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A bone to pick about Hi-Fi v.s Lo-Fi Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 26th December 2010
  #1
A bone to pick about Hi-Fi v.s Lo-Fi

OK, so let me start out by saying I am not a die hard absolutist fundamentalist believer in one notch along the fidelity spectrum, I'm not here to defend anything or start an argument, but I do have a bone to pick about "fidelity" and it's seemingly high standard... I haven't really gathered and condensed all my thoughts and queries yet, but hopefully this post will help me get it all out...

SO, there was recently a GS post where an engineer was looking to find a Lo-Fi sound for the project he was about to work on... Now, let me stop and say that with the phrase "Lo-Fi" there comes many connotations for me (try poor gain staging on a tascam porta 4 track with type 1 tape and no noise reduction, haha). He followed with in the next sentence something like "really been digging the Black Keys latest album as well as White Stripes, wanna go for something gritty like that" and at this point I'm floored... because TO ME, there is nothing Lo-Fi about those recordings, to me they sound very lush and big and overall pleasant to listen to, not to mention were recorded in state of the art facilities utilizing state of the art hardware... Sure, there are things about the music and production that add edge to the music, but as far as fidelity is concerned you may not be able to get any better...

So my first question would have to be, is it just me, or is my opinion generally agreed upon? (at least for the most part). I get frustrated in the land of audio engineering, because I feel like I am alienated for having tastes that lean a little too far into the gritty end... Where my musical roots stem from was initially punk rock, and then the even farther lo-fi fetish garage punk, for the last 5 years my own personal listening has been focused on recordings from the bygone golden eras of the past, and to me there is nothing more "pleasant" than those recordings... Call those Lo-Fi, but I can't believe those words (sure there is a lot of variation within popular music of the time, but catch my drift) Maybe I'm dissilusioned, and that most of you are like me, desiring the fidelity of those past recordings, but at the same time trying to balance with todays high standards of audio fidelity... or maybe I am still just a lonesome ghost in a world of clear 16k+ freqs

My second question, I suppose, is what is the GS overall opinion on the recordings of the 40's through to the 80's... What is the epitome of fidelity... or wait maybe that's wrong question entirely, I think my question should be what is the epitome of a great sounding recording?

Third question, what is the epitome of Fidelity... It may be the same as the answer to question 2 for some, but not for others... how many fall into either category is what I am truly wondering... I know I fall into the latter pool...

My fourth question is, are they linked? I mean there is a line of course where fidelity is too overly sacrificed to make a pleasant sounding audio product, but anywhere beyond that line IMHO is gold, in fact, maybe too high of fidelity may ruin the product... OR... maybe I'm wrong to say that, depending on how you all answer might clear things up for me (if you give a good thoughtful response). Because to me, the Black Keys and those great recordings of the 60's and even the 40's sound big and beautiful and lush and full spectrum and as Hi-Fi as can be DESIRED, haha. Sure there are production differences throughout every audio product in history, but the overall depth and spectrum of many of these show for the hi-fi category more than anything else...

So my last question (for now) is, can it be agreed upon that most of the questions that come up about wanting LO-FI sounds more have to do with production and all other things that aren't fidelity? (or am I still in the dark!)

It frustrates me when someone calls something like the Black Keys Lo-Fi, cause if it really is, I know that I am lower Fi than that, and therefore pigeon holed, and the target on the sour end of the Lo-Fi v.s Hi-Fi arguments, I hope that this isn't true... If it is I say screw you all! fuuck

Jokes
Old 26th December 2010
  #2
The main reason why I pose this question, is that I want to know where I sit in comparison to the general public on GS, the reason I didn't add this with an edit?


BUMP
Old 26th December 2010
  #3
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This won't help, sorry.

To me, "lo-fi" just means that the technology is surpassed by the artistic vision and can't keep up.

So, the Misfits are lo-fi. Ministry or NIN are not, even though they have music that is more distorted/bandwidth limited.

I guess it comes down to intent for me.
Old 26th December 2010
  #4
Registered User
The original definition of High Fidelity was just a marketing buzz word used when the audio technology started to get good enough to aim for a fairly flat response. Previously, radios and record players deliberately avoided a flat response, and rolled off the highs and the lows. This kept the hiss and the hum down to tolerable levels, and created a warm mid-rangey sound from the single speaker open back cabinets ... "Oooo - it's got a luverly tone!".

Like any marketing buzz word, it becomes abused and meaningless. But I view Hifi as being an intention to avoid coloration of any sort. An impossible but noble asymptotical target.

Lofi is more of a joke term for anything that is intentionally colored, in any way. It's also a convenient "sour grapes" crutch for those who can't afford good gear.

I personally would not call a White Stripes album like Icky Thump a "lofi" album, because I think the audio quality is extremely high and I would be very proud of it. But it's clearly highly colored and makes good use of distortion.

It's all semantics. English is a living language, and you just aren't going to get general agreement on how people should use words.
Old 26th December 2010
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
The original definition of High Fidelity was just a marketing buzz word used when the audio technology started to get good enough to aim for a fairly flat response. Previously, radios and record players deliberately avoided a flat response, and rolled off the highs and the lows. This kept the hiss and the hum down to tolerable levels, and created a warm mid-rangey sound from the single speaker open back cabinets ... "Oooo - it's got a luverly tone!".

Like any marketing buzz word, it becomes abused and meaningless. But I view Hifi as being an intention to avoid coloration of any sort. An impossible but noble asymptotical target.

Lofi is more of a joke term for anything that is intentionally colored, in any way. It's also a convenient "sour grapes" crutch for those who can't afford good gear.

I personally would not call a White Stripes album like Icky Thump a "lofi" album, because I think the audio quality is extremely high and I would be very proud of it. But it's clearly highly colored and makes good use of distortion.

It's all semantics. English is a living language, and you just aren't going to get general agreement on how people should use words.
It's true, i think this goes a long with what im saying, is Hi Fi even a thing haha, these days it's all just bits, I suppose a lower sampling rate would be true Lo-Fi...

Maybe my long winded post was just a big ol' waste of time, but I hope not...
Old 26th December 2010
  #6
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Fidelity means accuracy of description, translation or reproduction. So "Hi-Fi" audio simply means that whatever is being referred to as "Hi-Fi" has a linear transfer function (or nearly linear, or linear up to a certain point).

So no...old saturated analogue tape recordings are not "Hi-Fi". What exactly is the confusion? I don't get it
Old 27th December 2010
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by timlloyd View Post
Fidelity means accuracy of description, translation or reproduction. So "Hi-Fi" audio simply means that whatever is being referred to as "Hi-Fi" has a linear transfer function (or nearly linear, or linear up to a certain point).

So no...old saturated analogue tape recordings are not "Hi-Fi". What exactly is the confusion? I don't get it
The question is more, in your opinion, how much does "fidelity" have to do with the overall listening experience... I am arguing (though it is just my opinion) that although limited fidelity wise, the great recordings of years ago are the hallmark for recordings even today... This thread is also about the misuse of words like Lo-Fi by unexperianced/ underexposed engineer types
Old 27th December 2010
  #8
People approach things in different ways, but, on long consideration after nearly a half century since I first decided I was an "audiophile" (as I called it in the 60s, in junior high), I've decided that I've never heard boring music that was made exciting by the excellence of its reproduction -- and a sort of corollary -- really good music can survive a lot of sonic mayhem.


With regard to lo fi, as I typically think of its use apart from actual reproductive fidelity, like evangelista, I tend to think of it as an attitude, a determination to make and capture music despite whatever limitations circumstances force on the artist and his collaborators.
Old 27th December 2010
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
The question is more, in your opinion, how much does "fidelity" have to do with the overall listening experience... I am arguing (though it is just my opinion) that although limited fidelity wise, the great recordings of years ago are the hallmark for recordings even today... This thread is also about the misuse of words like Lo-Fi by unexperianced/ underexposed engineer types
From the late 40s and early 50s going forward, we had the ability to electronically transcribe signals with fidelity that is arguably about the same level as today's media. And engineers had long experience in careful selection of microphones to make the most of each mic's abilities. Great rooms were common at better facilities -- and there were often ready pools of top flight musicians in the recording capitals. Performances were often ensemble, with minimal overdubs. It shouldn't be surprising that so many stunning sounding records came from the mainstream (non-rock/youth) pop worlds in the 50s and 60s.

Also, some of the Hollywood musicals had amazing recordings. I have a soundtrack recording of 1955's Vincent Minelli Kismet, in stereo, that is really pretty stunning, considering it was 55 years ago. And this stereo mix was no afterthought.
Old 27th December 2010
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
From the late 40s and early 50s going forward, we had the ability to electronically transcribe signals with fidelity that is arguably about the same level as today's media. And engineers had long experience in careful selection of microphones to make the most of each mic's abilities. Great rooms were common at better facilities -- and there were often ready pools of top flight musicians in the recording capitals. Performances were often ensemble, with minimal overdubs. It shouldn't be surprising that so many stunning sounding records came from the mainstream (non-rock/youth) pop worlds in the 50s and 60s.

Also, some of the Hollywood musicals had amazing recordings. I have a soundtrack recording of 1955's Vincent Minelli Kismet, in stereo, that is really pretty stunning, considering it was 55 years ago. And this stereo mix was no afterthought.
I was listening to a tape cassette (not by choice, but because my car has a cassette player) of some late 40's hits, and the quality of the recordings are stunning... I mean, sure, there's a high freq roll off way sooner than you'd hear today, and some may describe it as murky at times, shrill at others... What i hear are the ribbon mic sound on vocals, nice acoustics, and older recording, and mixing techniques... and those shrill passages I would describe as "dynamics"... it's far from lo-fi. It's true, and you would know, that really we haven't come a long way fidelity wise since the late 40's, the biggest change would be the storage medium, everything else has remained the same (look at all the hardware dubbed vintage sounding, or vintage reissue, vintage vibe, mojo, list goes on...)
Old 27th December 2010
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
With regard to lo fi, as I typically think of its use apart from actual reproductive fidelity, like evangelista, I tend to think of it as an attitude, a determination to make and capture music despite whatever limitations circumstances force on the artist and his collaborators.
Uh... I think I agree. Maybe.

To me, when I hear audio professionals (and amateurs) and/or musicians talking about "lo-fi" it mostly refers to a conscious descision to not get the most accurate reproduction of the event. Intentional distortion, intentional bandwidth limitations, crunchy crusty recordings that conspicuously don't sound like they were created with state-of-the-art equipment in a state-of-the-art facility.

When this "lo-fi" aesthetic gets combined with "hi-fi" material on the same recording, it's simple to grasp the concept and why it was embraced: it's a very effective method of generating textural contrast.

The gray area comes when an entire modern recording strives for that "lo-fi" aesthetic...because then you're forced to wonder whether that really is intentional, or simple Doing The Best They Can With What They Have, or maybe even Not Knowing Any Better.
Old 27th December 2010
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
Uh... I think I agree. Maybe.

To me, when I hear audio professionals (and amateurs) and/or musicians talking about "lo-fi" it mostly refers to a conscious descision to not get the most accurate reproduction of the event. Intentional distortion, intentional bandwidth limitations, crunchy crusty recordings that conspicuously don't sound like they were created with state-of-the-art equipment in a state-of-the-art facility.

When this "lo-fi" aesthetic gets combined with "hi-fi" material on the same recording, it's simple to grasp the concept and why it was embraced: it's a very effective method of generating textural contrast.

The gray area comes when an entire modern recording strives for that "lo-fi" aesthetic...because then you're forced to wonder whether that really is intentional, or simple Doing The Best They Can With What They Have, or maybe even Not Knowing Any Better.
What is a modern recording that has entirely been processed in order to sound lo-fi? An example would help (if a solid example is known)... I mean, I know what your talking about with what was said above, but what engineer types consider lo-fi is what I wanna know at this point...
Old 27th December 2010
  #13
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A bone to pick about Hi-Fi v.s Lo-Fi

I would not consider The White Stripes lo-fi. I would call it minimalist maybe because of the minimal amount of instruments though.
Old 27th December 2010
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
So my first question would have to be, is it just me, or is my opinion generally agreed upon?
I'm with you. TBH, at this point in time I don't believe in "fidelity" as any kind of technical limitation or objective goal. It's all just different colors to paint with. To me, a lot of the stuff that pro engineers seem to consider "high fidelity" is just stuff that sounds terrible and lifeless.

This thread amused me. Wavves (the band) - distortion method
Old 27th December 2010
  #15
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Mike Pfeifer's Avatar
 

An album I would consider Lo-fi would be Portishead's self titled album.
Old 27th December 2010
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ross View Post
Uh... I think I agree. Maybe.

To me, when I hear audio professionals (and amateurs) and/or musicians talking about "lo-fi" it mostly refers to a conscious descision to not get the most accurate reproduction of the event. Intentional distortion, intentional bandwidth limitations, crunchy crusty recordings that conspicuously don't sound like they were created with state-of-the-art equipment in a state-of-the-art facility.

When this "lo-fi" aesthetic gets combined with "hi-fi" material on the same recording, it's simple to grasp the concept and why it was embraced: it's a very effective method of generating textural contrast.

The gray area comes when an entire modern recording strives for that "lo-fi" aesthetic...because then you're forced to wonder whether that really is intentional, or simple Doing The Best They Can With What They Have, or maybe even Not Knowing Any Better.
Sure.

Back in the day, we called that coppin' style. Now, I think we call it the post-modern impulse. heh

Seriously, though, styles change, pendulums swing, the world goes round.

When I started listening to punk in the second half of the 70s, it wasn't that I started hating traditionally good singing or complex, interesting guitar playing -- I'd just got sick of all the ultra-slick 70s crooners and harmony bands and all the tweedly fret grinders. And I continued listening to the great singers and great guitar players, etc, that had talked to me in the past.

But I saw my embrace of that musical fauvism as putting me in sharp contrast to my Boston, Asia, Kansas, Chicago (the bands not the places) lovin' contemporaries -- and I thought that was really important, since those folks bored me to tears. God love 'em.
Old 27th December 2010
  #17
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could hi and lo fidelity be thought of in terms of fidelity to the original performance? in that case, here in overdub land... i am making very slick lo fi recordings.
Old 27th December 2010
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
The question is more, in your opinion, how much does "fidelity" have to do with the overall listening experience... I am arguing (though it is just my opinion) that although limited fidelity wise, the great recordings of years ago are the hallmark for recordings even today... This thread is also about the misuse of words like Lo-Fi by unexperianced/ underexposed engineer types
Well, fidelity means having the same character. So, like your friend preferred The Black Stripes/ White Keys example, there's a noticeable difference between the original sound coming off the racket into the board, translated through tape which compliments the genre. (We're gutter, man/ pawn shop *****s/pass the rig..). You wouldn't hear anyone wanted to produce a lo-fi Meshuggah album, unless they were real big fans of St. Anger.
Sure, there's masking involved and bleed and editing out the burps and tinkle of beer bottles, but most of all yeah i attribute it to bands' first recording are live bootlegs or garage sessions, appearances on tape mixes.
The music is supposed to be noisy.
Old 27th December 2010
  #19
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Listen to Nite Jewel's album of last year. That's lo-fi. Recorded on portable 4-track cassette and then mixed deliberately muddy.

Alternatively, any early recordings by the Fall. Alternatively, the majority of Billy Childish's output.

A friend's band, Thee Spivs, recently put out an album they recorded direct to a Zoom digital 8-track at home. In terms of mics, equipment etc, it's lo-fi. Though the end result doesn't sound particulary lo-fi.

I think these days, recording digitally, you actively have to try to sound lo-fi. Unless you're me, of course - I can't mix for ****, so everything I do sounds lo-fi.
Old 28th December 2010
  #20
maybe I'm not as crazy as I thought then

thats good news to me...
Old 28th December 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
because I feel like I am alienated for having tastes that lean a little too far into the gritty end...
Probably because far too many people use it as an excuse. There is a tendency to draw the bulls-eye around where the arrow hit and claim "that's what I was aiming for". How convenient.


Quote:
for the last 5 years my own personal listening has been focused on recordings from the bygone golden eras of the past...desiring the fidelity of those past recordings, but at the same time trying to balance with todays high standards of audio fidelity...
Unless the 'bygone golden eras' that you are referring to are the period of Edison cylinders, there is little significant difference in what was possible fidelity-wise vs today. Maybe a bit of tape hiss. Standards? IMO, it's almost all Fashion.

If you define high-fidelity as 'true to the source', very few rock records are high-fidelity. Low fidelity originally meant 'not true to the source due to limited bandwidth and distortion'. Between overdubbing, compression EQ automation and reverb, nothing about most recordings is true to the source.

Low-fi has come to mean "unhyped". You can use a $10,000 condenser mic on the vocals but if you don't crank the EQ on the track, someone will call it low-fi.

Quote:
What is the epitome of fidelity... or wait maybe that's wrong question entirely, I think my question should be what is the epitome of a great sounding recording?
Two entirely different questions for most listeners.

To me the epitome of (high) fidelity would be a recording that is indistinguishable from having the live musicians playing a live set right there in front of you.

No such thing, but the only people who even want to go in that direction generally listen to classical, maybe jazz and folk.

There is also no such thing as 'the epitome of a great-sounding recording', but that's because everyone has this thing called 'taste'.


Quote:
My fourth question is, are they linked?
only if you want them to be, which most people obviously don't


Quote:
So my last question (for now) is, can it be agreed upon that most of the questions that come up about wanting LO-FI sounds more have to do with production and all other things that aren't fidelity?
I would certainly agree with this. It is low-fi-as-style. An audio 'fashion statement' and little more.
Old 28th December 2010
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Probably because far too many people use it as an excuse. There is a tendency to draw the bulls-eye around where the arrow hit and claim "that's what I was aiming for". How convenient.




Unless the 'bygone golden eras' that you are referring to are the period of Edison cylinders, there is little significant difference in what was possible fidelity-wise vs today. Maybe a bit of tape hiss. Standards? IMO, it's almost all Fashion.

If you define high-fidelity as 'true to the source', very few rock records are high-fidelity. Low fidelity originally meant 'not true to the source due to limited bandwidth and distortion'. Between overdubbing, compression EQ automation and reverb, nothing about most recordings is true to the source.

Low-fi has come to mean "unhyped". You can use a $10,000 condenser mic on the vocals but if you don't crank the EQ on the track, someone will call it low-fi.



Two entirely different questions for most listeners.

To me the epitome of (high) fidelity would be a recording that is indistinguishable from having the live musicians playing a live set right there in front of you.

No such thing, but the only people who even want to go in that direction generally listen to classical, maybe jazz and folk.

There is also no such thing as 'the epitome of a great-sounding recording', but that's because everyone has this thing called 'taste'.




only if you want them to be, which most people obviously don't




I would certainly agree with this. It is low-fi-as-style. An audio 'fashion statement' and little more.
^^^ that is more the answer I've been looking for, I want people's opinons on each of the said questions... I mean, I suppose at this point it's purely for the sake of conversation, and also, I want the thread I took a long time to type up to be successful... heh

but yes, I will say that through asking this my idea of "fidelity" has become more clear, it means true, not sheeny or glossy like one may initially conclude.

Good Stuff, am I beating a dead horse?
Old 28th December 2010
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
To me the epitome of (high) fidelity would be a recording that is indistinguishable from having the live musicians playing a live set right there in front of you.

No such thing, but the only people who even want to go in that direction generally listen to classical, maybe jazz and folk.
I want that too, and for all kinds of music. But not just the realism, some more esoteric styles are needed also.

I think it's about time for binaural music production to slip into the mainstream......there's a lot of headphone listening going on and it's a shame to not exploit the benefits of one's listening system for artistic effect......
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