I believe that a musician or an artist should never be a critic and I have been trying not to criticise stuff ever since that realisation has dawned over me. Today I will make an exception. The reason is very simple - it is my engineered work that has been butchered.
Mixtape India Volume 4 contains a song from an album I had engineered - In Human's Voices (track 8) [Their myspace page streams the entire album for free]. I do not know who makes these mixtapes but I plead that whoever it is should take a temporary break from the world of sonic engineering - especially, mixing and mastering until he or she has learned the science behind it. The art develops with the aesthetic sense in due time but the science doesn't.
Let me put things in perspective. The download offered is 128kbps MP3 - a far cry from audiophile standards but we must relax our parameters since the host has to keep in mind the bandwidth of the server as well as people on low speed connections.
...but here are the points (and mostly judged on the sad state of track 8)
- The choice of codec is definitely not the best. He could have given ogg files at 128kbps avg bit rate. A 128 kbps ogg is sonically similar to a 160kbps mp3. To top it all 9 out of 10 tracks converted to WAV with major problems. There were reports of MPEG stream error at XXXX bytes every now and then. I am certain that it is not a download fault as the package is a zip file and ZIP algo has a checksum built in.
- The ReplayGain of the tracks were between -7.8 to -9.2 with track peaks at 1.0 throughout. What does that mean in layman's terms? That the music is whimpy loud* and the tracks have reached the digital maximum of 1 or 0xFFFF on a 16bit mono channel. Well the following image tells everything
*N.B. Loud refers to the loudness achieved by reducing the dynamic range and increasing the gain.
- Right at the In Human track's 0:35 mark and 0:38 mark the sound gives away the tell-tell sign of mindless compression. As soon as the guitar on the left channel goes solo, there is a sudden volume boost. And let me tell you that this is not the threshold-ratio-makeUpGain kind of compression we are talking about, which everyone uses to bring in character, colour, control and warmth. It is the threshold-makeUpToGain types. It could very well be a hybrid limiter or worse, a multiband compressor/limiter.
- A sample analysis will tell that this is the curve he or she has gone for
While this is acceptable, a flat cookie cutter approach throughout is not. That In Human track has lost it's clarity and is only left with dullness and muddiness, not to mention a bitter sense of agony in me.
The CD was not mastered due to budget restrictions but it was not shoddily put together either. The CD will still sound clear and punchy. If you have a sound system that can handle the SPL, turn the volume knob clockwise. These guys are amazing musicians and I loved working with and for them.
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