Itunes Software Degrades Sound Quality

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Robert Henke
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Itunes Software Degrades Sound Quality

Post by Robert Henke » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:35 am

A lot of music lovers today are using their computers to play back their music collection, and Itunes is one of the most common products for this purpose. So do i.

I recently came back from a CD mastering session at a professional studio.
When playing back the CD at home on my computer, using my RME Hammerfall soundcard and my Genelec monitors I found the sound quite horrible. There were parts with quite severe distortions and compression artefacts. I was very shocked and went back to the mastering studio. There we found the cause after some research:

Itunes has an option, which, as it seems, is turned on per default, and which is burried deep inside the prefs. This option is called "Sound Enhancer".

Judging from the sonic artefacts this is a cheep version of a loudness maximiser.

Do you want to play back ALL your music without knowing thru a cheap digital compressor? I do not want and i am quite upset by this discovery. We do not need to talk about sound quality and details of mixing if the final procuct ends up in a playback situation like this!!! I checked a few friends computers, it was all turned on on their machines and no one had a clue what it does since all it says is
"Sound Enhancer". What a f.... joke.

I contacted my online distribution partners, especially Itunes Music Store. Will write more here as soon as i get an answer. I hope and wish this topic will spread to more forums....


Robert

forge
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Post by forge » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:44 am

I actually bought an Album from iTunes and it had NOTICEABLE artifacts in it - I never got round to doing anything about it, but I was quite surprised

this is probably the one thing with Apple I really dont like - that they try and make everything so plug and play that they will quite often do things without telling you what is happening, deciding on your behalf what's best, when quite often it isnt

I find OSX has a few things like that

SubFunk
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Post by SubFunk » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:45 am

this is very well known since ages. i am seriously surprised that you discovered it just now.

but without the enhancer itunes does a very good job, as since version4 of itunes it implements "logic audio engine technology" and is a pretty damn fine sounding player.

thus, switching off the enhancer.

b0unce
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Post by b0unce » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:47 am

its been mentioned before...
the people who it concerns the most, will find out and turn it off. as for every other cabbage - well, its probably doing them no harm.

ok - so you dont want your music being played through free mp3 player utilising a crap digital compressor...then where do you draw the line? will you give specifactions of what hi-fi to play your music through ?...

i think you might be barking up the wrong tree, getting on to your online-distributors about this.....
spreader of butter

jeskola
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Post by jeskola » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:48 am

i believe ipods do this too, and you cant turn it off!!
coupled with the crap tinny earphones, no wonder people are worried about their ears! There will be a massive increase in people with hearing problems in the future

Poster
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Post by Poster » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:48 am

never realized it was there; and ON by default indeed..

I guess it's a mass-market-spoiled-people-instant-satisfaction-button..
you know, like the 'loudnes' button you find on 70's-80's amplifiers..

Robert Henke
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Post by Robert Henke » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:51 am

SubFunk wrote:this is very well known since ages. i am seriously surprised that you discovered it just now.
yes, shame on me. but i just started using itunes as main playback thingie.
SubFunk wrote: but without the enhancer itunes does a very good job, as since version4 of itunes it implements "logic audio engine technology" and is a pretty damn fine sounding player.

(...)
"logic audio engine technology" ??? this sounds like complete marketing bullshit to me. Read out the content of the CD, provide standard error correction as in every CD player since 20 years and pipe the audio thru to the soundcard. That`s the job. Cannot see why this needs Logic in b/g.

Robert

Robert Henke
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Post by Robert Henke » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:55 am

b0unce wrote:its been mentioned before...
the people who it concerns the most, will find out and turn it off. as for every other cabbage - well, its probably doing them no harm.

ok - so you dont want your music being played through free mp3 player utilising a crap digital compressor...then where do you draw the line? will you give specifactions of what hi-fi to play your music through ?...

i think you might be barking up the wrong tree, getting on to your online-distributors about this.....
Well, there is a difference between a cheap mp3 player and simply playing back a normal audio CD with the standard application which opens as default once you put in a CD. I do expect all kinds of wierdnees once we are mp3. I expect no alteration on my digital output if simply playing back a CD with volume set to zero dB.

Regarding the distribution, i was to vague in this post. I was talking to Itunes Music Store and since there is a quasi monoplistic binding to a specific play back situation it seems to make sense since the user has no choice.
I also would not complain if the sonic degrader would be off per default.

Robert
Last edited by Robert Henke on Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

b0unce
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Post by b0unce » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:58 am

oh right, of course...playing back CDs. Well....c'est la vie

not much you can do about it, like I said once someone buys your cd...they could end up playing it through a really rubbish portable cd player with no-brand portable speakers that sound worse then shit.....

richie hawtin put a nice 'hi fi specific' disclaimer on his 'plastikman - closer' release, maybe you'll sleep better at night if you do the same ?
spreader of butter

Dr Dub
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Post by Dr Dub » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:04 am

Thats intersting. To my ears, also mp3s sound worse when they are played by
itunes.
I installed it one time and removed it directly, because Winamp seemed to sound much better. (And I don't think I've got especialy good ears)
It's good to hear that it can be disabled, but i will not use it again.

SubFunk
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Post by SubFunk » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:12 am

excuse my language

robert wrote:

SubFunk wrote:

but without the enhancer itunes does a very good job, as since version4 of itunes it implements "logic audio engine technology" and is a pretty damn fine sounding player.

(...)


"logic audio engine technology" ??? this sounds like complete marketing bullshit to me. Read out the content of the CD, provide standard error correction as in every CD player since 20 years and pipe the audio thru to the soundcard. That`s the job. Cannot see why this needs Logic in b/g.

Robert
what i mean is that the logic team, Dr. lengeling and co. are responsible for programming the "audio side" of itunes since version4, sorry i am not a programmer at all just a heavy user, and this has been discussed endless, but to me lot's of audio apps do sound different. like Jet audio on a PC is superior to say mediaplayer, i don't know why, and i don't care why to be honest, but i can hear the difference...

same with itunes (enhancer off) compared to mediaplayer or some other players.

no idea why that is, but it's audible... and the logic team does a good job, when it comes to sound. that's all.

sorry for my marketing language!

cheers

b0unce
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Post by b0unce » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:16 am

the irony of this delicious thread is that itunes is free...free like a bird in the sky, surfing the winds of time
spreader of butter

Robert Henke
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Post by Robert Henke » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:19 am

Subfunk,
that was not at all targetted against you. ( I would be the last one telling other people here on the forum about marketing language..........)
I just cannot see so much from a technical point of view how playing back a CD
could be such a job. decoding mp3 is a different thing... but i am not deep enough into this to give a more precise statement.

I am just upset that this compressor option is active per default.

Robert

SubFunk
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Post by SubFunk » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:28 am

fair enough, you see i am not on the programmer side myself at all... just a plain user, ask me about production itself, there i have knowledge, but about how or why is something differently (if) programmed no clue at all.

and i agree i am upset about those defaults as well, the worsed is that even some supposedly pro stuff comes often with odd defaults.

mind you itunes is targeted to the mass market of ipods and 20euro computer speaker playback audience.

cheers

p.s. i did not took it in any way personel. you see we share the same mothertongue and my hometown is your where your ableton headquarters are, so the language (english) slipps sometimes.

thx1138
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Post by thx1138 » Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:10 pm

Is'nt this option set to on as the average Joe just rocks out the mini JBL drivers that come with most Mac's?
Macbook Pro C2D2.5 17"/4G/OSX.5.6/Live8.12/Brain/Bla bla bla bla

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