their offices on high!

Gatch replies to tubeie07: This must be regional, because I still experience this in the USA, even in streaming with commercials.

Ships Ahoy:  We still have the “ridiculous, stupid, crass” scenario on cable here in the US!😫

Audio Masterclass replies to Ships Ahoy: Oh dear. DM

Stephen Wise:  I wonder if we can ever create an AI that can "unmaster" a song.

Maids and Muses replies to Stephen Wise: It wouldn't surprise me at all if the music publishing industry would put an immediate legal injunction on that practice, and then lobby to have it banned 🙄. Or they would insist on royalties from that software, just like they managed to get a proceeds share from all blank cassette tape sales...

Audio Masterclass replies to Stephen Wise: Considering what AI has achieved already, it wouldn't surprise me. DM

Somebloke:  Twenty six !!! You sir must be a glutton for aural punishment. I live close enough to Liverpool to be concerned about it and was praying for a pandemic. I can't stand Eurovision. Not even bloody Abba. It's a festival of faux poovery. Most of the winning songs are in D by the way.

duncan rmi:  you really don't like mastering engineers, do you? 😂
time was they would just balance the individual tracks so that there is no jarring change in level or eq during the album, so that the monkeying around by the band's sequencing of same doesn't ruin anyone's listening pleasure, but now... they want the stems, the outboard.... come to the damn mixing session, then!

Gabriel Godwin replies to duncan rmi: It's a bit sad. While the advent of the LUFS measurement option is certainly a step in the right direction, it's still not perfect. You can game the system, especially when the LUFS Integrated value is all that most services are looking at. IMHO it would be better if there was more focus on the Short Term and Momentary values and then marry that back to the "old school" RMS values.
As many times as I have tried, it's always, "louder!, louder!"
I think a somewhat reasonable compromise would be -18 LUFS Integrated with a short term that somewhat mirrors a floating RMS value around -20 - -15. Pipe dreams.
I can't even imagine trying to deliver a master with an Integrated value of -23. The musicians themselves would be at my door with torches and pitchforks.

Audio Masterclass replies to duncan rmi: I don't like the current fashion of mastering. I don't think many mastering engineers like it much either. DM

Eurovision GOLD:  As my username suggests, I'm very much into Eurovision, and this year sounded outstanding. There were only a few backing tracks that sounded a bit muffled in comparison to others that really popped. I really loved the sound of Italy and France, but somehow Slovenia sounded a bit dull.

Darryl Douglas:  You are helping me out with my question. Do I need to master my mix? I do the gain staging, normalization, EQ, compression etc on each channel and then put a mastering EQ on the mains with a limiter that I just barely kiss the limit on and when I mix it down to an MP3 it sounds fine to my ears. The only time I’ve used my mastering section on Studio One is to make a CD. For the purpose of making the songs sound like they came from the same session and level them. I can’t see the point of mastering a single song when I’m going to use the exact same plugins that I use on the main buss. Mind you I’m a complete amateur and someone with a more refined ear might think it’s awful. But I’m not producing for them. 😃

Audio Masterclass replies to Darryl Douglas: In an ideal world the frequency balance of the mix would be good just through the EQs done in the channels. But there is usually room for improvement using an EQ in the master. Adding a mastering limiter after that is fine in the way you describe that you're using it. I'd say stick with that until you're really comfortable with mixing. DM

Fastvoice:  The Song Contest playbacks were of cause all mastered - and the live voices were processed too. Plus: In the signal chain of TV audio you also have a load of processing going on - including compression. Ever wondered why some TV stations in Europe are louder than others? Same is (even more so) with radio stations. That's of course also some kind of "mastering". How come you thought otherwise?

Audio Masterclass replies to Fastvoice: @Fastvoice We are not getting anywhere with this. I mentioned mastering of the backing tracks in the video. Other than that we have different views on what mastering is. I'm not going to change my view so I suggest we agree to differ and go our separate ways. DM

Fastvoice replies to Fastvoice: @Audio Masterclass Yes, that's why I wrote that the playbacks were mastered beforehand - to the likes of the labels/producers and of course not in real time. And nowadays you also have the tools to compress, saturate und multiband EQ the tracks in real time with only minor latency - not much different than a traditional mastering process.

Audio Masterclass replies to Fastvoice: Mastering to me, and I think to most people, is where a finished mix is sent to a mastering engineer who will spend time in their own studio with their own equipment improving the sound or meeting the label's requirements. Mastering is not a real time process and not something that happens in live audio. If you watch the video again, I said that there may be some processing of the entire mix, but it is not mastering in the sense that most people understand it. DM

musicman3569:  The sad thing is that for most pop/rock, even -14 LUFS would be a huge improvement if people would actually do it. I have many mixes that target this and it is low enough that only a few peaks just barely hit the limiter in the loudest sections, and under these conditions the limiter is able to properly do its job at being virtually transparent. So I don't really feel like I'm "losing" anything for most popular genres (classical needs more, but they don't typically have this problem anyway), it generally sounds gloriously dynamic. It is usually low enough I don't even have to think about the final limiting and I can just work towards "the sound", which is how it should be (although -16 is even better and usually leaves things free and clear). I was hopeful that these -14/-16 LUFS standards in streaming services would start to correct the problem since it takes away the "perceived advantage", but sadly it seems like mastering engineers (or the people dictating terms to them) just ignore it and go right on targeting ridiculous levels anyway (which then get normalized down by the service regardless)! However, in a number of smaller and more independent artists (like the mixes I have done) I do find some real gems though, so maybe there is still hope. Cheers! Love the discussion.

Andrea Boi replies to musicman3569: @Nick Wallette That's why I don't listen any music from modern average CDs and streaming. I can help you to find better versions, because I've the same problem. I cannot stand the average music today, so I built my own music server with the best as possible versions, sometimes really hard to find. Let's say for example: the album of Michael Jackson Thriller on MOFI SACD, sounds similar to the multitracks version you find on web but with a lot better dynamics. The old SACD version was too loud(some tracks was reaching many peaks at +3dB!! The max volume for the DSD). That's a pity music is ruined by compression and clipping.

Andrea Boi replies to musicman3569: That's true, unfortunately too much people including musicians and producers, they think streaming standards only mean the level where Spotify for example, normalize the song, that's wrong. These standards are here for a reason, to lower the stupid loudness levels. If the music was mastered at least at 14LUFS with dynamics... but not, often they trying to bypass the normalization with tricks or not care at all and leave the sound as is.

Big Babatunde replies to musicman3569: Nevermind music, adverts on TV need a severe limiter. It's criminal what advertisers and broadcasters have been getting away with over the years.

Nick Wallette replies to musicman3569: I've been downloading multitracks from places on the Internet (e.g., "Produce Like a Pro") and mixing them myself. It is amazing to me how much more I enjoy new music when it's mixed in a way I can stand to listen to. I really really wish there were a market for buying popular music as source tracks. There are so many songs that I like, and just can't stand the sound of, so I never listen to them. What a waste.

Luka The Satanic Gamecat:  So that's why I had to turn up my media center volume ridiculously high when we watched Eurovision?

Audio Masterclass replies to Luka The Satanic Gamecat: Yes, but I'd say you're turning it ridiculously low when you're listening to anything else. DM

phonatic:  Great examples and so true. Loudness war is like cancer to music. Unfortunately I can name a plethora bad mixing examples in jazz and even some in the classical genre.
Very often, the label indeed appears to be the origin but I have also encountered many independent releases on bandcamp as well (Mammal Hands: Gift from the Trees; London Brew). In jazz, all releases by the contemporary label "Smoke Sessions" are brickwalled as well as most ones released by "ACT" too.

One example for bad classical mixing: "amore e morte dell'amore", all by way back from 2013 by the French label naïve. I have the CD and it matches exactly the lossless streaming from Amazon Music. Just sad.

Audio Masterclass replies to phonatic: I'll look up some of your examples and take a listen for myself. DM

Héctor Torres:  If companies want money they have an opportunity with audiophiles and enthusiasts by releasing FDR versions of the albums as, let's say, limited editions or something. By the way if you like metal, check the FDR series of earache records. And also check the Metallica's death magnetic guitar hero project. Greetings

Audio Masterclass replies to Héctor Torres: Here's a link for anyone who is interested, and you should be interested... DM

Benjamin Edwards:  You can't have loud without soft.

Rod Salka:  I noticed that he doesn't have the dogs playing poker painting in his room -what gives?

Audio Masterclass replies to Rod Salka: @Darryl Douglas Correct you win a silver star. Now for the gold star..? DM

Darryl Douglas replies to Rod Salka: @Audio Masterclass Is that American Gothic on the left?😃

Audio Masterclass replies to Rod Salka: That's not going to happen. Did you recognise the art though? DM

Thomas Shea:  Terrific video ------ so well done.

José Trigueiro:  Sir, in the link with the songs to listen to, you identified Portugal as Poland.

For the rest, 5 stars! I hope younger people, including my kids, watch this video, so they start to understand how recording nowadays is killing music.

Let's Play Skyrim LE replies to José Trigueiro: @Editing SECRETS revealed! 😄

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to José Trigueiro: The original video was right, but mastering for Youtube only had headroom for seven letters with distortion

Audio Masterclass replies to José Trigueiro: All those P's getting me confused. I'll see what I can do to fix it. DM

Douglas Blake:  Long standing observation .... Most audio engineers are probably better suited to driving trains.

Sadly this brickwalled loudness thing is also starting to creep into movies, too. Where my normalization software used to bump movies down by 1 or 2 db it's now running 6 an 8 .... The idiotic loudness war is far from over.

Mike Wilson:  In the distant past I heard it suggested the best source for high quality audio is an FM radio live broadcast from BBC. I wonder if this is still the case.

Joe Smith replies to Mike Wilson: @MrAdopado Actually it was the same in US, at some point (not sure why) but FM became the new AM. When I was a kid in the 80s FM was where pop music and the top station was where as AM became mostly News and live sport broadcasting. It’s actually an interesting story behind it but I’m not sure why it changed. I miss traditional radio though. Obviously it’s nostalgic for most of us who grew up on it. I still remember getting my cassette player set to “rec, play & pause” when a DJ would debut a new song or record from your favorite band or artists. Ah, those were the days haha

MrAdopado replies to Mike Wilson: @Joe Smith I believe AM radio remained popular for pop music in the USA for longer than in the UK. The available dynamic range for AM would be particularly limited so dynamic compression would be a necessary thing rather than a choice.

Joe Smith replies to Mike Wilson: Not sure of the BBC but not necessarily in the US as radio stations did compress hit singles. In this situation it made more sense since if you were scrolling through radio stations you’d often did land on the one that came in the loudest.

Fastvoice replies to Mike Wilson: @Audio Masterclass Yep, I was just answering the thread starter.

Audio Masterclass replies to Mike Wilson: @Fastvoice Just to be precise here for anyone reading, I did not suggest that multiband compression is new. DM

Joel Carson:  I recently ran across a Frank Zappa interview video where he was promoting his book and said it had "Large type and pictures" which were perfect for our "post literacy society". I think we are post a whole lot of other things these days.

deebeenine:  Is there actually any proof that loud and distorted mastering improves sales? I bought Nelly Furtados "Say It Right" a few years ago on iTunes and got a refund after I complained about the distorted bass that sounds like cracking bones.

Douglas Blake replies to deebeenine: The only way to test that is to release normal and loud versions of a bunch of songs and see which ones do the best...

Glade Swope:  If the commercial release was over-processed to oblivion, the un-mastered source is probably desirable. As long as you're not trying to play it on a lousy portable device. As for broadcast standards, I could swear that many cable TV stations are loudness-warring the commercials and turning down the movies!

Fastvoice replies to Glade Swope: @Glade Swope We have no FCC here, but the Euro rule "EBU R128" has similar numbers. Nevertheless there is still a loudness difference on many channels - mostly the (private) ones which are not EBU members.

Glade Swope replies to Glade Swope: @Fastvoice Yet since the FCC says the broadcast signal can't be too loud, that's defeating the purpose of the regulation.

Fastvoice replies to Glade Swope: That's the advertisement producers and not the channel itself. Movies have much more dynamics in general so they seem to be less loud - even when the peak level is the same.

Paul Townsend:  Very informative. Although, I wasn't previously aware that the the Eurovision S. C. featured any kind of music...

Andrew Brazier replies to Paul Townsend: 🙃 🎶

Oily Way:  And this is why the BBC audio from Glastonbury is always so good.

David Harper replies to Oily Way: I've heard many recent "broadcasts" from these types of venues and almost all of them are mixed with a brick wall limiter at the end of the mix chain as has been the case for many years... Check any recent Gorillaz concerts and you will see and hear the limiting...

George Webster:  i LOVE YOUR CONTENT. Seriously you are the Paul McCartney of Youtube. Keep it up.

I STAN Kim Jong-Un but Can't STAND Trump replies to George Webster: @Classical LP Vault Well he still sounds good.....

Eddie replies to George Webster: @Classical LP Vault lol people still think it?

George Webster replies to George Webster: @Classical LP Vault um Faul(fake paul) died in 1990 in a furby accident and was replaced by Ant Man's Paul Rudd in makeup wake up sheeple.

Classical LP Vault replies to George Webster: At least this man is real, while Paul McCartney has been replaced by an imposter since he was killed in a car crash right before the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club

Mark Furst:  “Can we have everything louder than everything else”
Talkback on Made in Japan

Audio Masterclass replies to Mark Furst: I've had the experience on a number of occasions of playing live on stage with the monitoring at an enormous sound level, yet can't hear anything. DM

Emmanuel Gutierrez:  Some commercials are loud In Spotify US, like Disney, Ford...

Audio Masterclass replies to Emmanuel Gutierrez: This is a good point. It's a few years since I used the free version of Spotify with ads. Listening to classical music was very pleasant... until the commercial break. Ouch. DM

Douglas Macgregor:  I have started to use Audacity to digitize my old cassettes of school band and early military band performances. There is a feature called normalize before the end. You're right about the comparison. The Spotify version is stupidly saturated!

Audio Masterclass replies to Douglas Macgregor: @Douglas Macgregor Then no compression or limiting then. Normalisation is OK. DM

Douglas Macgregor replies to Douglas Macgregor: @Fastvoice  I am copying recordings of high school and military concert bands. What this means is that I want no compression of dynamic contrast. I want the recordings to capture the correct dynamic of the ensemble.

Audio Masterclass replies to Douglas Macgregor: If after normalisation you want to increase the subjective level, then you will need compression or a mastering limiter to achieve that. DM

Audio Masterclass replies to Douglas Macgregor: @Fastvoice Sample peak normalisation does not cause compression. This is correct.

Douglas Macgregor replies to Douglas Macgregor: @Fastvoice  My goal is to capture the recording a bit under and then normalize up. My last tape was recorded hot. My father, God, rest his soul may have set the level with the beginning band. That made my high school band a bit loud.

EgoShredder:  Good video and I checked out the clips on your site.......... 😳😢 We definitely need a version for music of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). So RS-PCM and the Committee of Waveforms 😂😁

Zara Kahler:  For anyone interested in audio production (or just audio), the book ‘Mastering Audio the art and the science’ by Bob Katz is highly recommended

Michael Lenz:  Eurovision has zero connections to the real art.

James Collins:  Having not yet watched the video, it wouldn't surprise me if some of these sound better before mastering then after with how awful mastering techniques have become in the last 20+ years.

Armando Camorra:  I just put that song in my car in my garage and with the engine not engage and I find delightful the video in youtube live performance and the version of the same song in YouTubemusic is disgusting at the same volumen knob a lot of distorsión.

Armando Camorra replies to Armando Camorra: YouTube music is the same and the worst of all is that I pay for that crap

Lachlan Lacey:  Fascinating. Out of interest, I thought a few songs in the two semi-finals started off with vocals too low. Not a problem in the finals though.
Also, Australia was robbed I tell you. Robbed! 😂

Audio Masterclass replies to Lachlan Lacey: So was Germany. UK should have come last. DM

Armando Camorra:  I Just go to listen to your examples and I find the true . Spotify sound like crap.

Audio Masterclass replies to Armando Camorra: I cannot disagree. DM

Martin Maynard:  Mastering is a load of twaddle left over from the era of disk cutting when the likes of George Peckham would maximise levels without the needle jumping. These days it's down to the sound engineer and producer to mix for the media it is to be played on. Far better to tweak the bass drum or lift the vocals a bit when you have access to the individual tracks. As a mastering engineer I do tweak levels and maybe add some compression when compiling tracks for a CD from different sources. However the idea that the mastering engineer can do a better job than the original mix is wrong. Rant over

Andrew Brazier replies to Martin Maynard: 🎶 I assume that's how " Now Music" level the loudness on their pop compilations.
I must confess to owning a collection of new Yearbooks 🎶 cds. A cheap & convenient way of collecting lots of hit singles from chosen years as I don't stream playlists 👍

musicman3569 replies to Martin Maynard: That's a really good point -- mastering was critical back when media such as vinyl and tape had very specific needs that involved adjusting and compensating for analog playback factors. In digital, the media itself contributes nothing to the sound, so it all comes down to having the mix right in the first place. And if you're a smart mixer you should be checking it on different playback systems and getting extra opinions anyway. Good food for thought.

Albie Palbie:  Thankyou for that great insight
Eurovision was brilliant
Lots of vocal pyrotechnics
Have to say that most of the Eurovision music is not to my taste - but love the event

Peter Jongeneel replies to Albie Palbie: Oh yes !

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Monday May 15, 2023

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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