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Intersample peaks - Massey's opinion
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kosmokrator
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19th May 2013
Old 19th May 2013
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Intersample peaks - Massey's opinion

With the mastering community here seemingly often concentrating on the things that matter the least in the real world (dithering, ISP, sample rates etc.), I present you Steven Massey's blog post on the ISP matter. He certainly knows a thing or two about digital:

Massey Plugins Inc.

I have to say that I certainly fail to hear the big impact those big bad ISPs have, too. Maybe I'm deaf, who knows..

Quote:
There's this theory in mastering that you should leave a tiny bit of digital headroom in your brickwall limiter's output. For example, if you're bouncing down a mix using the L2007 last in the chain, the theory says you should drop the max. output control a fraction of a dB. The precise value varies by opinion: -.3 dB, -.1dB, -.5dB, etc.

The reasoning is that the analog signal might clip at its loudest peaks, once reconstructed at the output by the digital-to-analog converters in the listener's playback device. That is, if the analog circuitry hasn't been well designed. This phenomenon has been labeled "inter-sample clipping." It's a reasonable idea based on sound electrical engineering analysis. It probably happens in rare cases. There was a paper published a while back demonstrating it was possible in real-life CD players.

The company I once worked for, TL Labs, designed a metering plugin to model this process. You can read more about inter-sample clipping in the user guide: TL Labs Plugins Guide.

But, personally, I've never bought into this story in its entirety. (Maybe you can tell from my other postings, but I suffer from chronic skepticism of any and all dogma.)

This theory begs deeper questions, such as: Is this clipping at all audible above the massive distortion already done in by limiting in the first place? My guess is: no. Significant oversampled clipping goes hand-in-hand with substantial brickwall limiting levels. After blowing out the music with limiter distortion, it's a little too late to start fretting like an audiophile.

Very few folks even use a CD player anymore, which is in the original foundation of this theory. If someone's still using a CD player, they're probably an audiophile and own a well-designed model.
Or, they're living in the past, don't care much about sonic quality and won't be buying your modern, smashed CD anyway. If the listener is using an MP3 player, computer, or other media player, then the gain scaling for the volume control sometimes happens in the digital domain well before reaching the digital-to-analog convertors. This means the output is nowhere near the power "rails" of the analog circuitry. (Furthermore, what impact does MP3 compression generally have on peak levels?)

Most perplexing is the promotion of such a minuscule "headroom" value of -0.3 dB, etc. This isn't going to get you any audible decrease in distortion in the event of actual clipping. You're not going to hear the tiny 0.3 dB tip of the sound wave lost. But, you don't have to take my word: insert a gain plugin on your master fader last in the chain. Go for broke: set it to +0.5 dB and listen to your mix. How far can you push it?

If you're genuinely concerned about fidelity, then I say do something more substantive and give us 2 or 3 dB of headroom. Otherwise, you're just playing a psychological game, buying some emotional comfort from the self-deluding marketplace of audio engineering groupthink. The TL Labs meter was always a curious irony to me. Winning the loudness war is mutually exclusive of achieving fidelity, but here was a gadget trying to sell us both.

Anyhow, if you click the "max. output" label on the purchased version of the L2007, a text entry box will appear and you can punch in an exact value. A little secret: -0.5 is usually a little bit grainy and digital-sounding, but -0.6 can be rapturously warm and fuzzy. But, you'll have to upgrade from the demo version to find out!
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19th May 2013
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Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
With the mastering community here seemingly often concentrating on the things that matter the least in the real world (dithering, ISP, sample rates etc.), I present you Steven Massey's blog post on the ISP matter. He certainly knows a thing or two about digital:

Massey Plugins Inc.

I have to say that I certainly fail to hear the big impact those big bad ISPs have, too. Maybe I'm deaf, who knows..
It is our job to take care of "the things that matter the least in the real world ". Having endless debates about them is another story...
I agree that ISPs are very difficult to identify in the real world when listening to CDs or other linear formats with decent converters, although they're certainly not rare. But they produce very noticeable effects when converting to lossy formats. Check the difference between the black metal band Anaal Nathrakh' debut album 'codex necro' CD / mp3 320kbps versions : it's so obvious that it's shocking. With mainstream music, it can be less a problem, but when working with 'in the red' music like extreme metal , noise and so on, it has to be taken care of.
I agree that 0.3 dB of headroom is ridiculous and almost useless.
I dont buy the "audio is already clipped and limited, so why worry about ISPs ?" argument. Limiting/clipping distortion is under our control, what ISPs produce with lossy codecs isnt. So we must do what's required to eliminate those phenomena which could happen further. Clipping the audio to stupidity is requested by the client, having extra distortion when converting to mp3 isnt and so should be avoided.
But yeah, buying cheap intellectual comfort by leaving a tiny headroom is useless. The final headroom must be decided after having done tests with lossy codecs, which gives different results than ISP meters.
Mr Massey makes very interesting points, but I think it's our duty to take care of details and to project ourselves into real world situations, where ISPs might not be a problem by themselves, but where lossy encoding is.
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19th May 2013
Old 19th May 2013
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Originally Posted by sanddigger1 View Post
It is our job to take care of "the things that matter the least in the real world ". Having endless debates about them is another story...
I agree that ISPs are very difficult to identify in the real world when listening to CDs or other linear formats with decent converters, although they're certainly not rare. But they produce very noticeable effects when converting to lossy formats. Check the difference between the black metal band Anaal Nathrakh' debut album 'codex necro' CD / mp3 320kbps versions : it's so obvious that it's shocking. With mainstream music, it can be less a problem, but when working with 'in the red' music like extreme metal , noise and so on, it has to be taken care of.
I agree that 0.3 dB of headroom is ridiculous and almost useless.
I dont buy the "audio is already clipped and limited, so why worry about ISPs ?" argument. Limiting/clipping distortion is under our control, what ISPs produce with lossy codecs isnt. So we must do what's required to eliminate those phenomena which could happen further. Clipping the audio to stupidity is requested by the client, having extra distortion when converting to mp3 isnt and so should be avoided.
But yeah, buying cheap intellectual comfort by leaving a tiny headroom is useless. The final headroom must be decided after having done tests with lossy codecs, which gives different results than ISP meters.
Mr Massey makes very interesting points, but I think it's our duty to take care of details and to project ourselves into real world situations, where ISPs might not be a problem by themselves, but where lossy encoding is.

Very simple - I stay at or below -4 full scale. ISPs - what? Me worry?
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19th May 2013
Old 19th May 2013
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I completely agree with him. What if the D/A converter in one of these rare situations clipped the output? The result would be higher perceived loudness, same thing you were trying to achieve using the limiter in the first place.

If we're all worried about sounding better for lossy codecs, maybe we'd back off the loudness and clipping in the first place? Leaving .2 dB of headroom is nonsense. If you're that worried about ISP, stop creating it.
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19th May 2013
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Originally Posted by Listening View Post
I completely agree with him. What if the D/A converter in one of these rare situations clipped the output? The result would be higher perceived loudness, same thing you were trying to achieve using the limiter in the first place.

If we're all worried about sounding better for lossy codecs, maybe we'd back off the loudness and clipping in the first place? Leaving .2 dB of headroom is nonsense. If you're that worried about ISP, stop creating it.
Yeah but then the "lost-bits police" will start waving their batons!
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19th May 2013
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Originally Posted by sanddigger1 View Post
... it's our duty to take care of details and to project ourselves into real world situations, where ISPs might not be a problem by themselves, but where lossy encoding is.
+1.

I leave 0.5dB of headroom, not to prevent clipping a DAC, but to reduce or eliminate digital clipping in MP3s the consumer might make from my mastered files. I found -0.5dBfs to be just enough headroom in most cases after testing by making my own MP3s of my own work.

But when importing reference tracks I do see plenty of major releases that go to 0dBfs, which makes me doubt myself...
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19th May 2013
Old 19th May 2013
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I run a little mobile studio besides my main studio for on the road productions...I use genelg 8220 dsp monitors for this to get at least some problems of constantly changing listening contditions under control...
these speakers when fed digitally show intersample peaks in the way that they show a red clipping led (at least that is what I figured out as the leds will light red even when the output of the daw isn´t showing any red - this is only for very loud wavs even sometimes with the wav files having a headroom of 0.1 or 0.3)....don´t know if I´m fooled by this led, but to me it seems that the sound is somehow getting a bit cramped when these leds are showning clipping (remember: the output of the daw is not showing any clipping at all)....e.g. I have a rather loud wav file limitted to 0db, the led will light red very often....by lowering the digital output level to -0.3 or - 0.5 db most if not all of the red clippings will be gone.....( not speaking of pushing the audio up to these loudness levels is a good or bad thing , because I don´t want to get into the loudness debate here...personally I hate overloud music most of the times) so I think it makes sense to leave a little headroom even if it´s only 0.1 or 0.3, but only for very loud music....sometimes if the tracks are not smashed too much 0 db is fine but the louder the track is the more headroom those speakers seem to need to sound good...this alone makes me think that there´s a sense in watching ISPs....
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Most perplexing is this part:

"A little secret: -0.5 is usually a little bit grainy and digital-sounding, but -0.6 can be rapturously warm and fuzzy. But, you'll have to upgrade from the demo version to find out!"

There are many points to question in his essay, but that one certainly stands out.


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19th May 2013
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Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Most perplexing is this part:

"A little secret: -0.5 is usually a little bit grainy and digital-sounding, but -0.6 can be rapturously warm and fuzzy. But, you'll have to upgrade from the demo version to find out!"

There are many points to question in his essay, but that one certainly stands out.


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I think he was kidding there.
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19th May 2013
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the grade of humorlessness among mastering people is always astonishing no offend.....just thinking a lot of people are taking things just a bit too seriously.....not that I´m against taking things seroiusly in general!
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He also had a blog on dither a while back.

I thought this part was interesting:

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Dither: A solution in search of a problem

A while back I discovered that the TDM POW-r dithering plugin that's provided with Pro Tools had a bug, making it incompatible with my L2007 limiter plugin. The POW-r plug-in would stop producing dither when activated on the same DSP as the L2007. (My limiter, unlike most others, does not provide integrated dithering, so I've always suggested to people that they just use the POW-r plugin.) I discovered the bug on my own, more or less by accident, while using an FFT analysis plugin. But, guess how many users called to report it themselves? Zero. Just like myself, no one ever heard this on their own. Only with tweaky analysis tools is dither measurable.
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20th May 2013
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I'm with Massey on this. We're discussing ISP's in another thread and I did a test on a loud clipped track. The difference in waveforms with ISP's clipped or unclipped were entirely insignificant and inaudible IMO. Here's a screenshot of the loudest ISP of the track. Do any of you think you could hear this?



If I normalize the Audacity file to represent the full level achievable without losing those inaudible ISP's I get a significant drop in RMS levels. The one with the ISP's unclipped hits -9.539dB RMS while the Sound Forge decode with ISP's clipped measures -8.740dB. An obvious concession in level has been made to accommodate inaudible ISP's.

I tested Ableton, Sound Forge, and Audacity (running the latest LAME) and all 3 of them decoded to within 0.002dbfs of each other (loudest peaks).
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20th May 2013
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One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that ISPs can cause real problems with some systems with integrated speakers with output protection limiting. It causes a false trigger and results in audible pumping on all ISPs. This is often audible with Apple laptops and iMacs using the internal speakers.

Apart from that, I agree that the problem with ISPs is overrated when you look at the bigger picture.
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20th May 2013
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Yeah but then the "lost-bits police" will start waving their batons!
I guess I just got nabbed by them - 3 thumbs down on the above reply. Oh well, their "loss" if they want to believe that nonsense..
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22nd May 2013
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Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that ISPs can cause real problems with some systems with integrated speakers with output protection limiting. It causes a false trigger and results in audible pumping on all ISPs. This is often audible with Apple laptops and iMacs using the internal speakers.

Apart from that, I agree that the problem with ISPs is overrated when you look at the bigger picture.
That's a good point to be considered. I'm not one to frequently adjust my techniques to provide better playback for compromised playback systems...but still something to think about.
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Now I see true mastering engineers here.

Joking.

Last time we discussed ISPs (hundred times) and not a single one of you master strictly to 0.0dB. now everyone is agreeing with Massey. What a BS!!! If he's so good and tells you to put gain fader after the limiter and "push it" to see that the low values will not change anything - I'm judging - he's deaf or stupid.

So, go and master to 0.0, then set the gain fader to +0,5 or 1dB or anything, go, and master like this. Because it does not matter,

Completely BS madness.
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I think Massey is saying, your limiting has already screwed up the signal.
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doesn't Howie Weinberg use hardware clipping ?
I think massey is saying in a round about way.. clipping it poorly and then dropping it slightly, is worse than bad harware clipping. well it's sort of implied but the reasons why he is implying it are probably to highlight what he considers are some paradoxes in the ways distorting the waveform by clipping ITB, may be ignored at a more important level. e.g. it doesn't fix the problem of what goes on due to competing for loudness perception.

also, Audacity and many other programs don't show the trajectory of the waveform coming out of the DAC. the points are often the midway of the sample value. the actual waveform shape can go higher. then your DAC will likely clip it anyway. you can see a better representation of the post DAC signal in RX. I think they updated that too recently. but you could always ask them more about that.


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First rule, know your converters and how much they can take. Some clip well, some crap out and distort. If you have good mix, clipping could be ok. If your mix needs a lot of tweaking it might sound really bad clipped. Try it out and see what you think. If it distorts, don't use it. Slate's FGX plugin is a plugin clipper that does some cool things and you could try that as well.
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23rd May 2013
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Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that ISPs can cause real problems with some systems with integrated speakers with output protection limiting. It causes a false trigger and results in audible pumping on all ISPs. This is often audible with Apple laptops and iMacs using the internal speakers.

Apart from that, I agree that the problem with ISPs is overrated when you look at the bigger picture.
Do you have any links on this Holger?
I couldn't find any literature on the audio system in Apple laptops.

I'm very curious though because I do use my Macbook Pro's speakers a lot for mixing ( line in connected to the SSL) and checking masters and never heard this pumping.
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23rd May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that ISPs can cause real problems with some systems with integrated speakers with output protection limiting. It causes a false trigger and results in audible pumping on all ISPs. This is often audible with Apple laptops and iMacs using the internal speakers.
I could swear I've heard this.
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24th May 2013
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There's no information available on this anywhere on the net (as far as I can find). The only thing that pops up in Google is my thread about the subject. Until now... ta da daaa!

I thought I could find it using Activity Monitor, but no. I asked one of my friends (who's a coder) and he found this, using a utility that's part of XCode.

Turns out it isn't a regular limiter, but a multiband compressor. This pops up whenever you're using the internal speakers on a MacBook (and iMac).
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24th May 2013
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I experienced pumping on my office MacBook's internal speakers with some loud and bass heavy material. First time it drove me nuts because the effect was not there with proper monitoring. Then I read somewhere around the web that there's a built-in software limiting thingy.
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24th May 2013
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Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
There's no information available on this anywhere on the net (as far as I can find). The only thing that pops up in Google is my thread about the subject. Until now... ta da daaa!

I thought I could find it using Activity Monitor, but no. I asked one of my friends (who's a coder) and he found this, using a utility that's part of XCode.

Turns out it isn't a regular limiter, but a multiband compressor. This pops up whenever you're using the internal speakers on a MacBook (and iMac).
Interesting. Looks like a call stack. Could you maybe ask your friend about how to reproduce thos? I'm not a coder either but know my way around XCode a bit.
It would be really interesting if there's anything on the line-in as well, also if any AU components are invoked if the line-out is enabled.

Interesting that there's no literature about this at all. Since MANY executives listen to any mixes (be it music, TV, ads, masters) this way, we really should know more about this.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry about Apple though, creating a shiny new marketing gag called MFIT where intersample-peaks and bitrates seem to matter a lot, and on the other hand messing ANY audio passing through their systems with an always-on, obscure multiband compressor component, and not even uttering a word about it...
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24th May 2013
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We're sort of beating a dead horse here - once again. TC Electronics has a white paper on this subject on their website, where they point out the potential dangers of intersample peaks. If the phenomena was purely imaginary, then they wouldn't have bothered authoring the whitepaper.
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24th May 2013
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Originally Posted by tpad View Post
We're sort of beating a dead horse here - once again. TC Electronics has a white paper on this subject on their website, where they point out the potential dangers of intersample peaks. If the phenomena was purely imaginary, then they wouldn't have bothered authoring the whitepaper.
Whatever happened to oldanalogguy, anyway?

He was pretty entertaining. As Turing machines go.


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24th May 2013
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Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
I thought I could find it using Activity Monitor, but no. I asked one of my friends (who's a coder) and he found this, using a utility that's part of XCode.
And that's why they pay you the big bucks (sorry I couldn't resist).

Props to you and your buddy for moving towards figuring out what's happening, I've heard this compressor/limiter in action and it's not pretty.
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25th May 2013
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Whatever happened to oldanalogguy, anyway?
Beats me? He had some rather strange interpretations as I recall, so he certainly was in good company!

The delivery requirement for TV audio these days is based on the ATSC spec which requires true peak levels to be held below -2 dBFS. Anyone here who thinks intersample peaks are pure myth should try clipping their audio at say -2.1 dBFs and then submitting the job as-is. Shouldn't be any problem - after all, the levels are a whole tenth of a dB below spec.

I'm sure they'll have a rude awakening when their job submission gets bounced for exhibiting intersample peak overs exceeding the delivery limit. I've seen a number of posts in the post production forum alluding to said discovery.
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25th May 2013
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Originally Posted by tpad View Post
Beats me? He had some rather strange interpretations as I recall, so he certainly was in good company!
His strength was the complete denial that ISP's could exist, did exist - you name it. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, however compelling.

"You can't have a number bigger than 16 ones." Or something equally insightful.

The real question is: What is the Apple multi-band?


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25th May 2013
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Right. Well, ISPs may indeed be very infrequent in one's particular workflow and not of significant interest. OTOH, they seem to rear their ugly head when you least expect/want them - as in when your -2 dBFS "over" job gets rejected.

Anyway, I'm bored already on the topic. Moving onward....

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What is the Apple multi-band?
You've got one over on me. What is Apple multi-band?
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