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New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

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New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Ian Shepherd » Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:51 pm

Those of you keeping an eye on the "Loudness Wars" may be interested by the current discussions on the Metallica forums. Fans have been complaining bitterly about the fairly extreme clipping distortion on the new album "Death Magnetic" - it's clearly audible on the previews in iTunes, for example(*) - and the finger has been pointed at Ted Jensen, head engineer at Sterling Sound, who mastered the album.

In an interesting turn of events, "oneway23" has posted what he claims is a reply from Ted, stating that the album was supplied to him with the clipping already in the mix:

I’m certainly sympathetic to your reaction, I get to slam my head against that brick wall every day. In this case the mixes were already brick walled before they arrived at my place. Suffice it to say I would never be pushed to overdrive things as far as they are here. Believe me I’m not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in some form of backlash against volume above all else.


Check out the thread for yourself:

I GOT A RESPONSE FROM TED, JENSEN wrote back...He's not happy

Assuming this is genuine, props go to Ted, imo, for sticking his neck out and saying what he believes - let's hope this helps turn the tide of ever-increasing loudness and distortion.

Cheers,

Ian

(*) Of course the iTunes versions probably sound even worse than the CD itself, thanks to the likelihood of intersample peak clipping in the encoding process.
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby narcoman » Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:49 am

i feel moderately confident that it's not the label gunning for volume....
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby onesecondglance » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:02 am

narcoman wrote:i feel moderately confident that it's not the label gunning for volume....

the CD does indeed sound a little better than the mp3s - there's definitely more clipping on those. even then, though, it's smashed beyond smithereens.

interesting though that Jensen is claiming it was that way when he got it - i wonder if he is going to say that the excessive brightness isn't his fault either (it's very trebly in parts, which only serves to make the unclipped bits sound harsh as well!)

i like the album as a piece of music - but soundwise this beats Bullet For My Valentine's "Scream Aim Fire" as the most clipped album i've yet heard...
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby narcoman » Sat Sep 13, 2008 11:27 am

onesecondglance wrote:
narcoman wrote:i feel moderately confident that it's not the label gunning for volume....

the CD does indeed sound a little better than the mp3s - there's definitely more clipping on those. even then, though, it's smashed beyond smithereens.

interesting though that Jensen is claiming it was that way when he got it - i wonder if he is going to say that the excessive brightness isn't his fault either (it's very trebly in parts, which only serves to make the unclipped bits sound harsh as well!)

i like the album as a piece of music - but soundwise this beats Bullet For My Valentine's "Scream Aim Fire" as the most clipped album i've yet heard...

That record had endless trouble in mastering - the bands fault. First drafts I heard from the Exchange were terrible.
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby onesecondglance » Sat Sep 13, 2008 1:12 pm

mastering engineers get my sympathies here - even those who know about this sort of thing could be forgiven for assuming any and all clipping is due to the mastering alone, because they're the last to have laid hands on the music.

it's like finding a body. were you the first to see them dead, or the last to see them alive?
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Bod » Sun Sep 14, 2008 10:16 am

The track "My Apocalypse" clips from start to finish. In my opinion it's unlistenable (and, before anyone else says it, I'm talking about the sound quality and not the music ).
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Syncratic » Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:41 am

I agree, everything I've heard sounds terrible, not what I expected from a band of such stature.
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Ian Shepherd » Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:58 am

Hm. Here's a waveform, from another forum:

Death Magnetic Waveform Analysis

And some stats:

I just skipped through 3 random songs and the highest I saw on the meter was -4,3 dB RMS (-1,3 RMS in AES17 norm), looking at the realtime RMS meter with Wavelab's default time constants.

Wavelab's global analysis (with its default time constants) reports -2,93 RMS [+0,07 in AES17] RMS in one of those tracks.

Most of the album (looking at the meters) sits between -7 and -5 (between -4 and -2 in AES17).

You remember that popular myth that mastering will "make your record sound the same across different systems"? I now get the point. Death Magnetic (although apparently not introduced through mastering) sounds thin and distorted on my laptop speakers. And it sounds thin and distorted in my mastering studio. There's always a silver lining
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-2.93 RMS !?!

What's puzzling me is - people were complaining about the early leak. But the mastered version is even louder. So although Ted is saying it was smashed when it came in, it looks like they persuaded him to smash it even further...?

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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Stonehousestudio » Sun Sep 14, 2008 1:26 pm

I have to say I think the whole album is painful to listen too. I had to turn it down to even get through the recording once.

Shame really, but MOP was the same back in the day.


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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Simon Murphy » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:09 pm

Well it does sound to me like the clipping and distortion has been added at various stages of the project. I mean, the overall covering of fizzy distortion could well have come in the mastering stage or by the overall mix being pushed to far just before mastering. But other elements, such as the splatting drum sound, sound like its come earlier in the tracking or mixing.

We all know that pushing the mix too far (whether in mastering or not)was probably done under the misguided idea that making it REALLY LOUD will impress people (not me or anyone else on this forum!!) But the splattered drum sound (and other elements) could well have been a deliberate production decision, and that's even more depressing for me because they must actually think it sounds good, and even if it was a more reasonable overall level then it would still be crunchy & distorted.

I'm a big fan of Metallica's music and I do really like this album musically - I just now have to work out how to listen to it without being annoyed buy the sound
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Bod » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:11 pm

I've just had another quick listen and there's no better example than the intro to "The Judas Kiss". The toms sound horrifically overloaded.

For those that haven't heard the album, you can hear previews HERE but note that these versions are less (!) distorted than the CD release. I can only assume that they were after that effect, but if that is the case then OUCH! MY EARS!
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby tomas » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:58 pm

Simon Murphy wrote:I'm a big fan of Metallica's music and I do really like this album musically - I just now have to work out how to listen to it without being annoyed buy the sound

There you have it! It's all a cunning plan to have us buy the same material again, as the HiFi version, at some point later... and at the same time teach the kids something about the oppression of compression...
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cheers,

t-:


Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Dale Campbell » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:25 pm

Just been on the metallica forum and apparently the version that is on guitar hero (as download track I think) is different, and sounds much better......

Youtube vid of guitar hero version high qaulity


here is the thread metallica forum
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Ian Shepherd » Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:33 pm

Dale Campbell wrote:apparently the version that is on guitar hero (as download track I think) is different, and sounds much better.....
Both hilarious and tragic...! The good news for Simon and other fans is that there will probably be a clean version available for download somewhere near you very soon...

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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby illegal colors » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:26 pm

Dale Campbell wrote:Just been on the metallica forum and apparently the version that is on guitar hero (as download track I think) is different, and sounds much better......

Youtube vid of guitar hero version high qaulity


here is the thread metallica forum

That’s right, brother. YouTube rocks. LOL.
Seriously, try watching this old MTV video on YouTube

Whitney Houston - I'm Your Baby Tonight
http://mx.youtube.com/watch?v=cFXJ9Vhvgfw&feature=related

I’m not kidding. Watch it thru and listen.
Then try listening to 'crystal-clear' CD version if you have one
or samples on iTunes.
You will not believe your ears.
It’s not just distortions, it’s that everything is wrong on CDs.

I always said - CDs suck.
Who are these CD people who are doing this?!
Will we ever know their names? They are destroying the industry!
That’s right!
This bunch of pot-belly-pedophiles destroying the industry
not illegal downloads.
I would be happy to dedicate my life to ripping their balls off
so they will not contaminate the rest of the world!
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Guy Johnson » Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:11 am

Steady on, old chap.
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby onesecondglance » Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:15 am

illegal colors wrote:
Dale Campbell wrote:Just been on the metallica forum and apparently the version that is on guitar hero (as download track I think) is different, and sounds much better......

Youtube vid of guitar hero version high qaulity


here is the thread metallica forum

That’s right, brother. YouTube rocks. LOL.
Seriously, try watching this old MTV video on YouTube

Whitney Houston - I'm Your Baby Tonight
http://mx.youtube.com/watch?v=cFXJ9Vhvgfw&feature=related

I’m not kidding. Watch it thru and listen.
Then try listening to 'crystal-clear' CD version if you have one
or samples on iTunes.
You will not believe your ears.
It’s not just distortions, it’s that everything is wrong on CDs.

I always said - CDs suck.
Who are these CD people who are doing this?!
Will we ever know their names? They are destroying the industry!
That’s right!
This bunch of pot-belly-pedophiles destroying the industry
not illegal downloads.
I would be happy to dedicate my life to ripping their balls off
so they will not contaminate the rest of the world!

riiiiiight.

back OT, i also heard that the GH3 versions are much less clipped (although not entirely). much as i disagree with illegal downloading, unless they do re-release the album, who can blame folks for getting a better quality torrent version? especially if they already bought the CD, or, god forbid, the £££ special editions (with "high quality 320kbps mp3s" - shame that no matter the format, this clipping is going to be there - even on the vinyl if it's not the mastering).

that's a point actually... anyone heard the vinyl? that would sorta confirm the original post (i.e. that the clipping is from the mix, not the mastering).
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby el_thwatez » Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:34 am

Simon Murphy wrote:Well it does sound to me like the clipping and distortion has been added at various stages of the project. I mean, the overall covering of fizzy distortion could well have come in the mastering stage or by the overall mix being pushed to far just before mastering. But other elements, such as the splatting drum sound, sound like its come earlier in the tracking or mixing.

We all know that pushing the mix too far (whether in mastering or not)was probably done under the misguided idea that making it REALLY LOUD will impress people (not me or anyone else on this forum!!) But the splattered drum sound (and other elements) could well have been a deliberate production decision, and that's even more depressing for me because they must actually think it sounds good, and even if it was a more reasonable overall level then it would still be crunchy & distorted.

I'm a big fan of Metallica's music and I do really like this album musically - I just now have to work out how to listen to it without being annoyed buy the sound


Live
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Shambolic Charm » Mon Sep 15, 2008 9:20 am

Listening to the website clips the whole mix sounds wrong. The drums sound like like they were recorded in someones front room and stuck on at the end. They are completely out of the mix!
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby The Right To Arm Bears » Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:28 pm

Hmmmph .... it sounds fairly shocking through headphones. The music itself is good in places but yep defo clipping. It must be a deliberate stylistic choice. This record could have been the next after AJFA - it's on the same level production wise!
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Ian Shepherd » Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:21 am

Dale Campbell wrote:Just been on the metallica forum and apparently the version that is on guitar hero (as download track I think) is different, and sounds much better......
I can confirm this is true. In fact, the difference is so startling I just put up a blog post about it:

"Death Magnetic" sounds better in "Guitar Hero"

Ian
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Sam Inglis » Tue Sep 16, 2008 8:59 am

Rick Rubin has plenty of form when it comes to making loud and unlistenable albums -- RHCPs' Californication was one of the worst culprits, and I'm told the later Johnny Cash stuff was heavily compressed too, though I haven't heard much of it.
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby onesecondglance » Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:33 am

Ian Shepherd wrote:I can confirm this is true. In fact, the difference is so startling I just put up a blog post about it:

"Death Magnetic" sounds better in "Guitar Hero"

Ian

that's quite shocking actually... legality aside, the GH3 sample is clearly better quality. now where's that remix / remaster petition...
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Rhorschack » Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:08 pm

Rips from Guitar Hero 3.

Not so great but at least there's no distortion anymore...


http://www.metallicabb.com/index.php?showtopic=86819
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Rhorschack » Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:29 pm

Image
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby ad65 » Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:23 pm

Time for my 2 pence worth, i have the cd and i also have a reasonble hi fi system and it sounds fine to me,sure its loud its heavy metal for gods sake! but its not clipped or un listenable i listen to a lot of techno and drum and bass and this cd is as loud as a lot of drum and bass albums i just think a lot of people have lousy music systems or listen to it on there pcs so what do you expect? get a decent hi fi and listen again!!!
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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby Ian Shepherd » Tue Sep 16, 2008 8:09 pm

ad65 wrote:its not clipped or un listenable
I'm really pleased the sound isn't spoilt for you, but I'm afraid you're wrong. I've posted a more detailed comparison with the CD and "Guitar Hero" version here:

Metallica "Death Magnetic" - CD vs. PS3 "Guitar Hero"

The short version - it doesn't sound good.

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Re: New Metallica album clipping distortion - NOT from the mastering

Postby ad65 » Tue Sep 16, 2008 8:26 pm

Hi thanks for that maybe your pictures show you a clipped waveform but the album is not un listenable im listening to cyanide at the moment and it sounds good to me but i guess i must be wrong!
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