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Compression in the Flower Kings

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Anomandaris View Drop Down
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    Posted: February 26 2016 at 15:43
I've recently become very aware of the Loudness War, and I'm starting to develop a very low tolerance for compressed music. In fact, this recent awareness has inspired me to systematically go through all the 70s prog giants, something I'd mostly avoided until now (while making sure to avoid "remastered" releases). But I suppose that's another topic...

Anyway, I started listening to the Flower Kings a little less than a year ago, starting with their latest album, Desolation Rose. I liked it enough to buy it, and have decided to go through their entire catalog, starting from the beginning. I've since listened to Back in the World of Adventures and Retropolis, and have started on Stardust We Are...

Anyway, their first two albums seem to pretty much have that "70s sound" (i.e. are uncompressed). Retropolis, in particular, sounds excellent, in my opinion. But then when I started to listen to Stardust We Are, I was immediately struck by how compressed the music was. I went back and listened to Desolation Rose with this new awareness, and I noticed that it had compression too (though not as badly as Stardust We Are). The question is, can I expect this from the rest of their albums? If so, are there any that are "better" than others? 

Thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 26 2016 at 17:13
Tough question as it is a function of the mastering of the digital recording, especially when mastering for CD since that needs to be truncated to 16bit (redbook) from the 24 bit master file. Some compression happens in almost all mastering process. someone like Dean here would have specific details on the mastering but you can also read about it online....Tons of articles on it. Also some check the versions on DR Database (http://dr.loudness-war.info/).

I only do vinyl and I have Desolation Rose and Stardust We Are on vinyl and they both came with the CD versions....I will compare the two versions and see if the mastering for vinyl included the same compression as the CDs. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lowend Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2016 at 11:49
The Flower Kings are one of my favorite bands with Yes being my most favorite.I only discovered TFK after discovering this website about three years ago. It opened me up to a whole world of new prog i didn't know existed. I have all of TFK studio releases on cd. No vinyl. I guess I'm just used to the compression. It doesn't bother me but I do prefer vinyl. I have my most cherished Yes releases on 180 gram vinyl and prefer them to the cds. Mobile fidelity recordings are the best but they're so expensive and hard to find unless it's a new release. Maybe in time you'll get used to the compression the way I did.
Lost in trance of dances, as rhythm takes another turn
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ProgBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2016 at 16:46
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Tough question as it is a function of the mastering of the digital recording, especially when mastering for CD since that needs to be truncated to 16bit (redbook) from the 24 bit master file.


I don't pretend to be familiar with all of the technical details but this doesn't make sense to me.  As I understand it, CDs have a much wider dynamic range than vinyl, which is one of the main reasons that the format was so rapidly and enthusiastically adopted for classical music.  The compression applied in modern CD mastering of rock and pop music is not due to any technical limitations of the format but is an intentional choice that is made to enhance the superficial, immediate impact of the music.
Bob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2016 at 18:51
I too, stick with vinyl, I don't really notice any issues with (over) compression. I do notice in Tech/Extreme that the kick drums are compressed to buggery - pretty much ends up sounding 'clippy' (Lars Ulrich, Tomas Haake etc.).
TFK sound fine to me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dellinger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2016 at 23:11
Originally posted by ProgBob ProgBob wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Tough question as it is a function of the mastering of the digital recording, especially when mastering for CD since that needs to be truncated to 16bit (redbook) from the 24 bit master file.


I don't pretend to be familiar with all of the technical details but this doesn't make sense to me.† As I understand it, CDs have a much wider dynamic range than vinyl, which is one of the main reasons that the format was so rapidly and enthusiastically adopted for classical music.† The compression applied in modern CD mastering of rock and pop music is not due to any technical limitations of the format but is an intentional choice that is made to enhance the superficial, immediate impact of the music.


I was under the impression that classical music purists prefer vinyl. And I was under the impression that CD does lose some of the sound... it goes mostly about the analog vs digital... in digital you have to choose at which point you want to cut the quality, while on analog you get absolutley everything (though preservation is another matter). Still, I too am not really familiar with all this technical stuff.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 00:03
Originally posted by ProgBob ProgBob wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Tough question as it is a function of the mastering of the digital recording, especially when mastering for CD since that needs to be truncated to 16bit (redbook) from the 24 bit master file.


I don't pretend to be familiar with all of the technical details but this doesn't make sense to me.  As I understand it, CDs have a much wider dynamic range than vinyl, which is one of the main reasons that the format was so rapidly and enthusiastically adopted for classical music.  The compression applied in modern CD mastering of rock and pop music is not due to any technical limitations of the format but is an intentional choice that is made to enhance the superficial, immediate impact of the music.
It's the mastering/mixing process that adds the compression, raising the volume too high on quiet parts and lowering the volume of loud parts, so reducing the dynamic range and making the recording sound even across all instruments, IMO this is bad mastering.
Has nothing to do with the final media, it will show up on CD, vinyl and digital files. Generally recordings from the 70s and early 80s were mastered with more care than say the last 15yrs.
So you are right, compression has always been added but digital recordings suffered more because the CD could handle more volume, engineers pushed it way too much....You can't do that on vinyl so much.

As long as it's mastered/mixed for vinyl from a 24 bit master by a knowledgeable engineer, it can have a brilliant sound. 24 bit to 16bit redbook you will lose some music, when I play comparable vinyl and CD you can tell the difference.
Bottom line is as long as you are listening to music is what is important.

The Desolation Rose on CD sounds more compressed than Stardust We Are....the vinyl versions to me are not as compressed and are the preferred media for me.....as always YMMV



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 00:12
Stardust.......is almost perfect, bar one song - Compassion.............. I just can't get into this piece. 5 star without it.............
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 02:00
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Stardust.......is almost perfect, bar one song - Compassion.............. I just can't get into this piece. 5 star without it.............

I agree, one of their best if not the best. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 02:52
Agree re Stardust, an absolutely magnificent album. I have to say, I do not particularly notice the compression issue, which, I presume, is something to do with my hearing, or lack of attention to detail.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 05:35
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

I too, stick with vinyl, I don't really notice any issues with (over) compression. I do notice in Tech/Extreme that the kick drums are compressed to buggery - pretty much ends up sounding 'clippy' (Lars Ulrich, Tomas Haake etc.).
TFK sound fine to me.


I can't listen to anything with that type of bass drum sounds e.g. the latest Dream Theater. I just find it really annoying.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ProgBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 09:19
Originally posted by Dellinger Dellinger wrote:

I was under the impression that classical music purists prefer vinyl. And I was under the impression that CD does lose some of the sound... it goes mostly about the analog vs digital... in digital you have to choose at which point you want to cut the quality, while on analog you get absolutley everything (though preservation is another matter). Still, I too am not really familiar with all this technical stuff.


My impression is that the vinyl vs CD debate didn't really happen to the same extent amongst classical fans and I am not aware of any resurgence of vinyl in the classical world in the same way that has happened for rock music in recent years. Apart from the dynamic range of CD, which is generally more important for classical music, the lack of surface noise and longer running time were also factors.

I think it is a myth about the information lost in digital vs analogue and that in practice the 'lost' information is outside the range of audible frequencies. On the other hand vinyl suffers from technical limitations that result from its mechanical nature. These restrict the frequencies that can be recorded and the dynamic range that it can handle. Ironically, I understand that technical limitations are one of the reasons why a rock LP can sound better than the CD equivalent; because the cutting head can't cope with an extremely compressed master, sometimes a more sensible master is prepared for the LP version.
Bob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ProgBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 09:33
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

It's the mastering/mixing process that adds the compression, raising the volume too high on quiet parts and lowering the volume of loud parts, so reducing the dynamic range and making the recording sound even across all instruments, IMO this is bad mastering.


Agreed.

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:


Has nothing to do with the final media, it will show up on CD, vinyl and digital files. Generally recordings from the 70s and early 80s were mastered with more care than say the last 15yrs.
So you are right, compression has always been added but digital recordings suffered more because the CD could handle more volume, engineers pushed it way too much....You can't do that on vinyl so much.


I disagree with your first sentence here in that the sort of (bad) mastering often done with CDs wasn't possible with vinyl, so the final media does have an impact.  In fact, this what you yourself go on to say if I understand you correctly.

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

As long as it's mastered/mixed for vinyl from a 24 bit master by a knowledgeable engineer, it can have a brilliant sound. 24 bit to 16bit redbook you will lose some music, when I play comparable vinyl and CD you can tell the difference.
Bottom line is as long as you are listening to music is what is important.


There are plenty of people who would say that nothing audible needs to be lost in the 24 bit to 16 bit conversion. If there is a difference it is not the same as the difference you are hearing between the CD and the vinyl, which is more likely to be due to different mastering and the distortion inherent in vinyl playback (albeit often perceived as positive).


Bob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progmanjum Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2016 at 11:20
It certainly doesn't sound like Death Magnetic or some of the others that are mixed so that everything is loud. They are actually exhausting to listen to...if I can make it through the whole disc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 29 2016 at 09:26
Originally posted by ProgBob ProgBob wrote:

Originally posted by Dellinger Dellinger wrote:

I was under the impression that classical music purists prefer vinyl. And I was under the impression that CD does lose some of the sound... it goes mostly about the analog vs digital... in digital you have to choose at which point you want to cut the quality, while on analog you get absolutley everything (though preservation is another matter). Still, I too am not really familiar with all this technical stuff.


My impression is that the vinyl vs CD debate didn't really happen to the same extent amongst classical fans and I am not aware of any resurgence of vinyl in the classical world in the same way that has happened for rock music in recent years. Apart from the dynamic range of CD, which is generally more important for classical music, the lack of surface noise and longer running time were also factors.

I think it is a myth about the information lost in digital vs analogue and that in practice the 'lost' information is outside the range of audible frequencies. On the other hand vinyl suffers from technical limitations that result from its mechanical nature. These restrict the frequencies that can be recorded and the dynamic range that it can handle. Ironically, I understand that technical limitations are one of the reasons why a rock LP can sound better than the CD equivalent; because the cutting head can't cope with an extremely compressed master, sometimes a more sensible master is prepared for the LP version.

With classical music I have always stated my feeling is it should be digital, simply because of all the dynamics that happen in the music. Low to high to mid back to low, volumes just seems that digital should be best...But there are legions of fans of classical music that swear to analog/vinyl as the only way to hear all the music. I don't know as I am not a classical listener.

I don't think it is myth. Simple test, take the same song and A/B listen to it as a 320kbps file and then a redbook file (from CD). Take it a step further and A/B the CD file and a 24bit hi-rez file (if you have that ability in your system).....You should hear a difference and more importantly more detail in the hi-rez file. Whether it is in the audible range ( we all hear differently and with different levels of detail) or not its stillpart of the music and adds to the naturalness of the music. The biggest downside of digital is things like decay of say piano keys and cymbal hits, I find IME they are not as life like sounding when the same recording is on analog......YMMV 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 29 2016 at 10:08
Originally posted by P</span><span style=line-height: 1.4;>rogBob ProgBob wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:


Has nothing to do with the final media, it will show up on CD, vinyl and digital files. Generally recordings from the 70s and early 80s were mastered with more care than say the last 15yrs.
So you are right, compression has always been added but digital recordings suffered more because the CD could handle more volume, engineers pushed it way too much....You can't do that on vinyl so much.


I disagree with your first sentence here in that the sort of (bad) mastering often done with CDs wasn't possible with vinyl, so the final media does have an impact.  In fact, this what you yourself go on to say if I understand you correctly.

My point is if a recording is mastered/mixed badly, regardless of how it is finally pressed (vinyl or CD), it will come thru, you will hear it, the media will not matter. Fixing this means remixing the master file or tape so you can reduce/adjust levels so they are either not so pushed up or bring sounds more forward.

My preference is analog as much as possible, it's where I get the best listening experience, the full immersion happens. I grew up with vinyl and tape and 100% analog recordings, then the whole digital/CD thing came along and I climbed on board for awhile and now it has a place in my listening habits, albeit a very small place. I will not argue one or another, I have my preference and it makes me smile.....But it's all about the music...and prog Smile

There are tons of audio sites to discuss/debate the whole analog/digital thing.




Edited by Catcher10 - February 29 2016 at 10:10


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote infandous Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 29 2016 at 12:07
The article below sums it up quite well........preference does not equal better sound reproduction.  However, our ears are not digital, so it's not too surprising that some people prefer analog.  As to classical music, I have a friend who is a music teacher, plays just about any stringed instrument you can think of, and is a classical music fanatic.  He actually prefers CD's for listening to classical.  Of course, one person doesn't make the rule, but that's the only person I know that is that into classical and has a background playing all sorts of music and teaching it as well.

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-vinyl-records-considered-to-have-better-audio-quality-than-CDs-or-high-bitrate-MP3s

"Itís worth clearly noting that the greater frequency response of vinyl as compared to CD is effectively irrelevant for most intents and purposes. The vast majority of additional high-frequency content captured by analogue is simply undetectable by humans (all the science and double-blind testing clearly shows this, yet it unfortunately continues to be a topic of religious debate amongst audiophiles). Furthermore, many recording and playback systems contain components that actively filter this inaudible content, both on the way in and the way out. Even if the information does make it onto the record, your amplifiers and speakers likely wonít play it back."

As to TFK's, I've never noticed excessive compression on any of their albums, and I've only ever heard the CD's.  I actually notice it a lot more on CD's from the 90's and early 2000's than I do on stuff produced in the last 10 years.  I will say that some FK albums do seem more compressed than others, but never to the point that it bothers me at all, just to the point that I notice it.


Edited by infandous - February 29 2016 at 12:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote miamiscot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 29 2016 at 17:35
Buy them all. The Flower Kings reign over Progdom like The Tudors.
 
Compressed or not.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote zumacraig Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2016 at 19:52
The wise Infandous nails it up above.  Regular CD is really all we need.  This hi-rez frenzy is not necessary.  We just need better masters.  Steven Wilson has been doing this on his last few albums.  Excellent dynamic range, no listening fatigue.  Same with Opeth.  I think the 'new' Kaipa albums are also quite dynamic.  Unfortunately, TFK albums are compressed a bit.  There were more dynamic masters for the vinyl issues of the last few albums.  I don't think artists really care.  Most people can't tell and there have been absolutely no empirically based double blind A/B tests on high rez vs. low bitrate mp3s.  Ironically, some of the mixes over at hdtracks are more compressed than their 'regular CD' counterparts.  Too bad this has plagued the prog-metal genre.  The last few DT albums have been brick walled and basically unlistenable to my hears.
Stardust we are.
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