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ARSCLIST  July 2006

ARSCLIST July 2006

Subject:

Re: Classical Radio, was [ARSCLIST] Mercury co-founder Irving Green passes

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 15 Jul 2006 10:53:07 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (84 lines)

Hi David:

I think you're talking about compression, not limiting. Compression -- the bane of commercial 
radio -- brings up what should be low-volume stuff like surface noise, rumble and tape hiss to 
intolerable levels, until it smacks down levels any time a peak comes along. End fidelity is worse 
than a bad cellphone. Hard limiting, which used to be more the norm of broadcasters, prevents 
exceeding FCC standards for the signal. Something like a classical station should stick to hard 
limiting, and set levels so it's used sparingly. Back in the OTR days, broadcasters would use 
tasteful amounts of compression (really, more driving the system and then having a limiter at the 
end so effective dynamic range was compressed from the harder-driven minimum to the limited maximum) 
to make voices and effects more intelligable. This also worked with live music in many cases, 
because true technical professionals were running the equipment and didn't push anything over 
reasonable levels. This pumping, super-compression came later -- I think it probably traces to 70's 
album-oriented-rock stations and was then taken to insane extremes by just about all formats. 
Someone sold the FM crowd a bill of goods that this "improves" the signal and "louder is better" 
because people gravitate toward the loudest thing on their dial. This is debatable and Robert Orban 
has a very good white paper online about why super-compression going into his FM processor is a very 
bad thing. But, the crunch-meisters seem to have won this debate for now. I can't stand most new 
music because of this, aside from the fact that I find a lot of it talentless crap. And the 
super-crunchers have even invaded the jazz arena, with some truly terrible remasters put out in 
recent times. Hint to mastering engineers -- just because you have a new digi-compressor toy doesn't 
mean it's appropriate to older music formats and recordings. What I consider a very good blend of 
being truthful to the old tapes and yet adding some improvements through modern technology are what 
Malcolm Addey and Ellen Fitton do with Mosaic's recent box sets. They're able to take a variety of 
tapes made at a variety of times and places in a variety of conditions and craft enough of a uniform 
sound that the box holds together and levels are consistent. But, each session's unique properties 
shine through and they're not heavy-handed to try and "fix" technical or acoustic conditions of the 
original sessions to suit modern tastes. Some specific examples are the new Dizzy Gillespie box set, 
the Johnny Hodges set from a couple of years ago and the Count Basie Verve set. Also all of the new, 
great "singles" album reissues. Special kudos to reissuing "The Brothers" sax-fest and "JJ" by JJ 
Johnson. Since I wore those records out a long time ago, I was thrilled to have better-sounding CD's 
to play.

Anyway, bottom line is I totally agree with David -- modern FM processing techniques are totally 
inappropriate for older music recordings. Our words fall on totally deaf mega-glomerate ears, 
however.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David Lennick" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2006 9:49 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Classical Radio, was [ARSCLIST] Mercury co-founder Irving Green passes


> Mike Richter wrote:
>
>> David Lennick wrote:
>>
>> > Adding fuel to this..last night I was in Rochester NY and heard the most gawdawful sound coming 
>> > from my radio for twenty minutes. It was a recording of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, recorded 
>> > in concert (in the 60s?) by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, it was very badly miked, and 
>> > WXXI's compressors brought up every single noise from the audience, every cough (the entire 
>> > first section of the suite was cough city) and shuffle and bang and footstep, and the whole 
>> > thing sounded as if it was recorded in a high school cafeteria while they were clearing the 
>> > dishes and stacking the trays. Somebody needs to notify that station that AAD recordings should 
>> > be closely checked off an
>> > air monitor, and if engineering can't modify the problem, they need to prune their library. 
>> > There's no excuse for this kind of sound.
>>
>> I'm afraid I'm quite confused. What's the magic property of an AAD
>> recording which makes it uniquely susceptible to poor broadcast engineering?
>>
>> My experience with commercial recordings is limited, but I've seen
>> compression of all sorts, clipping of several db and all the other ills
>> of poor engineering on DDD ADD and AAD classical recordings. Why would
>> the first two be safe from corruption in broadcast?
>>
>> Mike
>> --
>
> They aren't..my (possibly incorrect) assumption is that at least ADD processing might have 
> minimized the tape hiss and background noise. When I did a "collectors' classics" show on CJRT in 
> the 80s and 90s, I had to make an unofficial arrangement with engineering to get them to shut off 
> the limiters immediately before airing my show, or surface noise and crap would have been 
> overwhelming. The particular CD I mentioned may be eminently listenable on most systems but not on 
> a radio station which is aiming to put out a signal as loud as everything else on the dial. A 
> couple of years ago the Buffalo station had similar problems any time it put on a Mercury Living 
> Presence reissue or a
> Sony reissue of any old Ormandy recordings. I don't notice this now but I don't know whether they 
> improved their signal or acquired better transferred CDs.
>
> dl 

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