Letters to Mix

HOW ABOUT A LOUD? Blair Jackson's Issues in Modern Mastering (December 2006) touched on a very important issue: Loudness wars rage on. As a broadcast

Blair Jackson's “Issues in Modern Mastering” (December 2006) touched on a very important issue: Loudness wars rage on. As a broadcast engineer of many years, I have experienced the race for loudness on the AM and FM radio dials. For a broadcast station's signal to be “loud,” it must also be clean. A clean audio signal presented to an audio processor can be made loud, yet still listenable — and by listenable, I mean without objectionable distortion.

Herein lies the problem. No matter how clean an audio chain is, it cannot undo deficiencies in the source material. Many broadcast stations dub CDs onto a hard drive-based audio storage system. This introduces digital (data) compression. The audio path may introduce yet another layer of compression. Then the audio is processed for broadcast (volume compression, limiting, clipping). Then add to the mix the fact that many stations have to download the music — many from MP3 sources! The end result is a very degraded sound.

The promise of the compact disc media was improved, high-fidelity audio. How that promise is being abused.
Thomas G. Osenkowsky
Radio engineering consultant

I read “Issues in Modern Mastering” with interest. A fair amount of ink was devoted to high-end analog tools, but I was surprised that there was not more information on software tools, even though one of the engineers interviewed does a lot of Pro Tools work.

High-end analog mastering is in the province of engineers with the deep pockets, maintenance crews and the expertise to do it properly. But the fact is that those of us who labor out in the trenches often have to come up with mixes that are going to go on the air, to post, or straight to MySpace, iTunes or indie release. It's not an issue of whether or not we will do mastering; it is how well can we pull it together in a DAW environment. Any tips we can get to improve our work are much appreciated.
Jon Gordon
Jon Gordon Music Production

I just finished reading Maureen Droney's editorial (“Current,” October 2006) on our industry's growing (more often lack of) attention to listening volume — thanks for trying to enlighten us. The article was informative and hopeful, but referred mainly to studio monitoring. Yes, we can translate it to any music environment, but I have a personal issue with live sound.

I am a musician, recording engineer and small sound system designer, and am sad to say that the majority of live sound that I experience is not very good and too loud. The technology has enabled us to provide audiences of thousands with incredible high-fidelity sound, but more often than not, it seems to provide a platform for owner/operators of this technology to beat their chests and use every watt their amps can put out just because they can. Granted, there are many fine engineers striving for sound quality (and achieving it), but should there be some kind of prerequisite for operating equipment that could impose a hazard on innocent concertgoers?
Randy Quan
Zone Music & Recording

This is in regard to the November 2006 article “Outfitting Your Dream Studio.” Only one of the three outfits (the $150k one) mentions a UPS, which, in my humble opinion, is core gear for any studio.

The $25k studio recommends spending $1,000 a year on 100 GB of online offsite backup. This amount of money buys several reusable terabytes of drive space that can be kept remotely (i.e., the engineer or client takes them when the session is over) and does not rely on the Internet.

Also, not one of the studios has more than one set of monitors. There's no mention of room tuning, the core of translation to the real world. These articles spend far too much money on name gear and way too little on essentials.
Nick Joyce, Dwayne D. Dawg, Busta Drüle
NP Recording Studios

After having been in the recording business since shortly after Ampex released its first multitrack recorder, I've read a lot of articles on and about audio. [Paul Lehrman's] article in the October Mix, “Surrounding the Audience,” is unquestionably the best written about what happens to 5.1 surround after it leaves the remote truck at a sports event. Your article clearly explains the pitfalls television audio seems to fall into on many of the broadcasts I watch. It should be considered mandatory reading for TV broadcast people.

We live 50 miles from Chicago, and because Illinois is very flat, from my roof on a clear day, I can see the Sears Tower where most of our off-the-air TV comes from. In metropolitan Chicago, Comcast is our cable company and they do a pretty good job, so there is no need for an outside antenna. One of the Chicago White Sox's sponsors is Comcast, and they don't carry WCIU-DT on the cable, so if you want to watch a game in hi-def, you need an antenna. Go figure.

But probably the biggest problem is when Comcast carries the games on Comcast Sports Net. Trio Video handles most of the games, and they have good audio people. Watching the game, they do a nice job of surround, stereo ambience left- and right-front, the announcers are at the correct level and center-speaker only, and stereo audio is in the rear. When it comes time to insert commercial — bang — the audio is mono out of all five speakers and about 5 to 10 dB louder! Sometimes when they switch back to the ballgame, it's mono and just as loud as the spots were, and then someone hits the button and magically there is nice audio again. I find it hard to believe that I'm the only person in Chicago who hears that.

TV audio has always been sort of a stepchild; I sure hope it gets adopted soon.
Mike King
ARU Chicago

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