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Thread: IMO Logic sounds better than PT

  1. #21
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    John Vestman was a client at the audio engineering company I worked at and have recently been involved with a project he mastered. During the session the band's singer did some blind tests with John, playing the files from a Firewire drive and then John's internal drive (I think I have the facts right, I will double check). Anyway the singer came back from the session amazed, John picked the correct drive every time blind! After all the reading I have done here and on the Mastering Webboard I almost put a post up about this, what is John technically hearing? Lynn has gone through this whole file process and all was fine. So what would be the explanation for John's ability to hear these things? In the above case with Logic it is a straight file transfer of numbers!!! I agree it would be interesting to have others listen to the printed results.
    Chris R. Gibson AKA Loopy C
    www.micworks.com
    Ken Tamplin Mastering

  2. #22
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    You don't really play files from a drive directly - there is the data transfer thru controllers, various buffers, the computer bus, the audio card, converters, their buffers - so many little stagings and contributers to the output. Yep, this is't you father's magnetic media here - lots of stuff going on between the read heads and the speakers - lots.

    So what could it be? Same bits, right?(hold that thought), so somehow the bits must be being changed as they are retrieved from the drive or somewhere after - fautly equipment or drivers or controllers for the disk drives is certainly possible. There has got to be a way to measure these stages and sort it out. Maybe you don't solve it (you just replace the component that is not working correctly), but at least you know where the problem is.

    My question that leaves me skeptical is why Mr. Vestman has no explanation for this? It starts to come off like a magic trick - like David Coppefield: sure the elephant seemed to vanish, but I'm not going to believe that it really did. Magicians know why it works, but don't explain the trick. Engineers know why it works, explain it, get an award, and fix it.

    So far this guys sounds like a magician more than an engineer. If he is just listening to the sound of the drives spinning up (conciously or not), that would be a pisser wouldn't it? And I don't mean any offense but you don't read this sort of thing coming from Bob Katz, I don't think.

    Additionally, did you see this process? I ask because I have heard it described similarly in the past by others - and not always charaterized as "recently" - I wonder if this is becoming some sort of urban audio legend?

    So what is he technically hearing? Great question. Say you saw this with your own eyes, we assume he can do this trick, and now we have to figure out how/why the trick works. Sounds simple enough....

    1) It seems to be repeatable, so lets rule out temperature variations for the DACs and other analog playback equipment - perhapes we should electrically isolate any power from these drives and the playback system just to CYA. Still a problem? Shucks, that would have been so easy

    2) Same system so you can probably rule out the DACs altogether at least until the more likely causes are looked at.

    3) Check the files on both drives to verify they are actually the same...sure they are, but you have to sign off on it to make it official. No rubber stamps please.

    4) OK, some of the easy stuff is outta the way. Can we get the output before the DAC? If there is a digital output, we are set and can actually capture the data out and compare it coming from either drive. Are these the same? Lets hope not or our DAC is back under the microscope. If they are they same, then what is the DAC seeing that makes it consistently alter the sound for a particluar drive?

    BUT WAIT! We have to agree that computers don't know audio from video from algebra. So there are these empirical instructions running along telling the machine to put this bit here, that bit there, etc. There is no ambiguity in the type of computers we use. For a given sequence of events the outcome should be competely consistent. Otherwise your computer is broken - can't be used for electronic banking, can't be used for audio, can't be used to reliably store data. This is not the same as a bug - a bug is an unintentional instruction or code path that will consistently cause the same problem under the same circumstances. Sometimes the circumstances can be tough to completely repro, but being difficult does not change the fact. OK, so we must decide that in general we feel the computer is not completely broken/unreliable - otherwise this could get ugly: we don't know which drive sounds correct really do we? We may have a favourite, but we don't know "correct" because we don't know what is wrong. And we don't know that any other computer or drive will be any more correct. At this point we have to find this problem or abandon using computers or settle for it like it was a ground loop problem in a some rookie studio.

    5) OK, maybe the digital outputs are different. Good. The DAC is off the hook again, for now, and as it was damned expensive, we'd be pretty peaved if there was a problem with it.

    6) OK back to this hoakey computer. Well, neither drive shares common drivers or controllers and we don't have the computer spelunking gear to get down in there and peak at the various handoffs from drive to DAC to see who's goofing it up.

    7) Hmm a drive copy test - that would/should exercise both drives and controllers and data paths - lets try that. Aha! - the files copied from one drive to another "control" drive (not part of the test group) and the files are indeed different - alright, now we do the same with all 3 drives and find out which one is the oddball result. Call the manufacturer - make 'em fix it, send a new one, a refund, whatever. No wait, upon checking again while bludgeoning the drive maker over the phone, we discover that AARRGGGGHHHHH - the files are a dead match afterall? Egg on our face and all, we scrub up and get back to it. Now where do we look? Hmmm - some nefarious handoff to the audio card or somewhere along the way of that operation. OK, I'm firing up another computer to see if this is some system specific ill, or happens on any computer (not likely, it would have been on the cover of every geek computer rag out there and all over those "I hate Bill and Winders Sux" sites). OK, we check the sites and rags - yep, people still hating Bill, but not for any apparent audio drive transgressions. Oh, this is a Mac - my bad, we check the "Think Different, just not so different my drives don't match" joke sites and come up with nada. The Windows zealots are bummed, just waiting for something to go I-wrong so they can impale the straggling holdouts with geek spears and assimilate them. Alas, no blood and guts today.

    So we could try another computer, switch to Mac, switch to PC - sooner or later we'll run this thing down. More coffee, back to it....

    Well, so what is it? Still head scratching, but still keeping both these flakey drives around since we don't know which one is wrong! And besides, it makes a one hell of a fine parlor trick.

    Like, dude, you really need to fix that computer :p

    [ May 28, 2003: Message edited by: stevepow ]
    Steve Powell - Bull Moon Digital
    www.bullmoondigital.com

  3. #23
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    Steve,

    You are forgetting one thing.

    We already know all there is to know about digital audio. So the problem must lie elsewhere. (Sorry, Nika!)

    Personally, I still like blaming sun spots in the event of no other plausible explanation.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  4. #24
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    After reading all this I'm left with one question for Someday: Tron, is that you?
    Matthew 11:15

  5. #25
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    Originally posted by 3D Audio Inc.:
    <STRONG>Steve,

    You are forgetting one thing.

    We already know all there is to know about digital audio. So the problem must lie elsewhere. (Sorry, Nika!)

    Personally, I still like blaming sun spots in the event of no other plausible explanation.</STRONG>
    I don't know if I'd agree that we know all there is to know about digital audio - too many smart people mucking around with DSD, high sample rates, speaker arrays, etc. - seems like we have some learning to go. Maybe you are just pulling my chain since I posted such a dismissive response to this Vestman phenomenon - that's cool I guess, but it would be more interesting to see someone take a serious shot at it. Either the guy is for real or he is a spoon-bender. Is he going to be in Scientific American or The National Enquirer?

    I do think that we need to realize and truely comprehend how very much we do know (not WE specifically; I'm talking about people who have spent their lives rigorously studying these topics: scientists and mathematicians and even guys like Nika that have really drilled down into it).

    At one level, digital audio is just numbers - it is not really audio until we use a conversion process to turn it into vibrations we can hear. This is a handy partition that lets us use very well known techniques to handle the math and even the computers that ultimately have to do the work. And sure today's computer models or audio components are limited by resources so it is not likely that they are as good as we'd like to hear, etc, etc, but this post is about something else much more fundamental than that: this is another version of Bob Katz's perfect clone test that somehow is apparently failing terribly.

    I'd also say the study of those vibrations, their mechanics and how they manifest themselves in the physics of acousitcs, are not a green topic for physicists either. Therefore, to find a genuine mystery here is going to take hard work and rigorous study.

    Now as far as how PCs work in their current incarnation, I don't think there is much mystery left there at all. Sure a bug or something can seem like a mystery, but it is really only elusive, not mysterious. I have about 20 years of work experience and a BS in Computer Science that tells me something is not right about this story.

    My post was a little tongue in cheek, but the steps I outlined for trouble-shooting are viable and I would be truely insterested in any hypothesis that would possibly explain this drive thing. Sun spots - that's as good as anything else I've heard. Or it could be something as simple as bad power. There are many known possibilities to look into before assuming that we need a new branch of science to explain this, yet I get the feeling that some are looking for just that: some sort of Twilight Zone explanation that has been hiding under a rock to come popping out of the study of digital audio.

    In all seriouness, what Mr. Vestman claims he can do is either true or false. If it is true, then there is something wrong with his system or he knows a trick. Does anyone disagree with this?

    I don't want to appear to be close-minded on the issue - I think maybe this guy can hear this - so I'd like to know how/why. It would be completely against my beliefs to decide that just because I do not understand it, that it cannot be true. However, it makes more sense to me to look for reasonable and likely explanations that don't require that we rewrite the last several centuries of mathematics and physics...'cause that would really be a lot of work.

    [ May 29, 2003: Message edited by: stevepow ]
    Steve Powell - Bull Moon Digital
    www.bullmoondigital.com

  6. #26
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    Having conversed with John several times I can express my impression that he is a dedicated, honest gentleman that gives me every reason to extend to him the benefit of the doubt (I know you were not implying anything otherwise Steve, I just wanted to give you my personnel experience having met him). It certainly does come off as an urban myth, I didn't realize my friend's description was nearly verbatim the story from John's site. I have a thought, I am going to shoot John an e-mail and invite his opinion to our discussion. He seems like the kind of guy who likes to pursue these curiosities.
    Chris R. Gibson AKA Loopy C
    www.micworks.com
    Ken Tamplin Mastering

  7. #27
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    Hello 3D Folks. This is a lively discussion and I appreciate it when people are passionate about great sound and creativity. I ordered the DAWSUM CD and I applaud this web site for creating such cool stuff! One of the limitations I deal with is how much time I can devote to such comparisons, so Iím excited to see these products being made available. I will report back to let you know what I hear on that CD.

    Let me start by saying that when Iíve done listening tests, itís occasionally been at a time when I wasnít expecting to hear anything different, and itís been at times when I was just curious - like the time we raised the computer onto the squishy pads. In that situation, I wasnít pushing for anything, just trying it out on a lark.

    Two other engineers heard the same thing I did (one with 25 years of experience) and a musician in the studio couldnít tell (he was a nubie - not a chop on the dude, just the fact). Other engineers have agreed with my opinion that the support under different gear can have an effect on the sound. If you donít experience that, Iím perfectly cool with what youíve found to be true. I do not have a need to be right about any of this. I just share what Iíve heard with the intent of being helpful to others.

    Believe me, I have gotten many different emails on this one - and I support different opinions - thatís what makes life interesting - so long as no one has an agenda of discord toward another person. Look, the music biz is challenging enough without people trying to be verbal gladiators with each other. Itís like the reviewers who love to slam artists. Those reviewers have no idea what an artist goes through to make their music - and to get their jollies from diminishing the progress of another personís life just doesnít float my boat.

    Gads, on with the thread.

    In my listening tests with clientís DAWs in the mastering room, no ďrenderedĒ or ďbouncedĒ stereo file can hold a candle to the direct digital out of the live stereo mix. I have not heard every DAW out there - just Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Cubase, Nuendo and Paris. I will be interested to hear the CD with the same files mixed on different software!

    >there is no audible difference between the unity mix and "fader moved" mix.

    Iíve heard changes in the coherency of the sound when faders change position. The more dramatic any changes, either in level or in addition of software-based processing, the more loss occurs in my opinion. There is a solidity that goes away, and the bottom becomes more ďvacantĒ and the top more disconnected.

    Just to mention it here, as I gained more experience engineering (Iíve done 20 years in 24 track analog and digital studios - plus 7 years in the mastering room), I went through levels of perception. One year Iíd be all over the top end.. tweaking relentlessly at 10k, 12.5k, 15k, 20k! Then one day it would dawn on me that my mixes were getting spitty and the bottom wasnít rich anymore. Then... Iíd focus on the low end for a year! 100hz, 60hz, 50hz... etc. Yikes! Then one day Iíd figure out that the low end was teeter-tottering away my mids, and on it went. It took 15 years before I could say to myself ďI know exactly how to get the sound on any record I hear and I'm not over the top in any one place.Ē Now, some of you out there could be waaaay faster than that.....

    Currently, I still go through stages where I have to work at hearing some distinctions, but then once I hear it, Iíve got it and itís usually not a problem to keep picking out such things. This doesnít discount anyone elseís perception - itís just my personal experience.

    >mixing stems out to a console is a different story for the fact of dealing with Digi's poor converters.

    Certainly Iíve found that the Prism ADA-8 blows away 888ís by a long shot. I havenít heard the PT 192k system.

    >I don't see it destroying music any more than I see autotune destroying the progress of vocal performances. It is just a tool that many people abuse.

    I donít think thereís any right or wrong about autotune. Itís preference. Some artists gain from it, some artists sound.... autotuned. I would rather make the singer get it right out of their mouth, just as Iíd prefer a drummer to practice for 4 months and get the basic tracks perfect vs. doing so-so tracks and then spending 4 months in a DAW fixing the groove.

    I think that when you emphasize technology into a place where itís the technology making the music ďhappenĒ - and not the heart of the performer making it ďhappen,Ē then I think there is a detraction from the soul of music that I donít prefer. I also think in some cases, some creativity is lost... not in all cases... some.

    Example: In my engineering day, we made the backup vocalists sing all eight chorusís at the end of the song. By the 8th one, the singers knew that the song would be faded out, so some wise acre would do some out-of-the-box ad lib. The producer would stop the tape and say ďWho did that?Ē and everyone would freeze in their boots because it wasnít a ďperfectĒ take. After someone fessed up, the producer would say ďI love that! Go back and do ALL of the backups all over again with THAT.Ē And a new hook would be created. It was a way that magic occurred (and the singers got better and better with each take too).

    Certainly, DAWs are creating a new magic, but in ways, itís making us lean toward creativity that is OUTSIDE of the artist - not WITHIN the artist. For me, itís the stuff thatís within that really resonates in the listener in a more timeless way. The closer to the heart, the better. DAWís destroying music? No. Changing it. For the better? You decide.

    >My question that leaves me skeptical is why Mr. Vestman has no explanation for this [different sound from different hard drives]

    Call someone else if you want a numeric, science-based answer. For my subjective experience, Iíd just have to say itís smoothness of data transfer only because some audiophile CD players are designed around that concept and it seems to make sense to me. I would say that isolation from vibration can have an effect too, but Iím not going to suggest that everyone should go out and hangs their hard drives by fishing line.

    However, time after time, I load a clientís AIFF file into Peak and then ďSave AsĒ onto my Mac G4 hard drive. I then reload the AIFF off the CDR and audition both versions right there. I'll ask the client which they think sounds better. The HD wins every time - itís smoother and more robust.

    Saving to two different drives was SUBTLE, and in my opinion not worth haggling over. The difference I heard was in the warmth area of the vocal. Slightly better on the Firewire drive. Weíre talkin slightly. (However when I did the file-copy thing the first time... like 6 years ago... it was NOT subtle and I was NOT expecting it. That, however, could have been caused by the Copy Utility in that version of Sonic Solutions.)

    The difference of the computer on the floor was significant enough that we all choose the floor. Thereís other stuff to try too. Example: The difference in high-end power chords can be very significant compared to stock five-buckers. So significant that when I changed two power chords and two power strips.... I had to alter the acoustic treatment in my room to compensate for the lift in the high end. You could not pay me to go back to the old chords.

    >Engineers know why it works, explain it, get an award, and fix it.

    I donít share this stuff to get an award. I do it because I have a certain amount of time that I use to give what I know. If you find itís helpful, great. If not, great! If others prefer your approach, Iím all for it. At some point, I think what we put out comes back to us, so I share what Iíve found and then I let it go. In the long run, itís possible that Iíll benefit in some way from my efforts. A-ha you say! He does have an agenda! So whatís wrong with growth and progress and having more in life if thatís in fact what happens? Isnít it ok for all of us to experience more from time to time? I just trust that itís all good when I make it so. Thank you all for your contributions, and I wish you the very best in sound and in life.

    John Vestman

  8. #28
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    Example: The difference in high-end power chords can be very significant compared to stock five-buckers. So significant that when I changed two power chords and two power strips.... I had to alter the acoustic treatment in my room to compensate for the lift in the high end. You could not pay me to go back to the old chords.
    Not to pick on you or dismiss your abilities but I have a hard time believing this. Most likely because I haven't experienced it. Technically speaking the only place this should matter would be in power cables feeding big power amps. Is this a case where you can tell a difference by changing out just one cable? Or is it more of a cumulative change? Cleaned up high-end sounds as if you had some contamination on your powerline. Perhaps a flakey ground even. I would expect a beefier low-end with better power cables.

    This stuff makes my head hurt and my wallet cower down in horror.

    Peace,

    James

  9. #29
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    John
    Thanks for your reply, it adds to the discussion. I recently changed my system around (PC Daw running Nuendo to and from SCSI drives)and the new case has a system that mounts the drives in a way that has more vibration control. I believe the sound improved, so I'm sympathetic to the "good vibrations" aspect of your post, but I must admit I was questioning my obsevation, until your post. I know nothing of the math involved and although I've followed all the discussions here I still 'feel' the different systems I use sound different, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
    My old man used to say to me when he would do something I couldn't when I was a teen, whether it was getting a head bolt out of a 57 buick or hitting a curve ball, "it's all in the way you hold your mouth". That may be my new theory. Take care Logan

  10. #30
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    Originally posted by James Greenlee:
    <STRONG>

    Not to pick on you or dismiss your abilities but I have a hard time believing this. Most likely because I haven't experienced it. Technically speaking the only place this should matter would be in power cables feeding big power amps. Is this a case where you can tell a difference by changing out just one cable? Or is it more of a cumulative change? Cleaned up high-end sounds as if you had some contamination on your powerline. Perhaps a flakey ground even. I would expect a beefier low-end with better power cables.

    This stuff makes my head hurt and my wallet cower down in horror.
    </STRONG>
    I try not to dismiss things, no matter how illogical they sound. Too many times I've thought "Yea, right!" only to come back years later when I was more experienced or more attuned and find that, in fact, now I could hear a difference. I won't shun anything that people think makes things better. Until I hear it. Or don't hear it.

    Well.

    With maybe one exception. Those polished rocks that you lay on top of your CD player. I don't give a lot of credence to those. But I would listen to them first before I decided.

    Or two. Those little riser things that keep your speaker cables off the floor. That always seemed goofy to me. But I've never tried it so I won't say it doesn't work. I just have the amps close enough to the speakers that the cables don't ever touch the floor. So I guess I don't need those anyway.

    OK. There's another one now that I think about it. That "dope" kit that you paint on your ICs to give them a "tube" sound. I think that sounds a lot like snake oil to me. But, then again, I've never tried it. Could be it does make a difference. But making them sound like tubes? Come on.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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