NO -  It Has to Be This Way...
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First a link to the ITU spec for measuring perceived loudness

So I recently posted a question/rant on the gearslutz web site, one frequented by established and wanna be rock star producers, engineers, etc...

My post, asking a few questions
Chinese metallic deaf springsteen squish - what do we do?
What do we really do?

Squish it for the majority of 25 watt consumer units or tell the consumer

"..too bad, you really need a better playback system that can handle dynamic range... Either that or change the level you want to play it at - screw the screaming kids, the noisy's your fault..." ?

Especially with pop/rock/metal/rap... there's gotta be a "somewhere in between..."

Somewhere where the musical material dictates the audience's habits - esp. the "crank it" crowd with low powered systems - do we try to prevent their speakers from farting/clipping (besides the buzzing trunk lid crowd) at the volume they usually listen to it by jacking the RMS levels?

Is the ITU spec any help?!!PDF-E.pdf
(note - see above link)

Will it take into consideration all these variables?

Recall this crowd will do their own "limiting" - ever seen what happens to a cheap ass 5:1 system as the power rails sag on the little STK0030 IC as it's dealing with peaks?

It ain't pretty....

I've seen posts on here, even with regard to deaf mag, that state:

"hey, heard it in my car (with the wife's Suzy smiley face tone setting) and it sounded Ok... but then got it in my mastering lab with [whiz bang] system and ewwww..."

I mean look at a car stereo - most may [emph. MAY] have an inverter in the power supply (that's why you see less and less common ground speaker outputs on those) so you have a whopping 24VDC power supply for the output xtors...

Uh... that sucks. And some stock car radios have just the single ended 12v... 12v? See what that sounds like on a pair of [YOUR FAV NEARFIELD HERE]. I don't even think Auratones would deal well with that..

I mean, we're really dealing with laptop speakers, what's that power amp's supply? Maybe the 12v rail most MB's I've seen it's off the 5V...

And even if they replace their earbuds, that IPOD has what? a 3.6V LiIon? Maybe a Linear Tech or Nat Semi boost converter? Maybe?

Dang things are almost no more than line level. Hell, an LA-4 has MPSU55/U05 on a +/-15V rail just to drive the output xformer...I'm looking at UREI's 12647 schematic right now (older ones used a 2nxxx pair on +/-18V)

Really? what do we do? Of course not situations where the client dictates "crush it"

I really hate this....
So I get the first response, a guy that just types "Blah, Blah, Blah..."
.. a bit childish but OK... I realize I'm a hard pill to swallow.

Finally I get two responses:
-one mentions things along the lines of   a chef ruining food 'cause the customer asks to.
-he then mentions how an electrician wouldn't allow inferior work due to bossses wanting to save money
-he then mentions how it needs a "professional" touch.
I respond to both with:
The issue I have became apparent when listening to what my kid (13) and his band listen to - old Zep, Deep Purple, etc - even older Chili Peppers, etc... along with newer stuff; on their portables, even one of the home theaters of one of the parent's house where they practice.

And it's not like they're listening to Slipknot then going to the old stuff. They just like it loud, and the poor little Walmart 33w 5:1 was so nasty sounding that it was like, gee... fart, fart, bop, fart... (that's for the blah blah guy).

I asked them about it and they're like "yea, but we like loud!" Then they asked - "how come Nickelback doesn't do that? We can crank that and it sounds ok..."

I recall back in the day, most common folk at least had a large full way - hell 8" woofers were considered small then. Something like a Kenwood or Marantz receiver that had a big ass linear power supply, 70V rails on the final, something that could take the peaks.

Remember the old Advents? Old KLH? Even old Optimus from Rad shack?

Now, it's like what, 3" satellites with a sub (usually buried somewhere), or IPOD docking things, and kids now are like we were - they want that type of material to be loud.

I've got so many baby-boomer neighbors with blown woofers in their 5:1 cheapo systems, I could keep MCM in biz rebuilding these things.

And it's not a new issue, I recall as a bench tech seeing more advent 300 receivers with blown MPSA05/A55 (if I recall) outputs than anything else. Even back in the day this was a major issue with higher dynamic range material on lower powered consumer units. A lot of consumer units do funky things, like oscillate, when really driven hard.

I was talking with one of the engineers I work with (we design comm stuff for the DoD and such, the guy's an analog whiz on par with Jung, Pease, etc..), an old timer. He used to be the VP of Eng for a major pro audio company. He mentioned his kid finally giving him back his ol JBL 3 ways with the 12" - similar to the 4311's. The surrounds had rotted on the woofers so he got replacements from Orange County Speaker.

He was so thrilled to be able to listen to stuff loud again. His wife has a fairly high end 5:1 system - but wow - the diff. headroom and driver surface area makes.

I'd really like to do a bit of experimentation on some of these newer systems, esp. those with switched mode supplies. I've taken my portable scope and put it on some small systems, and had these baby boomers play an old Doors CD they love, at the volume they want to hear it at.

Like I said in my first post - it ain't pretty.

Oh and about the chef thing - same holds true if you go to McDonalds and ask for fillet - even people that appreciate a well cooked/presented meal still crave a Big Mac from time to time. And they want a Big Mac...

Oh and as to the electrician... ya ought to see some of the stuff that the military uses that we interface to, even a recent thing I did... just for that reason. Sure it'll pass FAT and FQT but wow - ask them for time to do it right... schedules and bean counters rule. This past July, I had the head guys over from one of the major Army bases in my lab. I mentioned, "you know, this really needs to be re-scoped and designed correctly...this is a cluster f..k"

Their answer: "Maybe next time... we'll just have to live with passed the FAT tests so it goes as it is". Eh...

I guess what I'm saying is there has to be a way to figure out the middle ground. Not for us and what we like and can reproduce on our systems, but for the average consumer on his Target-bought system. Recall these are the people that (maybe) pay the people that pay the people that pay us.

Maybe they should just always release two versions, a general consumer version and a higher dynamic version for people that really listen. Maybe the ITU spec will be useful... don't know.

Maybe you just can't be everything to everyone...

SPOCK: "...the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few..." as he collapses and dies. (no, not a trekkie - I prefer porn...)
The second poster mentions something that if the consumer's system can't handle the peaks it ain't our fault...

Ya know, I always thought that was the job of a mastering engineer, to take into consideration how it will sound on the majority of equipment?

I respond:
Maybe what the cheapo audio mfg's should do is put an C4/L3-like device in all the systems where the consumer can abuse it like they have for years with graphic eq's...

Imagine what the typical consumer's settings would be like... really think about it... ya ought to see what my singer does with his comp setting on his new little Yam board he uses.

Then I thought about my reply to that one and felt like an ass...
I have to reply to my own rant...

God... I feel like Waters after he spit on the guy at Olympic...

Not to say the consumer "abuses..."


Here's my thought...

So many times, due as much to my mindset, emotional state (I'm a basket case fer sure), whatever, I've felt like like "wow... I really wish I could get everyone to hear this, right now, as I am"... not because of something I did (more than 99.9999% of the time it's either someone else's work or dumb luck) just because it's so good...

.. to me ... at that time...

Yea, usually with no processing, just the point where the mix "pops" - anyone doing it for a while knows what I mean...

But even then, if I can drag colleagues, the band, neighbors, family into the studio - which I do regularly - very seldom does it seem they feel it like that. At that time.

Days, months, later, when their mindset is receptive/in the right place, and on their systems, and after I've abused it with whatever, they'll call me in and say "wow... dang I see what you mean!!"

Even tho when I hear it on their terms, with the mindset I'm in at the time, when it's hitting them, it's like "uh...."

So I guess what it is is the need for empathy for the average consumer, maybe lack thereof in this industry that disturbs me so much.

"No, it's got to be this way..."

Man, that never works...

Then I really thought about the guy's comment about if the kids' system can't handle it...the next day I posted this
Wow - I thought that was one of the main functions of a mastering engineer - to try (futile as it may be) to help ensure that all the hard work put into the musical creation and recording WOULD translate on the highest percentage of consumer systems...

I design a lot of hardware - about 130 designs a year. One of the things that you always, ALWAYS deal with are constraints - working within the ideal and the practical. Working with what is the best solution in a world  of infinite exceptions.

To me, when I do a project, regardless if it's a new satellite nav system, a multichannel comm device, a new preamp, or a mix of a guys song, I always regard the end user - not  on my terms but on what they really want. And a lot of times, it's not what I'd want.

I recall a story when I was a bench tech... A crappy old Sony cassette deck came down the lift (shop was below the "showroom"). It had so much tar and nicotine on it that it was amazing. The clutches on the spindles were worn out (anyone recall the little cassette torque meters?), the belt gummy, the  switches for the transport missing and crushed. New, it was like $150.00, even with our inflated prices.

I was like you're kidding, being that a new one would cost a lot less. I go to talk to Phil, the sales guy that wrote the service ticket (see more about him on my marketturd site).

I was about ready to say "You're kidding, I'm not fixing this..." when he said:

"Dude, I know... but I actually had to go pick that up - the guy's blind. He's also really poor, lives in the hill district; one room apartment. He's old and sick, and all he has, all he does, is listen to jazz tapes people donate to him on that cassette deck thru crappy headphones - he uses the front panel jack; he doesn't even have an amp/speakers - that's his whole world..."

I felt like shit...

Here I am, working in a high end pinky hifi shop, building rooms even nicer than this one:
bitching about this, bitching about that, and here's a guy that probably deserves amazing sound more than I.

What a dick I'd become. I fixed that with tears in my eyes. I started thinking, ya know, these are just transient things that pass over my bench, some time out of my day, but to some of these people it's the one thing that brings them joy.

Tasso, (one of the nicest guys I've ever worked for)  the owner of the shop had me totally rebuild it, gave the guy a nice Marantz we refirbed and a decent set of speakers, headphones - free.

Ok, what it is, to me at least, is there has to be a middle ground....somewhere in between.

Somewhere where a crappy system, set to the level the typical consumer perceives as comfortable, or loud as it may be ("crank it") without clipping said consumer power amplifier, and one where the typical heigh end listener is satisfied with the dynamics. Maybe not "audiophile" quality but not squashed and clipped in the source material.

Here ya go a link that covers that (watch I've heard that this site may have crap on it - make sure you have something like Noscript on Firefox or similar - I warned ya):

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