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Did Loudness KILL a sense of Space???
Old 4 weeks ago
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Did Loudness KILL a sense of Space???

Dear ELDERS OF THE INTERNET,
I want to ask the hive mind this question in relation to my MA thesis in Music (your answers maybe published in my paper, if you don't object):

Despite the loudness war's recent disruption by regulators as new standards were adopted by streaming services, I'm hoping to prove that the priority for loudness between 2010 and 2019 was so intensely pursued (by popular genres of this era) that new aesthetics resulted in facilitation of higher RMS values.

Specifically, I propose that the ability to capture natural ambiance and instruments within such sonic space was totally mangled by fluctuations within the gain reduction paradigm. This may have incidentally contributed to the era of post-human aesthetics, heard in the predominance of synthetic sounds and environments, especially as synthetic reverb is used to compensate and create the perception of louder (fuller) mixes. This might also be a case of artists embracing a broader post-human condition in our new found dependence on technology and it's material inevitabilities (ie, loudness in this era).

If the first part of this is true (that natural sonic space was lost in the loudness war), then it's not a leap to posit the second theory on post humanism.
I've attached a theoretical drawing (although not to scale), implying how I believe a long decaying voice and it's spatial character would be affected by dynamic range limiting as I understand it.

Do you think this is a reasonable account of what happened in this era, and is my understanding of how "reduction may have mangled natural environment" flawed in any way?
Thanks!
Evidence of intermodulation distortion:
https://www.researchgate.net/publica...ge_compression
Attached Thumbnails
Did Loudness KILL a sense of Space???-sonic-space-image.jpg  

Last edited by Stilnox; 4 weeks ago at 10:33 AM.. Reason: Added evidence for IMD
Old 4 weeks ago
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Well, loudness affects both dynamic range and distortion, which in turn affects tone. So yes, absolutely this created new aesthetics. Also, it’s not uncommon to arrange songs in a way that permits higher RMS levels (just read a few threads around GS)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
Dear ELDERS OF THE INTERNET,
I want to ask the hive mind this question in relation to my MA thesis in Music (your answers maybe published in my paper, if you don't object):

Despite the loudness war's recent disruption by regulators as new standards were adopted by streaming services, I'm hoping to prove that the priority for loudness between 2010 and 2019 was so intensely pursued (by popular genres of this era) that new aesthetics resulted in facilitation of higher RMS values.

Specifically, I propose that the ability to capture natural ambiance and instruments within such sonic space was totally mangled by fluctuations within the gain reduction paradigm. This may have incidentally contributed to the era of post-human aesthetics, heard in the predominance of synthetic sounds and environments, especially as synthetic reverb is used to compensate and create the perception of louder (fuller) mixes. This might also be a case of artists embracing a broader post-human condition in our new found dependence on technology and it's material inevitabilities (ie, loudness in this era).

If the first part of this is true (that natural sonic space was lost in the loudness war), then it's not a leap to posit the second theory on post humanism.
I've attached a theoretical drawing (although not to scale), implying how I believe a long decaying voice and it's spatial character would be affected by dynamic range limiting as I understand it.

Do you think this is a reasonable account of what happened in this era, and is my understanding of how "reduction may have mangled natural environment" flawed in any way?
Thanks!
Old 4 weeks ago
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Yes.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie ➡️
Yes.
Yes it's reasonable, or yes it's flawed? - I'd love to get an expansion on your opinion. thanks
Old 4 weeks ago
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DAH
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In one word - yes, but not the loudness per se. Limiting/compression did. The space perception depends on phase linearity, low-level details and linearity. Compression kills the latter two.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH ➡️
In one word - yes, but not the loudness per se. Limiting/compression did. The space perception depends on phase linearity, low-level details and linearity. Compression kills the latter two.
AH! - Thank you! This suddenly becomes a serious conversation. I understand the importance keeping low-level details, but you believe that brick-wall limiting introduces misalignment of phase in each moment where peak reduction occurs? If so, is there no such thing as a linear phase limiter?
Old 4 weeks ago
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I'm pretty sure limiting is not affecting the phase at all.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
Yes it's reasonable, or yes it's flawed? - I'd love to get an expansion on your opinion. thanks
"Did Loudness KILL a sense of Space???"

Yes I'd say it did
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
AH! - Thank you! This suddenly becomes a serious conversation. I understand the importance keeping low-level details, but you believe that brick-wall limiting introduces misalignment of phase in each moment where peak reduction occurs? If so, is there no such thing as a linear phase limiter?
Limiting/compressions modulates signal, changing the waveform so depending on how one looks at it, introduces noise/distortions affecting low-level details before everything. Where do you draw the line between the noise and the distortion? Is a high order harmonic or intermodulation low-level distortion correlated with the signal and drowned in the uncorrelated noise of the recording/playback chain really a kind of distortion or can be considered noise? There is not much studies done in this area AFAIK.
I would like to participate in studies like this... probably 15 or so years ago. The area is still terra nova - finding objective measurable factors of 3d sound stage (aka the depth) in stereo recordings so the proponents of CD PCM shut the **** up and train their brain.
But I got older, fam and kids, ****ing the **** up 10-14 hours 5/7 employed at some rocketing IT start-up, so all these thoughts and experience will be dissipated in the mental sphere surrounding Mother Earth after my death.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH ➡️
Limiting/compressions modulates signal, changing the waveform so depending on how one looks at it, introduces noise/distortions affecting low-level details before everything. Where do you draw the line between the noise and the distortion? Is a high order harmonic or intermodulation low-level distortion correlated with the signal and drowned in the uncorrelated noise of the recording/playback chain really a kind of distortion or can be considered noise? [...] all these thoughts and experience will be dissipated in the mental sphere surrounding Mother Earth after my death.
THANK YOU DAH for weighing in on this conversation. This is the first bit of evidence I can use to support this theory - younger generation seem curious, it's not their fault that it hasn't been talked about "publicly" before due to a lack of empirical data on such a subjective topic. If anybody wants to correlate or expand on DAH's account of damage caused through dynamic reduction - please jump in. Lets put those years of pent-up frustration to good use now!
Old 4 weeks ago
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Sense of space comes from the song's arrangement as well as how it's recorded and mixed.

Mastering and loudness processing, if done well, can preserve the space and even enhance it in many cases. People using too much compression, as one example, are squeezing away the space when brickwall limiting could have gotten the desired loudness more transparently.

Masters in the -9-ish integrated LUFS zone can be very spacious. If you're only talking about extreme loudness (-6-ish zone) then you're introducing audible distortion into the equation, and yes, that can distract from the sense of space in some cases. You really need to lay out your definition of "loud" in order to have a meaningful discussion. And narrow it down by genre. Acoustic music vs electronic music, for example, are different universes when it comes to this topic.

It's hard to overemphasize arrangement. Because it's kind of everything when it comes to space - way more important than loudness. I think the dense arrangements of a lot of modern music is more responsible for loss of space than is loudness.

I disagree with the statement that the loudness war was disrupted by streaming standards. Just turn off Normalization in your streaming app and listen to all the new releases. They're still making them loud.

Also, can you make clear what you mean by "post-human"?
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH ➡️
... all these thoughts and experience will be dissipated in the mental sphere surrounding Mother Earth after my death.
I don't know why I like this sentence so much...
Old 4 weeks ago
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I agree with Justin that the 'sense of space' is in the arrangement including the use of any spatial effect processors, of course.

I don't believe that you can lose any meaningful sense of space {depth} by introducing some harmonic distortion and noise as a user above suggested.

YMMV & FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
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Assuming the arrangement allows for it, there are three ways to get "space" in my way of thinking:

1) "height" - i.e. frequency domain, the low C of the double bass to the high C of the piccolo (figuratively speaking)

2) L-R stereo spread (the easiest)

3) front to back depth (the most difficult)

These three dimensions all interact with one another to a significant degree. Dynamics contribute greatly to no. 3 — the subtle movement of instruments in the arrangement between background, foreground, and middle ground, and how noticeable those layers are in the mix, are what contribute to a sense of spaciousness.

IME, when you squash the dynamics of the tune with heavy compression and limiting, you essentially restrict that movement between those various layers. This leads to the "flat, 2-d" effect.

Similarly, distortion artifacts from heavy processing can have a profound effect on no. 1 above, causing the top end to become congested and over-saturated. This can also lead to a loss of a sense of space. Those mid and high frequencies are where our ears get our spatial cues from. If those frequencies cannot breathe, spaciousness suffers.

My $.02, as someone who thinks about this issue a lot...
Old 4 weeks ago
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I think OP is more referring to decay as the primary defining characteristic of "space" in a recording as can be seen in his/her graph, and not so much "space" as created by the arrangement.

I think the main thought that the pursuit of loudness changed the aesthetic of a lot of popular music is fairly self-evident. And therefore, tying it to the second thought about "post-humanism" is really just attaching a label to what was already assumed - that the aesthetic has changed.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH ➡️
In one word - yes, but not the loudness per se. Limiting/compression did. The space perception depends on phase linearity, low-level details and linearity. Compression kills the latter two.
I think it also relates to the fact that music is more and more being "produced" rather than recorded in real spaces. Some sort of overproduced "vocal booth" aesthetic, yet unable to create a long term exciting stereo experience.
Old 4 weeks ago
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MrG
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I’ll chime in here. Take from it what you will as I may not have time to respond promptly.

I think my main objection with your thesis is relating to the lack of specificity between loudness (but really compression) of individual tracks versus mix/master loudness.

If what some posters above are saying is accurate - and that you are mainly referring to decay, as per your graph - then the issue is more closely related to individual track compression. And following this line of thought, the natural decay of a sound source was beginning to be altered/mangled/manipulated in a most mainstream commercial way as soon as The Beatles began “misusing” compressors at Abbey Road.

And thus, the manipulation of the envelope of an otherwise naturally decaying source is far from post-human, I would say. I think a further extrapolation of this argument is the differentiation between artistic recording and documentarian recording, which are two vastly different mindsets and approaches.

Synthetic music and processing which is inherently possible due to the digital realm would be more akin to post-humanism in music, but again, synthesizers have been around for a long time, for example.

Hope that gives some food for thought.

All best,
MG
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #18
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Yes, I'm talking about space as the cues of ambiance. Decay and reverb with reflections and all sounds which enable a listener to gain the feeling of sonic space in a recording. This used to be a quality that even some electronic music possessed before loudness drew a clear line in the sand (upon EDM dominance). Look back at old producers like Arovane, Boards of Canada, Farben etc. Although synthetically achieved, these mixes were setup to depict a sense of space as vivid as a jazz recording IMHO. So I propose that any music subjected to the loudness paradigm has suffered the ability to project a sense of environment.

Apologies, I shouldn't have introduced the post-humanism topic here - my main goal here is collecting evidence that loudness killed natural space.

If anybody cares - the rest of the thesis is a much deeper conversation about the cultural vortex of the internet, where even musical rebellion must conform to the format of loudness, style and political censorship if any voice is to be had. This is a dystopian examination as to the limit of rebellion in our era - merely a reflection of our enslavement (or willing-embrace) of creativity bound to the mediation of these technologies.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
If anybody cares - the rest of the thesis is ...
Your paper research will be flawed if you continue trying to establish that loudness obliterates the "sense of space". No, loudness obliterates everything, and in most circumstances, if applied carefully, is the right sound.

Get a song with lots of reverb, delays and wild panning effects, then set a peak limiter so that it reads -1.5 LUFS, then post the result here.

I am sure you will still hear remnants of your sense of space but with everything else crackling around it.

YMMV,
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #20
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Done! - here we have a comparison setup with your recommended specifics. I disabled lock-ahead time as this is a consideration made for achieving transparency in the limiting process, here we want the artifacts of limiting to be as obvious as possible. Please let me know what you think. Personally I've never heard any natural situation that sounded like this. To me, any illusion of space is quite lost.
Unlimited Version:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L4q...ew?usp=sharing
Breakwalled to hell version:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-J8...ew?usp=sharing

Last edited by Stilnox; 4 weeks ago at 02:19 PM.. Reason: Link didn't work
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
Yes, I'm talking about space as the cues of ambiance. Decay and reverb with reflections and all sounds which enable a listener to gain the feeling of sonic space in a recording. This used to be a quality that even some electronic music possessed before loudness drew a clear line in the sand (upon EDM dominance). Look back at old producers like Arovane, Boards of Canada, Farben etc. Although synthetically achieved, these mixes were setup to depict a sense of space as vivid as a jazz recording IMHO. So I propose that any music subjected to the loudness paradigm has suffered the ability to project a sense of environment.

Apologies, I shouldn't have introduced the post-humanism topic here - my main goal here is collecting evidence that loudness killed natural space.

If anybody cares - the rest of the thesis is a much deeper conversation about the cultural vortex of the internet, where even musical rebellion must conform to the format of loudness, style and political censorship if any voice is to be had. This is a dystopian examination as to the limit of rebellion in our era - merely a reflection of our enslavement (or willing-embrace) of creativity bound to the mediation of these technologies.
Apologies if I sounded glib in my previous response. That does sound interesting. I'd love to read your paper once it's complete.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #22
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No worries - I think the only thing we can prove is that sonic environment is entirely subjective, and can't be scientifically quantified.

However a good read is this essay I found stating that: perception of audio "quality" and "liking" of the music can be affected by separate factors. It shows evidence that although test subjects identified louder music with higher quality - this didn't result in higher appreciation. Bringing loudness into focus for the old debate of "listener types" and their relationship to music being more style versus emotion.

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/37599/
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
Done! - here we have a comparison setup with your recommended specifics. I disabled lock-ahead time as this is a consideration made for achieving transparency in the limiting process, here we want the artifacts of limiting to be as obvious as possible. Please let me know what you think. Personally I've never heard any natural situation that sounded like this. To me, any illusion of space is quite lost.
l]
Breakwalled to hell version:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-J8...ew?usp=sharing
Your peak amplitude in the louder example is about -2 dB while your LU is about 7 {I}.

I certainly didn't recommend this.

Not sure what you're now trying to prove with this here other than, a peak limiter is a dangerous tool?

EDIT: Attached please find your loud file level matched at a relevant spot.
Attached Files

go-level-matched.wav (6.16 MB, 916 views)

Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
No worries - I think the only thing we can prove is that sonic environment is entirely subjective, and can't be scientifically quantified.

However a good read is this essay I found stating that: perception of audio "quality" and "liking" of the music can be affected by separate factors. It shows evidence that although test subjects identified louder music with higher quality - this didn't result in higher appreciation. Bringing loudness into focus for the old debate of "listener types" and their relationship to music being more style versus emotion.

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/37599/
thanks stilnox! super interesting. please keep us updated!
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️
Yes, I'm talking about space as the cues of ambiance. Decay and reverb with reflections and all sounds which enable a listener to gain the feeling of sonic space in a recording. This used to be a quality that even some electronic music possessed before loudness drew a clear line in the sand (upon EDM dominance). Look back at old producers like Arovane, Boards of Canada, Farben etc. Although synthetically achieved, these mixes were setup to depict a sense of space as vivid as a jazz recording IMHO. So I propose that any music subjected to the loudness paradigm has suffered the ability to project a sense of environment.
Jon Hopkins last album Singularity from 2018 (I think that's his last anyway) struck me as both loud and spacious. Might be worth checking it on some meters or something? As far as I recall he has some odd working methods regarding bit rate etc.

Also this is completely anecdotal I know, but there was a study done that claimed perception of dynamics was in fact intact much more than we considered at low dynamic range due to perceptual adjustment. I remember a SoS article touching on it but I dunno the date; so I wonderer if spacial perception might be similar? Anyway you've probably looked into it already. Good luck with the thesis.

EDIT: I think this is the article (honestly haven't gone through it yet): https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-a...e-loudness-war

It's from 10 years ago! Holy crap...

Last edited by Constant_K; 3 weeks ago at 05:29 AM.. Reason: Clarifications
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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I'm skeptical of so-called "research" that seeks to confirm an existing theory, rather than seeking the truth.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stilnox ➡️

era of post-human aesthetics
This gives me a chuckle - was recorded music ever human?!

Or to carry the point further was playing music ever human? Strictly speaking any instrument, even a simple drum makes you post-human, makes you a cyborg, creates a new configuration that is beyond the mere "body" of the human.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgilroy ➡️
This gives me a chuckle - was recorded music ever human?!

Or to carry the point further was playing music ever human? Strictly speaking any instrument, even a simple drum makes you post-human, makes you a cyborg, creates a new configuration that is beyond the mere "body" of the human.
That's why I only drum with belly slaps.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto ➡️
I'm skeptical of so-called "research" that seeks to confirm an existing theory, rather than seeking the truth.
Indeed.

The first step would be to establish how subjective these so called perceptions are and establish the proper descriptions and words to be used.

This means doing hundreds, if not thousands, of double blind experiments with random participants and allow them to freely use words to describe what they are hearing. Then slowly building up a vocabulary and parse from there the most common terms and descriptions used. Then after that do a more thorough investigation using these parsed words and descriptions, slowly getting towards some kind of consensus that represents some kind of "objective truth". I can tell you it is _extremely_ time consuming and difficult. Probably impossible.. but you can get some interesting data none the less.

This is exactly what JBL and some other speaker manufacturers have done when trying to improve the quality of their speakers (I've been a participant in such a double blind study.. twice, for different companies).


As soon as you have some kind of confirmation bias built in, the results are automatically skewed from the get-go.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmanic ➡️
Indeed.

The first step would be to establish how subjective these so called perceptions are and establish the proper descriptions and words to be used.
If the nomenclature is ill-defined we have no way of establishing anything meaningful.
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