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Why Does Modern Digital Not Sound Better Than 80s Digital?
Old 5 days ago
  #541
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bigbaby987's Avatar
This is interesting. I too agree that there are plenty of recordings from the 70's and 80's that sound bigger and fuller than today's music. My question is we constantly talk about new gear and the latest and greatest, with the exception of a few mics and processors. Why don't we search for the old recording tech and incorporate it also?
Old 5 days ago
  #542
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

A lot of people want to believe cheap digital technology makes it easy to make cheap recordings that will sound as good as the best from the past. The truth is that those recordings sounded great in spite of analog tape and not because of it.

Why did they sound great? What was in front of the microphones was great.

Why was it great? The performers had a lot more experience on stage running the risk of being booed off stage if they failed to engage their audiences.
Old 5 days ago
  #543
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Apart from the quality of the rooms, studio expertise and musicianship employed in many 80s digital recordings that people like, they also used a lot of very high end analogue hardware.
Old 4 days ago
  #544
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Urgh! I'm going to end up showing my age here.
I worked freelance at Criteria/Hit Factory for several years off and on doing everything from "New Wave/Alternative" and Miami Crap Dance Music that was so prevalent in the 80's. In the late 80's we were fighting with this crossover from analog to digital. Some of us were okay with it while others spent time arguing about why this and why that and how do we give digital that warm sound we were used to. My mentor was Eric Schilling, and we ended up using Analog first, THEN mixing it digitally. Some would go the AAD way or ADD (Analog Digital Digital). Back then, I was a fan of doing Analog first and then going digital. While others were praising Digital all the way. I think there is a certain truth to a particular era where Digital sounded a little tinny and crappy. Again, as some have mentioned it is all about taste. But ( and I've been out of the game for a while), some of the stuff out now doesn't sound too bad to my ears. We've come a lonnnnggggg way.

Great question and great answers from fellow posters!

That's my OLD 2 cents worth. Lol
Old 4 days ago
  #545
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

But all else being the same ...

Example:

Dire Straits, 'Love Over Gold', 1982. AAA recording.

Dire Straits, 'Brothers In Arms', 1985. DDD recording.

Both have great songs, performances, productions.

The first sounds huge, warm, spacious, inviting, organic.

The second, not so much.
Old 4 days ago
  #546
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_moreira View Post
Here is my opinion.

You know that setting in your TV that makes everything look 'too real'? Its commonly referred to as the soap opera effect.
That's "motion-compensated frame interpolation" and it can result in somewhat "plastic" looking artifacts. These tend to be most obvious where text overlays are placed in front of a fast moving object.

Personally, I like frame interpolation, but I can understand why some don't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_moreira View Post
Lots of studies have been done on this, and dont quote me on the frame rates.....but since forever, motion picture has been shot in 24 frames per second. This new stuff(tv settings) can upsample to 36 frames per second....and some things are directly recorded in 36 frames per second.
36 frames per second? AFAIK HFR (High Frame Rate) is 48fps and up...

Frame interpolation runs at rather higher rates--in fact the old 36" Philips CRT I used to own had Philips "Pixel Plus" running at 100Hz. (i.e. 4x25fps, the standard TV frame rate in Europe.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_moreira View Post
the results of the studies is that many viewers cannot suspend disbelief while watching something in 36 frames. It looks and feels too real, and therefore they cant just enjoy a work of fiction on TV or during a movie. They have gone as far as to study brain activity while watching in different mediums and all those pleasure centers do not fire off, even during the same movies when watching in 36 frames.
Source?

Anyway, video frame rates have nothing to do with digital audio.

What could be said is that it's perhaps possible for analogue recording medium (i.e. tape) artifacts to hide (mask) the "cracks" compared to an accurate medium (i.e. high quality digital.)
Old 4 days ago
  #547
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
But all else being the same ...

Example:

Dire Straits, 'Love Over Gold', 1982. AAA recording.
I have to listen to it on vinyl then?!

(Stating the obvious... AAA CDs don't exist...)
Old 4 days ago
  #548
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basehead617's Avatar
 

There's also some quite horrible sounding DDD albums. Like one of Andy Summers' solo records [name escapes me] for example - All you can hear is quantization/zipper noise in the background.

However.. and I know OP is likely long gone but.. I also think that Brothers In Arms (DDD) sounds terrible. Well performed and written and mixed of course, but the actual final product on CD is insanely brittle and you can hear those same little zips in quiet parts.
Old 4 days ago
  #549
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basehead617's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
But all else being the same ...

Example:

Dire Straits, 'Love Over Gold', 1982. AAA recording.

Dire Straits, 'Brothers In Arms', 1985. DDD recording.

Both have great songs, performances, productions.

The first sounds huge, warm, spacious, inviting, organic.

The second, not so much.
Hah I was just posting about this. 100% agree. Of all the examples to use, this one illustrates the opposite point.
Old 4 days ago
  #550
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post
I have to listen to it on vinyl then?!

(Stating the obvious... AAA CDs don't exist...)
Yes. I also have 'Brothers In Arms' on vinyl. Not much better than the CD, really.

And many older analog recordings still sound pretty good on CD. Having a final conversion to digital does not negate the wonderful sound of a quality analog recording.
Old 4 days ago
  #551
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Considering that digital technology has progressed rapidly in every realm over the past 30 years, why does digital audio sound no better than it did in the mid 80s? I still have yet to hear a modern pop record that has better sound quality than:

- Welcome to the Pleasuredome, Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)
"Relax" was recorded on analogue multitrack.

"Two Tribes," AFAIK, was the first single to get to the number one spot in the UK charts that was recorded on digital multitrack.

Who knows what happened along the way, but it's a pretty good example where the aesthetic intention, personnel, gear and studio are the same but for the primary recording medium. And I think the difference is quite audible.
Old 4 days ago
  #552
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by basehead617 View Post
However.. and I know OP is likely long gone but.. I also think that Brothers In Arms (DDD) sounds terrible. Well performed and written and mixed of course, but the actual final product on CD is insanely brittle and you can hear those same little zips in quiet parts.
IIRC the multitrack recorder used was only 14-bit.

By "zipper noise" do you mean quantization distortion?
Old 4 days ago
  #553
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post
"Relax" was recorded on analogue multitrack.

"Two Tribes," AFAIK, was the first single to get to the number one spot in the UK charts that was recorded on digital multitrack.

Who knows what happened along the way, but it's a pretty good example where the aesthetic intention, personnel, gear and studio are the same but for the primary recording medium. And I think the difference is quite audible.
Yeah "Relax" does sound better, I suppose.
Old 4 days ago
  #554
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Yeah "Relax" does sound better, I suppose.
Other way around in my view!
Old 4 days ago
  #555
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basehead617's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post
IIRC the multitrack recorder used was only 14-bit.

By "zipper noise" do you mean quantization distortion?

Yep!
Old 4 days ago
  #556
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
The truth is that those recordings sounded great in spite of analog tape and not because of it.
Definitely. What I was trying to say is that recordings like "Dark Side of the Moon" were recorded so well that it wasn't until digital mastering that the true depth and clarity could be heard by the consumer at home. And that's where all the myths about mastering got their start and mixers started using "it's not mastered yet" and other excuses for their lack of ability.
Old 4 days ago
  #557
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psykostx View Post
What I was trying to say is that recordings like "Dark Side of the Moon" were recorded so well that it wasn't until digital mastering that the true depth and clarity could be heard by the consumer at home.
I beg to differ.
Old 4 days ago
  #558
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post

Anyway, video frame rates have nothing to do with digital audio.

What could be said is that it's perhaps possible for analogue recording medium (i.e. tape) artifacts to hide (mask) the "cracks" compared to an accurate medium (i.e. high quality digital.)
Im not saying that video frame rates have anything to do with digital audio. Im just using it as an analogy.

I am one of those many viewers that cannot appreciate something as 'good cinema' if it looks like it was shot with a pristine camera/frame rate such as the news.

it needs to have that certain hue that you get with the lower frame rate for me to enjoy it.

Analog audio is no different. Even some of the best gear with a very wide frequency response is still very rarely as 'flat' as digital.

even if that piece of analog gear can record a frequency range of 20-20k... its probably -3DB at least below 100 hz and above 15k. Run that signal through a variety of pieces of analog gear and that effect compounds.

digital audio doesnt have that issue and its why so many folks refer to it as 'sterile'.

its incredibly flat for the most part and doesnt degrade along the way(unless you do it on purpose).

if you ask me.... the saturation plugins and harmonic exciters are what will ultimately bring digital audio into analog realm.

coupled with proper usage of high and low pass filtering. eventually we'll be able to replicate the 'mojo' of analog
Old 4 days ago
  #559
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
But all else being the same ...

Example:

Dire Straits, 'Love Over Gold', 1982. AAA recording.

Dire Straits, 'Brothers In Arms', 1985. DDD recording.

Both have great songs, performances, productions.

The first sounds huge, warm, spacious, inviting, organic.

The second, not so much.
Yet the Brothers In Arms album not the other one is regarded by many audiophiles as a benchmark in how good the recorded music and CD in particular can sound. I don't agree with it, but that's the reality, so I guess it's not that simple.
Old 4 days ago
  #560
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

"You must love distortion" aka saturation is the oldest lie in professional audio. It dates back to when the first solid state gear was introduced as a "more reliable" replacement for tube gear. For years I was convinced that tube mike preamps were better than solid state until I was given the chance to demo a prototype for a new preamp that Deane Jensen was considering manufacturing back in the '80s. There was the sound that I'd been missing! Unfortunately Deane passed away before it was ever manufactured.

It turned out that we love is the sound of headroom. What this has to do with digital is that most converters employ one of the very same crappy sounding cheap solid state analog audio stages that we hate. Analog line stages are a big deal that the sales-jerks never talk about.
Old 4 days ago
  #561
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Adebar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
It turned out that we love is the sound of headroom. What this has to do with digital is that most converters employ one of the very same crappy sounding cheap solid state analog audio stages that we hate. Analog line stages are a big deal that the sales-jerks never talk about.
This is a really good point!

I never understood when people were claiming converters sound the same because they use the same chips. The analog front end of an ADC or the back end of a DAC stays as important as every other analog stage in the signal chain.
Old 3 days ago
  #562
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People were sold the fantasy that digital is so good they'll sound like a $500,000 record from the '80s for a few hundred dollars.
Old 3 days ago
  #563
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyjanopan View Post
Yet the Brothers In Arms album not the other one is regarded by many audiophiles as a benchmark in how good the recorded music and CD in particular can sound. I don't agree with it, but that's the reality, so I guess it's not that simple.
Philips/PolyGram had put it out as the canonical "rock" recording to demonstrate CD.

It's pretty clean and clear, but somewhat harsh and brittle sounding as well.

So I don't think it's considered a benchmark in the audiophile world. They were complaining from the rooftops about digital audio back then.
Old 3 days ago
  #564
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On this installment of the wacky Saturday morning fun quiz show, hosted by the wonderful Peter Sagal, "Why Does Modern Digital Not Sound Better Than 80s Digital?", Donald Fagen edition:

The contestants:

The Nightfly - 1982

Morph the Cat -2006

verdict: The Nightfly sucks...Morph the Cat wins hands down.
Old 3 days ago
  #565
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12tone View Post
On this installment of the wacky Saturday morning fun quiz show, hosted by the wonderful Peter Sagal, "Why Does Modern Digital Not Sound Better Than 80s Digital?", Donald Fagen edition:

The contestants:

The Nightfly - 1982

Morph the Cat -2006

verdict: The Nightfly sucks...Morph the Cat wins hands down.
Or rather...

"Why does modern analogue not sound better than 80s digital?"

Verdict: The Nightfly wins for its comparatively pristine quality.

N.B. Contestants have one "lifeline," they may phone their friend "The Tone Control" to fix basic frequency balance issues.
Old 3 days ago
  #566
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post

N.B. Contestants have one "lifeline," they may phone their friend "The Tone Control" to fix basic frequency balance issues.
the contestants can phone their friend to Google the record, find out the particulars of how it was recorded, so they can declare if it sounds good to them or not.
Old 3 days ago
  #567
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by qwe View Post
I have to listen to it on vinyl then?!

(Stating the obvious... AAA CDs don't exist...)
Here you go. Even through YouTube, this record sounds so much better than 'Brothers In Arms'.

Old 3 days ago
  #568
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
People were sold the fantasy that digital is so good they'll sound like a $500,000 record from the '80s for a few hundred dollars.
That's exactly what I was thinking. I would say go shoot a modern Terminator 2 today - 26 years after the original, and see why what you would do could be so much worse.
Old 3 days ago
  #569
qwe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
the contestants can phone their friend to Google the record, find out the particulars of how it was recorded, so they can declare if it sounds good to them or not.
It won't always help them as Google doesn't always have the answer. :-)

There are recordings from the mid-80s which I don't know for _sure_ what the primary recording medium was, but I can guess. Some of them are like the Frankie Goes to Hollywood example where the studio, aesthetic intention, personnel and gear used didn't significantly change, but it's known that at some point the studio acquired Sony 24tr. DASH recording, and DAT for the stereo mixdown. Unlike the Frankie case, it's not always a "Google search" away to find out which recordings were recorded to analogue or digital as the primary medium.

Added to which, they might have slaved the multitrack analogue machine.. but that's why I say "primary recording medium."
After several generations, tape artifacts are quite obvious...
Old 3 days ago
  #570
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

What's been blowing my mind is how much better some of the cell phone videos on YouTube sound than many contemporary multitrack recordings.
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