'70's/'80's CD music remix II-Reverb & Binaural headphones

To cut to the chase on why I’m posting on this scroll down to the subtitle “The Binaural Difference” on the linked article below on the use of headphones as monitors for editing and judging the sound quality of music…


Those who are already familiar with my original thread- https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/70s-80s-cd-music-remix-examples-using-audacity/35147/1 -on beefing up the dynamics of flat sounding 70’s & '80’s music reissued on CD and heard my edited before/after samples I posted may be already hearing what this article addresses on your speakers. It’s been a learning experience through trial and error for me and I’m just posting to share and maybe gets some tips on what I should do, one of which is obvious which is to get some decent computer speakers.

It appears even though applying 30% wet/dry AUMatrixReverb “Plate” preset to the stereo music in question gives it a VERY realistic, upfront and bright 3D sound listening on headphones (Sony MDR V6), makes it sound distant on speakers both in my car and my vintage home audio stereo system. Perceived loudness suffered as well even after applying George Yohngs W1 Limiter of -6db. RMS measured on the burned to CD aiff file in Audacity’s Wave Stat was around -9 to -12db on most of the songs.

Of course I should’ve gone by the Plot Spectrum to control the bass because I went way overboard mostly in the subwoofer spectrum. I had to reduce bass in both my car and home speaker systems.

I can say the pitch/speed edits didn’t change much of the sound on speakers even though on headphones the before/after was quite startlingly different and a big improvement on the sound of loud, high pitched screeching trumpets. Things that were bright and upfront on HP’s seemed to fade within the background of the wall of sound on speakers.

Back to the drawing board.

Thanks for any input and I hope the linked article will be helpful for others on finding the right kind of monitoring system for music editing.

From your original post:

I’ve got quite a few early CD releases of prog rock (SuperTramp) jazz fusion (Weather Report) that sound flat and tinny with kick bass reduced to tap sounds…

Do these CDs sound bad played on a CD player, or only after being ripped?

If it’s the rip, it could be pre-emphasis which was used on some early CD releases. Pre-emphasis boosts the highs (and maybe cuts the bass, but I’m not sure). This is similar to RIAA EQ on vinyl, or NAB EQ on tape, but it’s not as drastic. CD players should read a flag and apply the proper de-emphasis, but ripping appliactions generally do not. [u]This website[/u] has some information on pre-emphasis and how to properly reverse it.

…on beefing up the dynamics of flat sounding 70’s & '80’s music reissued on CD

Do you realize that dynamic compression and limiting actually reduce dynamic contrast? It’s one of the reasons some people prefer the less-compressed original vinyl to the modern over-compressed “loudness war” remasters. Sometimes people will say that the louder more-compressed music sounds “more dynamic”, but really it’s less dynamic and is just “louder” or more intense.

Limiter of -6db. RMS measured on the burned to CD aiff file in Audacity’s Wave Stat was around -9 to -12db on most of the songs.

I assume you normalized for 0dB peaks after compressing/limiting? …I guess it depends on what you are comparing to… A 9-12dB peak-to-average ratio won’t be as loud as some modern CDs, but it should louder than your original classic rock CDs.

One reason it doesn’t sound as loud as you expect could be the bass boost. Bass requres more power than the midrange & highs, and if you boost the bass, you generally end-up having to reduce the overall level to prevent clipping. (To some extent you can overcome this with compression.)

Your hearing is not as sensitive to bass, and if your speakers & amplifier can’t reproduce the deep bass, you are wasting a lot of the dB range on stuff you can’t hear and/or your system can’t reproduce.

Pros often use a multiband compressor to compress the frequency bands separately. That way, you can make all of the frequency bands “loud” (to some extent). (I know Ozone Izotope has a multiband compressor, but it costs a couple hundred dollars.) During mixing, they can use “ducking” to reduce the bass guitar with every kick drum hit for a stronger overall bass sound. (We can’t do that, since you can’t un-mix the bass or kick.)

Of course I should’ve gone by the Plot Spectrum to control the bass because I went way overboard mostly in the subwoofer spectrum. I had to reduce bass in both my car and home speaker systems.

That may help you, but pros don’t rely on looking at the spectrum (or anything visual). They use their ears. They start with good monitors in a good room and they usually compare the final “product” to a known-good reference recording. Then, they check the mix on several different systems - headphones, ear buds, their car stereo, a boom box, their home stereo, etc. You don’t have the monitors and the room, but you can check your work on several different systems, and you can compare to a known-good reference recording.

Adding reverb or changing the tempo or pitch are “creative choices”, and you’ll just have to use your taste & judgement. As a general rule, I wouldn’t mess around with those things, although I do use a Dolby Pro Logic II “soundfield” effect to add rear-channel reverb when listening on my home theater system.

This is also from Recording Magazine:

As those of you who have followed this column for any length of time can attest, > headphone mixing is one of the big no-no’s around these parts. In our humble opinion, headphone mixes do not translate well in the real world, period, end of story. > Other than checking for balance issues and the occasional hunting down of little details, they are tools best left for the tracking process.

Thanks for the thorough remixing tips and pitfalls to avoid using limiters and compressors.

The CD’s sound bad “anemic” in their dynamics in the car, home audio and computer. Honestly they sound OK if you play them at low volumes, but become too harsh amplifying through hardware. They sound best on my home stereo system. But I’ve gotten spoiled listening to DJ bass/drum enhanced ambient, electronica and chill music that sample from this era of music (Thievery Corporation’s “Rereturn Of the Original Artform”), Nat King Cole: “Re-Generations” CD which I have as examples to compare against…


Those two commercial CD remixes sound big and amplify quite well. I’m trying to figure out how to do that on other music with Audacity only without the extraneous hip-hop styled flourishes.

That link to the pre-emphasis CD flag is news to me and thought I researched this thoroughly considering I know about the RIAA EQ curve for vinyl. Quite interesting info I’m not surprised exists in the music biz. I’ll be spending some time figuring out if any of my CD’s of that era/genre of music that produce a flat sound on all three of my systems including computer have this pre-emphasis flag. The Weather Report’s “8:30” is the only CD I have that’s on that PE flag list but I don’t have problems with the dynamics. It’s a live performance. I have War’s “Platinum Jazz” on CD I had in album form back in the mid '70’s and the dynamics are perfect on both media with full rounded bass and very clear treble I can amplify quite adequately without distortion to kick bass.

Your Recording Magazine quote on headphone use I must’ve missed in that article. It supports my experience even though I’m not quite sure if what I’m doing technically can be considered mixing since I’m working off the final stereo aiff instead of the individual master tapes.

I know for sure applying reverb on finished stereo music can’t be trusted listening on headphones. The portion of the over amped sub bass frequencies sounded more like air pressure on my ears on the Sony MDR v6’s rated to reproduce down to 5Hz. My edited versions burned to CD made the subs in the trunk of my car rumble like an earthquake but not even register on the pair of Norman Labs Model 82’s rated to roll off at 40Hz on my home stereo system. I still had to turn down the bass even on that system.

I’m going to avoid applying reverb and rely only on EQ/pitch/speed/Limiter edits with maybe a more tempered approach to Low Pass filter on a mono channel, mixed back into the High Pass filtered original stereo to give a more well rounded, full bass. I suspect the finished aiff originals already have reverb applied. I just can’t hear it without amplification.

I didn’t use compression. I tried out the AU Multiband Compressor in Audacity and even though it acts pretty much like an EQ/Limiter amplifier and sounded pretty good, comparing to non-compressed or simply EQ’ed versions changed the character of timbre to individual instruments. It produced short intermittent high pitched ringing like a tiny triangle on some big band music.