www.MusicToday.eu   YEAR 2019   ENGLISH
 
 
THE FOLLY OF HD AUDIO | PART I
Why 44.1 kHz please your Ears as much as 96 kHz.
 
Recently, there are a lot of big and popular music shops that promote music by using the term “HD Audio”. This is to fool customers and to talk them into thinking “HD Audio” grants for a better music quality. This is the first of two articles explaining the folly of HD Audio.
This first article describes why “more kHz ≠ Better Music Quality”. The second article will explain why 24Bit or 32Bit files don’t offer a better music quality than 16Bit files (CD quality). We will show that “HD Audio” is a marketing gag to fool those who are not acquainted with the underlying concepts.
 
So what is kHz? Real world sound events are not divided into small packets and then being delivered to your ears but real world sound events are continuous.
To digitally capture real world sound events, sound engineers record such sound events at a particular “Sample Rate”: A computer turns the continuous real world sound events (for example: A piano performance) into a lot of digital packets that can be played back in succession. One needs a particular number of serially connected audio packets in order to make the played back audio event sound smooth, continuous, and good.
kHz tells you how fine (or coarsely) an audio event is encoded. kHz tells you in how many packets - called “samples” - an audio event is being divided per second by the computer or how many packets are played back per second by an audio device. kHz is the unit of measure for the sample rate.
 
During the last decades the industry promoted 44.1 kHz as “CD Quality”. Most of the music you know is encoded in 44.1 kHz, that means: 44.100 samples per second. This is a lot of audio info to digest and it makes for a perfectly continuous, smooth, and good sound. We know you have not thought, lately: “This Tina Turner song is amazing. If only they would have used more samples per second to avoid this gross sound!
However, a lot of popular streaming portals have started to promote “HD Audio”. On the one hand (the “other hand” will be explained in Part II) that means: Audio is not being streamed at 44.100 samples per second anymore but at 48.000 to 96.000 samples per second. Technically speaking, this is surely an improvement: For more samples grant for a finer technical encoding of sound events. That means: The ideal of “continuous sound” is being met better than before. But, musically
speaking, no customer will probably be able to hear a difference. For the 44.1 kHz standard was not chosen as the lesser evil or as a compromise because no better option existed but was deemed to be great for almost fourty years because it is perceived as smooth, continuous and good! Our ears will hardly be able to distinguish between “smooth, continuous, and good” (CD Quality) and “smooth, continuous, and good” (HD Audio).
There are certain limitations regarding our perception and a “more, higher, faster” in a technical sphere does not automatically lead to an evolution regarding our senses.
Even the best engineers are not able to distinguish a 44.1 kHz source from a 48 kHz source in a 1:1 comparison. Leave alone the phenomenon of Audio Voodoo.
“HD Audio” cannot make a bad composition good; it cannot make a bad singer good; it cannot make a bad drummer good; it can neither fix a bad mix nor fix a bad recording. Please stop to believe that more sophisticated electronic devices result in better art...
 
...WANT TO CONTINUE? FIND THE COMPLETE AND DETAILED ARTICLE WITH EXAMPLES AND GRAPHICS IN THE PDF DOCUMENT BELOW.

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THE FOLLY OF HD AUDIO | PART II
Why the Bit Depth of Music is not of Interest for the Customer!
 
Recently, there are a lot of big and popular music shops that promote music by using the term “HD Audio” This is to fool customers and to talk them into thinking “HD Audio” grants for a better music quality. This is the second of two articles explaining the folly of HD Audio.
The first article described why “more kHz ≠ Better Music Quality”. This second article explains why 24Bit or 32Bit files don’t offer a better music quality than 16Bit files (CD quality). We will show that “HD Audio” is a marketing gag to fool those who are not acquainted with the underlying concepts.
 
This is just an excerpt. Find the detailed article with examples and graphics in the free PDF document below.
 
During the last decades the industry promoted 16Bit as “CD Quality”. Most of the music you know is encoded in 16Bit. 16Bit files offer a big Dynamic Range that no production has ever used and it can store a lively, dynamic and amazing sound. We know you have not thought, lately: “This Tina Turner song is amazing. If only they would have used 32Bit to enlarge the file size!
However, a lot of popular streaming portals have started to promote “HD Audio”. That means: Audio is not being streamed at 16Bit anymore but at 24Bit or 32Bit. Technically speaking, this is nonsense. The 16Bit standard was not chosen as the lesser evil or as a compromise because no better option existed but was deemed to be optimal! And it is optimal and will always be: Why should we use larger audio rooms for music with a minor Dynamic Range?
The HD Audio Shops sell and stream content at 24Bit or 32Bit. That means: “We now put music with a Dynamic Range of 2LU into a room that is able to store at least 100LU.” That is not of any interest to you. The responsible technicians just increase the size of every audio file, not the quality.
A song that is produced with a Dynamic Range of 2LU does not suddenly turn into a song with a Dynamic Range of 100LU, just because the song is stored in a 24Bit container. A song with a Dynamic Range of 2LU stays a song with a Dynamic Range of 2LU: No matter whether you save it in a(n) 8Bit, 16Bit, 24Bit, or 32Bit file.
Yes: The producer should use 24Bit while recording to ensure that the whole Dynamic of
the recorded real world sound events is captured without any compromise, and without material being cut by exceeding the ceiling of the audio room. But since the real world Dynamic Range will definitely be reduced by the engineer, there is simply no need to distribute 24Bit or 32Bit audio files. 16Bit files already offer a lot more room than any piece of sold music can occupy.
“HD Audio” cannot make a bad composition good; it cannot make a bad drummer good; it can neither fix a bad mix nor fix a bad recording. It does not enlarge the Dynamic Range of an existing song. A switch to 24Bit does actually NOTHING for the audience. Bigger numbers in technical specs do not result in better art.
What can “HD Audio” do for you? It can psychologically manipulate you and make you pay a monthly fee for access to music that has a nice technical data sheet that is hardly of any interest for you.
 
At the end of the day: The reason why you like music has nothing to do with the technical specs. When paying monthly fees for listening to music: Pay for services and music that you love. MTE

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THE DOWNFALL OF MUSIC
How Mozart turned into Justin Bieber.
 
About 250 years ago music has reached its climax. Brilliant composers were hired by kings and emperors to compose the most beautiful music humans will ever be allowed to hear. Alone the masterpieces of the German composer Mozart do fill 170 CDs. And none of these CDs is boring. Today we switch on the radio and listen to music by untalented writers interpreted by clueless industry marionettes that have everything but skills and charisma. What happened? The answer is simple but yet surprising.
 
The kings and emperors of past times had the highest standards. They wanted to be entertained at a very high level. Moreover, the artists they supported represented the creative power of kingdoms or empires during official occasions. That is why kings and emperors only hired the very best artists - superstars of a kind that we have never seen after this period again.
The hired artists, on the other hand, were brilliant allround talents who perfectly understood the theory of music. They did not just know the characteristics of every instrument and of sound itself but were often also able to play several instruments by themselves - to an extent of perfection. Most of these artists were, indeed, virtuosos. Just like Mozart, Vivaldi, and Paganini. Either one was brilliant or one was not on the spot.
In these eras, music was luxury. Not just the brilliant composers but also the amazing
orchestra musicians had to be financed. The music that has been written in these eras mark the climax in the history of music. This climax declines in the early 20th century.
The first recording studios occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. They were very rare and incredibly expensive. Thus, studio time was highly limited and hardly affordable.
The first systems to play back music (Phonographs and Gramophones) were developed in the late 19th century and the first radio stations were evolving in the 1920s.
The possibility to record music and the possibility to air and to play back recorded music were the very starting points of the modern music business.
Because studio time was expensive and highly restricted, the bosses of studios did not focus on recording the untalented boys next door. They tried to discover the best engineers, composers, musicians, and singers. They wanted to record outstanding performances and they wanted to make millions by entertaining and wowing the masses. Radio stations were crazy about new material and, thus, the few record artists became incredibly popular and rich (to mention a few: Zarah Leander, Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Jacksons). Everything was about quality: The quality of the compositions, the performances, the recording, and the sound.
When Michael Jackson or Prince were on the rise they were successful because they were
extraordinarily talented in every field of music. People looked up to them. They were unreachable. But today they would have no chance: No one can identify with so much talent and people do not want to admire god-like persons anymore. The reason: Such stars confront the audience with its own lack of skills. Suddenly, talent turned into a burden.
In the 1990s computers became broadly available and changed the music business to the worse: Out of a sudden, the quality was ruled out. Suddenly everyone deemed oneself a music producer just because one had a PC.
The lack of skills on the client's side has been recognized by the industry: It started to sell dreams and ready-to-use sounds ("samples") to millions of wanna-be artists that have no clue regarding music. As a result, millions of people sit in front of a laptop, press the play button and think they are composers or producers just because a beat or sound they have bought before is playing back.
The media industry recognized this situation and started to brainwash the masses by casting shows. Suddenly it was possible to shift the focus from rare talents and expensive top productions to cheapest electronic mass productions and throw-away-music performed by the untalented boy next door: The masses can identfiy with the electronic sounds ("I have the same samples!") and the lack of talent ("if Justin Bieber can make it, I can make it, too!"). This is how Mozart turned into Justin Bieber: Identification sells! MTE

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LOUDNESS AND DYNAMIC RANGE
And how they affect Airplay. A short Guide that explains Key Concepts.
 
Do you really know what "loudness" and "dynamic range" mean and how these concepts affect airplay? This knowledge is crucial for any producer and artist that want to produce music eligible for airplay.
 
Follow us: You enter a big room and within the room you can place yourself wherever you want: You is you and the room will not change that. You love to jump up and down in the room but if you would try to break through the high ceiling you would just break your bones.
 
What has this analogy to do with Loudness, Dynamic Range and Airplay? A 24 Bit file, to mention an example, is nothing else but an audio room: A room that is empty but offers space for an audio signal that loves - just like you - to jump up and down in the audio room. The audio signal is smaller than the audio room and it can place itself almost anywhere in the room.
Your size is measured from your head to your toes in cm. The audio signal's "size" is measured similiarly: The measuring unit is LU (Loudness Units) and the audio signal's "size" is measured from the softest part (lowest jump) to the loudest part (highest jump): The space in between (the "size") is called Dynamic Range.
The audio signal knows - just like you - that there is a ceiling that cannot be broken through. The audio ceiling is very high and beyond the ceiling, space and time end. Every attempt to break through the ceiling is stupid and breaks the audio signal's bones.
 
Now imagine: You enter a room and an audio engineer throws you against the wall, breaks your bones, ties you up to the ceiling and says: “You are a better person now for you hang higher and scream louder!” Would you agree?
No? But this is what most audio engineers do to audio signals: To make them loud, the engineers break the signals' bones, cut transients, diminish the dynamic range, cause distortion and clipping and say: "I tied the audio signal up to the ceiling and paralysed it! Now it is better for it screams louder! Ideal for radio, TV and airplay!” 
The conclusion "Louder = Better" is a misbelief many engineers share. "Loudness" (a high position of audio material within the audio room) has never been and will never be a quality criteria in professional music production.
"But loud songs stick out against competitors". Yes and no. The simple truth: Anyone can relativate the crafted loudness by turning the
volume knob up (I love that song!) or down (dislike!).
Unfortunately, the volume knob can't fix the broken bones of defect audio material that is loud at the expense of the sound quality. Too bad! For sound quality is what matters in professional music production.
"But isn't loudness great for airplay?" Radio and TV stations level all audio signals before they are aired. After loud tracks are reduced and soft tracks are raised in volume, the sound quality is the only difference left.
Since radio and TV stations do care about a good sounding programme they prefer intact and dynamic material that is likely to survive the heavy signal processing by broadcast stations: Thus, originally loud but defect material will probably be sorted out.
We illustrate the relationship between loudness, dynamic range and airplay: (MTE)
Understanding Loudness and Dynamic Range - Key Concepts of Music Production - Music Today Europe

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Test: Online Audio Mixing and Mastering
Unexpected Results: Best Audio Mixing and Mastering Studios in Europe
 
You are looking for a studio that mixes and masters your audio material online? You want professional results - not just for private usage but eligible for distribution, airplay, and films? But where to start? We have good news for you: We have covertly tested European Online Audio Mixing and Mastering Studios and compared their services. Read about the unexpected and surprising results! Find the detailed article with evaluation charts below (PDF version).
 
Mixing and Mastering are not about great equipment. Mixing and Mastering are about knowledge, experience, practice, well-trained ears, and, last but not least, acoustically linear environments that display every single note exactly the way it is! Some studios have been built for millions just to ensure that the acoustic resonance is perfect. Thus, professional audio mixing and mastering can hardly be accomplished in acoustically questionable home studios. Big companies and artists with ambitious goals delegate this important step - the crafting of great sound - to specialized audio engineers.
Within the last 10 years a lot of audio mixing and mastering studios have decided to offer their services online: These studios offer anyone the stunning opportunity to upload very raw audio material. Then, after a couple of days and dependent on the quality of the source material, the client can download the great sounding, mixed and mastered results! At least, this is the theory. What about the practice? Which of the online audio mixing and mastering studios have the best skills?

 

And how is the situation at the front, 6 years after the broadcast standard EBU R 128 has been established in Europe? This norm is especially interesting for crafting music, for it is supposed to end the loudness war and allows for highest quality audio productions.
We have covertly tested European online audio mixing and mastering studios. To prevent companies from giving Music Today a special treatment, we took over the role of a client that has to make decisions solely on the basis of the info that audio mixing and mastering studios freely publish online. Thus, we visited websites, gathered information, and evaluated the results!
1. We focused on the published demos (that are marketing instruments and, thus, represent the best quality the studios can craft) and objectively analysed them in an acoustically linear studio with expert staff. Since we were testing online audio mixing and mastering studios, our main focus was, for sure, the audio quality of the demos.
2. Besides, we have focused on the business transparency of the online audio mixing and mastering studios: What services are inclusive for what prices?
3. Moreover, we checked which valuable additional services the online audio mixing and mastering studios offer.
 
Results in short (details: See PDF version):
All tested demos are transparent and free of artefacts. All tested online audio mixing and mastering studios craft a good sound and can be recommended! But, surprisingly, only one of them creates marvelous results.

 

The audio mixing and mastering studios on places 10 to 2 craft good productions that, surprisingly, are too loud at the expense of the sound quality that suffers from a diminished dynamic range. All tested productions disregard the quality-preserving broadcast standard EBU R 128 but opt for loudness. That is even more surprising if we take into account that giants like Abbey Road Studios are among these companies that miss the chance to make a change.
The unexpected overall winner of our comparison, Diamond Roses Records, crafts tailor-made quality productions with an intact, lively, exciting, and ready-to-be-aired sound that is in line with broadcast standards and does not suffer from any of the mentioned problems. No other tested online audio mixing and mastering studio handles audio material in such a quality-preserving way and offers so many services. With 97% of the points, Diamond Roses Records is our tip for those with high standards or ambitious goals!
 
BEST EUROPEAN ONLINE AUDIO
MIXING AND MASTERING STUDIOS 2018
No. Name Quality
1. Diamond Roses Records 97%
2. Miloco Studios (Group) 79%
3. Mastering Online 78%
4. Peak Studios 74%
5. Abbey Road Studios 74%
6. Mondstein Records 72%
7. Konbeatz 70%
8. Audio Mixing Mastering 70%
9. Milian Mastering 63%
10. Online Mixing 61%

 


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Single Article: The Folly of HD Audio | Part I - kHz
Single Article: The Folly of HD Audio | Part II - Bit Depth
Single Article: The Downfall of Music
Single Article: Explaining Loudness and Dnamic Range
Single Article: Test Mixing and Mastering Studios 2018
 
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