Music Engineer Analyzes Music Streaming Service Quality to His Original Master

Discussion in 'HardForum Tech News' started by cageymaru, Nov 9, 2018.

  1. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Wytse Gerichhausen from White Sea Studios has conducted a scientific analysis of the original master file for Hibshi - Missing U (feat. Rochelle), one of his music tracks that he personally mixed and mastered, to the same song on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and YouTube. He then recorded the song from each streaming service as a WAV file and normalized the levels because music services lower the volume of the music. Next he used a combination of A/B testing and phase swapping to compare the differences in the WAV files.

    The phase swapping allows the viewer to hear the "missing" information from the track that was either compressed or skipped over by the algorithms used by music streaming services. Tidal won by retaining 99.9% of the quality in the engineer's opinion. Spotify High and Low came next. Apple Music and YouTube came in dead last as both significantly altered the music. He then questioned why he can stream 4K video, but a simple audio file has to be compressed to the point where the quality is completely lost.

    Isn't this a little bit over-exaggerated? Isn't this a bit too much like, like too much into the details? Yes, and no. So first of all if you compare them both with each other the details are pretty small. But our ears have a special feature built into them and that is that they can make up for mistakes in audio. Pretty easy. Pretty simple. The thing is that if your ears are correcting a lot for the audio that they are hearing, they are getting tired sooner. And this is bad news for listeners, but also for artists because we don't want people to get tired of our music. Or do we? That's what happening with streaming services.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  2. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

    Messages:
    27,656
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2000
    Too bad he had to turn it into a video.

    Would have been much better as a written article!
     
  3. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    8,896
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    Now if Spotify and Tidal (especially) could catch up on content...
     
    cageymaru likes this.
  4. BlueFireIce

    BlueFireIce [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    6,054
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    No Google Music tested?
     
    elation, AlphaAtlas and DejaWiz like this.
  5. DejaWiz

    DejaWiz Oracle of Unfortunate Truths

    Messages:
    18,570
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    I would have liked to see Google Play Music thrown into the mix, as well...curious to see how their AAC sound quality is when set to "high" compared to the other music streaming services.
     
  6. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Yes, it would have been great if it was a written article with a video demonstrating the differences. :)

    I'm happy to see that the guys are interested in it. As soon as I hear Spotify, I get sad because I'm used to Tidal. When I listen to YouTube, I just remember that it is free so beggars can't be choosers. Also a lot of concert footage ends up there from artists that have passed on, so again I have to just deal with the terrible sound quality.

    I agree with others that Tidal, Spotify, and others need to increase the amount of music found on their services. Or someone needs to make a repository of lossless music for future generations. :)
     
  7. SvenBent

    SvenBent 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    2,791
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2008
    This is so flawed:

    1: his original looks like the usual crap master with removed dynamic range and over clipping to make it sound loud... so already ther his is having a hard time to be anywher qualified for this
    2: Then his evidence is lacking any kind of understanding how music data compression works. he is trying to show you what is missing but that not the important part. the important part is how it sounds compared to the original and THAT IS NOT THE SAME.
    3: total lack of simple but objective and scientific correct ABX testing
    4: He spoke about vinyl.... get out....


    I probably missed a'lot because i could not watch this to the end.
    his test methodology is just to flawed to be interesting
     
    DocNo, N4CR, Space_Ranger and 6 others like this.
  8. BlueFireIce

    BlueFireIce [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    6,054
    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    That, and I would like to see him test the option Google music has of uploading your own music for streaming, to see how much compression goes on there as well.
     
    DejaWiz likes this.
  9. Ultima99

    Ultima99 [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    4,887
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2004
    Now I'm curious how Pandora would rank.
     
  10. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

    Messages:
    27,656
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2000
    I find Spotify on the extreme quality setting (320kbit Ogg Vorbis, which is VBR by its nature) to be completely indistinguishable from an uncompressed source.

    I considered Tidal for a bit, but the catalogue is small and the price is high compared to Spotify, so I decided against it after some SQ listening comparison between the extreme setting and my CD's.
     
    AlphaAtlas likes this.
  11. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

    Messages:
    27,656
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2000
    I can't view the video right now. Did he say which quality setting he used for Spotify?
     
  12. greenman

    greenman Gawd

    Messages:
    594
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2007
    What an amateur.. I'm only an indie musician and yet I heard all the differences he could not. He pronounced .wav as "wauv". Are you sure THIS is an audio "engineer"?
     
    Flapjack and Wrecked Em like this.
  13. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    High and Low. He said that both were fatiguing to his ears. Here is the controversial part. He said that the difference between High and Low were insignificant to him. He immediately appreciated the Tidal stream and had no complaints about it.

    When you get home the video is really cool because he A/B swaps between the original master and the music service being tested in real time.

    Then he phase swaps the tracks. This means that you hear the sounds that are different between the master and the music service stream. So if the music service cuts the highs out, then you hear that. If it cuts the mids then you hear that. If it cuts the vocals then you hear that. Etc.

    Apple Music and YouTube sound atrocious. I don't want to say more because you and others can't watch it because of work. You're going to be surprised how much of the music your ears have to correct for to make those services listenable.

    :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  14. nyt

    nyt Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    390
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Came here to say this... can't take anyone who masters something that clips seriously :(
     
  15. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    8,896
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    I still listen to FM radio... listenable is relative :D
     
    Nolan7689 likes this.
  16. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

    Messages:
    27,656
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2000
    Sadly, this is a common technique.

    People have come to associate clipping, or the "blown speaker effect" with loudness, and people subconsciously always think louder sounds better, so this is taken advantage of in mixes all over the place.

    It's similar to the poor practice of overly compressing dynamic range used in the "loudness war". It's a real shame.
     
    clockdogg, MrE and John721 like this.
  17. rewted

    rewted [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,551
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2005
    He then recorded the song from each streaming service as a WAV file and normalized the levels because music services lower the volume of the music. Next he used a combination of A/B testing and face swapping to compare the differences in the WAV files.


    "face swapping" - really?
     
    dgz likes this.
  18. Streaming 4K quality isn't like the quality of 4 1080p streams put together. It's definitely more lossy as a whole because our eyes are more tolerant to noise with smaller pixels. Same could be said for music, and for most of us past our 30's we can't hear the upper octave easily as our sensitivity has already started to roll off.

    But, I do agree with his sentiments. Audio quality is such low bandwidth it should be one of the last things we trim as the streaming rate adjust.
     
    N4CR, clockdogg and cageymaru like this.
  19. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    He called it face swapping. I'm not an engineer so I went with what he said. :) If I misheard the term that he used then I apologize.
     
  20. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    8,896
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2003
    Could've been 'phase'-swapping?
     
    Algrim and cageymaru like this.
  21. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

    Messages:
    16,663
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2001
    I am pretty sure English is not his 1st language.
     
    cageymaru likes this.
  22. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Could have been! I powered through the video at least three times before posting it. Ha ha. Let me listen again to see if he is saying "phase."
     
    IdiotInCharge likes this.
  23. greenman

    greenman Gawd

    Messages:
    594
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2007
    Neither is mine.. Hearing and learning is not a language barrier.
     
  24. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Should I change the front page to say "Phase swapping?" Even the CC says "face swapping," but if you'll think it is "phase swapping" I will edit it!
     
  25. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

    Messages:
    16,663
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2001
    but some people get stuck with their native accent when speaking English so words don't always come out right.
     
  26. Sonicks

    Sonicks [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,400
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2005
    Whatever you guys think about his methodology, is anyone really surprised at the outcome? Looks like the services rank about where you know they would based on the compression (or in tidal’s case, lack of) methods.

    Tidal is the only service I’ve paid for, and I’ve been a subscriber for 4 years now, and I’m happy with it. As another poster mentioned, one of its downfalls is the lack of content and it’s crappy UI (both desktop and mobile).
     
  27. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

    Messages:
    16,663
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2001
    ya, I am pretty sure it's phase swapping
     
    Algrim and cageymaru like this.
  28. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Danke!
     
    Mackintire likes this.
  29. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

    Messages:
    19,266
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Fixed! Thanks everyone!
     
    GoldenTiger likes this.
  30. Incontentia Buttocks

    Incontentia Buttocks [H]Lite

    Messages:
    94
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Since a large number of folks use bluetooth headsets/buds and bluetooth is crap for audio...what's the difference? MP3 over BL = garbage.
     
  31. GoodBoy

    GoodBoy [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,217
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2004
    Technically it is your brain that fills in the missing information in the sine waves, not your ears. But the point stands.

    He said it was normalized to 0db. That means that the loudest part in the entire track is at the peak volume the encoding can handle without it clipping. If it was clipping, there would be square waves all over, and it would sound really bad. I did notice the red indicator in his software on the original master...

    What is missing is the best audible example of the differences..

    Waah?

    I think it would have been better if it was longer stretches of each version, he flipped back and forth kinda fast. But, since it is a youtube video, we were not hearing what he was hearing in any event.

    A bit more information would have been helpful, such as the bit rate of the master? 96khz?, 48khz? cd?(44.1khz)
     
    dgz and bboynitrous like this.
  32. daglesj

    daglesj [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,023
    Joined:
    May 7, 2005
    Brickwalled modern recordings with zero dynamics will sound pretty much the same.

    The thing is 90% of folks 'producing' music on their macbooks have zero knowledge of dynamics and how digital recording actually works.
     
    clockdogg likes this.
  33. BloodyIron

    BloodyIron 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    3,440
    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    I think the differences would be more noticeable on a more complex track, like something from Nine Inch Nails. The track used has limited complexity to it, not only in the instruments used, but in the stereo/spacial separation too.

    While his method is something I can get behind, it would have been a better demonstration with a not simple song like he was using. No knock on him, but that song has almost no complexity to it.
     
  34. SvenBent

    SvenBent 2[H]4U

    Messages:
    2,791
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2008

    The diffrence compared to the original is not as important as how close the sound to each other.
    Those two things are diffrenet if you know how psychoaccustic encoders works.

    aka a part might be very clearly heard when isolarted makinf you belive you are missing a lot. when in fact due to masking effect it was barely audiable in the original.
    these kind of maskines effect is what determines what is getting "removed" from the song. you dont have that int account when doing a comparisons this stupidlye


    Also do you not know what an ABX test is? ( from the "Waah?" comment) its really a basic tools to establsih objectively if you can hear a diffrennce, without having Placbo affecting you.
    His method is full of placebo
     
  35. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

    Messages:
    16,663
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2001
    He used that song since he was the one that mixed and mastered it and had the uncompressed master.
     
  36. trparky

    trparky Gawd

    Messages:
    975
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2009
    Well then, count me as a person who couldn't tell a damn bit of difference. Then again I'm listening with Realtek ALC1220 and a pair of wired Sony MDR-XB600 headphones so who knows, it could be because I'm a peasant listening with Realtek audio.

    I listened to the song again... damn, I can't help but to hear that damn autotuner. I hate that damn thing. It's gotten to the point that why do we even have "singers" anymore, just have the computer sing the song since it's basically the computer that sang it after it's been completely fucked with by the autotuner.
     
  37. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

    Messages:
    16,663
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2001
    I have a set of Alesis monitors and a Soundblaster ZxR and I could tell a difference with the Apple Music and Youtube versions he was comparing, the others sounded pretty much the same to me,

    IMG_2462.JPG
     
  38. trparky

    trparky Gawd

    Messages:
    975
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2009
    Zepher I'm going to chalk that up to the fact that I'm a peasant with Realtek. Yeah...
     
  39. AlphaAtlas

    AlphaAtlas [H]ard|Gawd Staff Member

    Messages:
    1,713
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2018
    Yeah. I noticed that heavier/more complex music has a higher .flac bitrate, and (subjectively) won't compress nearly as well.

    Oh, it's AAC? I thought it was still MP3. TBH, I'd love a music service that encodes music in Opus, which would stream better than Tidal on the road....

    Anyway, Google Play's max quality is all over the map for me. Mostly it's fine, but I've run into more obscure songs that clearly sound like they're 128kbps, even on the max quality setting. Then if I download those few songs, the newest files that pop up on my Android phone's SD card seem suspiciously small.
     
  40. DeeFrag

    DeeFrag [H]ardness Supreme

    Messages:
    5,401
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2005
    What about Napster?

    Or limewire, where a simple song can take over your computer, steal your identity, shoot your dog, and burn your house down.