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Sonic differences between 60's/70's and Current Studio Headphones
Old 2nd January 2011
  #1
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Unexplainedbacon's Avatar
 

Sonic differences between 60's/70's and Current

I have a question that's been on my mind for a long time, and I'm finally willing to take the criticism for asking it: So much of the most coveted gear is vintage (from the 60's and 70's) or the designs for which were from that era, yet when I listen records from each decade wether it be 60's,70's,80's,90's etc. I notice better sonic quality as time goes on.

So, what exactly accounts for these improvements when most of the gear seems to be the same?

Take Ozzy Osbourne for instance, I listen to old 70's Black Sabbath, and then something from his later solo records from the 80's, I can tell a major difference in sound quality.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unexplainedbacon View Post
I have a question that's been on my mind for a long time, and I'm finally willing to take the criticism for asking it: So much of the most coveted gear is vintage (from the 60's and 70's) or the designs for which were from that era, yet when I listen records from each decade wether it be 60's,70's,80's,90's etc. I notice better sonic quality as time goes on.

So, what exactly accounts for these improvements when most of the gear seems to be the same?

Take Ozzy Osbourne for instance, I listen to old 70's Black Sabbath, and then something from his later solo records from the 80's, I can tell a major difference in sound quality.
Quality of sound is subjective isn't it? Maybe such things as tape recorders / tape medium and speaker technology has somewhat affected how things have come out. Otherwise it must be just different set of musicians and ears making as good sounding music as they could.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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One thing that keeps coming up with older recordings that were done on tape is that a 2nd or even 3rd generation copy of the master was used to make the digital master. This was the case for the Beatles' entire catalog (they finally fixed this in 2009 and on many tracks there was a surprising amount of detail that wasn't audible before - like cleaning the dirt off your windshield after 6 months).

I think another issue is the amount of processing. When I think of "newer" sounding records, I instantly hear drums that have been EQ'd and compressed to death so that everything sounds uniform and perfect. On older stuff you reach a point where nothing sounds totally uniform and that's part of why people dig older stuff for being more organic. Think of all the little processing techniques that were developed in the early 80s, especially using gated reverbs all over drum kits. Phil Collins supposedly created that as an offhand experiment and it changed recorded percussion irrevocably. These things can make recordings sound brighter and even fresher.

I think the bottom line is that in the 60s/70s, it was OK to leave things a lot closer to how they actually sounded when they were performed and as time went on, it became popular to really process everything to sound like a bright shiny perfect package. Your mileage my vary of course. There are records that sound like the older stuff. Black Keys, White Stripes, etc...

-Alex
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
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I don't know about Ozzie's current projects, but a lot of stuff that I hear today sounds really bad - with a few exceptions. The soul got lost in 90% of the music.

Real cables rock.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
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I find that recordings that sound more faithful to the source are perceived as less polished or even less hifi by many listeners. I think this phenom is more prevalent in rock and pop, but I can't say for certain how far it has gone in other genre's that I have less experience in.

It seems like we're trying to make instruments sound like records as opposed to records sounding like instruments. Sound is very much a fashion so it doesn't really matter what your preference is. I like a more conservative approach, I think there is less chance of it sounding dated in the medium term.

For me, I try to draw a line so that chasing sound doesn't obscure performance. But even then there are exceptions.

As far as improvements over the years, I think there have been as many set backs in fidelity as there have been improvements. So I don't think this is a gear issue.

Intersting topic!
Old 2nd January 2011
  #6
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Drumsound's Avatar
Players and sounds change, react, evolve and often come full circle. Often once a sound becomes popular and ubiquitous it's human nature to then go for something different. The 70s had dry tight drum sounds, which ushered in the big reverbed sound of the 80s. In the 90s smaller toms, brighter snares, now we have edited, hypercompressed drums. One could go thoruogh each instrument and see similar progressions.

Technology is constantly evolving as well. Combine the two, and it becomes easier to 'date' a recording by ear.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #7
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I think modern records are no longer a representation of how instruments sound - but more of a sonic illusion.. a creation that represents how we think instruments SHOULD sound.. or how they can sound if we do all kinds of funny things to them. It's strange when you hear something that actually sounds like people playing together in a room - it's a novel concept.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #8
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vernier's Avatar
Best recordings in my huge collection are all pre 80's. Some of the top best are from 40's. It's all about what you're exposed to, and I think I've heard about every record there is. And seen every movie.
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Old 3rd January 2011
  #9
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I think I understand what you're getting at although I've experienced it the other way around. I think recordings sounded progressively worse from the 60s -> 70s -> 80s -> 90s. But like you say, it's odd how people will use all of that vintage gear today and yet make records that sound extremely modern. That should tell you that the gear doesn't have a whole lot to do with the end result.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadrophonic73 View Post
One thing that keeps coming up with older recordings that were done on tape is that a 2nd or even 3rd generation copy of the master was used to make the digital master. This was the case for the Beatles' entire catalog (they finally fixed this in 2009 and on many tracks there was a surprising amount of detail that wasn't audible before - like cleaning the dirt off your windshield after 6 months).

I think another issue is the amount of processing. When I think of "newer" sounding records, I instantly hear drums that have been EQ'd and compressed to death so that everything sounds uniform and perfect. On older stuff you reach a point where nothing sounds totally uniform and that's part of why people dig older stuff for being more organic. Think of all the little processing techniques that were developed in the early 80s, especially using gated reverbs all over drum kits. Phil Collins supposedly created that as an offhand experiment and it changed recorded percussion irrevocably. These things can make recordings sound brighter and even fresher.

I think the bottom line is that in the 60s/70s, it was OK to leave things a lot closer to how they actually sounded when they were performed and as time went on, it became popular to really process everything to sound like a bright shiny perfect package. Your mileage my vary of course. There are records that sound like the older stuff. Black Keys, White Stripes, etc...

-Alex
+1 imperfection is the key. These days, I use less and less plugins and outboards. Less and less edit. I realized that unpolished and somewhat raw sounding mix will actually sound better after a good mastering process. Polished mix tends to sound boring after mastering. I believe any good mastering engineer can make commercially acceptable masters even from cassette tapes.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #11
Well, back in the day they certainly were a lot less afraid of 'mud'. There was often way more lower mids than in today's stuff. If you posted something like many classic hits in terms of that lower mid stuff in the showcase section here on GS you'd probably immediately be told to cut some mud.

The vocal was often way more out front because they didn't have the automation (and in some of those years, the compression) facilities that we have today. So the vocal was often much more out front of the music than today, where it's often microscopically automated to sit right above the music.

Obviously a lot fewer tracks, each of which was a spatially and frequency-wise bigger in the song generally, and usually more ambience, instead of 100 dry, fractionally EQ'd tracks, with ten different short reverbs and delays to separate them.

And definitely, as mentioned, mistakes and semi-mistakes. They weren't going to toss an otherwise money track because of a few mistakes back then I don't think, even if they couldn't make those small mistakes or variations go away. And it makes all the difference in terms of creating a real performance. It's vastly too easy to fix things to the point that you completely lose what the whole point of making music is about.

As someone mentioned elsewhere, probably a noticeably greater spread in instrument tuning, instead of every instrument being electronically tuned to a deci-quaver. Some of that slight difference in tuning provides a warmer, thicker vibe I think.

I'm not a pro, so I can spit in the face of modernity. I refuse to auto-tune, to do lots of automation, etc... What I record is what I recorded. If that's not good enough, then I'll have to do better next time, which is really kind of supposed to be the point. What's the point in putting out a song or an album with your name on it, when you couldn't possibly have actually recorded it yourself?

I think I'm also going to stop using a tuner. Instead I'm going to put an A reference tone on a track for a couple measures before the song starts, and use that to tune everything by ear, so that I don't get into that overly tuned thing. And definitely I choose fewer tracks, that do more. And most definitely definitely try to record things as they should so, so that the song is mixing itself as it's recorded. I always fall short of that, but I get closer each time.

I'll comp the best stuff from a few takes, and do a little automation for fades and such, maybe notch out some sibilance, but that's about the limit of my artificial manipulation. Adding effects I don't consider an issue, because it's still having to work with what you actually recorded, and some of us aren't in a position to add some effects during the recording process.

I have nothing against engineers and producers, but I think that we have entered the ultimate Phil Spector era, where the producer/engineer can not only tell the artist what to do, but make them do it even if they didn't actually do it. It certainly makes the producer and engineer vastly more important than in a world where highly talented bands can lay down good stuff without the need for massive manipulation. I can imagine that a lot of producers and engineers would rather it stay that way, because then the bands are completely dependent on them.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #12
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One thing that becomes instantly apparent when you walk into an old studio built in say the 70's is that the rooms are a lot different than in most later studios. I love the sound of some of those old places. Instantly recognizable vibe. It's pretty funny when people go to such lengths to try to get 70's style sounds in rooms that well, don't sound at all 70's.

Obviously the sound from a big dry room will differ from a big live sounding room will differ from a well-treated booth will differ from somebody's basement or apartment. And the methods of capturing the sound are going to differ too to make the best of what you have to work with.

I'd argue that the style in which the room is built and its overall size and treatment has evolved over the years (devolved perhaps because of limitations in space and budgets) and is a big factor.

My favorite recordings are from the 50's-70's... and I love the sound of a good sized room to track in.

Dean, I appreciate your thoughts on tuning, unless you're talking keyboard instruments a lot of that comes from the fingers though... I still tune my Rhodes and Wurli standard and not stretch, a little crunch is part of what I like.
Old 4th January 2011
  #13
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Every 30 or 40 year old album which has been "digitally remastered" stinks. Music was mixed to sould like it was MIXED. The remaster will sound like perfect separation, which is crummy music. This occurs, in part,. because today's Dudes In Charge cannot bring themselves to believe that there is a piece of music in the world which they, the Dudes In Charge, cannot improve with their Superior Brains. One good example is Get Off Of My Cloud, which used to sound like one big rock and roll instrument, and now sounds like little weenies served on toothpicks.
Old 4th January 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unexplainedbacon View Post
Take Ozzy Osbourne for instance, I listen to old 70's Black Sabbath, and then something from his later solo records from the 80's, I can tell a major difference in sound quality.
Diary is sonically superior than most Sabbath records. Tech is prolly the best sounding Sabbath record but Diary is still much better sonically. Diary is one of the best sounding records of all time from any band. Kerslake, Daisley and Rhoads are immaculate. I can't think of one record from any other band that sounds better than Diary. Maybe as good...but nothing better.
Old 4th January 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
Diary is sonically superior than most Sabbath records. Tech is prolly the best sounding Sabbath record but Diary is still much better sonically. Diary is one of the best sounding records of all time from any band. Kerslake, Daisley and Rhoads are immaculate. I can't think of one record from any other band that sounds better than Diary. Maybe as good...but nothing better.
Well I'm biased because Randy is my all time fav guitar player. But I'll be honest, Blizzard of Ozz sounds like it was recorded inside of a steel drum.

Great points guys. I still cant wrap my head around the fact that some of that stuff sounds so muddy. I was listening to Hendrix's "Foxy Lady", and IMO the mix is horrible, the drums sound muffled and distant, and Jimmy's voice is WAY out in front in the mix.

I've gone back to a bunch of my fav old records, I'm in my mid 20's but my dad raised me right, so I love Zep, Sabbath and the like.

Consider Deep Purples "Child in Time", to me that song is sonically excellent, and it was written in 1969. A lot of the Zep stuff sounded great too, with the big Bonham drums and all. But If you listen to Van Halen's first album, or No More Tears from Ozzie, or other newer (relatively speaking) records, I'll take the clarity any day over the 50's/60's/70's mud records. Others disagree, and I'm glad to hear it, but I can only imagine how awesome it would sound if the Beatles, Zep, Sabbath, Hendrix had all the options we have in the studio today.
Old 4th January 2011
  #16
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I think "better sonic quality" has many ways of looking at it. Is it by signal-to-noise ratio, fidelity or euphony - which means different things to different people and different notions of that word in different eras.

Does it sound better now than in 60s? Debatable. Was it supposed/intended to sound better from the technological standpoint? Yes.

You may think it is detracting to say this but it is quite relevant to this discussion IMO: 60s-70s people HAD to record on tape and to work around the S-N ratio they recorded "hot" and resulted in . But when people discovered dynamic range and low noise floor in digital recording, they slam the levels anyway and resulted in
Old 4th January 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post
...today's Dudes In Charge cannot bring themselves to believe that there is a piece of music in the world which they, the Dudes In Charge, cannot improve with their Superior Brains.

Funniest damn thing I've read in a while.

Not all remasters blow, but yeah, 98% of them sure do, at least to my ears.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 7th January 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unexplainedbacon View Post
Well I'm biased because Randy is my all time fav guitar player. But I'll be honest, Blizzard of Ozz sounds like it was recorded inside of a steel drum.

Great points guys. I still cant wrap my head around the fact that some of that stuff sounds so muddy. I was listening to Hendrix's "Foxy Lady", and IMO the mix is horrible, the drums sound muffled and distant, and Jimmy's voice is WAY out in front in the mix.

I've gone back to a bunch of my fav old records, I'm in my mid 20's but my dad raised me right, so I love Zep, Sabbath and the like.

Consider Deep Purples "Child in Time", to me that song is sonically excellent, and it was written in 1969. A lot of the Zep stuff sounded great too, with the big Bonham drums and all. But If you listen to Van Halen's first album, or No More Tears from Ozzie, or other newer (relatively speaking) records, I'll take the clarity any day over the 50's/60's/70's mud records. Others disagree, and I'm glad to hear it, but I can only imagine how awesome it would sound if the Beatles, Zep, Sabbath, Hendrix had all the options we have in the studio today.

yeah the first Ozzy record is not awesome but the songs were. Do you like Sabbath Tech. Ecstasy? great sounding CD. also the Mob rules record is incredible too. The thing about sabbath for the most part is the lofi sound just adds to the listening experience. It's like stoner rock/doom metal or whatever. It's the whole cup of tea, gloomy music = gloomy production. It could have been different but it works, which is cool

I agree though, VH and the 'clarity' as you say is what it's all about for most music thumbsup
Old 7th January 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Funniest damn thing I've read in a while.

Not all remasters blow, but yeah, 98% of them sure do, at least to my ears.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Johnny Cash - Live at San Quentin & Live at Folsom Prison. Best remasters I have heard yet.
Old 7th January 2011
  #20
Gear Nut
 

Sonic difference?

That's easy. Just crank up the highend and lowend FULL blast. Keep the mids the same.

Done...
Old 10th January 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
Well, back in the day they certainly were a lot less afraid of 'mud'. There was often way more lower mids than in today's stuff. If you posted something like many classic hits in terms of that lower mid stuff in the showcase section here on GS you'd probably immediately be told to cut some mud.
It's brainwashing, not fidelity. There is absolutely no realism in the current fashion of scooping low mids. Listen to a piano or drum set in real life in a real room.

Scooping these frequencies allows you to print hotter mixes, that's all this is about (or boosting hi mids).

The thing is you brain adjusts fast to this. You can get used to listening to overtly bright mixes in a week, and everything else will sound muddy in no time.
Old 10th January 2011
  #22
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BLEED is your friend!
Old 10th January 2011
  #23
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Today's recording technology does allow one to produce recordings that are more faithful to the source. It also allows one to create mixes from endless numbers of elements and still sound clean, clear and present.

The difference today is the approach to the art of making music.

For whatever reasons, there are less and less popular recordings that emphasize capturing the sound of great musical performances, with the sound a great room. I prefer this type of recording.

That's not to say that it's bad to use recording technology to create combination's of sounds that would never occur naturally (hello Brian Wilson, Beatles, endless others), I just think that much of what you hear today is over hyped and over compressed, resulting in a sameness and lack of musicality.
Old 10th January 2011
  #24
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sorry, double post.

Last edited by Unexplainedbacon; 10th January 2011 at 11:26 PM.. Reason: double post
Old 10th January 2011
  #25
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Well, I'll be honest; Im not a pro, but in my mixes it's hard to get good separation without scooping mids often times. I feel like the mid range adds a lot of bulk to the mix, and you end up with one dimensional mixes.

I mean absolutely no discredit to the engineers from the older days, because many of them were brilliant, and often got great sounding stuff. But I do think the modern approach of "sculpting" the sound by exaggerating certain frequencies lends to the ear candy aspect of recording.
Old 11th January 2011
  #26
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Fair enough, but this does not mean "Hi Fi" it's just an eq preference. You can exaggerate certain frequencies to give the appearance more detail, and the listener will equate that to being very hifi or realistic even though it is less faithful to the source.
Old 11th January 2011
  #27
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I agree a lot of it has to do with the amount of processing per track typical workflows have allowed.

If you just have a simple 8 track console that is basically a line mixer with only a little outboard, you get very little processing and quite raw sound.

If you move up to a 48 channel console with EQ on every channel, you can layer and sculpt more. Add 48 channels of compressors as well and you can get hotter, punchier levels. Add a DAW and you get almost infinite track/processor count, and can start doing drum/vocal correction and comping on a finer level.

You tend to get a more and more 'modernized' sound as you go up in track counts, editing, and process counts. So decade by decade, that's what we've gotten.
Old 11th January 2011
  #28
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Sigma's Avatar
again 60's/early 70's they still didn't mind and actually utilized BLEED..the minute they did the "i can overdub " thing and larger track multitracks ..they started choke miking ..which begeot heavier eq and "depth/air/room simulations " as compensation... like what the early lexicons provided
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