Saturday, July 24, 2010

DEVO Something For Everybody on Vinyl is here!


I got the latest DEVO album on vinyl today. The album, SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY, is (as I'm sure you know) their first studio album since SMOOTH NOODLE MAPS in 1990 and is well worth the purchase. I did, however, hold out for the vinyl release. Why? The big reason is the fidelity of the album. You may ask, if you wanted the highest fidelity, why didn't you go with CD? Admittedly, there are valid arguments on both sides of the CD v. Vinyl camps. The CD/digital camp will praise Cds clarity, and lack of compression or surface noise (clicks and pops), while the Vinyl camp will champion the earthiness of the analog mastering.

Well, I'm on the Vinyl side. Although stating it is almost a cliche' by now, there is a bottom and warmth to analog that digital almost never gets right. As for clicks and pops, no sounds exist in a vacuum, so to expect music to exist as a phantom sound without any earthly groundings or extraneous noise is just not realistic.

Bigger than all of this, though, is the current process of "Brickwalling" music. That is, in the process of digital mastering, a record label will insist that the sound be as loud as possible; just short of distortion. It's an incredibly common process these days and it, frankly, makes the music sound like garbage. Every sound becomes just as loud as every other sound on the recording and it kills the fidelity. Fortunately for fans of fidelity in their music, vinyl records can't be mastered that way. The reason is, a recording with "Brickwall" mastering will send a stylus flying right out of the groove. Therefore, when studios master things properly to vinyl, everything needs to be carefully EQed and compressed so it sounds right (I say 'mastered properly' because some pressings of current hit records, like Lady Gaga's THE FAME MONSTER picture disc are mastered from a CD, but with a diminished volume so it sounds like lo fi mush, but at a lower volume. The Euro pressing of Gaga's TFM is done properly, sounds gorgeous, and blows the mass produced CD right into the sewer system).

Here's an example of what I mean. Below is a soundwave from the Retail CD of the first track on DEVO's SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY, entitled Fresh:

Click to enlarge

As you can see
, the track fills up the entire space, with the loudest parts clipped off of the chart. This is unacceptable, since all the listener is getting with this is loudness. There is no nuance; no fidelity. Now compare/contrast with the same track from the vinyl album:


Click to enlarge

Now, the first thing that might occur to you is, "Wow, that seems a lot smaller than the other soundwave." Yes, you are correct. But look at the farthest reaching points of the wave. They fall within the volume spectrum. Nothing is clipped off. Everything that was recorded for the track is perfectly and properly audible. You might think it sounds too low, but that's what volume controls are for. Turn it up and the deep basses, crystal clear highs and crisp midranges all leap out at you. You'll most likely never want to hear a CD or MP3 again.

There's a organization found at www.turnmeup.org that will give you more insight to the problem that is Brickwalling on Audio CDs and digital music files. I suggest you go there and snoop around. Read especially about the "loudness wars" and how recorded music got to the horrific point it's at now.

As for the new DEVO album, you can buy it at Amazon.com or at becausesoundmatters.com. It's pressed on beautiful translucent blue vinyl and it comes with the Audio CD version that you'll probably use as a devolved drink coaster after you hear the beauty that is the vinyl version.

Duty now.


4 comments:

jp said...

Excellent summing up of the horror that is today's digitally recorded music. Thank you.

joven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
edwardo said...

This vinyl may be pretty but does your copy sound like shit? I am getting distortion with "S" sounds which almost sounds like inner groove distortion, but it is quite audible on the first track "Fresh".

I think the master record was cut improperly.

Vinyl can sound GREAT but only if a competent engineer handles manufacturing process - this release does not.

Lord Shockedelic said...

No, my copy sounds beautiful. There are no distortions. I don't know. Maybe you need a cleaning?