i understand he is talking about something very specific: the practice of clipping, basically the use of audio-compression to make CDs sound competitively louder than the actual recording levels.Bob Dylan says the quality of modern recordings is "atrocious," and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc.
"I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really," the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Dylan, who released eight studio albums in the past two decades, returns with his first recording in five years, "Modern Times," next Tuesday.
Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, "Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway."
"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them," he added. "There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static."
Dylan said he does his best to fight technology, but it's a losing battle.
"Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."
Here's a blogger's take on "clipping":
is any of this true at all? or is bob dylan being an old fogey?If you read Bob Dylan's rant about modern music today, he sounds unhinged. He isn't; he just isn't describing what he means very well, or it went over the reporter's head and didn't get on paper.
To understand what he means, you need to know what a "compressor" is. (Bear with me here.) In the audio world, a compressor is a device that takes incoming audio above a settable threshhold and mashes its dynamic range, again to a selectable extent. It is useful for making sure a singer's high notes aren't ten times louder than her low ones, and in many other ways, from getting tight drums to punchy bass to overdriven guitar.
Turn the "ratio" way up, and the sound really starts getting mashed together. You would recognize it immediately: "Oh, now it sounds like a radio". This is because radio traditionally had a limited signal-to-noise ratio, and the louder you could mash everything together, the more clearly everything could be heard. So compressors have always been used at radio stations for this purpose.
Compress things far enough and they actually sound "louder" to the ear; everything is squished into a very narrow dynamic range, all loud. In the last couple of decades it has become fashionable during the mastering process to heavily compress the final product, for what reasons who can say, because it sounds like crap, just as Dylan says. He hears the unmastered version in the studio, then compares it to the CD which is sonically squished, and rightly hates the sound - there's "sound all over it", as he says.
You read that right - producers purposely defeat the dynamic range made possible by CDs. In fact, CDs today in general have less dynamic range than vinyl albums did, for just this reason.
Now I am guessing here, but I'd lay odds that when Dylan is griping about the sound, this is what he means.
So now you know why your CDs with their pristine signal-to-noise ratio sound like crap.