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Dinosaur Jr. apparently too old (not really)
July 12, 2009 1:41 PM   Subscribe

[musicnewsfilter]: European copies of Dinosaur Jr.'s new album Farm have been recalled after duplication software "doubled the sound layers, resulting in a 3 dB increase in the overall sound volume."

Thankfully, if you have a defective copy you can exchange it for a working copy free of charge.

Also, listen to J Mascis' other band Witch to understand further why this happened.
posted by auralcoral (61 comments total)

 
I'm sure J Mascis is behind this somehow...
posted by elder18 at 2:00 PM on July 12, 2009


3db is double the volume, isn't it? But aren't most albums normalized at 95% or 98% or something? I must be missing something here, probably because I'm an ignoramus.
posted by box at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2009


The article did such a poor job of explaining technically what this means but kudos to the band for actually caring how their music sounds on disc. Usually they just want it as loud as possible to out loud the competition on radio or wherever. Still, it is nice to see someone not want to participate in the loudness wars, or at least not want to go nuclear.
posted by caddis at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2009


But aren't most albums normalized at 95% or 98% or something?

I, too, am an ignoramus but normalization and volume level are two different things AFAIK.

Normalizing boost the lows to within the peak volume level, while volume level is how much the speaker moves the air.
posted by @troy at 2:07 PM on July 12, 2009


I LIKE MY MUSIC JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT!
posted by Balisong at 2:10 PM on July 12, 2009


volume is a knob on your stereo
in a recording volume is basically how close the sound is to the 0 dB level. in the old days engineers used to avoid getting too close because it would distort. then they started wars with their compressors so that the loud passages and the soft passages all became within a few dB of each other. Yuck. see here and here for starters.

Anyway, the really good news in this post is in the side link: Richard Hell has rerecorded Destiny Street and it is coming out Sept. 1!!!
posted by caddis at 2:14 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, I didn't think it was possible for Dinosaur, Jr. to get any louder. Did someone invent a new law of physics or something?
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:17 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ironically, Dinosaur Jr. is the loudest show I have ever attended. I am a big fan of "Beyond". I can't wait to hear the new one.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:30 PM on July 12, 2009


Two tag suggestions: "loudnesswar", and "GOESTOELEVEN"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2009


You're Living All Over Me is one of the all-time greats, possibly the best record to ever come out on SST. While major label 1990s Dino is not my cup of tea, the jayloumurph reunion has been all kinds of awesome. Netflix the Dino DVD Live at the Middle East for blazing live psych.

And, yeah, Farm is pretty great.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:43 PM on July 12, 2009


It's a pretty slight article (and if I had more time or data I'd have loved to go into technical detail), but uh I'm just chiming in to say that the author (me) is a Mefite. (Ditto for the Richard Hell piece!)
posted by Marquis at 2:45 PM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


In a practical sense, this likely took most of the peaks of the record, which would be sitting at about 98-99% (that's about -.2db), to 100% (digital zero, which is all 1s). This would mean clipping. Probably a fair amount of it, too.

And okay, I know that "the loudness wars" is everybody's favorite response to all things audio-related on MeFi, but that's about as far off-base as possible in this case.

This is most likely a stupid mistake on the part of whoever was doing the pre-mastering at the pressing plant.

Mastering means too many things - there's audio mastering, and then there's pre-mastering at the plant, and then mastering at the plant refers to the process of physically producing the disc from which copies will be made. This mistake happened after the audio master, but before the physical master.
posted by god hates math at 2:49 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: a knob on your stereo
posted by GuyZero at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2009


Pepsi Jr
posted by DU at 2:55 PM on July 12, 2009


In a practical sense, this likely took most of the peaks of the record, which would be sitting at about 98-99% (that's about -.2db), to 100% (digital zero, which is all 1s). This would mean clipping. Probably a fair amount of it, too.

If the record came out with that little headroom after mastering, more things are wrong than a software error.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:02 PM on July 12, 2009


I'm just chiming in to say that the author (me) is a Mefite. (Ditto for the Richard Hell piece!)
posted by MetaFilter's own Marquis at 5:45 PM on July 12 [+] [!]

FTFY
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:08 PM on July 12, 2009


"the loudness wars" is everybody's favorite response to all things audio-related on MeFi, but that's about as far off-base as possible in this case.

I think you meant 112% as off-base as possible, but your hyperbole got clipped.
posted by Bokononist at 3:12 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Browsing the links in this post I found out they are playing Summerstage. Now my summer is complete.
posted by vrakatar at 3:15 PM on July 12, 2009


Yup. Dinosaur Jr. are the loudest band that I, too, have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Of course, I never got a chance to see My Bloody Valentine.

I like Farm a lot and have been playing the hell out of it. I like it better than Beyond, in fact. I hope they play nearby soon.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:28 PM on July 12, 2009


Check out Jucifer if you get a chance, BOP--if they're not the loudest band I've ever seen, they're way the hell up there.
posted by box at 3:32 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yup. Dinosaur Jr. are the loudest band that I, too, have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Of course, I never got a chance to see My Bloody Valentine.

I've seen Dinosaur Jr and Mogwai, and I'm pretty sure Mogwai were louder. John Spencer Blues Explosion left me with the most pain in my ears, however, owing to my position relative to the speakers.
posted by Jimbob at 3:34 PM on July 12, 2009


If the record came out with that little headroom after mastering, more things are wrong than a software error.
—lazaruslong
Hmm, are you sure? AFAIK if you're not clipping the peaks, then in digital mastering you don't want any headroom - you just want the sound to be as far away from the noise floor as you can. This only applies after mixing and production, but once the final track has been made you want to use all of the 16 or 24 bit sample depth, and this means that you push the peaks up as far as you can, and no further.
posted by krilli at 3:36 PM on July 12, 2009


If the record came out with that little headroom after mastering, more things are wrong than a software error.

That's not quite how it works. If the record came out with that much average headroom after mastering, there would be a problem. The thing with normalizing, and with describing peaks in general, is that they tell you nothing about the rest of the program material. If, for example, you've got a track that's very lightly mastered. Average level is -16db, or thereabouts. That track can have a single peak that's 12db higher than the rest of the song, easily. So, when the track is normalized, you'd say that you're normalizing it to 99%, but only that single peak is at 99%. There's still tons of headroom throughout the rest of the track.
posted by god hates math at 3:36 PM on July 12, 2009


Mogwai is easily the loudest band I've ever seen. My ears have been ringing since 1999.
posted by dobbs at 3:49 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


That's not quite how it works. If the record came out with that much average headroom after mastering, there would be a problem. The thing with normalizing, and with describing peaks in general, is that they tell you nothing about the rest of the program material. If, for example, you've got a track that's very lightly mastered. Average level is -16db, or thereabouts. That track can have a single peak that's 12db higher than the rest of the song, easily. So, when the track is normalized, you'd say that you're normalizing it to 99%, but only that single peak is at 99%. There's still tons of headroom throughout the rest of the track.

I'm going on the assumption that like, almost every single record released nowadays, they have compressed the ever-loving shit out of the master tracks and then jacked up the gain. If they pushed it so high that a 3db increase would cause all of the compressed peaks to clip, that ain't right.

Hmm, are you sure? AFAIK if you're not clipping the peaks, then in digital mastering you don't want any headroom - you just want the sound to be as far away from the noise floor as you can. This only applies after mixing and production, but once the final track has been made you want to use all of the 16 or 24 bit sample depth, and this means that you push the peaks up as far as you can, and no further.


The redbook standard applies to all audio cd's released and requires 16bit / 44.1. Yeah, you do want to take what you have already normalized and compressed in mastering and get it close to the top. I still like about -5db headroom in the final mix. In this case it sounds like they went a little far with both the compression and the gain.

What I really want to know is how the hell they duplicated the master tracks and only got a 3db gain.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:50 PM on July 12, 2009


Is this the same problem that RUSH had with their Vapor Trails album? Because I'd love to trade in my copy for one that sounds better.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Normalizing boost the lows to within the peak volume level...

It sounds much more like you are trying to describe dynamic compression. Normalization applies gain to an entire region, so that the peak amplitude within the region is at a desired dB level. The relative highs and lows remain constant to each other.
posted by malocchio at 4:08 PM on July 12, 2009


I've done quite a bit of mastering and such in my day.

krilli and god hates math are quite correct. Almost any CD these days is mastered so that the peaks reach the maximum level you can get on a CD.

What's interesting is that you have a huge ability to vary the actual perceived loudness of the CD given that constraint, without changing the program material (much).

The fact is that these peaks are transients, only lasting a millisecond or so. If you can "look ahead" and see those peaks in the material, you can "flip them over" so that the harmonic content of the material is unchanged, but the peak has vanished - so you can now crank up the signal some more.

By doing this, you can easily get 6dB of extra "loudness" without changing the sound at all - or you can get more if you don't mind a "compressed" sound. This technique has several names like "lookahead compression".

All of which leads me to believe that the content in the article is misleading. There is simply no way to just add 3dB to a standard master at all. I have to assume that someone actually put one of these lookahead compressors into the chain and reprocessed the material at some point to get that extra 3dB.

(BTW, for audio signals, "twice" as loud is 6dB, not 3dB. The reason is that loudness is dependent on the square of the signal - the power. But your ear hears logarithmically, so each "doubling" of the power of the signal is one notch - your ear can simultaneously hear two sounds whose power differs by as much as a factor of a million...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:09 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sound is logarithmic. For every 10db gain, the music becomes twice as loud, but it requires ten times as much power to generate.

3db is roughly a doubling of the physical signal, which is about a third again as loud. Another 3db doubles it again, 9db doubles it again to about 8, and then the last decibel gets to 10x.

This is why you need monstrous wattage to really deliver big sound... it just requires a ton of power. I've seen it said repeatedly that many of the larger amps you buy are actually limited by the wall input -- they can't suck enough juice out of a 15 amp circuit to fully power all their speakers, all the time. They use gigantic capacitors as a reserve for transients, which is why they get so big and heavy, but they can't maintain that level of output for very long.

This is also why you can get surprisingly nice and loud sound out of much smaller wattage -- 100 watts per channel is only about a third less loud than 200 wpc. And tiny little 10w amps, that put out a tenth the power than the 100-watt jobs do, are only half as loud.
posted by Malor at 4:13 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oops, I didn't keep my units the same in that second paragraph. Each 3db doubles the physical ENERGY output, but increases perceived volume by a little less than a third.
posted by Malor at 4:15 PM on July 12, 2009


I've seen Dinosaur Jr and Mogwai, and I'm pretty sure Mogwai were louder.

I've seen both, but neither compare to the Melvins. It moved beyond an aural experience and felt kind of like there was some sort of squishy rubber bubble in the middle of the room that was expanding outwards, nauseating you, but also inside your head pushing against your brain at the same time.
posted by fire&wings at 4:15 PM on July 12, 2009


Loudness is a really silly dick-waving contest that I wish everyone would get over.

That being said, I think that to get a recording louder than a mid '90s era Merzbow CD, you would have to violate the laws of physics. But, generally speaking, if you like music, you probably won't like Merzbow.
posted by idiopath at 4:22 PM on July 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Malor: quite right except that 3dB is about 40% greater amplitude (you're actually multiplying the signal by the square root of 2...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:23 PM on July 12, 2009


Urg, sorry, I wrote too fast. You're actually increasing the power by the square root of 2 (1.4142....)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:24 PM on July 12, 2009


By doing this, you can easily get 6dB of extra "loudness" without changing the sound at all -

At all? No. But then the dorks mastering most records these days are going deeper than 6dB. It is so bad you would have to be a moron to buy into a "remastered" release. I haven't heard one in the past few years that was actually better. They clean up the scratches and other stuff, and then compress the daylights out of it. What is up with that? I think every music engineer in the business should just be summarily shot until this nonsense stops. ;)
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on July 12, 2009


Can somebody post a link that clearly explains the terminology y'all are using? I want to understand this better, but I don't even get how a lower decible means louder music. Anyone?
posted by milestogo at 6:33 PM on July 12, 2009


....
"These go to eleven."
posted by hillabeans at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2009


It is so bad you would have to be a moron to buy into a "remastered" release.

The sad part is, I have had to buy several re-masters (such as Black Sabbath's Paranoid and the pre-Black Album Metallica releases) because the original CDs were too quiet in all but the most monstrous stereos.

Aside: I don't know what bothers me more the "loudness wars" or the morons blasting their music with no clue how to use an EQ...
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:35 PM on July 12, 2009


you too can go to eleven, for $3.50
posted by caddis at 6:38 PM on July 12, 2009


" the original CDs were too quiet in all but the most monstrous stereos."

I own the original CD releases of every single one of the albums you mention, some even bought in no-shit LONGBOXES back in the day. There's no level problem whatsoever with them -- if anything Justice was a shade over-compressed even when I had the cassette.

There's a control on the amplifier that will take care of your concerns. It's typically the largest, most obvious control. Try adjusting it clockwise until the program is at an enjoyable listening volume.
posted by majick at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't even get how a lower decible means louder music

They're normally negative decibels (relative to a maximum level of 0 dB). So -3dB is louder than -6dB.
posted by hattifattener at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2009


Malor: quite right except that 3dB is about 40% greater amplitude (you're actually multiplying the signal by the square root of 2...)

Hmm, is that right? If I start with 70db, assume that it takes 100w to produce, and multiply it by 1.4 three times, (for each step to 73, 76, 79), I get 274.4w, which is way low. I should be almost at 1000w. If I double it three times, I get 800w, and the remaining 200w is covered by the last decibel. It's not exact, but it's within spitting distance.

Maybe we're not talking about the same thing? I'm talking about 'total energy output required to create this volume' and you're talking about 'amplitude'. Are those the same?

Can somebody post a link that clearly explains the terminology y'all are using? I want to understand this better, but I don't even get how a lower decible means louder music. Anyone?

As hattifattener says, for some bizarre reason, a lot of sound engineers think in terms of 'decrease from maximum' instead of 'increase from minimum'. In this setup, 0 is as LOUD as you can get, and you lower volume by going to negative decibels. Each -10 decibels is half as loud, and requires 1/10th the energy to produce.

This is why, for instance, computers are so damnably difficult to silence -- to cut the apparent volume to 1/8th, you have to cut the transmission of sound energy to the room air by a thousand times. Those silent Macintoshes aren't easy to do.
posted by Malor at 8:38 PM on July 12, 2009


I own the original CD releases of every single one of the albums you mention, some even bought in no-shit LONGBOXES back in the day. There's no level problem whatsoever with them -- if anything Justice was a shade over-compressed even when I had the cassette.

*shrug* Maybe I have bad copies (they were on sale). My copy of Paranoid sounds almost the same regardless of the volume knob setting. No need to be a jerk with your "helpful instructions".
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:48 PM on July 12, 2009


I've never seen Dinosaur Jr. live, but they're coming to town this fall, so I'm going to see them then. Does anyone know how they compare to live Boredoms, in terms of "loud"? Because my head still hurts from the Boredoms show I saw a couple years ago.

Maybe I should smarten up and actually get earplugs for this one...
posted by threetoed at 8:54 PM on July 12, 2009


"Check out Jucifer if you get a chance, BOP--if they're not the loudest band I've ever seen, they're way the hell up there."

I saw Jucifer at the Elbow Room in Ypsi, a skanky dive that was the Michigan home for touring Am Rep bands and where more patrons wore vests than shirts.

About halfway into their set, there's a crash and a huge plume of oily soot blasts out from the wall, across the band and the handful of folks in a semi-circle.

An old coal chute, long papered over had been collapsed by the mighty power of Jucifer's bass, plunging the whole club into a cloud of darkness and wheezing. The collapse precipitated renovations to the club, meaning that ultimately, literally, Jucifer brought down the house.
posted by klangklangston at 9:14 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yup. Dinosaur Jr. are the loudest band that I, too, have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Of course, I never got a chance to see My Bloody Valentine.

I saw My Bloody Valentine earlier this year... show was great but they were unbearably loud. Thanks to them I have a $1300 visit to the dentist because a tooth mysteriously chipped at the concert. Dentist said it was possible with enough vibration. Be warned.
posted by hillabeans at 9:20 PM on July 12, 2009


Use earplugs, people. I bet J Mascis does. If you want to hear past your 60s, use earplugs. Or die young.
posted by Camofrog at 11:57 PM on July 12, 2009


milestogo: Can somebody post a link that clearly explains the terminology y'all are using? I want to understand this better, but I don't even get how a lower decible means louder music. Anyone?

all about Compression, Normalization, and Audio Mastering in general.

The first part of this article has quite a good discussion of perceived loudness and mastering, the rest of it is about a specific software package.

A mastering engineer explains the loudness war.

Why are decibels stated in negative numbers? Not sure why, but in recording studios '0db' is defined as a particular volume/intensity (e.g. the maximum that could be recorded accurately) and all other levels are measured relative to that, resulting in negative values.

Note that this is different to when decibel levels are measured 'out in the field', such as if you wanted to measure the volume level of a live band or an airport or something. In that instance, 0db is defined as the 'threshhold of hearing' (silence, more or less) and then you measure positive values from there.
posted by memebake at 12:29 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


The positive vs. negative db measurements help disambiguate: you always want an analog electronic signal to be below 0 (and with digital it is by definition below 0 at all times), and an audible to the human ear acoustic signal will by definition be above 0.

This is also convenient because we have a very important hard upper limit (the capacity of the medium) and an important hard lower limit (inaudibility) in the respective cases.

Signals can have the same db measurement (peak or RMS) and have a different loudness because the human ear has a nonlinear frequency response (this is most noticeable of course when high pitched sounds turn into a faint whine and then silence as they go higher, and low pitched sounds turn from a faint rumble to silence as they go lower). Record these phenomena with a microphone that can handle those ranges, and you will see the amplitude stay the same as the loudness fluctuates. There are gradual changes throughout the audible spectrum, not just at these extremes.
posted by idiopath at 2:58 AM on July 13, 2009


I've seen Dino, My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai, and MBV certainly knocked the others into a distant 2nd in the loudness stakes - last time, a couple of months back, about halfway through the "wind tunnel" segment of You Made Me Realise I was seriously thinking "shit, what if my eardrum actually explodes?". Then again, I was about 2 metres away from the amps and without earplugs, so would only have had myself to blame. Ears were ringing the next morning, but cleared up after that. Of course, it's possible that my judgment was impaired from the dozen or so Mogwai gigs I've seen over the past 11 years...
posted by anagrama at 4:25 AM on July 13, 2009


> I saw My Bloody Valentine earlier this year... show was great but they were unbearably loud.

I've never (even when I was one of the kids being told to get off peoples' lawns) understood why bands would want to play that loud. I've heard stories about people passing out at MBV shows. If you're injuring your audience, and fans talk about your concerts as a health risk to be endured rather than enjoyed, wouldn't it be more productive to turn it down to ten? Past a certain level of volume all music just sounds someone playing the same bass note over and over on top of a jet engine, anyway.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:38 AM on July 13, 2009


Aaah, the joys of audio technology.

"More loud" is kinda like saying that this piece of art is "more painted" than the other.
posted by krilli at 5:51 AM on July 13, 2009


The Card Cheat: I've seen Mogwai and I've seen MBV and the two things are not the same. Mogwai just play VERY LOUD. It's very loud, it's great, but it's music, played loud. That suits their sound, which is all swoonsome and sweeping, and should be loud. It's not I Wanna Hold Your Hand at max volume, it's Beethoven.

MBV do more than play very loud. They play so loud, during You Made Me Realise, that they take over the audience. Physcially. It is the very definition of an overwhelming experience. You're right to say that at that volume, you can't really make out the tunes or individual instruments. It would be more accurate to say your conscious brain can't. The truth is, your body, rather than your brain, is having the experience. Fibres of your being are vibrating, at frequencies chosen by the band. Your body is the instrument. And it's amazing.
posted by tiny crocodile at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I've never seen MBV or Mogwai, the idea of taking over the audience is definitely part of loud bands.

The loudest band I've ever seen—louder than Jucifer—was The Human Wick Effect, a grindcore band. A lot of why they were the loudest is because of the proximity, since I saw them with an audience of maybe ten other people. They were loud enough that every note moved my clothes, and the best analogy I can think of is standing in front of a blast furnace and feeling the rippling of heat coming across your body.

That said, the vast, vast vast majority of shows I've seen, especially at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, were too loud and would have benefited mightily from a sound guy who had more faith in the audience. By just amplifying everything, you do lose dynamic range just like you would on a record, and you get a lot of weird distortions that don't sound good (as opposed to intentional weird distortions that do sound good). But I've also seen enough sound checks to know it's not always the sound guy's fault—every vocalist, guitarist and bassist wants to be louder than every bassist, guitarist and vocalist.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2009


In lieu of a more thorough comment, here's a link to a short explanation of decibels, which come in different flavours. Here's a more mathematical approach. Lastly, here's Sound On Sound's explanation.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2009


All this talk about ear-bleeding loudness has reminded me to go buy Sunn 0))) tickets. Thanks, everyone!
posted by Bookhouse at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2009


Dino Jr have been (on numerous occasions) the loudest band I've ever seen including the latest (original) lineup.

It's hard to imagine FARM being much louder, but I guess anything's possible.
posted by unSane at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2009


I saw Acid Mothers Temple in Lawrence, Kansas, once. That show was pretty fucking loud. And awesome. (Wearing the t-shirt right now!)
posted by barrett caulk at 11:31 AM on July 13, 2009


Went to see Sonic Youth last night. At one point I was right up against the stage and I thought, "This is nowhere near loud enough." The show was in the casting shed of a decommissioned blast furnace, basically a big tin box, and I was kinda expecting a little more racket. I think I have lost some of my hearing through years of going to rock shows without earplugs. Cuz when Sonic Youth isn't loud enough, I begin to suspect the problem is with me, not the band.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2009


Cuz when Sonic Youth isn't loud enough, I begin to suspect the problem is with me, not the band.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:14 PM

Eponysomething.
posted by hippybear at 1:51 PM on July 13, 2009


When I saw Sonic Youth, I didn't think they were that loud. However, they were supported that night by KK Null and Merzbow, I believe, so they probably had an uphill battle.
posted by Jimbob at 7:09 PM on July 13, 2009


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