Continuation of "Circle of Confusion" discussion from Revel thread - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 10 Old 06-14-2018, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Continuation of "Circle of Confusion" discussion from Revel thread

Transferring this tangential discussion over from the Revel Speakers thread, if anyone would like to continue with this topic (watch, it will probably die now ).

Here below is the string of prior related posts. I placed them all within this opening post, so you're not going to have a super easy time of it if you wish to quote an individual post from these below. But these are here mainly for prior context and if you do really want to quote something here, I'm sure you can figure out how to make that work:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Floyd Toole View Post
As I mentioned in my first book, I have it from good authority (Phil Ramone, being one) that many of the master recordings in the archives are not the studio master tapes, but those created/predistorted for driving the cutter head of a disc mastering machine. I seem to remember that RCA even predistorted the waveform as a compensation for stylus tracing distortion. Mono bass, manipulated dynamics and spectrum to keep the stylus in the groove and minimize playback issues (low groove velocity on inner grooves), were built into these master tapes. Some misguided persons at the time obviously thought that the LP was the ultimate delivery format.

When CDs came along, guess what master tapes got recorded on to a format that needs no such manipulations? The audible differences were inevitable and not favorable to the new format - this in addition to flawed early generation players. One can only presume that this is still the situation for much of the classic (not necessarily classical) music repertoire. Sad.

Under it all is the fact that it is simply not possible to extract from an LP the signal that went in to it. One is not hearing the art (the studio master) that was created, but a modified interpretation of it that contains whole digit distortions of all kinds. That does not mean that it cannot be enjoyed, the human mind is remarkably adaptive and masking is very effective, but it is not the "real thing".

All that said, and has been discussed in this thread, we have much evidence of incompetence and bad taste corrupting the sounds going into and coming out of the potentially transparent CDs and streaming services. In this case the medium is not the problem, people are.

Let the flames begin :-)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
This so called 'circle of confusion' may apply to some artist like Adele, but please don't paint the entire industry professionals as ignorant. Revisit either of these two LP's... and when time permits please note all their shortcomings or imperfections


1977 Grammy Award Aja Best Engineered Recording, Non Classical

Engineers: Roger Nichols, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt, Bill Schnee
Mastering: Bernie Grundman



Gaucho 1981 Grammy Award Best Non-Classical Engineered Recording

Mixing: Elliot Scheiner
Mix down: Elliot Scheiner
Mastering: Bob Ludwig
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
Also:

Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti (1975)

Andy Johns – engineering
Eddie Kramer – engineering, mixing
Keith Harwood – engineering, mixing

Barry Diament – mastering (original 1987 CD release)


Quote:
Originally Posted by CruelInventions View Post
I loved Aja went it came out. When I was in 8th grade. I'm sure I listened to it off and on over the next decade or two. Can't say I've listened to that album nor to Steely Dan in general much at all in the last couple decades. But I know they're probably still in frequent rotation for the "tasteful" audiophile. At least judging from the semi-regular mentions of them in audio-related places & forums.

In any case, sure, there can be exceptions like these. But it doesn't exactly inspire confidence that your first choice is to go back some 40 years to cite a couple of your best-sounding examples.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
Sting 'Brand New Day' (1999)
Steely Dan 'Two Against Nature' (2000)
Donald Fagen 'Morph the Cat' (2006)
Peter Gabriel 'US' (1992)

Quote:
Originally Posted by CruelInventions View Post
Not sure of the point in cherry-picking a shortlist of titles. Unless the list of quality is well into the thousands, there's not much point. How many albums get released on average, per year? I would think near 5 figures worth, just from major labels alone.

So citing exemplary titles from decades ago is roughly the equivalent of grasping 20-30 grains of sand between your forefinger and thumb from a mile-long beach, isn't it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
Just pointing out the so called 'circle of confusion' is based on the fallacy that contemporary mixing (speakers) monitors, microphones and the lack of mixing expertise resulted in major compromises.

Not in my book, nor my music library


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post
Nope. It refers to the lack of traceable standards, not to any particular hardware or personnel.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
With all due respect to yourself and Dr Toole, the 'circle of confusion' is contrived upon hardware limitations. Most seasoned pro studio engineers well understood electrical interface standards i.e. target unity calibrations.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Anderson View Post
I spoke with Roger Nichols (Steely Dan engineer, RIP) a few times at Audio Engineering Society conventions. I asked him what monitors he used. He said when he used Meyer HD-1's, mastering engineers never touched his mixes (no processing for "improvement"). When he tried other monitors, they used some EQ. He went back to the Meyers.

Circle of confusion exists because there is no standard for monitors or room acoustics. Some are horribly colored and affect the EQ decisions made by mix and mastering engineers. There are plenty of reasons why it is so difficult to make a recording that will sound good on many playback systems.

Knowledgeable and experienced recording and mastering engineers can make good sounding recordings on crappy speakers in awful rooms because they know how to compensate. They are too many bad sounding recordings because not all the folks doing the work have the knowledge, experience or "golden ears".

In my 32 year career, I trained a lot of people in the art and science of recording, mixing and mastering. Very few were able to make good sounding finished product without input from others. Most professional recording and mixing engineers send their mixes to mastering engineers who do things to make them sound better. It's a collaborative effort. Problem is, the recording, mixing and mastering guys often don't have the final say. Get a tone deaf exec calling the shots and it all goes downhill fast.
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
With all due respect to yourself and Dr Toole, the 'circle of confusion' is contrived upon hardware limitations. Most seasoned pro studio engineers well understood electrical interface standards i.e. target unity calibrations.
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Originally Posted by Gooddoc View Post
I don't think I did that. I have my own playlist of songs and albums that I think are well done, but it's kind of like going through coin jars for valuable coins. It's exciting when you find them but they're far too rare .
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Anderson View Post
The better your playback system and room acoustics are, the more you discover how few really good sounding recordings exist.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post
Exactly.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
That string of quotes do not follow a contiguous post-n-response correlation.

The short list of mixing engineers I've posted alone represent hundreds of benchmark albums and thousands of individual tracks. There are certainly many more profoundly talented engineers and artist that I'm not going to take the time to list them all here.

Seasoned pro mix engineers (then and now) are very selective about the tools they use for production and reproduction...resulting in extremely robust artwork. Once a given monitor reaches a certain level of transparency the mix will translate... evident by production masterpieces dating back 1975 per my example(s).

Meyer Sound HD-1, JBL LSR28P, Dynaudio BM15A, Genelec 1032B...all excellent relatively low budget active monitors, though they may measure differently, each are indeed reference grade monitors and a given mix will translate.

An example of a really poor monitor would be the obligatory Yamaha NS10...sorry but these are simply utter garbage. The flawed logic was to modify the mix to sound ok on them and this intern would hypothetically sound fine on the majority of consumer systems. This process led to dumbing down what may have possibly been a perfectly fine mix before the intervention.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post
I know. I chose them to create a point. However, you and I are talking past each other. I am not criticizing any of the people you list nor am I questioning their work. The circle of confusion was an term promoted by Floyd Toole to describe the absence of quantitatively definable standards in the chain from recording to reproduction. It says nothing about the quality of the work, itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichB View Post
Part of this conversation deals the concept that excessive compression and digital clipping is leading the resurgence of vinyl. Consumers searching for a better recording, understandably, are turning to a technically inferior medium.

For the purpose of this discussion, the circle of confusion can be treated as a constant or improving. And yet, the quality of popular recordings are not improving. The DR Database provides some good evidence.

The industry is pushing additional bits (HD Audio), folding additional those bits (MQA), which is not dealing with the problem of over-compression and clipping. With digital records, music can be analyzed and quality metrics produced. Dynamic range and frequency response are a couple of metrics, absence of clipping is another.

The luminaries in the industry seem completely immune to this notion. Has dynamic range and digital clipping been discussed by the same folks pushing MQA?
Perhaps, I missed it.

- Rich
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
Dynamic range compression is a powerful esthetic tool when implemented correctly. Any well done production, be it music or theatrical, will have some level of DR compression. Bob Katz K-metering system is contrived upon sliding monitor calibration targets and managing dynamic range to great effect.

For example, calibrating -20 dBFS or 0 VU for 79 dBSPL results in a mildly compressed mix... where the mix engineer is now in a (monitoring) feed back loop where he/she can very effectively make precise DR adjustments. Before crossing paths with Mr Katz, I simply did not understand why I would alter my calibration target...ever.

Fine example being many a 5.1 surround remix from the original theatrical stems. Almost all resulted in too much dynamic range where the action scenes are extremely (painfully) loud and the average dialogue is unfortunately barely perceptible.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomas2 View Post
Here (link) is comprehensive overview of professional industry standard (most relavent today being EBU R68 and SMPTE RP155) alignment levels correlated to the universal dBu scale for nominal (electrical) interchange.

http://www.thesoundmanifesto.co.uk/W...lReference.pdf

The Waves Dorrough Meter


These meters provide precision loudness monitoring by graphically displaying the actual "density" of the sound and the amount of compression being applied to the signal in real time.

Kal when time permits, would you please give me an example of the "lack of standards" you are referring to...thanks !
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Anderson View Post
Yeah, level standards for pro audio have been around for a long time. I started working as a recording engineer in 1974 and learned 0 VU = + 4 dBu (or dBm as it was at the time). VU meters were all that was available until peak meters came along. Digital recording and playback formats didn't exist yet. All of these new metering tools are great and it would be wonderful if everyone understood and used them. That's not the case.

However, this has nothing to do with the circle of confusion which refers to the variety of loudspeakers being used that have widely varying on and off axis frequency responses. Room acoustics and their affect on the loudspeaker response also comes into play. There are no standards for speakers and room acoustics used by audio professionals and consumers. Have you read this? It explains things clearly.

http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/1...confusion.html
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Last edited by CruelInventions; 06-14-2018 at 03:40 PM.
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post #2 of 10 Old 06-14-2018, 03:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Anderson View Post
...Room acoustics and their affect on the loudspeaker response also comes into play. There are no standards for speakers and room acoustics used by audio professionals and consumers.
Tools for in-room acoustic measurements and abatement technologies are available for pros and consumer. For sometime now one can relatively easily quantify every facet of a rooms response and where an ideal objective I believe has been agreed upon already.

While mathematically there will always be some margin left for improvement, at some budgeting point, an engineer will design, build and commission something useful.

Unlimited budget ?


Very refined reproduction tools also have been in existence predating this example:

Meyer Sound HD-1 (1989)
40 Hz – 20 kHz ±1 dB


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Unlimited budget ?
Very limited compared to Blackbird studio.
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post #4 of 10 Old 06-15-2018, 08:18 AM
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The image I posted of Bear’s Lab at Meyer Sound in Berkeley, CA appears to be a LCR front-to back design.

It is safe to say there will always be more than one design philosophy, where each approach has its own merit. Thomas Jouanjean of Nothhward Acoustics utilizes a Front-To-Back (FTB) design philosophy and possibly one of the most advanced iterations available today.

http://www.northwardacoustics.com/

"FTB designs are very controlled acoustical environments, creating a quasi anechoic response speaker-to-room and speaker-to-engineer, yet maintaining a natural environment for the engineer to be within the room, doing so without compromising the speaker-to-engineer response. Thanks to the use of self-noises (noises produced by people moving and talking in the room) to trigger room environmental feedback created by surfaces invisible to the speakers, we can fully avoid having to use speaker-to-room feedback and Haas Kicker terminations like in older designs. In short, there are two rooms in one"

This FTB design is the ultimate combination of acoustics and psychoacoustics.

http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp...ring-double-2/

Thomas’ contention is that to get the best performance out of the speakers and the engineer, they each need to effectively ‘see’, or hear, different rooms.

Thomas has a degree in acoustics and vibration engineering, immersing himself in the science of psychoacoustics and Head-Related Transfer Functions (HRTF), and starting his own company in Brussels, Belgium.

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I'm curious, given the focus on the CoC dilemma and the quality of the corresponding signal paths, where we fidget over a dB or two here and there, what standardization practices there are in the recording profession concerning the hearing characteristics of individual engineers or anyone else who has influence on the final product based on personal listening.

Is this not the single biggest source of variability in the signal/audio chain?

I assume there's some level of natural selection that filters people without exemplary hearing (as demonstrated by controlled, objective hearing testing and resulting audiograms) out of the business. But even then, is there still not a fairly significant variance in hearing threshold response among those who have made it through "the filter" compared to the variance in the remainder of the signal/audio chain?

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post #6 of 10 Old 06-16-2018, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by russ_777 View Post
I'm curious, given the focus on the CoC dilemma and the quality of the corresponding signal paths, where we fidget over a dB or two here and there, what standardization practices there are in the recording profession concerning the hearing characteristics of individual engineers or anyone else who has influence on the final product based on personal listening.

Is this not the single biggest source of variability in the signal/audio chain?

I assume there's some level of natural selection that filters people without exemplary hearing (as demonstrated by controlled, objective hearing testing and resulting audiograms) out of the business. But even then, is there still not a fairly significant variance in hearing threshold response among those who have made it through "the filter" compared to the variance in the remainder of the signal/audio chain?
In the third edition of my book "Sound Reproduction" I spend a significant amount of space on the topic of hearing loss, especially among audio professionals (and musicians) and how it can affect their ability to judge sound quality and their preferences for recording control rooms - most are acoustically treated to create a dominant direct sound field. This and near-field monitoring simplify the perceptual process that has been compromised by hearing loss, which not only affects what can be heard, but the binaural discrimination that determines how reflected sounds are perceived. Explained in Chapter 17.

As discussed in Sections 3.2 of the book, it was double-blind listening tests involving recording engineers that revealed just how much of a problem hearing loss is in the audio business - it is an occupational hazard that for understandable reasons is not much discussed.

Historically, monitor loudspeakers (measurements in Chapter 18 and elsewhere in the book) have had dreadful off axis performance leading to the "truckload of fiberglass" approach to control room design - it absorbs the awful off-axis sound. The best of new loudspeakers are much better behaved, and there are options. Section 7.5 discusses research into differences between professional and recreational listening. The results are interesting.

So there are two reasons for absorbing at least early reflections: flawed loudspeakers and flawed hearing. It often happens in the professional world, and less often in domestic listening. Flawed loudspeakers and hearing loss do not discriminate :-(. However, for those with relatively normal hearing and well-designed loudspeakers, some amount of reflected sound turns out to be advantageous.
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I wonder who would enjoy listening to music in this environment. The radically imposing visual impact here cannot but noticeably affect one's psychological state.


(Maybe if someone turned the lights off....??)
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post #8 of 10 Old 06-16-2018, 11:48 AM
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I wonder who would enjoy listening to music in this environment. The radically imposing visual impact here cannot but noticeably affect one's psychological state.


(Maybe if someone turned the lights off....??)
Is there a line to try this out? What's the next number?
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post #9 of 10 Old 06-16-2018, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floyd Toole View Post
In the third edition of my book "Sound Reproduction" I spend a significant amount of space on the topic of hearing loss, especially among audio professionals (and musicians) and how it can affect their ability to judge sound quality and their preferences for recording control rooms - most are acoustically treated to create a dominant direct sound field. This and near-field monitoring simplify the perceptual process that has been compromised by hearing loss, which not only affects what can be heard, but the binaural discrimination that determines how reflected sounds are perceived. Explained in Chapter 17.

As discussed in Sections 3.2 of the book, it was double-blind listening tests involving recording engineers that revealed just how much of a problem hearing loss is in the audio business - it is an occupational hazard that for understandable reasons is not much discussed.

Historically, monitor loudspeakers (measurements in Chapter 18 and elsewhere in the book) have had dreadful off axis performance leading to the "truckload of fiberglass" approach to control room design - it absorbs the awful off-axis sound. The best of new loudspeakers are much better behaved, and there are options. Section 7.5 discusses research into differences between professional and recreational listening. The results are interesting.

So there are two reasons for absorbing at least early reflections: flawed loudspeakers and flawed hearing. It often happens in the professional world, and less often in domestic listening. Flawed loudspeakers and hearing loss do not discriminate :-(. However, for those with relatively normal hearing and well-designed loudspeakers, some amount of reflected sound turns out to be advantageous.
Floyd, that's a very nice explanation, I really appreciate it. I had actually looked up your book on Amazon about a week ago when I saw some of your posts in the Revel thread. Didn't pull the trigger then but will now.

It's of interest to me as (a) I retired a few years ago and have time to do some "leisure" reading like that, and (b) I now have some mild-moderate hearing loss at 62 and have been trying to figure out what my hearing is doing to my "audio chain." I got HAs about a year ago that I'm told are calibrated to reduce my loss by roughly half, as audiologists aren't necessarily trying to achieve a flat response, just enough gain in the impaired bands to improve speech intelligibility. I was tested last week and my loss at 2 kHz and above relative to what I hear from 1 kHz and below ranges from 5 dB up to 30 above 8 kHz or so.

That said, it has seemingly had no effect on my ability to enjoy music (other than the tinnitus) as my brain has adapted to it over the years. I definitely hear more "presence" when I listen to music with the aids in but they seem to add some artifacts that make listening to music less enjoyable. I've also been told that the more I use the aids, including when I'm listening to music, the more my brain will adapt to the "new sound" and it will eventually become the new normal. Even with the loss I have above 2 kHz I still am able to easily discern spatial distribution of different instruments and enjoy the imaging features of a recording, assuming it was recorded and mixed in a way to establish or preserve those characteristics. After seeing test results of my hearing a year ago, it certainly gave me a new perspective on folks who do things like prop their cables up on mounts so they won't touch the floor.
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post #10 of 10 Old 06-16-2018, 05:18 PM
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All true... half deaf, incompetent and drinking on the job


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