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SoundCloud Mastering
Old 26th January 2013
  #1
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
SoundCloud Mastering

There's so many threads that have been started about this, yet pretty much everyone fails to stay on topic, leaving useless threads with useless information on the top of Google search.

Anyway…

I am trying to obtain the best possible quality for SoundCloud streaming, that is, avoiding artefacts and such.

Here some things to know:

- No matter what format / bit rate you upload to SC, all files for streaming will be converted to 128k MP3. Which means every single sound you play on SoundCloud is in this format, at this bit rate.
- Files for download will be whatever you uploaded


Since it's getting converted to 128k MP3 anyway, what's the best format to upload? Many people say it would be a FLAC, AIFF or WAVE file in 24 bit.
But somewhere I read that WAVE 16 bit is better for converting to 128k MP3. Is this true? I know that I need some dithering in this case.

Some people also leave some headroom between ?0.3 and ?0.6 dB when uploaded, so there's some space for the encoding (I think that's what was meant).


Do you have any other tips? Do you believe WAVE 16 bit + Dithering is the best solution? How about Apple Losless? This is not getting offered for download so all that counts is how it sounds on 128k MP3.

Also please, don't trash this thread with posts on how Bandcamp is better and how MP3 is a ****ty format. Seriously, nobody cares. Get a life.


Thanks
Old 26th January 2013
  #2
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NotchontheRocks's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Hmmm. If it is going to be MP3 anyway, I think you'd be better off uploading an MP3. I'm assuming if you do that, you will bypass the SoundCloud "conversion" (please correct me if I'm wrong). This way, you'll know how the track is going to be affected and can adjust accordingly. It's better to handle necessary conversions yourself rather than be surprised by the result later on.
Old 26th January 2013
  #3
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Well this is what I thought too but it seems like no, it gets converted anyway, no matter what you upload. Which means if you upload such an MP3 and it gets converted once again in an MP3, it will be even worse quality! On their site they say to upload in the highest possible format. But I believe that dithering plays a really big role here. And also headroom, because it seems like the encoding needs some of that. I don't know why I think that 16 bit Wave + dithering is better 24 bit. I heard that dithering helps to go from one format / bit rate to another with less quality loss (or "crunching"). But actually 24 bit + dithering should do it as well? I'm trying to figure the best path to go to 128k MP3 actually, with the fewest quality loss
Old 27th January 2013
  #4
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I wouldn't be surprised if it transcodes everything to its own 128k mp3 encoding, regardless of if you upload a 128k to start with, it'll just re-encode it meaning double the mp3 artifacts.

Uploading a properly dithered 16 bit Wav has got to be the best.

Mp3 is 16bit. So if you upload a 24bit file the encoding process is just gonna truncate it to 16 bit.

I haven't noticed anything too special about their encoding over any other normal 128k mp3 and to be honest I wouldn't worry about trying to get the best quality out of it. It's supposed to sound crappy, just like youtube.

And any tiny fidelity improvements you can make aren't gonna make any difference in SC driven sales.

I know lots of people who intentionally feed soundcloud an even lower bit rate such as 96kbps. This is done to make sure that it sounds like ****. So people have to buy the track to get the good quality. It voids the surprisingly large amount of people who are fine with a 128k stream and will rip the soundcloud stream with a browser plugin rather than buying the 320k or iTunes encode.
Old 27th January 2013
  #5
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Thanks, that's what I thought I should do. I had read that somewhere else before, just don't know where. But as for the truncating into 16 bit: this makes me wonder something… isn't it pretty much the same thing happening as if I would upload a 128k MP3? It would re-encode it, no? So here it's a different format but might this still be an issue? Otherwise they might be right and I should just upload the highest possible, dithered however.

I still need to get into dithering.

And I know it won't affect sales or anything. But this isn't for sale anyway, it's just that I've used a vocal sample that I love in a track of mine. I've talked with the guy who wrote the lyrics and who payed the singer back then (10 or 12 years ago) and I have to ask the label for permission now. Just trying to get the best possible result to make a good impression

And yup: definitely too many people are satisfied with 128k MP3s… Haha!
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
But as for the truncating into 16 bit: this makes me wonder something… isn't it pretty much the same thing happening as if I would upload a 128k MP3? It would re-encode it, no?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
Here some things to know:

- No matter what format / bit rate you upload to SC, all files for streaming will be converted to 128k MP3. Which means every single sound you play on SoundCloud is in this format, at this bit rate.
- Files for download will be whatever you uploaded
Quote:
"Sometimes our transcoding system can create audio artifacts, as we transcode all tracks to 128 kbps mp3 for streaming playback. Uploading a lossless or high-quality lossy file will usually reduce these to a minimum, but unfortunately there's not much we can do for the handful of individual tracks that are still affected.

"If you choose to make your track downloadable though, the version users can download will be an exact copy of the version you uploaded, without any transcoding.

"We support AIFF, WAVE (WAV), FLAC, ALAC, OGG, MP2, MP3, AAC, AMR and WMA files.
"We don't modify original audio files that are available for download. For streams, we convert the original into MP3 Joint Stereo for streaming."
- SoundCloud | Uploading & Transcoding
Old 27th January 2013
  #7
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What's your point Adam?
Old 27th January 2013
  #8
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 
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Point is you know the answer. And to "get the best possible result to make a good impression" you'd need to make it downloadable (ie, at the quality you upload, preferably wav or lossless).
Old 27th January 2013
  #9
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Shawn Hatfield's Avatar
 
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Most of the issues I've had with SoundCloud were resolved by providing more headroom for the encode. Sometimes as much as 2dB on the rare occasion.
Old 27th January 2013
  #10
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Just because of their "upload the highest quality"thing,I now always upload a dithered 16/44.1 master,using Powr3 in Sonar X2,plus I'm finding the Pro Audio DSP Dynamic Spectrum Mapper seems to help with the added harshness,I was perceiving,after soundcloud did their 1411 to 128 kbps thing.
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by btfnk ➡️
MP3 is 16 bit
I don't know where you found this information but it isn't accurate. MP3 can happily be deoded to 16- or 24-bit fixed point audio but it isn't stored as either.
Old 27th January 2013
  #12
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no need to dither for soundcloud...
send 24 bit .wav
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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Modye's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkyfingers ➡️
no need to dither for soundcloud...
send 24 bit .wav
+1
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #14
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey ➡️
Point is you know the answer. And to "get the best possible result to make a good impression" you'd need to make it downloadable (ie, at the quality you upload, preferably wav or lossless).
They're a big label, they don't want to spend time downloading stuff and waiting, they just want to hit "Play" and hear the result

Quote:
Originally Posted by Twerk ➡️
Most of the issues I've had with SoundCloud were resolved by providing more headroom for the encode. Sometimes as much as 2dB on the rare occasion.
Thanks, so this confirms it. I'll make sure to leave some headroom!

Quote:
Originally Posted by rksguit ➡️
Just because of their "upload the highest quality"thing,I now always upload a dithered 16/44.1 master,using Pow3 in Sonar X2,plus I'm finding the Pro Audio DSP Dynamic Spectrum Mapper seems to help with the added harshness,I was perceiving,after soundcloud did their 1411 to 128 kbps thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Modye ➡️

Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkyfingers ➡️
no need to dither for soundcloud...
send 24 bit .wav
+1
I should try out both in this case. I had already done both before and it was still bad, but perhaps it isn't possible to do better.

Although the headroom might be the issue. I didn't leave any, I should try that out. Thanks guys
Old 27th January 2013
  #15
Deleted User #43636
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️

Some people also leave some headroom between ?0.3 and ?0.6 dB when uploaded, so there's some space for the encoding (I think that's what was meant).
0.3 to 0.6 is not enough for mp3/128 conversion when it comes to modern 'loud' masters. 2 dB of headroom, as stated by Twerk is more likely to give good results.
Old 27th January 2013
  #16
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Owen Gillett's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I'm currently 2/3 through Bob Katz's new book: iTunes Music.

It will clarify and answer all these queries and more in regard to everything in this thread and a most worthy read for all.

Plenty of clarification in regard to resolution and dithering where lossy codecs are the end product.

Best,

Owen Gillett
Old 27th January 2013
  #17
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
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Cool thanks!

and @*sanddigger1: So basically, in the end, that's becoming a loudness vs. quality thing again Hehe.
Old 27th January 2013
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
Cool thanks!

and @*sanddigger1: So basically, in the end, that's becoming a loudness vs. quality thing again Hehe.
If you turn down the volume on sausage you have mildly quieter sausage.

The quality of the product itself remains the same, though you might spare you sausage some bucks and scratches from the SC transcoder.

There is a thread buried in thus forum from months back where someone from soundcloud recommended at least -2.7dB under for peaks not certain if that was with SRC and word length reduction, or just a straight XCODE.

Point is, if you dig down, you'll find the recommendation from the SoundCloud guys themselves and some banter on the such that happened in the not too distant past.

Then you'll no longer have to guess and you have a starting point whee you understand or control a few more of the variables involved.
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #19
Deleted User #43636
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RRCHON ➡️
If you turn down the volume on sausage you have mildly quieter sausage.

The quality of the product itself remains the same, though you might spare you sausage some bucks and scratches from the SC transcoder.
Of course , a more dynamic master master is often better than a 2 dB 'quieter sausage-, but the quality of the final product (in case of mp3ing the 'quieter sausage' vs the 'full scale sausage') isnt the same. Not only the clipping occuring during the playback isnt there, artifacts are reduced too.
Old 27th January 2013
  #20
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
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I'll try to find a compromise between a 'full scale sausage' with bucks and scratches and a clean 'quieter sausage'

On which Forum do you mean RRCHON? On this one, or were you talking about a discussion on Soundcloud itself? I already did some searches on this forum and found lots of results, but only little info in those threads. Nobody from Soundcloud either, or maybe I just didn't recognise them? This won't be an easy search me thinks
Old 27th January 2013
  #21
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
I'll try to find a compromise between a 'full scale sausage' with bucks and scratches and a clean 'quieter sausage'

On which Forum do you mean RRCHON? On this one, or were you talking about a discussion on Soundcloud itself? I already did some searches on this forum and found lots of results, but only little info in those threads. Nobody from Soundcloud either, or maybe I just didn't recognise them? This won't be an easy search me thinks
On this one. In this section and yes it probably will. Not be easy to find. The soundcloud guy was identified in his signature.
Old 27th January 2013
  #22
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
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I searched all Gearslutz.com posts with Google and couldn't find. If Google can't find it, nobody can

I got 4 results, two of which have nothing to do with this subject, one that is this thread here and another in which you already posted the same answer:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RRCHON ➡️
Someone from soundcloud posted on this board a few months ago.

I think... if I remember correctly they recommend -2.7db and the best upload you can provide.

From personal experience I can still get some soft clipping even at -2.7 going from 48/24 flac down to 44.1/16 128k on their converters, but nothing drastic or majorly audible.

44.1/16 128k sounds like 44.1/16 128k.
I searched this here with Google:

site:gearslutz.com soundcloud mastering "-2.7dB"

Maybe it was -2.6 or -2.8, in this case the search couldn't find it. But according to your post and the date, that was already back in 2011. If you ever run across it (if it still exists), let me know
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
They're a big label, they don't want to spend time downloading stuff and waiting, they just want to hit "Play" and hear the result
They're a big label and don't understand that truly judging a master is pretty much impossible on SoundCloud??
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #24
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Winegarden's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotchontheRocks ➡️
They're a big label and don't understand that truly judging a master is pretty much impossible on SoundCloud??
I'm sure they know that, but I hear a lot of tracks that sound pretty good on Soundcloud. That's why I was wondering how to "prepare" them the best way before they get converted. To make the best impression. I'm not sure what confuses you here
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #25
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ngarjuna's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NotchontheRocks ➡️
They're a big label and don't understand that truly judging a master is pretty much impossible on SoundCloud??
The belief that anyone in the industry who is making profit also follows (or is even aware of) best practices is false. There are lots of people who 'made it' because of who they know rather than what they know. Even those who do know better sometimes fall into the trap of taking the path of least resistance if saving time or money is involved.
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #26
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobcat ➡️
I'm sure they know that, but I hear a lot of tracks that sound pretty good on Soundcloud. That's why I was wondering how to "prepare" them the best way before they get converted. To make the best impression. I'm not sure what confuses you here
I'm confused because if they know that, why wouldn't they utilize that knowledge properly in a world where you can download a full-quality track in seconds? Anyways...

Why don't you just upload a 24-bit wav master to SoundCloud and listen to the effects of their conversion? Then you can adjust your master accordingly. It's a pain in the ass, but I don't really see any other way around it.
Old 27th January 2013
  #27
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Sempoo's Avatar
 
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A few very important aspects of preparing audio for SC:
- keep peaks at -0.5 and don't go up to zero dB
- don't clip master too much, more clipping=more artifacts in SC stream
- don't master too loud, -9dB RMS is good loudness
- upload mp3 320kbps - mp3 is smaller, can have tags [artist, title etc], any player will replay it, and it is much more 'portable' than flac/wave/aiff

just my two cents [dwa grosze]
Old 27th January 2013
  #28
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gruenburger's Avatar
 
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i dont really understand the problem. youre uploading a really loud and distorted track to Soundcloud and you are worried about further artifacts that nobody will notice among all the other distortion?
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #29
Audio X
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen Gillett ➡️
I'm currently 2/3 through Bob Katz's new book: iTunes Music.

Plenty of clarification in regard to resolution and dithering where lossy codecs are the end product.

Best,

Owen Gillett
Besides printing at lower levels, what's the condensed version of the clarifications?
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #30
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Shawn Hatfield's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sempoo ➡️
- upload mp3 320kbps - mp3 is smaller
Doesn't it then get transcoded to 128k? That's two stages of lossy compression. Seems bad.
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