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Thaddeus Smith

Revealing speakers = stressful

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For Locomotive Breath I never paid that close attention but now I'll never "unhear" it.  Looks like others report it alright:




and in the Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix:




Here's a brief "fair use" excerpt of just the left rear channel of the SW 5.1 remix of Locomotive Breath where I first hear the "distortion" I think we're talking about.  The bass line is very propulsive and on the beat but at about 13 seconds into the excerpt goes from a relatively clean bass tone to a fuzzy, buzzy more distorted one.  Intentional effect after the distorted guitar?





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I didn't know that others had found this, but I guess that it stands to reason.  On my setup, even for the really great riffs on this particular song, it gives me pause to play it nowadays--because it's so terrible to have to listen to that noise again.


One of the reasons why I picked this album as an example for the subject of this thread is because I had always been dissatisfied with the extreme lack of bass across many tracks in the album (Aqualung) that I first heard in 1971--early high school age.  This album was one of the reasons among many others that started me down the demastering path >5 years ago.  At the time that I started demastering I had no guidelines but over 45 years of dissatisfaction with the sound of many notable albums--rock and classical--that I knew had problems.  But the noted problem on the particular track that I identified came as a complete surprise when I found it via demastering.


When I started to rebalance the SPL across the Locomotive Breath track to put back the bass and reduce the bloated highs from 1-10 kHz (i.e., the usual "mastering EQ humps" that are applied to all popular music albums--see the 1996 Chapman JAES paper for the spectral curves), I suddenly started to hear that noise.  I thought that I had accidentally introduced something into the track, but I noted that I couldn't "cover it up" again after exposing it.  Then I understood why the entire album had such weird and pronounced mastering EQ issues--the person that was tasked with mastering had to cover these areas up somehow (and there are other similar problem areas on this album).   It became clear to me just how he did it and why I had been so dissatisfied with what I was hearing for so long. 


The way he covered it up was to boost the highs so much that the human hearing system becomes overwhelmed by the highs and shuts down listening, and all clarity of the music track is similarly disguised by being so distorted spectrally that no one actually hears the problem.  Brilliant--except that it ushered in a whole generation of mastering people that knew that they could do this instead of going back and fixing the problems at their source.


For me, this album represented about 75% of the music that this particular band put out that I liked to hear (the other portion being the first long track on the successor album Thick as a Brick). So when I found this, I started thinking about all the other albums over time that might have similar issues that might be uncovered via demastering.  It wasn't a good feeling thinking about the prospect of others sounding like this.  Fortunately, this album happened to be one of the greatest outliers that had severe issues.



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On 8/30/2020 at 2:27 PM, Thaddeus Smith said:

I often hear things  in songs that make me think something has suddenly become a problem. Tape hiss, high noise floors, hums in the recording etc. Just now it was while listening to ZZ Top - Eliminator at spirited levels. Halfway through track 2 - Got Me Under Pressure - I start to hear a horrendous static noise. I immediately dropped the volume and could still hear it. ****...


I'm pretty sure there are still supply chain issues with ESS and now isn't the time to be buying diaphragms anyways. I quickly switch over to a couple of albums with good vocals. Nothing sounds wrong. Then Alan Parsons.. gingerly crank the volume and everything sounds ok. Go back to ZZ Top and skip to where I was on the track... scraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatchy static. Ok, so it's the source material, some sort of feedback or something in the recording.


Anyone else go through this from time to time?

Happens to me pretty frequently. I listened to Red Hot Chili Peppers Otherside a couple days ago and the whole song sounds absolutely terrible with distortion the entire song. I thought my new processor was failing me already. 

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