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ARSCLIST  August 2008

ARSCLIST August 2008

Subject:

The Hope of Audacity...

From:

George Blood <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 18 Aug 2008 21:38:26 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (106 lines)

Hi, Friends,

There are a variety of issues that have been raised in this thread.

First is the disappointment others have mentioned that the tools we're  
buying are not doing what we think they're doing.  Namely, we're  
feeding them data (output of the A to D converter) and that data is  
being changed between the input and being written out into a file.   
Given the commercial pressures we all understand, writing stable code  
that has a few "quirks no one will find" could be seen as a simpler  
solution to making payroll than digging deep into the myriad of  
problems and the cooperation necessary from other vendors.   
Interoperability is a non-trivial issue.

Second, this is more than just an issue of you get what you pay for.   
Sure Sonic and Pyramix tend to perform better than the desktop  
applications.  But they control much more of the signal chain.  The  
lower priced programs hit their price point by handing off (or  
depending upon or using) the work of others (WaveLab, Samplitude,  
SoundForge, etc. let M-Audio, RME, PreSonus, etc build interfaces, for  
instance).  But who wants to be working 20 different other companies  
to assure interchangeability.  Ideally, everybody does.  The reality  
is, given the number of hours in the day, are you going to add the  
cool new feature, or chase down a bug with somebody else's code.   
Apple tried to make the world a simpler place with CoreAudio.  Great  
idea.  When it works.

Yes, they should begin with integrity of signal.  But if that's an  
obstacle, they build a workaround (a "trap").  And it suits the needs  
of 99% of their users (and appears to have snookered a far larger  
percentage!).  Who are we to deprive a bezillion garage bands of the  
features they need and pay for, just so we can have the needs of our  
small numbers met?

Lacking the tool vendors doing this work, each of us needs to shake  
down their own system.  It's a royal pain in the butt.  Every change  
in the system means re-checking it.  OK, so Peak 6 will now preserve  
the bext chunk (it used to blow it away).  But now it embeds waveform  
display info in the INFO chunk.  That's perfectly acceptable according  
to the .wav spec.  But it means there's garbage there that, 25 years  
from now, some preservation is going to sweat recovering, because "if  
it's in the file it must have been important".  Every program, every  
OS, every hardware, every driver change has the potential to disrupt a  
perfectly crystalline signal chain.

Third, what does it tell us in the trade that, for all our efforts to  
create higher resolution files, there's been overwhelming satisfaction  
with the lesser results.  Well, for one thing, it reminds us that  
there's more impact from good analog playback than from spending an  
extra whatever on 8 extra bits that are 30dB below the noise floor.   
For another, good AtoD design does amazing things when outputting  
lower res files.  It reminds us that so many of our source materials  
are of such low (or lower) quality that there isn't more information  
to be captured at the higher resolutions.  Once we argued over 48k vs  
44.1.  Then 96k.  Some want 192k, and others think 384 is worth  
doing.  Look folks, if you keep increasing the sample frequency, you  
won't start capturing video off the audio cassettes.  But you are  
building more and more fragile systems.  Where you have to break the  
files into multiple sub-file (due to the 2GB file size limit of WAV),  
you create a chance to lose one of the pieces.  Is this really better  
preservation than having one file (even 44/16) of the whole thing?

Fourth, while the pursuit of ever higher standards is a worthy goal  
(and the reason we have converters that perform so well at lower  
sample rates), there will always be circumstances in which an  
institution simply will not have the resources to "do it right".  We  
can all salivate at the enormous volumes of audio out there to be  
saved.  As much as we dream of driving Lexuses into retirement, your  
garden variety historical society with a shoebox full of oral  
histories may never be able to justify spending "what it costs" to  
"properly" digitize them.  If their board can get its act together and  
apply for grants, maybe there's a better use of that few thousand  
dollars. A use closer to their primary mission.  So a nice retired  
couple volunteers to bring in the CD-R recorder they bought for their  
granddaughter (who really wanted an iPod), plugs in the cassette  
player they picked up at a garage sale, and digitizes the shoebox of  
cassettes.  And lo and behold, that bit of history is preserved for  
the future.  Did they only get 80% of the information off the tapes.   
Yeah.  But 80% is a lot more than nothing.

This is a very slipper slope, of course.  For every Harvard or IU (and  
others) here are plenty of large institutions buying crap equipment,  
giving it to sleep-deprived, hung-over work-study students.   
Institutions that really do know better, and who could manage the  
resources to do a much better job (even if not "do it right").

And so it goes.  So it always has.  And so it always will.  Our job is  
to help advance the trade, do as well as we can, at a price that means  
more of it gets done.  Until we're all using $25,000 workstations and  
$15,000 A to D converter, (and more hours making our systems pass 24  
bits than lingering on ListServs!) we shouldn't be pointing fingers at  
the poor blokes trying eek out a living selling $250 (or free)  
software.  You get what you pay for.  If you paid for that, you got  
it.  Of your own free will.

Back to your regularly scheduled madness.

G

PS I bought my Prius when gas was $2.00/gallon.


On Aug 18, 2008, at 12:00 AM, ARSCLIST automatic digest system wrote:

> I believe George Blood is on this list.

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