Does anybody care about TV audio? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 01:05 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't start many threads, but this issue really has me fuming, and I'm wondering if anyone is with me on this, or if I'm floating out here without an oar.

As I tune around, it's hard for me not to notice that TV audio is going down the tubes. One by one, stations are discovering compressors, and all the life is being drained from the sound. Programs that used to have at least 10 dB of dynamic range (which isn't much), now have perhaps 2 dB, or in some cases, zero. In many cases, it's more aggressive than what was used for analog, as not only is the background sound pulled up to the maximum level, but you can hear the compression pounding down on every word of dialogue. And perhaps due to the multi-band nature of most of these compressors, it alters the timbre of the sound, usually causing a mid-range suckout that makes me feel like my eardrums are being pulled out of my head.

I have communicated to some of the stations in my area that are the worst offenders, and the responses are puzzling -- they either claim not to hear anything "wrong," or say they LIKE the way it sounds. Honestly, I don't understand how this is possible. Either my hearing is very good, or theirs is very bad.

Maybe I'm asking too much? I dunno. But in these days when people are jazzed about Dolby Digital TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio and the like, it would seem like SOMEBODY cares about good sound. But I rarely hear anyone talking about how TV is getting worse. Maybe because "it's only TV," nobody cares? I'm not sure, but it makes me nuts that I can't do something simple, like watch Letterman, without being painfully aware of the audio compression the entire time.

Of course, this problem will vary by area -- you might be served by stations that haven't yet installed one of these things. But I am curious, as the thread title suggests, does anybody care about TV audio?

Here's a file you can download which illustrates my point. It contains a :30 commercial, repeated twice. The first pass is from a station that does not do much in the way of processing. I have heard the original file from the server, and this is pretty much what it sounds like -- not exactly real demanding material. Right after that, is the same commercial as aired on one of the offending stations. If there is anybody that thinks that sounds good, I'd like to know about it. That is unlistenable in my book.

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1411415/Compression.mp3
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post #2 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 07:39 AM
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Does anybody care about TV audio?, yes and no.
On both the HDTVs I do the majority of my TV watching on I've opened up the case and pulled out the speaker wires. To those wires I've connected better quality Klipsch and Infinity book shelf speakers. I just can't stand the tinny sound of the built in speakers and IMO the built in amplifiers aren't too bad, it's just the built in speakers and enclosures that lack.
AFA compression I guess I haven't noticed what you have. I do notice my local CBS station (and I've read CBS stations almost everywhere) has their audio level significantly louder than other stations, but I haven't noticed the compression. I'm just annoyed I must turn the volume down when tuning CBS and back up when leaving CBS. I do love the PQ on CBS and consider it the best hands down in my market, I also enjoy much of their programming so I run into their audio issue frequently.

I have no good way to listen to your audio clip since both my computers with HS connection have quite poor speakers that I haven't bothered to replace. I guess what I'm trying to say is much of general population may be in the same boat as I (or worse) and probably aren't noticing what you are. Now AVS caters to the A/V enthusiast so you'll probably have a better chance of getting an agreement here but basically you'd be preaching to the choir.
I wish I had good enough quality equipment to notice what you are, or even listen to your clip in good quality, but unfortunately I don't

I consider myself more of a Videophile so I can see where you're coming from and I believe my gear is more capable of showing video flaws than audio flaws. I'm constantly trying to show people the effects of too much video compression etc., most of the time they're able to see it but many times not I do applaud your efforts and maybe between you and I (and others too) we'll be able to change things, but I'm not holding my breath.

It would be OT but I wish I could post a bit of programming from my local ION Life channel. Some of the programming is quite good, but as you said about audio, much of it is "unWatchable in my book" because of too much compression, makes me shutter
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post #3 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 01:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Interestingly enough, you really don't need good quality speakers to hear the kind of "problem" I am talking about. You could listen on a 2-inch speaker and it will still be obvious. This isn't the kind of debate that people might have about a 128k MP3 vs. a CD -- that's *data* compression and encompasses an entirely different set of issues than dynamic range compression.

Now one could argue that many times of programs don't really need much dynamic range, and in fact, they sound better when they don't. Talk shows would fall into this category. Ever try to listen to an amateur audio production (the majority of podcasts would qualify)? Those who produce these things without any compression end up with wild levels that are incredibly annoying. So yes, some compression is good, when correctly applied.

But programs such as TV dramas use sound to make a point. The sound of an explosion is not the same volume as two people talking. Likewise, there are volume changes in the music which build suspense and add to the story. The people who work on these shows spend a good deal of time sculpting the mix -- but once the dynamic range compression is cranked up at the local station, all of this stuff is gone -- everything sounds the same. Footsteps are the same volume as gunshots.

I don't want to confuse this with other issues, such as the different loudness levels between networks/channels, or even loud commercials. Though some of this stuff is a reaction to that. Stations believe that by installing these boxes it will magically fix all the problems, but to my ears, it makes it worse in some ways as now everything appears to be blasting. The commercials, which are already pretty compressed, get compressed even harder, with the end result being that they are still loud.

I'm not holding my breath either that things will turn back my way any time soon. I appear to be way in the minority on this one.
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post #4 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

I do notice my local CBS station (and I've read CBS stations almost everywhere) has their audio level significantly louder than other stations, but I haven't noticed the compression.

I should have addressed this point too. It's possible you haven't noticed the compression on CBS because not every station does it. Your station may be passing the network audio intact. As an example of a CBS station that sounds great, I will cite KCBS in L.A. Superb audio from them.
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post #5 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 02:48 PM
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I haven't noticed the compression problem here in San Francisco. Either my ears don't hear it or the stations don't compress the hell out of their audio... I don't know which.

What bothers me is the different audio levels between stations, and between the program and commercials on many stations. Here KNTV-NBC is quite a bit lower than the other stations, KPIX-CBS is a bit louder than the average. KNTV's commercials are usually lower than program material (maybe that's a good thing). KRON-MyNTV is the opposite... especially during network programming. Commercials are about the average level but the programming audio is waaay down. On satellite channels from Dish, the Dish-inserted commercials are always much louder than programming, and the audio from channel to channel can vary a lot.

You mentioned "Letterman". It sounds fine to me on KPIX.

KTVU-FOX, KGO-ABC and KBCW-CW all seem to be about the average level and I haven't noticed any level changes between program and commercials. Maybe they have the compression gear and I'm not hearing it. ? ? ?

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post #6 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 03:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Larry,

Well this is interesting, because KPIX *is* one of the offenders. They have no dynamic range at all. During Letterman, my ears hurt just listening to the compression pounding on his voice, and there is zero "punch" from Anton's kick drum. It sounds fine on KCBS though. Below is a link to an image file that I sent to KPIX to show them how much they were compressing the signal. They were very nice about it, and promised to take a listen, but I never heard anything again. KBCW sounds the same as KPIX ... I assume they bought the same compressor for both stations.

KGO also does a lot of compression, but not quite as bad. If you compare ABC on KGO vs KXTV, the contrast is stark (to my ears). It is most noticeable by listening to the background sound -- on KGO, it pulls up to the level of the dialogue whenever the talking stops. There are also no peaks at all.

Again, I don't want to veer off on the subject of volume differences between stations or commercials vs. programs. That's a whole different issue. I am just talking about preserving the dynamics of the programs themselves.

Here's a waveform comparison between the two stations mentioned above. It's the same audio on both sides of the white line that divides the center. See you can spot any difference.

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post #7 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 03:35 PM
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Oh boy, another thread to rant my views about improper use of dialnorm Here's a bit of history for those who haven't followed this debacle.

In the analog days, it was important to keep the peak audio levels from exceeding a certain point for transmission as it would cause over-modulation which can create interference to other signals. This was complicated further in using FM modulation for audio (which was used by radio and analog TV sound) by pre-emphasis. TV and radio stations would commonly have a peak limiter in the path to prevent this from occurring and to avoid getting fined.

Even with a peak limiter installed, the loudness of the audio could vary. Dynamic range compression allows a signal to have a level amount of loudness without excessive peak levels. Everyone has probably noticed commercials sound loud as they often use this technique. Stations often used companders to even this out a bit.

When the digital TV standard was being developed, it was recognized that its increased dynamic range capability could cause further problems with the variance of audio levels in either direction. Dolby AC3 (also commonly known as Dolby Digital) was selected as the coding for ATSC in part as it could contain information (metadata) about the audio program. This included how many audio channels are being sent (usually 5.1 vs stereo), how they should be mixed down to stereo and how loud it is. The primary loudness information is called "dialnorm" which is short for Dialog Normalization. Dolby recognized that dialog is what is required to stay more constant, so the dialog is used as a reference for how loud the audio is. This value is meant to be set for each program element. Each show or show segment may have one value, while each commercial may have its own value. At the receiving end the Dolby decoder uses this information to adjust the volume. The volume is actually only lowered, so the louder program material is lowered to the softest one to even out the loudness differences. Commercials would probably have their volume lowered the most. Because this is on a per program element basis, the dynamic range of the program element is not altered.

Dolby also recognized that not everyone would desire to have the full dynamic range of a program. Loud sound effects or soft conversation could be an issue in some environments. The Dolby system also has built-in compressors in the decoders which can be used by viewers if desired. The Dolby encoded audio contains parameters for two levels of compression, one more drastic than the other. The moderate one is usually called "LINE" while the more drastic is called "RF" or "midnight mode". This way viewers had the choice of dynamic range rather than being a one size fits all approach.

One may logically ask “Why not just adjust the audio level itself to make it more uniform?” That would work to lower the louder elements, but raising the softer elements could push the loudest parts, such as sound effects, past the upper limit. By using a volume control at the receiving end that only lowers the volume (an attenuator) to even things out, the loudest elements are can be allowed to pass without limiting. There is also some politics about changing the levels on delivered material, and the dialnorm approach sort of gets around that by sending the audio itself unaltered.

It was a great idea, but it had one major requirement: The programs and commercials need the proper dialnorm value assigned to them. This would require extra support from the networks and stations. However, even if they did take all the time to do this, there wasn't a standard method of passing the information though the production and air playout process as Dolby encoding is not usually used for those steps.

What happened was that not only did the networks and stations not assign a dialnorm value to each element, they used a range of different static values! For years NBC used a low volume setting of -22db while CBS was at the opposite end of the spectrum using the highest volume setting of -31db. Not only was the variance between various programs not helped, but now there was a major difference when going from channel to the next (especially between CBS and NBC). Broadcasters took a system that was designed to minimize the volume differences and used it to make things even worse! Since then CBS has lowered their volume 4db to -27db and NBC raised theirs to -23db. 4db difference is much better than 9db. Most stations appear to used the default -27db value.

Up until recently the HD audience was the minority of viewers. However, as a result of HD growing in popularity and the analog shutoff, the HD transmission is now what nearly everyone is watching. Those getting SD from cable, satellite and converter boxes are likely getting downconversions from the HD transmission. Those volume differences which were annoying to just the HD viewers are now affecting everyone. As dialnorm is still not being supported properly despite Dolby's best effort to create products to aid in this endeavor, digital TV got a bad reputation for volume level variance. Not a big surprise and was predictable is that stations are now resorting dynamic range compression, and some in a bigger way than ever before.

Now this may sound like the stations are the villains, and indeed some have gone a bit overboard, but they are also the victims. The broadcast industry did not make dialnorm matching a priority. There still isn't a widely used standard that passes dialnorm through the production and distribution process. Stations get material that is all over the map for loudness including network feeds. The FCC requires that the dialnorm matches the program level, and compression is a practical and quick fix. I could see NBC stations with their lower volume dialnorm trying to compete with other louder stations (due to louder dialnorm) by adding more compression. As I've mention in the past, CBS and NBC stations can bypass the network metadata dialnorm on their DP569 encoders, but since CBS has lowered their dialnorm volume it's only the NBC stations that really need to consider this.

The bottom line is that adding compression will get less complaints from viewers than excessive dynamic range and wide loudness variations between program elements. The FCC only mandates that the dialnorm matches program content, not that it sounds good. As the OP noted, we may have taken a big step backwards from the analog days in this respect.

Does anybody care? Unfortunately I think too few do, and most won't miss what they don't know is missing. I mentioned to one well known manufacturer at a trade show that their audio program leveling product altered the original intent of the creators, to which they said “So?” It's sad but not surprising, and I expect it to get worse before it gets any better. The good news is that a system is in place to fix it, and complying with its intent will give back the full dynamic range that was intended with digital audio transmission. The bad news is I doubt there is much incentive to do so, especially in a down economy. Coupled with robbing HD video bandwidth for subchannels, it's not good news at all for much of OTA ATSC technical quality.

I guess FOX's splicer technique is one guarantee that stations can't compromise the network feed, at least if it's used as it supposed to be without any downstream re-encoding or rate shaping. It will be interesting to see how long CBS will continue to restrict their O&Os from multicasting. It's sad to read that one of their major O&Os is using audio compression, and even worse that it's a duopoly.

Sorry about the length of the post, but it's one of my major pet peeves too.
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post #8 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 03:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Nice rant! You seem to be right on target there as near as I can tell. The reasons for the stations going the compression route seem pretty obvious, and it is sad that it has come to that. What I was trying to gauge from this thread was whether or not anybody CARED about it, and it seems like the numbers are infinitely small. Not many people seem to notice the compression, or if they do, it doesn't matter. It's sad that a system was developed that could elegantly handle this "problem," meeting the needs of those who didn't want any dynamic range, or didn't want it at particular times, and those who did -- but it was basically thrown out the window. Now it is all being dumbed down, and anybody who WANTS a high-quality experience cannot have it.

Interesting comment too about FOX. I haven't heard any FOX station that sounds compressed (during network programming), and we know the reason for that. Recently, FOX took some steps to lower commercial loudness and they now sound pretty darned even to me. The shows are still nice and punchy, but the breaks are at a reasonable level. I think if all the nets sounded like this, there would be no complaints.

I also find it interesting that if you listen to the big-four network stations in L.A., none of them are compressing the network audio. I wonder if this is by design, not wanting to tick off the program producers? If you live in L.A., consider yourself lucky -- you are still getting the programs as intended.
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post #9 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

I mentioned to one well known manufacturer at a trade show that their audio program leveling product altered the original intent of the creators, to which they said So?

I wonder if this is the same company that manufacturers what I consider to be one of the most horrible sounding products of all time? I won't name them, but they seem to be name that comes up most often as far as DTV processing goes. The devices ship with presets that (if you believe their verbage) were designed after countless hours of listening tests to various types of material. Well, I don't know who did the listening, but I suggest they go in for a hearing test. That is some of the worst processing I've ever heard -- and it closely matches what I am hearing on a lot of stations, so I have to think people are buying these, slapping them in the rack, selecting the "recommended" preset and that's that.
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post #10 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by videojanitor View Post


Here's a file you can download which illustrates my point. It contains a :30 commercial, repeated twice. The first pass is from a station that does not do much in the way of processing. I have heard the original file from the server, and this is pretty much what it sounds like -- not exactly real demanding material. Right after that, is the same commercial as aired on one of the offending stations. If there is anybody that thinks that sounds good, I'd like to know about it. That is unlistenable in my book.

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1411415/Compression.mp3

Ok, even with the 1"? (awful sounding) speakers in my HannSpree 23" monitor I could tell the difference. The first 30 seconds I could hear the various back round sounds, the second just sounded loud and lost all back round sounds. I don't believe any stations are compressing the audio level in my market as much as your second clip, it's BAD
I'm currently downloading the clip to my XP dial-up computer that has better A.L. speakers, it's saying the 1mb file will take 10 min I'll report back when I've got it.

On better speakers the first even sounded better while the second really paled in comparison. Truthfully though unless one heard both side by side or really knew what it could sound like, I bet many people wouldn't find anything wrong with the second version But I agree the second version is really poor on good or even poor speakers.
Nice job on the clips
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post #11 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:48 PM
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OK, an update to my above post. I had both my kids (10 and 11 years old) listen to both clips several time on my better speakers. They both(at separate times unknown to each other) preferred the second! I told them to listen to the music(which they said they didn't really care for) and listen to the back round sounds and musical instruments. Even after 3 tries(I didn't suggest any version over the other) they still both preferred the second. I tried to tell them don't just pick the one that sounds louder but they still preferred the second.
To each his own, but I think you've got a long uphill battle
As I said before, I get the same responses when I try and show people the effects of bit starved sub channels (you know the ones with 1 HD and several SD channels) most people just don't see it. For this reason I think were in for more sub channels as more people go digital
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post #12 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:54 PM
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What were the two stations in the audio clip?
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post #13 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

OK, an update to my above post. I had both my kids (10 and 11 years old) listen to both clips several time on my better speakers. They both(at separate times unknown to each other) preferred the second!

Yeah, it sounds more like a modern CD
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post #14 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 04:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

Truthfully though unless one heard both side by side or really knew what it could sound like, I bet many people wouldn't find anything wrong with the second version

Maybe that's the problem -- in an A/B comparison people could tell the difference, but by itself, no. This could end up being "my" problem more than anyone else's -- that is, maybe I am just too critical. I truly love good audio, and (dating myself here), I'm the kind of guy who used to spend countless hours tweaking the settings on my turntable's tonearm to get the tracking exactly right, or sitting there with a scope and test tones adjusting the head alignment in my open-reel tape deck to coax every last ounce of high-end out of it. I know what "good" sounds like as it is imprinted into my brain -- I guess there just aren't many people like me out there. So, I am hosed.
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post #15 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

They both(at separate times unknown to each other) preferred the second!

As I just said ... I am hosed.
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post #16 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 06:36 PM
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While I can't say that I ever used a reel to reel tape deck(other than after they were popular) I did use for many years a very nice quality Dual CS-505 turn table and would record to several top of the line Sony 3 head cassette decks(TCK-555 rings a bell). No matter how I tried or what type of tape I used (type I, II, III or IV) I just couldn't get my recordings to compare to the original vinal. The tapes just didn't have the same spaciousness or reality of the records. It wasn't until I went way overboard and purchased a Nakamichi 700ZXL that I was able to faithfully reproduce my records. I used that deck for years and was always amazed how it could make even marginal tapes sound like a million bucks.
I switched to CD in the late 90's but If I listen closely I still prefer the warm sound of some of my records to the shrill versions on CD but conveyance has won out. I haven't plugged my Nack or Dual in for years and lately I've been converting most of my CDs to 128kb MP3s It's funny how ones standards can diminish over the years to where we prefer conveyance over quality.
Sorry to get somewhat OT on your thread, I just wanted to let you know I'm probably not as young as you think and I applaud what you're trying to do
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post #17 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 06:39 PM
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No to the audio question. Companies can take the speaker cost and throw it at getting the video correct. Now if the TV is a 20" hanging under a kitchen cabinet, that's different. However; How good do 20" TV speakers have to be?
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post #18 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 07:33 PM
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Ugh - I NEVER do MP3 in anything less than 160 Kbps, and usually 192+ (and 320 if I'm making new ones off a CD).

Yes - I have those same kind of ears - I hear things most people don't - I can hear a timer beep going off in the kitchen while I'm watching / listen at moderate volume off of my decent Yamaha receiver. I can "hear" the missing stuff off of MP3s (that it's not there). I played cello and string bass in school with great success.

It's a good thing I have those kind of ears - I've been 20/200 for 30+ years with moderate astigmatism , and while I correct to 20/20 - my wife says I don't see some colors/ shades that she does (not anything CLOSE to color blindness however). And now I'm dealing with needing bifocals (HATE them - for the past 4 - 5 years).

You CAN put antennas on your owned and/or controlled property...
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

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post #19 of 41 Old 09-05-2009, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjeff View Post

It wasn't until I went way overboard and purchased a Nakamichi 700ZXL that I was able to faithfully reproduce my records. [...]
Sorry to get somewhat OT on your thread, I just wanted to let you know I'm probably not as young as you think and I applaud what you're trying to do

Now you're talking my language. If you had to use cassettes, Nakamichi was the only way to go. I always stayed with reels though (at 15ips of course, whenever possible!), and moved to DAT when that came out.

How come you are converting your CDs at 128k? Hard drive space is cheap -- bump up that bit rate! Though I will say, I find a 128k MP3 of good quality audio far superior to this dynamic-range-compressed junk that is coming over the TV. (See, I brought it back on topic). My wife is watching an episode of "Medium" that she recorded from KPIX -- I had the leave the room after about five minutes because the audio was giving me a headache.

Thank you for your applause. I'm not crazy enough to think I'll be able to change what is going on, but I am hoping to at least raise the awareness.
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post #20 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 01:59 AM
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The problem is that "good sound" to the people on AVS isn't the same as "good sound" to J6P. Good sound to them means being able to understand the dialog over background noise like screaming children, barking dogs, and the air conditioner while also not blowing out their ears when the gunshots start. Compressors can help when used correctly, but how many TV engineers have the time to understand what all the knobs mean, much less how to tune them to achieve a good balance? Some stations are still using incorrectly configured Flexicoders nearly a decade after going on the air, and the fix for that is changing one setting. I have little hope that the TV industry as a whole will ever figure out digital audio.

Also, MP3? FLAC for PC storage with conversion to VBR MP3 for portable devices. 1TB disks are $100 and hold a lot of albums at 400MB apiece.
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post #21 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 06:25 AM
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How come you are converting your CDs at 128k? Hard drive space is cheap -- bump up that bit rate!

I guess when I learned of MP3's I did some asking(not on forums but more informal at work) and most people suggested 128k as the standard. They said 64k was "doable" but 128k was generally recommended for higher quality. I didn't want something that was just doable so I thought I was doing good by doing the higher 128k
Truthfully all of my good audio equipment has been tucked away for years and lately the only time I have to listen to music is occasionally in my car, from a Sansa MP3 player or from my A.L. computer speakers. On those limited devices 128k does sound fine. I agree though, if I had known their was a advantage to going even 320k it probably would have been the way to go. Now I've got a computer with several hundred MP3 albums all done in 128kb, thanks for the realization that if/when I get better equipment I may regret my choice
For video, my main interest of late, I've generally resisted the temptation to cheap out on recording format/speed. I don't use any new fangled compression techniques(unless you call standard DVDs MPEG2 new) and have been using SP since the early 80's with VHS. For the first 6 months? of VHS I did what everybody else was doing, used SLP for VHS but after reanalyzing my recordings I quickly realized they looked like crap(and sounded poorly due to the linear audio tracks, before HiFi) and switched to SP where I stayed at to the end. I'm somewhat discouraged I may have made a mistake with my MP3s after several hundred albums but I guess it's never to late to start doing it right.
Back to your OP, I had a 12 year old friend of my daughter listen to your test clip and again the 2nd clip was preferred I think TVOD who suggested "it sounds more like a modern CD" may be onto something

edit: I suppose I should say when I said I converted to MP3 I should say I'm not copying from LPs but rather CDs I own and still have. Even though it would be a rather time consuming project I could re encode all my CDs at a better, say 320k bit rate. Unlike most of my video material recorded off TV where I don't have a master copy so to speak. This is why I've spent more time getting and getting my video efforts right the first time around, since for much of my material I won't get a second chance Other than my car and computer/mp3 player I generally just listen to the CDs direct and avoid the MP3 compression all together.
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post #22 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 06:54 AM
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The problem is, if you do it right the general public complains that "It doesn't sound like TeeVee is SUPPOSED to sound" .

I'd like to see some stations do an experiment....
Put two audios on your channel. Set one for "Purist" sound, just like the book says,
Put the "compressed" sound on the other. Make them identical in all other ways (5.1 on both, or stereo-only on both). See what people say.
If they call and complain about "the sound", ask them which one they are listening to. Then, have them try the other. See which one they like best.

Dolby Digital was supposed to "fix" many of these problems, by allowing the compression to be tailored to the receivers. That's what DialNorm is for, along with several other "compression characteristics" settings. Using "Midnight Mode" on your own receiver was supposed to let you get the "J6P in the living room with the kids, dog, and AC" compression.

(BTW, I watch CBS prime time shows with the sound off, and the captions on.)

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post #23 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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I'd like to see some stations do an experiment....Put two audios on your channel.

(BTW, I watch CBS prime time shows with the sound off, and the captions on.)

Funny you should say that, because I had the same idea yesterday. On a lark, I decided to see what was on the second audio channel of my local CBS affiliate -- at the time, I believe golf was on, and on the second channel, there was program audio MINUS the commentators. Then when the (network) break came on, normal commercial sound was there -- BUT it was not compressed like the main audio. It sounded great!

I checked back later during some syndicated programming, and the channel was silent. This got me thinking -- are they using this channel for SAP, or does it just come to life every now and again when something just happens to be on those audio channels?? It would be great if they could just put the uncompressed network audio on that, giving us a way to access the high quality version.

Hmmm, I have a feeling it will be difficult to convince anyone to do this, especially since there is no perceived "problem." The first roadblock I'm sure would be the argument that they occasionally use it for Spanish. That being the case, do you know if ATSC can support THREE audio streams? I can't believe with all this mah-velous new technology, there isn't a way to please EVERYBODY.

Do you listen with the sound off/captions on because you are dissatisfied with the audio quality? Is your CBS station over-compressing?
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post #24 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 12:07 PM
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Here's a waveform comparison between the two stations mentioned above. It's the same audio on both sides of the white line that divides the center. See you can spot any difference.


I certainly can see it on the waveform, but I can't hear it. Maybe that comes from too many years of working at radio stations where the VU meter stayed between 95 and 100% all the time. Just think... it's people like me who have been, or are, the ones doing the audio or operating Master Control at our TV stations. No wonder people like you are so upset.

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post #25 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 12:30 PM
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ATSC can support any number of audio feeds, as far as I know.

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post #26 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
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I certainly can see it on the waveform, but I can't hear it. Maybe that comes from too many years of working at radio stations where the VU meter stayed between 95 and 100% all the time.

At first I thought you were talking about having damaged your hearing, but upon a second read, I realized you mean that you became used to highly compressed sound. That makes sense. I'm just the opposite it seems -- highly compressed audio is very irritating.

When my wife was watching "Medium" last night, there was a classic example of what annoys me -- there was a person in another room running some water, but because of the compression, the sound of the water was pulled up to the maximum possible level and it sounded like there was a waterfall in the room! Then as soon as dialog was spoken, the water sound slammed down to where it belonged, which was about -10 relative to the dialog. Between every pause in the talking, the water sound rushed back up to full volume. Bring me a couple of Tylenols ...
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post #27 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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ATSC can support any number of audio feeds, as far as I know.

Thanks. This might be worth pursuing. I never noticed how many stations are running a second audio stream, but with seemingly no regard as to what is on it. Checking out one right now, there is only background sound and music during the network program (Tennis), then normal audio on network commercials, but NO audio on network promos or local breaks. Clearly, I don't think they intend for anyone to be listening to this -- so might as well use that stream for something useful, like giving me an uncompressed feed.
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post #28 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
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For video, my main interest of late, I've generally resisted the temptation to cheap out on recording format/speed. I don't use any new fangled compression techniques(unless you call standard DVDs MPEG2 new) and have been using SP since the early 80's with VHS. For the first 6 months? of VHS I did what everybody else was doing, used SLP for VHS but after reanalyzing my recordings I quickly realized they looked like crap(and sounded poorly due to the linear audio tracks, before HiFi) and switched to SP where I stayed at to the end.

Your comment about the poor quality of the linear audio on VHS EP relates quite nicely to the topic of this thread. Back before Hi-Fi VCRs came into being, friends would always lend me tapes of this and that -- without fail, it was recorded at EP and was completely unlistenable. I would have to hand those back and say "thanks, but no thanks." It seems that not much has changed between then and now, with respect the people who enjoy good audio. While you can find hundreds, if not thousands of threads in this forum about video quality issues, audio is rarely mentioned. I guess it will always be that way.
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post #29 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Larry Kenney View Post

I certainly can see it on the waveform, but I can't hear it. Maybe that comes from too many years of working at radio stations where the VU meter stayed between 95 and 100% all the time. Just think... it's people like me who have been, or are, the ones doing the audio or operating Master Control at our TV stations. No wonder people like you are so upset.

Larry
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I too come from AM and FM radio where if the meter didn't hang at 100%, you weren't modulating!

I processed our analog audio differently than I have the digital. The analog audio was expanded/limited much more than the digital with a different frequency response curve than the digital. The digital is more "natural" in processing and no where near as much expanded/limited as I did the analog. The digital just didn't sound right with the analog frequency response curve and so it is much flatter than the analog was. That is due to the expanded frequency response of the digital audio stream (20K at the high end) to the roll off at 13k to stay out of sync at 15.735 kHz for analog and the drastic difference in SNR of the FM signal verses the digital stream for expanding/limiting. Digital is no where near as limiting as the FM signal was.

I don't think many TV engineers truly understand that. Well I don't think that many TV engineers understand audio anyway. The transmitter engineer I took over for when he retired said as long as the "little speaker in the cabinet made noise" (and he meant just that, it didn't have to be intelligible information, just the cone moving back and forth), he was satisfied with it. He kept saying he was praying we didn't go stereo before he left because he knew it would be like all the other stations in town when they went stereo, a disaster. Well he got his wish. We went stereo after he left and because I had done stereo before, we had no problems. (There is a reason the wires are different colors. Just match color for color and it works just great!) The only station in town, not to have the phones melting off the walls after the upgrade.

I know in the analog days, I pretty much set up the audio as I had in radio except, I had no where the "straight up meter" as in FM. It was expanded/limited about 12-15db MAX verses the 25 to 30 db (depending on the Program Director) in FM. I am now expanding/limiting about 8db in digital. Just enough to bring the lower amplitudes up to give it a nice even sound while keeping the loud passages from booming out, but not "compressing" the bejesus out of it. I am quite surprised at how natural it sounds with the bottom end boasted about 1.5db and the upper end boasted about .5 db and the midrange flat.

Sorry to get so deep in "tech talk."

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post #30 of 41 Old 09-06-2009, 01:58 PM
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Thanks. This might be worth pursuing. I never noticed how many stations are running a second audio stream, but with seemingly no regard as to what is on it. Checking out one right now, there is only background sound and music during the network program (Tennis), then normal audio on network commercials, but NO audio on network promos or local breaks. Clearly, I don't think they intend for anyone to be listening to this -- so might as well use that stream for something useful, like giving me an uncompressed feed.

FOX is famous for only having NATS on sports when there is no Spanish available. (during NASCAR we get LOTS of calls from people who have recorded the race and have the SAP turned on all they hear are the NATS. You talked about PISSED!! HEHE) We ran SAP on analog and now a second audio stream digital. It is still mono from net just like analog days and there is no telling what you might hear on it. For local we use the main channel on the second audio stream so those people who have their receivers on "SPANISH" and you would be surprised the number of people who do, they have audio, and then call us when Spanish comes on and complains how they are in the US and DON'T speak Spanish. They get pretty funny. That is a Saturday night ritual around our place since COPS and AMW both have Spanish on the second audio channel!

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