back to article Master Beats: Why doesn't audio quality matter these days?

Returning from a school trip to New York, my son handed back most of the $350 spending money we’d given him. Yes, I too thought it was a lot of dosh for a four-day tour but then I have no experience in the matter. When I was a kid, a school trip involved walking up to the pond to catch tadpoles for biology class, not …

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Anonymous Coward

Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

You know something's gone very wrong when consumer headphones cost considerably more than the professional ones used to master the music in the first place...

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

Not sure that anyone would master on headphones though.........

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

Not exclusively, no - but the point is still valid...

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Stop

Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

If people are mastering solely in headphones then it's no wonder the output sounds awful. You need full range speakers, an accoustically-treated listening environment and experience to be a mastering engineer.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

And then somebody else to turn the loudness up to 11

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Meh

Actually...

If you want to do the job properly, yes you do master on headphones, and proper studio monitors, and triple check on the car stereo - which often gives surprising results.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

Joe Meek used to master on speakers nicked from cheap record players and transistor radios, because that was what he knew people probably would be listening to the finished result on.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

For the morons that buy them, it makes no difference - they are the idiots who allow the record companies to distribute music tracks as low quality mp3's while conning the public that their quality is as good as CD or vinyl. Mp3's = limited audio spectrum for for people who know no better. So those people would rather spend hundreds on a Jamborie Bag toy with a designer badge than buy quality. They buy Apple and BMW for the same reason.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

>Joe Meek used to master on speakers nicked from cheap record players and transistor radios, because that was

what he knew people probably would be listening to the finished result on.

I believe that was common practice in American studios in the 1950s, according to a radio documentary I heard.

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Windows

Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

BDs usually used for tracking, so the singer can hear the rhythm/melody without leakage into microphone. Grot boxes used to check low bass and roll off the fundamental a bit compared to the higher harmonics to avoid damage to domestic speakers.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

When mastering I do one master for the CD and a different master for the MP3 version.

That way both can be optimised for their target market. I thought everybody did this.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

Cretin.

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Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

Master Beats

See?

Culture, it's that simple.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Beats vs. BeyerDynamic

+1 for BeyerDynamic!

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Anonymous Coward

Kiss FM?

It could be worse. At the hospital I work at, we have Heart FM played day in, day out. I think it's actually beneficial to our patient recovery rates - patients get better quickly so they don't have to listen "Lady Attenbellum - I Need You Now" for the 400th soul-destroying time in a week.

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Re: Kiss FM?

oh my don't get me started on Heart FM's promise of 'More Music Variety'.

I can't imagine that they know what that means since they only seem to have a selection of 30 tracks at any one time to choose from.

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Re: Kiss FM?

Welcome to the future.

Ever listened to US-based 'hit' music radio?

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Re: Kiss FM?

To be fair there are a few flavors of 'hit' music radio. There is 'hip' rock radio aimed at the urban population and then there is 'hick' rock radio for the rural commuters. Of course that gets mixed up with the monthly 'top 20 (or whatever lasts the better part of an hour)' with the expected weekly or bimonthly refresh. The weekly ones tend to bias more on the 'top 10' side of "dear FSM a_F'ing_gain" and the bimonthly refreshes have you to the point of suicide when you get about 8 fresh singles you haven't become totally nauseous over. Then again that's why I praise Bongo the super cat that my car reads 64 GB USB flash drives.

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IT Angle

Re: Kiss FM?

Heart FM = Radio Goodies, with a very slightly longer play list.

".. we don't have that one, but we DO have 'A Walk In The Black Forest'..."

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Mushroom

MOTORHEADPHONES!!!

FTMFW!

- talks the talk

- walks the walk

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Re: MOTORHEADPHONES!!!

Agreed.

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Of course, it really started with the lousy quality of MP3 many years ago. You can't compress files and expect to produce serious audio quality.

Mr Beats (or whatever he's called) is just tapping into a generation that has never experienced the "real thing".

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WTF?

FLAC

Of course you can - you just need to not do lossy compression.

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Anonymous Coward

There is also the issue that much of the music released since MP3 came around is rarely worth listening to, so the audio quality hardly matters.

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Flame

I know, right? Kids today, with their terrible music, appalling taste in clothing, disrespect for their elders, etc. Back in my day, we had universally fantastic music like 2 Live Crew, 'N Sync, Kylie Minogue, and all the other greats of the era. Truly, those days will never come again!

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Joke

"I know, right? Kids today, with their terrible music, appalling taste in clothing, ..."

Hi Dad!! <waves>

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WTF?

I don't have a problem with mp3

if they're encoded at a decent bitrate (>= 256 kbps).

I'm 46, so I know my hearing probably isn't quite what it was in my yoof, but aside from a bit of tinnitus in a silent room I can hear even quiet sounds distinctly enough, and a hearing test last year put my frequency range on the order of 17 Hz - 18.2 kHz. Not much wrong with my ears mate.

Despite this, I honestly cannot hear any difference between a CD, a FLAC and a 256 kbps mp3 on my stereo system*. So anything higher (e.g. 320 kbps) is simply a waste of space. I can hear some high-end aliasing noise in 128 kbps mp3s, especially if the piece is classical or movie soundtrack instrumental, and I can just about pick it with a 192 kbps mp3. So I encode classical and instrumental music at 320 kbps just to be sure, and rock and pop at 256, and it all sounds sweet to me.

So unless you FLAC afficionados have ears like fruit bats, I just don't get this "mp3 sounds lousy" thing. Yes, a 32, 64 or 96 kbps mp3 sounds like shit (96 is the bottom end of tolerability if there's no other alternative), but anything 256 or over is indistinguishable from uncompressed to my ears.

*Technics SU-Z780 Class A amp circa 1986, 80W rms per channel, still sounds as sweet as the day I got it, and 2 custom built 140W rms speaker boxes of same vintage with two 16" woofers, 4 midrange drivers, 2 tweeters, 1 piezo super-tweeter and bass reflex duct per box, connected with oxygen-free copper monster cable.

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Alert

@Stephen Roper Re: I don't have a problem with mp3

Careful mate, that's the sort of sense-talking that gets the FLACshionistas all in a froth.

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Happy

Re: @Stephen Roper I don't have a problem with mp3

On my last system (JVC about the same class as your Technics) I would agree with you. When I upgraded to a Cyrus system with B&W CM9 speakers I heard the difference immediately (to the point where I assumed something was wired up wrong!). Only when I put a CD on did I realise it was the 320kbps MP3s that sounded awful, and not the speakers!

That was the point where I re-encoded all of my CD's. I now use the MP3 player for background music and the FLAC file (or just the CD's) for when I want to actually listen to something.

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Re: @Stephen Roper I don't have a problem with mp3

I spent 15 years in signals having my ears killed by PRC352s and PRC320s. 128k mp3s are just fine and dandy.

The kids moan though.

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Re: @Stephen Roper I don't have a problem with mp3

@ Stacy: you're doing well then, cos my system easily outclasses yours (not bragging or anything, just saying it to make the point) and I can't tell the difference between 320kbps mp3 and normal CDs.

SACD, yes, but not CD.

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Re: I don't have a problem with mp3

I don't have a problem with MP3, full stop. But that's because I care about content, not fidelity or audio quality. If it's recognizable, that's good enough for me. (And sorry, Alistair, but you're wrong about what "anyone would choose to play audio that mattered to them". Your way is not the only way in which audio can matter.)

Of course, I also think color was only a minor improvement in TV picture technology, and I have no use whatsoever for HD. I realize many consumers do value audio and picture quality, and that's fine; but it'd be nice if they realize not everyone does, and stopped belittling those for whom mobile-phone sound, or whatever, is perfectly suitable for their needs.

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Pint

Re: I don't have a problem with mp3

You don't need better hifi. You need new ears. Or someone to teach you to use yours properly. And I'm not kidding either. But enjoy all the same :D

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Happy

Re: @Stephen Roper I don't have a problem with mp3

There is no such thing as an 80WPC class A amp from technics or JVC. I knos they used the moniker on the faceplate, but that was a swindle, they were AB class at best, with something like class A up to 5 Watts and then switching to class B. I think Technics used the term AA-class, which was, technically, codswollop.

But enough pedantism for one day, enjoy your weekend

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MJI
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Re: @Stephen Roper I don't have a problem with mp3

I find the type of music tends to expose compression.

My kit is mid range, I use a DVD player as a CD player, it also plays SACD and DVD-Audio. Through a decent mid range AV receiver and a set of HiFi speakers.

I also have a Minidisc recorder.

CD isn't perfect, DVD-A and SACD, do sound better, I can just tell the difference between MD and CD.

I have some MP3 CDs in the car, 128 dreadful, 192 OK, haven't tried higher in the car.

But I find the worse the source the more is lost, you can't really hear it but feel it.

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Angel

@Tom Maddox

... 'N Sync, Kylie Minogue, ... those days will never come again!...

Thank God for that!

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Audiophile....

It says a lot when you get people in mobile phone forums saying oh i'm an audiophile while listening to music on a phone consisting of audio processing to the sum total of a few $ at best while plugging in their in ear headphones. Or if they think they're really going overboard some cheap USB DAC.

Expectations seem to have dropped considerably, the only plus side seems to be that less people are now satisfied with truly awful bargain basement headphones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Audiophile....

Audiophile - isn't that the PC way of saying "I'm an incredibly dull overpaid bore who listens to rubbish music"

or more commonly "My stereo is bigger and more expensive than yours"

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Meh

Re: Audiophile....

Not all music lovers were created equal.

There are people out there that spend a huge amount of money on Hi Fi because they like listening to music in as much glory as they can afford. You won't know to label them audiophiles as much like other solo pass times, they don't feel the need to discuss it or compare equipment.

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Re: I'm less convinced than I sound that all DACs are created equal

Heheh, yeah, I don't think you'd need to be a professional to hear the differences - you can hear the difference a mile off even between professional converters - this is mostly due to the manufacturers being idiots with their AA-filters, though. If you're interested in this topic, Dan Lavry has some outstanding white papers on the subject. http://www.lavryengineering.com/lavry-white-papers/

Interestingly, by far the most blatant of this i've ever seen was on the old Sound Blaster Live series of soundcards by Creative - they were one of the first generation of mutli-IO computer based soundcards. They used different converters for the front L/R and surround L/R outputs. Plug your speakers into the front ones, and play a song - the sound was OK. Plug them into the surround output instead, and set that as your main output in Windows.... And it sounded STUNNING - like someone removed a blanket from over your head!

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Holmes

Re: I'm less convinced than I sound that all DACs are created equal

I always found that the fastest way to distinguish an 'audiophile' from someone who just loves listening to great music reproduction is to look at the speakers - do they have Monster Cables™ plugged into them? - 'Audiophile'

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Meh

Re: I'm less convinced than I sound that all DACs are created equal

What I love seeing is folks on Audiophile websites waxing lyrical over these small fag lighter sized USB DACs containing about £12 worth of parts but retails for £400+!

That and the amusing trend to try to apply old fashioned hi-fi voodoo to bog standard PC kit.

Oh and that £200 a meter hifi cable was probably originally specced to go in CAT scanners or a 747 via a smelting factory in China for 0.02cents a meter. Virtually none of those hi-fi cable firms have their own metallurgists/smelting/cable making plants. They all buy it in for next to nothing from Poland or China and rebadge it. You run out on the spool and can't find anymore? So you just find the closest match and call it Superduper Audio Cable Mk2!

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Monster? audiophool. 12-gauge speaker wires: audiophile

stunning physics fact: copper is copper, is 98% of the conductivity of pure silver. why not buy it at 1000 feet for $67.00 (THHN 12 gauge single wire) instead of 16 gauge Monster zip cord at 30 feet for the same price? then you truly get a straight wire with no gain and no discernable loss, and for 20 times the distance.

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Meh

Re: Monster? audiophool. 12-gauge speaker wires: audiophile

I recently looked at 'modernising' my hifi and found an amp that according to the literature for several thousands of pound would provide high power high quality and high stability into any speakers from 2-16ohm and hugely complicated response patterns. But if you used anything other than their fuck off expensive cable then the amp might blow up. Lying bastards.

I did a degree in electronics because I loved HiFi. I started to get disillusioned when I worked out a lit candle between you and the speaker causes more acoustic features than separated most hifi systems!

My speakers cost £5K, I use single core mains cable to connect them to the amp.

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Facepalm

Re: Monster? audiophool. 12-gauge speaker wires: audiophile

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plated-Digital-Optical-Cable-Mountain/dp/B001ANDV2A

.........

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