Anyone do special mastering for Internet streaming?
Old 1st December 2005
  #1
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
Anyone do special mastering for Internet streaming?

I have a dilema. When I make mp3s for posting on the internet, they sound decent to get the idea accross. But I surf internet on a laptop, so there is no low bass when listening to music online.

My problem is that I have tunes that have a low-mid punchy kick and then bass guitar covers the low end. It's not rock, so there are no distorted full range guitars to fill in the low mids. It sounds great full range, but on a laptop it's not great at all.

In one song in particular, the bass and drums/percussion are the only things playing in the verse with the lead vocal. When I hear it on my laptop, the bass is almost nonexistent. It's predominately vocals and drums.

So my question is this. Do most people surf on laptops or computers with small speakers (my guess is yes). And, if I was to EQ to help the situation, what then when someone plays it on a good system?

Am I stuck, or are there any tips for these situations (BTW: the song in question is being mastered now, so there may be improvement. But I find this to be a general problem with my musical style)

I realize this is a limitation of the laptop system, but I see that certain styles are less affected. Much of today's rap and R&B don't use too much live bass and rely on kick drums to cover the low and low-mids. And, rock generally has guitars which cover the in betweens.
Old 1st December 2005
  #2
Lives for gear
 
AlexLakis's Avatar
 

I know better than to listen critically to a recording thru laptop speakers. I think everyone else does too. If I wanted to know if it was a good recording or not, I'd put it thru my monitors, or at least...just plug in some headphones! All you Powerbook guys can use the headphones from your iPods, right?
Old 1st December 2005
  #3
Head of Bumping Security (B.S)
 

I read something on a mastering forum about this recently. A Nashville single was mastered something like 9dB lower than the commercial standard. I may be wrong on that number.

But anyway, now they are competing to see who can have the lowest masters and get away with it. Supposedly the reason they're keeping the levels down is so that audio streamed over the internet will sound better.
Old 1st December 2005
  #4
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexLakis
I know better than to listen critically to a recording thru laptop speakers. I think everyone else does too. If I wanted to know if it was a good recording or not, I'd put it thru my monitors, or at least...just plug in some headphones! All you Powerbook guys can use the headphones from your iPods, right?

Yeah, that's good. I suppose most everyone here would agree.

But, this would be more of an online sampling for prospective clients and other interested parties. They might not have the time or means to listen with a decent system (they are not downloadable - only streaming).

I guess what concerns me is when other peoples music and styles sound more or less "whole" with the same laptop. And mine sounds, well, like it has a hole in it. Maybe it's just a lame concern and I shouldn't worry about that. I certainly wouldn't change my producing style or writing style to accomodate a need to hear music on crappy playback systems!
Old 1st December 2005
  #5
Gear nut
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdunn
I read something on a mastering forum about this recently. A Nashville single was mastered something like 9dB lower than the commercial standard. I may be wrong on that number.

But anyway, now they are competing to see who can have the lowest masters and get away with it. Supposedly the reason they're keeping the levels down is so that audio streamed over the internet will sound better.
That is interesting, for sure. Because I definately noticed that when I keep the levels down, it does sound much, much better.
Old 1st December 2005
  #6
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AlexLakis's Avatar
 

Well, if you're streaming it, and somebody decides to listen to it on something OTHER than laptop speakers, imagine how crappy it'll sound? Not to mention, a lot of people have WOW! or some other kind of EQ-type bass enchancer on their laptops to use with their speakers. Imagine how distorted the bass would be then? A client with blown speakers in their laptop is an unhappy client... -->
Old 1st March 2006
  #7
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
If the overall eq is balanced and the levels are not over the top, laptop speakers playback as much as they can, and your brain fills in the rest.

There's no need for different sounds, just one good sound will do.
Old 18th March 2006
  #8
GPl
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GPl's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by h2000
That is interesting, for sure. Because I definately noticed that when I keep the levels down, it does sound much, much better.
I have the same feeling when listening to the radio these days
Old 18th March 2006
  #9
Gear Head
 

Here is a stream that has very nice dynamic range.

http://www.maradiorock.com/

Many of the songs have been specifically remastered for the stream.



Best to use Winamp. It is a 192K stream. There are many 320K streams flowing out there but some are using dynamic compression. Absolutely no reason at all for it for streaming IMO.
Old 18th March 2006
  #10
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Nordenstam's Avatar
 

(usual disclaimer, not a super pro)

Recently spent some time trying to get a grasp on psychoacoustic coding and it's impact on the mastering processs. Done quite a few tests as well to find ways to achieve better output from this format. A format I used to consider an audio trash bin. Not so anymore! Of course, it's not the best option, but it can definitely be made to sound surprisingly good with the right approaches.


Level is important. 'Hidden' overshots will be revealed through coding and decoding. (Check Nikas paper for information on 'hidden' overs: http://www.cadenzarecording.com/pape...distortion.pdf) Using an oversampled peak level meter to keep any /real/ peaks below zero is probably the best approach.

Giving a specific dB figure is hard to do here, as it will vary a lot between different songs and mixing engineer treatments! If working in the blind, without oversampled metering, a ceiling of around -3dB is probably a good starting point.

Even with an oversampled peak meter, leaving a few tenths of a dB at the top is a good idea. The waveform is redrawn through synthesis in the decoding process. This always gives the possibility for further overs to pop up where there previously was none.


The input should be the highest resolution possible, coded using a 24 bit encoder. MP3's and similar formats all have the ability to store signals at higher bit depth than the 16 bit, if the bitstream limit permits so. Using a 24 bit original through a 24 bit encoder often sound better than inputting a 16 bit file. Most decoders will only output 16 bits, but this will hopefully change. The benefits will be there in any case. The reconstruction is a synthesis, not a change of format, like going from floating to fixed point. This redrawing of the waveform will have a better chance of achieving accuracy with a 24 bit input. Another consideration is that in worst case, the encoder may use precious bits to save 16 bit dither noise, disregarding the true signal. Most 16 bit decoders will truncate the lower bits, but the smarter ones decode internally at 24 bits and output this if permitted, otherwise dithering to 16 bit.


As for frequency content, I think the only important thing is the good old rule - keep it flatish. Tiny little speakers have virtually no deep bass, but most of them have a hefty bass boost to compensate. The 2.1 setup with a ~80hz 'sub' and tiny sattelites are very common today! I think boosting in the upper bass region to make it sound better on laptops may introduce more problems on other systems like the boomy 2.1 setups. As long as I can get _any_ hint of a deep bass at all on my laptop, I'm satisfied! =)


Ironically, the MP3's often end up on radio, at least over here. There's several programs that pick up unreleased indie tracks on and through the net. If broadcasted, any flat tops will recieve the standard phase treatment and all the usual radio processing problems will be there. The usual considerations of flat-top CD mastering applies.


In other words, a typical loud CD master as the input is not the best way to make good sounding MP3's! It's not the best way to make good sounding anything, IMHO, but especially so with psychoaccoustic coding. A nice sounding non-squashed 24 bit input going through a 320K MP3 and back again through a 24 decoder have a potential to sound better than a slammed and distorted 16 bit CD.


Hope this may of some help.


Cheers,

Andreas Nordenstam
Old 18th March 2006
  #11
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
MP2 and MP 3 are pretty much standard on the air these days and lots of decisions are being based on streams and e-mails. A mastering engineer who doesn't take streaming very seriously isn't exactly doing their clients a favor!

I brought the "softness war" up when Mix interviewed me recently. Unfortunately "the rest of the story" is that the artists involved chickened out.
Old 18th March 2006
  #12
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lupo
(usual disclaimer, not a super pro)

Recently spent some time trying to get a grasp on psychoacoustic coding and it's impact on the mastering processs. Done quite a few tests as well to find ways to achieve better output from this format. A format I used to consider an audio trash bin. Not so anymore! Of course, it's not the best option, but it can definitely be made to sound surprisingly good with the right approaches.


Level is important. 'Hidden' overshots will be revealed through coding and decoding.


Dear Andreas: Your responses sound like those of a "super pro" to me. Digital audio has changed the world so that even the most artististic mastering engineers must learn something about the technical details. Most of us at this point understand that a peak meter is not a VU meter, but sometimes that's where the knowledge stops.

I knew some LP cutting engineers who only had a rudimentary knowledge of what they were doing, but they could get away with it from rote training and some technical tips from a maestro like Al Grundy. But the world has changed.

That's not to say "The more you know, the better you will do", because ultimately it is in the ability to get from "the sound you hear in your head" to turning those knobs, and that's still an art.

BK
Old 18th March 2006
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz
Digital audio has changed the world so that even the most artististic mastering engineers must learn something about the technical details.
I have heard that the Frauenhofer Institute presented a new MP3-surround format some months ago. Sounds interesting (pun intended).

With "digital delivery", do you guys think that in the next five years, the major part of a mastering engineer´s work will be to.....make the best sounding MP3?
Old 18th March 2006
  #14
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
Digital delivery will rule the singles market much as the 45 single did. That doesn't mean packaged goods and high resolution sound will disappear. They will just revert to the luxury-item role they played in the '60s until another pop artist like the Beatles makes owning albums trendy again.
Old 19th March 2006
  #15
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Nordenstam's Avatar
 

Hello!


Thanks for the kind words, BK!

>That's not to say "The more you know, the better you will do", because ultimately it is in the ability to get from "the sound you hear in your head" to turning those knobs, and that's still an art.

Definitely! The art is always paramount to the technical stuff. But the gap seems to be closing in as time progresses. It'll be increasingly hard to prepare good masters for the various digital delivery medias without deep knowlegde of the technical side.

Seeing how this is still dark magic to most people, I guess there won't be many tech's around that specialies in digital on a level high enough to serve and guide mastering engineers. Think those who prefer to only use the brush and leave the mixing of the colours in their palette to their techs or assistants will have an increasingly hard time in the future.

Those with vinyl cutting experience probably adopts to this a bit easier, being used to limitations of the final delivery media. CD's, as we use them, are not strictly subject to such restrictions. (even if it's easy to object to such a view!) MP3's and similar formats are more demanding than CD's in that regard.


The implication for the art of mastering as that it'll be increasingly hard for the 'golden ears but less tech skill' people do to it. Dunno if that's good or not, probably not.

Any thoughts on this?


>Most of us at this point understand that a peak meter is not a VU meter, but sometimes that's where the knowledge stops.

The oversampled peak meter is a much understated tool. Imagine if everyone had been using it and the pressing plants refusing any masters with real overs! Sigh..


Markus Coleman wrote:
>I have heard that the Frauenhofer Institute presented a new MP3-surround format some months ago. Sounds interesting (pun intended).

IIRC, the surround MP3 was released on a test basis in 2004, with the test scheduled to end in december 2005. Is the final release here?



Andreas
Old 19th March 2006
  #16
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opentune's Avatar
 

Just heard that the Fraunhofer guys are working on something like a "real-time mp3
codec". Guess we´ll have some new tools very soon...
Old 19th March 2006
  #17
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
Technical know-how has always played an important role in recording engineering. Digital audio hasn't changed things nearly as much as many people seem to assume.

What it has done is to introduce an audio equivalent to animation but there's still plenty of life outside that world.
Old 21st March 2006
  #18
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T.RayBullard's Avatar
 

that some of your "mastering royalty" bill?
lovely how you can post here but cant answer a very important email or your phone... Guess you are busy lecturing at princeton...or is it harley?
anyhow..
This thread is very interesting, great to see so many authentic professionals in one place..
thanks for the paper, Lupo...very interesting.

anyone know of a good book on psychoacoustics??





Quote:
Originally Posted by Level
Here is a stream that has very nice dynamic range.

http://www.maradiorock.com/

Many of the songs have been specifically remastered for the stream.



Best to use Winamp. It is a 192K stream. There are many 320K streams flowing out there but some are using dynamic compression. Absolutely no reason at all for it for streaming IMO.
Old 21st March 2006
  #19
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dcollins's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigRay
that some of your "mastering royalty" bill?
lovely how you can post here but cant answer a very important email or your phone... Guess you are busy lecturing at princeton...or is it harley?
anyhow..
And they're off and running!


Quote:
anyone know of a good book on psychoacoustics??
Speech and Hearing in Communication by Harvey Fletcher
Fundamentals of Hearing by Yost
An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing by Brian C.J. Moore

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