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Mastering for CD vs streaming

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Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Bill S » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:20 pm

I have followed Ian Shepherd’s excellent series of videos for Sound on Sound. At home in my acoustically treated room I have a set of masters ready for streaming for my new album that I am really pleased with. Great dynamics, post-loudness wars, all checked on the loudness penalty website which tells me that Spotify et al won’t turn them down much. True Peak was set at -1dB, loudest parts around -10 LUFS with the rest of each track balanced around that.

Ian says “one master can rule them all”...I am going to produce a CD, but am under no pressure to compete in terms of loudness with commercial releases. So my temptation is to use my lovely dynamic streaming masters for the CD, and let people just turn up their stereo. On the other hand, if I do this, the CD will sound a LOT quieter compared to a commercial release.

What do you reckon? Compress to achieve another couple of dBs louder, and peak at 0.3dB? Leave alone? Any pointers gratefully received!
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby blinddrew » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:45 pm

Personally speaking, I'd say leave as is. If I'm getting up to change the CD I can change the volume too. :)
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby RichardT » Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:53 pm

Yes, I agree with Drew.
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Bill S » Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:58 pm

Thanks guys, I’m erring that way too.
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby blinddrew » Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:30 pm

To my mind, there's so many different loudness levels across my CD collection it's not like I could choose a sensible value that isn't going to end up with me reaching for the volume control.
So embrace the dynamics. :)
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:36 pm

I'd say, if you're happy with the mix dynamics, leave it alone and publish on CD as is. We are, finally, moving away from the peak-normalisation nonsense, after all, and every system has a Volume control for a reason.

You could add a comment to the sleeve notes to explain why the CD might seem a little quieter than other commercial discs, and to encourage the listener to turn it up and revel in the impact of its intended dynamics...

:D
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Bill S » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:44 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
You could add a comment to the sleeve notes to explain why the CD might seem a little quieter than other commercial discs, and to encourage the listener to turn it up and revel in the impact of its intended dynamics...

:D

My thoughts exactly Hugh - think I will do just that :-)
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby CS70 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:01 am

If you're doing it for fun, do as you like.

If you're doing it for business.. I'd say it depends on why you're making a CD, and what the CD-playing crowd you're targeting, expects. There aren't many people left listening to CDs - there's actually more people buying vinyl in 2020! - so it's difficult to come with hard data.

But you expect people to listen to yours side-by-side with older CDs (and I would), I would give a serious thought of competing in loudness. Not excessive limiting that destroys the dynamics, but getting you in a reasonable comparison.

As crazy as they got, the "loudness wars" weren't born out of evil spite for good music: there _is_ an intuitive, immediate preference for louder material built-in into the human brain. It's the same reason every single plugin or instrument preset out there is made to go up near 0dBFS - and if you go and adjust the volume control for comparison, you find out the plugin isn't doing much after all.

And as regrettable as it is, most people fall for it. Most non-audio interested customers, that is.

Surely not many of the audio-knowledgeable people around here, but the population at large, outside audio-aficionados, still most likely lacks the knowledge and interesting in acquiring it. They just want to have a good time. And a good time is often loud, out of the box.

Maybe I'm wrong and overly cynical, of course.. but this is a world where Kayne is a musical superstar and knowing how to sing or play is not actually required to sing or play - to say nothing of publishing music, of course. It's a better world that it once was, but it's not sane yet. :D

So, to conclude: it depends who you are targeting as customers.

If there's no customers, then it's just about what pleases you.
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:23 pm

CS70 wrote:As crazy as they got, the "loudness wars" weren't born out of evil spite for good music..

Not spite, no. Ignorance and greed were the driving forces. :think: ;)
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Aled Hughes » Sat Feb 20, 2021 8:27 pm

CS70 wrote:As crazy as they got, the "loudness wars" weren't born out of evil spite for good music:

I’ve always thought the ‘loudness wars’ came about by needing to be competitively loud on the radio. A CD negates that, because once the CD is loaded, you’re not competing with anyone else.

If your CD is a bit quiet, I don’t think the listener is likely to turn it off. It’s more likely they’ll turn it up to a comfortable level within the first few seconds of the first track, and then forget about it. Then the tracks will be nice, loud and dynamic!

(Granted, they’ll have to hurry to turn it back down if they follow it with a 2000s rock album! And then all the tracks will be stuck at the same level and lifeless...)
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby CS70 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:55 pm

Aled Hughes wrote:
CS70 wrote:As crazy as they got, the "loudness wars" weren't born out of evil spite for good music:

I’ve always thought the ‘loudness wars’ came about by needing to be competitively loud on the radio. A CD negates that, because once the CD is loaded, you’re not competing with anyone else.

If your CD is a bit quiet, I don’t think the listener is likely to turn it off. It’s more likely they’ll turn it up to a comfortable level within the first few seconds of the first track, and then forget about it. Then the tracks will be nice, loud and dynamic!

(Granted, they’ll have to hurry to turn it back down if they follow it with a 2000s rock album! And then all the tracks will be stuck at the same level and lifeless...)

Not my intention to make a defense of limiter-induced loudness, to be clear. I love dynamics, probably more then the next man - for one for example have never got the point of a bus compressor and almost never use one, even if it's the SSL.

It's only that, just like with the greed and ignorance mentioned by Hugh, you can put your head under the sand, and declare things are as nice as they should be; or you can see that greed and ignorance still exist and take that into account when you make your moves - especially business moves - without necessarily approving of them, or be ignorant and greedy.

In the specific:

- where do you think radios (and tv channels) played their recorded material off? :) (sure they compressed the beejezeus out of it anyways, but to this day you can often tell the era of a recording from its loudness after five seconds).
- at parties, half-drunk people used to to the "stereo" and change CD every few minutes. Guess which one were liked the most?
- back in the day, in the "late cd period", it was not uncommon to have a multiple-cd loader in the car, 6 cds were quite common and some models offered 9. Often they were in the boot.
- in the early digital age, people used to rip off CDs, make mp3s and create playlists. Remember WinAmp? Every bar and club that I knew off blasted music every night out of mp3 playlists.. and I can tell: back in the time, I knew every single club in the area :D
- even today, for a big service like Spotify loudness normalization is an option, not a given. People can turn it off, and some do. Spotify's contribution to the greater good it's been to make it the _default_ option (which is not a small thing at all).

It's not an exact science of course. But people are people and trends are trends, and a business ignores that at its peril. I like my music dynamic; so do you. Loads of listeners out there cannot care less or even tell the difference.

As a digression: there's a lot of aspects of life and industries where this is the case. For example, it would be better if people exercised and didn't eat too much, and yet the main health issues of the (western) world is obesity - because we love our complex carbohydrates and for many an evening on the sofa is way more appealing than a gym session. "Good" diet and fitness companies thrive because of that (and wouldn't exist without).

Another example, closer to home: 90% of the gizmos advertised on SOS aren't really necessary for the people buying them: often a tenth of the investment in acoustic treatment and focus on skills rather than gear would do them much more good. And yet people buy them, and a force of good as SOS lives on because of such advertising. Because SOS is a business (though its contribution to the greater good is that its editorial content, and this forum, often tell people that they don't need the gizmos.. which is not a small thing at all).

Or take vinyl.. the entire market is based on a totally misunderstood idea of vinyl being inherently "better" from a sonic point of view.. laughable, sure, but it's gotten bigger sales than CD in 2020.

It is what it is. Getting better, not sane yet. If you spend money to print CDs in 2021, my $.10 is that it's worth reflecting a moment on why you're doing it.
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Re: Mastering for CD vs streaming

Postby Aled Hughes » Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:30 pm

CS70 wrote:If you spend money to print CDs in 2021, my $.10 is that it's worth reflecting a moment on why you're doing it.

Actually, I agree with most if your post. But as you say, it’s 2021, and the days of 6-CD loaders and playing CDs at parties have long gone.

I still think that once a CD is loaded, it’s not competing with anything else. The system volume will be adjusted during the first song and largely left alone. I don’t think it’s likely to be turned off for not being loud enough.
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