An Open Apology

To all the people who listened to my music over the last few months and years… I’m sorry everyone. I’m really very very very sorry. You see – I just had no idea.
Today I bought some studio monitors, and I listened to my music. And it isn’t pretty. Oh, the mixes are fine – the problem lies in how I distribute them. I used to think (WAY back in the day) 128 kbps mp3 was fine. It was what all the cool kids were using. I eventually upped my recordings to 160, then 192 and 256. I switched to 256 AAC encoding a few months ago beliving it was “indistinguishable” from the raw form.
Holy cow was I wrong.
While listening to some of my pieces now, I occationally say “What the heck happened to the high end in this piece??”. Without fail – I’m listening to a compressed version that was destined for the web site.
Oh – the high end is still there… it is just… bad?
In any event – I’m going to have to change my format again. Possibly to 48kHz Apple Lossless (inside mp4). It is noticably better then CD quallity. Well – you can notice it if you have good speakers.

Please note! This is NOT audiophile mumbo jumbo. I have had the equivalent of a religious experience.
There’s no need to a double-blind… you can hear the difference three rooms away.

Well, I bought a pair of Mackie HR824s. This was not my first monitor purchase, though. Yesterday I got some KRK V6’s. They sounded great in the store. I brought them home – and fired up the tone generator. There were gaping holes the frequency response. Not knowing if it was my ears, or my room, or the speakers, I put together a test disc to bring to the store.
It wasn’t me – it wasn’t my room. It was the speakers. “Why”, I wondered “do they not publish a frequency response curve in the manual?” A-ha. “Because it would look like a vomit-inducing roller-coaster.” that’s why.
There were a lot of WORDS in the KRK manual. They spoke of how a good studio monitor doesn’t mean “flat response”, but also includes things like “smoothness across octaves”.
Gobbledy gobbledy mumbo jumbo. Terms like “articulation” and “sound quickness” do indeed mean nothing.
Don’t believe me – do it for yourself – it isn’t difficult.
I put the same rolling sine through the Mackie HR824s – and it was as though the clouds parted and God had shown down upon the scene.
Music is an emotional and intangible thing. SOUND, however, obeys the laws of physics.

6 comments on “An Open Apology
  1. Now you tell me! :) And there I was, further compressing it to horribly tiny OGG files for use in my game. But on the other hand, my game is aimed at older people (really ancient people in their 30s and 40s) and we are all either half deaf or have rubbish speakers because the guy in the computer shop could see that we know nothing. So I guess there’s no need to panic.

  2. Yeah…I kinda noticed it sounded..for lack of a better technical term–“tinny”.
    But hey, it’s all about growth! By and large though, your music is still some of the best out here for a clean, background track.
    I was beginning to get SO frustrated with the lack of talent and imagination and you’ve made a believer out of me!

  3. Kevin says:

    Yeah – I wouldn’t say they are ‘tinny’. Words are tough to quantify, though.
    They are almost “untinny”… with the 8kHz+ frequencies being de-emphasized and spacially compressed.
    You might be referring to something else… something which isn’t likely to change.
    In the world of audio – there is something called the “DJ Curve”, or the “EQ Smiley”. That’s when people – with no reguard for what they are eq-ing – automatically turn up the bass and high end, and turn down the mids.
    The result is a clear and powerful sound. The result is also just plain bad. If the engineers wanted it to sound like that – they’d have done it in the mix. Some do.
    I don’t do that – but if you’re used to the “pop” mix, my stuff likely does sound tinny.

    One more thing about my mixes… I rarely mix for loudness. I will often mix to full-dynamic range, but I won’t compress things up to the very loudest part of the range.
    I’m not sure why I choose to do this… some people say the mixes don’t sound as good because they aren’t as loud as “Aerosmith” or whoever.
    I guess it seems like you’re ‘gaming’ the audio system, and not providing better music.
    Thanks for listening to my rantings of the day, everyone! Take care!

  4. Brido says:

    Will the new compression you are using be able to be converted to other formats? Very few video programmes will accept MPEG4a files. We have to convert to wav or MP3 before our audio tracks will accept the music.
    I do not know much about these things. Do I presume converting mpeg4a to MP3 or wav will result in inferior music to that which you have encoded in MP3 originally? Or will the re encoded mpeg4a be better mp3s than if you recorded in MP3 first?

  5. Kevin says:

    Actually, the NEW format is 320kbps Mp3. The last new format was AAC – which did sound better than mp3 at similar bitrates.
    I recommend converting the m4a’s to wav with iTunes. It is a one-step process. And never ever go to low bitrate mp3 (under 256).
    Good luck!

  6. Rose says:

    How do you convert m4a’s to mp3’s or wav with itunes?
    been trying to figure it out for aages!