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  1. #1
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    Artists and quality...

    This was brought up briefly in another thread, and I thought it might be interesting to expand on it. You know how some artists' releases are consistently well recorded and sound so good compared to most regular CDs, while other artists are not so consistent or caring about the recorded sound. For instance, consider your CD collection and try to remember the ones that really stand out. I'm talking about plain old CDs, no SACD or other, like you know, you're looking through them and you come across one that you remember just sounds better than alot of others, well are this artists' all that good or was it an accident or something?, and of course who is it. I hope I'm not making this overly complicated, I just don't quite know how to word it. Like with mine, (whether you like them or not) I notice that all my Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits albums all sound much better than say all my U2 albums.

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    Compression

    Quote Originally Posted by J*E*Cole
    This was brought up briefly in another thread, and I thought it might be interesting to expand on it. You know how some artists' releases are consistently well recorded and sound so good compared to most regular CDs, while other artists are not so consistent or caring about the recorded sound. For instance, consider your CD collection and try to remember the ones that really stand out. I'm talking about plain old CDs, no SACD or other, like you know, you're looking through them and you come across one that you remember just sounds better than alot of others, well are this artists' all that good or was it an accident or something?, and of course who is it. I hope I'm not making this overly complicated, I just don't quite know how to word it. Like with mine, (whether you like them or not) I notice that all my Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits albums all sound much better than say all my U2 albums.
    Most mainstrem recordings are overly compressed to get loud radio play for one. The other reasons I still can't figure out. Take Santana's Supernatural, great disk of tunes but when you turn it up it starts to hurt your ears. Most Jazz recordings are not done this way. GRP label is a good example of fine recordings. Some classical labels like Pope are good. Get ahold of any Chesky recording...tops. For some reason rock artists just don't care or have no controll over their own recordings. Maybe they can't hear the difference....shame.

    With a good recording, the more you turn it up, the better it sounds while with most rock/pop recordings the louder you play it the more you want to take it off.

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    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    Speaking of Chesky...the last 2 David Johansen and the Harry Smiths CDs are 2 of the best I've come across in terms of a combination of sonics and performance. They're mostly covers of old 30s/40s blues tunes done acoustically. David Johansen's voice fits them very well and the band is top notch. I remember reading an article with an interview where Johansen said he was shocked that it was even possible to make recordings the way he was able to work with Chesky, with lots of old tube equipment and a close control over sound quality. It was a totally new concept to a guy that has spent decades in the music business.

    I would be interested in just how much artists really have to say about sound quality, and would be willing to bet that in the vast majority of cases, they don't really have much to do with it. Most bands are just happy to get signed and get some PR push. What happens to the record after the rough studio version likely doesn't really get to be their call in most cases. Maybe a band with some pull and a good sales track record can make some demands in their contract, or you get the occasional small label that is willing to let an artist get more involved or just thinks about sound quality differently. Then, there are little local bands that have a lot more control, although limited by budget. Still, I'd be pretty shocked if the nmajority of big label bands have any choice in the matter at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nobody
    Speaking of Chesky...
    A few years back there was an advertisement for the Chesky 10th Anniversary 2 CD set. It was ten bucks shipped. One disk classical and one jazz & world music. Lots of print about how they recorded. Mostly 2 Omni stereo mics overhead. There is one track of Livingston Taylor singing "Grandmas Hands" wth just foot taps and finger snaps. So real and lifelike.

    Also the old Stereophile Test CDs have some good recordings. Ave Maria violyn in a Cathedral.....makes ya want to cry.

    Also an Annie Haslam disk she produced on her own label "One Enchanted Evening" recorded live in a church nearby.

    Sure makes ya wonder

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    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    I think a lot of it comes down to how a particular album is presumed to get played back by consumers. Pop albums generally (assumed to) get played through mini systems, computer speakers, headsets, and car audio systems, rather than through higher resolution home audio systems. That's how the recordings and mastering get optimized. Right now, the near field monitor of choice is the Mackie monitor. For most of the late-80s through late-90s, the Yamaha near field monitors became popular, and in the 70s, JBL dominated. The Yamaha was chosen because recordings optimized through those monitors sounded great on car audio and compact systems. That's why so many pop albums from the last decade sounded better on computer speakers than at home. Similarly, the popularity of the JBL studio monitors meant that a lot of 70s rock music sounded their best when played through the big "west coast" speakers of that era.

    Back when LPs were popular, a lot of them would get tweaked to sound their best on vinyl. That's why the CD versions often sounded horrible by comparison.

    With my best sounding CDs and LPs, it's generally the direct-to-two-track recordings. There's just no substitute for a studio performance that was mic'd properly and channel balanced such that no further mixing and processing was needed. Of course, the manner in which pop recordings get assembled, that type of recording will not work.

    Plus, a lot of artists don't aim for a sound that sounds "live" in your living room. Sometimes they want something that sounds murkier, other times they want something more expansive sounding, other times they want more spatial activity that cannot be done with a live performance.

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    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I highly recommend Porcupine Tree CD's for some real first class spacy prog rock recordings done right! I'm constantly amazed at Steve Wilson's commitment to sound quality on these albums...the music is excellent too...Proof positive that hard rock CAN sound great on CD.

    Gov't Mule seems to do a good job on their stuff as well.

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    Speaking of Porcupine Tree

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I highly recommend Porcupine Tree CD's for some real first class spacy prog rock recordings done right! I'm constantly amazed at Steve Wilson's commitment to sound quality on these albums...the music is excellent too...Proof positive that hard rock CAN sound great on CD.

    Gov't Mule seems to do a good job on their stuff as well.
    A month ago I got this DVD-A disc that came along with my monthly Stereophile magazine that was actually an elaborate product advertisement for B&W loudspeakers, but it had quite a few well done songs on it by various artists and even a Peter Gabriel video of a live performance of "In Your Eyes." One of the tracks was of Porcupine Tree's "Blackest Eyes" which is a fairly heavy rock song done very, very well. I was so impressed I went out and bought their newest release "Deadwing" and so far it's sounding pretty good. BTW I think Tool and A Perfect Circle do pretty good when it comes to sound as well, and they are both pretty hard too. I wonder if the common thread of Maynard Keenan has anything to do with this?

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    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Peter Gabriel goes to an insane amount of effort on the fidelity of his albums.

    Einsturzende Neubauten are never over-compressed. The early ones might be low-fi, but IMHO they developed some very good habits early on, and it shows in their later recordings.

    Anything produced by Steve Albini is usually good.
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    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J*E*Cole
    A month ago I got this DVD-A disc that came along with my monthly Stereophile magazine that was actually an elaborate product advertisement for B&W loudspeakers, but it had quite a few well done songs on it by various artists and even a Peter Gabriel video of a live performance of "In Your Eyes." One of the tracks was of Porcupine Tree's "Blackest Eyes" which is a fairly heavy rock song done very, very well. I was so impressed I went out and bought their newest release "Deadwing" and so far it's sounding pretty good. BTW I think Tool and A Perfect Circle do pretty good when it comes to sound as well, and they are both pretty hard too. I wonder if the common thread of Maynard Keenan has anything to do with this?
    Man unless I'm mistaken, that last PT album might not be up to the same level of the previous efforts. Pretty sure I've seen a frequency analysis showing all kinds of clipping present. Given that I was under the same impression as you regarding the SQ of their work, I was taken by surprise.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

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    Most of the stuff that comes out on audiophile labels Telarc, Narada, Chesky etc is guaranteed to sound pretty good but good material is a bit thin on the ground hence why the artist is not recording on a major label.

    There are a few in my collection who come to mind who would classify as mainstream artists who record on major labels and have continually turned out decent recorded stuff although in most cases you would be stretching it to call it audiophile. And in most cases it seems before the artist really hits the big time is when they sound best, once they start to get major airtime the quality starts to go, I can't think of many who have remained consistent throughout.

    Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler, Steely Dan and Pink Floyd are obvious contenders, definitely the further back you go in their catalogues the better they sound IMO.

    Ben Harper seems pretty consistent with his output

    Massive Attack would be high on my list

    Porcupine Tree or Steve Wilson turn out some impressive stuff but the latest is a really in yer face recording in parts, earlier albums are much better for sound quality

    Bob Marley's catalogue sounds good to my ears and his later albums like Exodus, Kaya etc really shine.

    Ryan Adams works well with Ethan John son of Glynn John and can be relied upon.

    Roxy Music their early albums in the remastered format sound fantastic but later ones with the exception of Avalon don't sound brilliant.

    Blue Nile would rank high on my list but then what is it 4 albums in 20 years they should lavish a bit of care on their output

    Sting like him or loathe him his recording quality is consistent

    Thievery Corporation just about all their albums are top notch

    Beck always seems to come up with the goods although I've not heard his latest yet

    Bands who do use quite a bit of compression with their albums but it suits their needs and still sounds good IMO are Grandaddy, Gomez, Super Furry Animals and Eels

    Then there's a clutch of female artists who you can guarantee will sound good Joan Armatrading, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sarah Machlachlan, Heather Nova and Fiona Apple spring to mind.

    That's all I can think of right now
    Cheers
    Mike

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    Just thought of a few more...

    Bands who use compression but to good effect IMO are

    Radiohead, it suits their sound especially their work with producer Nigel Godrich

    Wilco, decent quality recordings

    Blue Rodeo are pretty consistent

    Pinback, I really enjoy their layered sound

    and solo artists like Peter Gabriel (although his last wasn't too good in my books) and Paul Weller and Greg Brown are pretty good.

    You mentioned U2 and I think you are right they haven't had a decent sounding disc for a while. Queen who would be another band for me who were never recorded well.

    Cheers
    Mike

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    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Man unless I'm mistaken, that last PT album might not be up to the same level of the previous efforts. Pretty sure I've seen a frequency analysis showing all kinds of clipping present. Given that I was under the same impression as you regarding the SQ of their work, I was taken by surprise.

    jc
    Could very well be Jim, I've only given Deadwing a few spins...sounded pretty good, the soundstage and imaging are as excellent as ever. Where on earth would a guy find frequency analysis of albums? Is there a database or something somehwere? That'd be neat to see.
    Have to keep in mind though that clipping might not be desireable, but it isn't always audible either, we'd have to see the magnitude at which it occurs. It's not like amplified music and distortion don't get along...

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    Lyle Lovett's stuff always seems to be recorded well. The Air stuff always sounds good. White Stripes make a solid effort to make sure the recording reflects what they want by having a lot of control over the process, although sometimes what they want is decidedly lo-fi. Agree on Thievery Corporation and Beck.

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    very clever with maracas Davey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike
    Bands who use compression but to good effect IMO are

    Radiohead, it suits their sound especially their work with producer Nigel Godrich
    Yeah, I don't know. I like the earlier Godrich sound, even though I still think there was too much compression and reverb. But he did manage to get a nice liquidy analog sound with it, maybe up until that last Pavement album, and even on Kid A. No dynamics, but still very nice sound. Lately he seems to have really gone overboard, though. Just feels too dark and closed in. I guess a lot of people liked that sound on Sea Change, but I didn't really care for it. I don't think he had much to do with the latest Beck album, but it sounds pretty crappy. Loud as can be. Haven't listened to it much though. Does have some fun songs, but it's also got a lot of that deja vu feel to it. Guess I'm just not a big enough fan to wanna hear over and over what sound kind of like Odelay b-sides to me. But like I said, it does have a lot of fun moments throughout.

  15. #15
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Could very well be Jim, I've only given Deadwing a few spins...sounded pretty good, the soundstage and imaging are as excellent as ever. Where on earth would a guy find frequency analysis of albums? Is there a database or something somehwere? That'd be neat to see.
    Have to keep in mind though that clipping might not be desireable, but it isn't always audible either, we'd have to see the magnitude at which it occurs. It's not like amplified music and distortion don't get along...
    No, it wasn't a frequency analysis, it was a screenshot of the waveform in some editor, with the relevant clipping points pointed out.

    I'll have to listen to it again, I don't remember it being that bad, but then again, that Rush disc took me a few listens before I realized just how crappy it was.
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