General Commentry

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geoff’s general blog comments

Spotify Settings for Musicians

2019-06-25T12:37:46+10:00

Working in the field of Audio alongside musicians, audio quality and fidelity is of utmost importance, especially when dealing with lossy-codecs and streaming services. Recently, I’ve been talking to several people about Spotify, it’s settings and overall audio quality. What I found was in general, there was a lack of knowledge in the fact that Spotify does a couple of things to try and make your listening experience better, and more enjoyable – which may not always be the best option for sound quality. So I decided to write this quick little guide. I will go through a few settings without being technical – that is, no numbers, plain english, but if you want to skip the boring bits, here’s the summary:

  1. ALWAYS use the VERY HIGH setting for Music Quality – both Download and Streaming
  2. If you want to hear all tracks at similar levels, under Music Quality, switch Normalize Volume to On, and set its option Quiet.  This is the least invasive setting.  The only side effect is you’ll need to turn up your speaker volume a little more than normal.
  3. If you want to hear the tracks with full, complete and unchanged dynamics as they were originally intended, switch Normalize Volume to Off

Subscribe for Premium Options:

Firstly, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Spotify.  Not only does this mean that money will flow to the artists, but it also allows you to unlock the Music Quality and Normalize Volume options, as well as the ability to download and cache your music for later. This is obviously advantageous when going offline (eg flight or out of reception area) and you still need access to your music.

Settings:

You should go to your settings page by clicking on the gear icon from your Spotify Homepage (in the top right hand corner). There are two options we need to look at.  Firstly is the Music Quality option.  This sets the amount of data Spotify will use, and this directly relates to the quality. When you change this to Very High, the song will be pretty much transparent to the original audio file. If you don’t have premium, setting this to High will still be quite reasonable. What difference will it make? The easiest and most general way to describe that there will be a clarity and smoothness in the higher frequencies.

If you do download, make sure you have set the download option to Very High. This will cache the same data rate as the streaming option, giving you the best quality.

The second, and possible the most important setting in Spotify relates to how it plays back different tracks’ loudness. Normalize Volume is this setting. Spotify does this on the fly, and will transparently alter the volume of the track it is playing, to try and match it to the track’s loudness before, and after – giving you a great experience without having to continually turn the music up and down.  For the most part, this will work pretty well. Again however, there are times where this can completely destroy a piece of audio.

The problem here is that when we listen to music that has a massive dynamic range, Spotify can’t deal with it very well and can actually create distortion that isn’t present in the original audio. A typical example of this is found when listening to Classical music. Spotify, in its standard settings for Volume Normalization (On and Normal) will actually turn up, and dynamically limit some music.

Normalize Volume Level Spotify’s Explanation My Explanation Sound Impact Potential
Loud Handy for when you’re in a noisy environment (I’m guessing they are saying in a car, or on a bus) Spotify will apply heavy dynamic control to some tracks, with a Very High chance of distortion on loud passages in highly dynamic material VERY, VERY HIGH
Normal This is the default setting. A Moderate amount of dynamic control still takes place. A relatively high chance of distortion on loud passages HIGH
Quiet This is best for when you’re in a quieter environment. Very little chance of dynamic control and therefore distortion LOW

You can check out all the latest developments, and read the Spotify support page here

One last thing with regard to Audio Quality. If you want the best quality, you are usually better off taking a line out of your device (through the headphone jack), rather than using the convenience of Bluetooth.  Bluetooth audio is based a different set of codecs, and your phone will transcode the supplied data stream from Spotify, and reduce this data even more. Some newer codecs a much more capable and transparent, but it still involves another set of data-reduction algorithms – which results in the photocopy of a photocopy scenario.

*Yes, I know I have used “z” for “s”, however – as Spotify is non-localised, Normalize has a “z” in the software.

Spotify Settings for Musicians2019-06-25T12:37:46+10:00

Avid Pro Tools HDX with 16 Channel HD I/O Interface

2014-01-21T15:01:33+10:00

avid_pro_tools_hdx_hd-io_system_fI recently updated to Avid Pro Tools HDX system, retiring my much loved and used TDM system.  Audio quality, processing, latency and sonic quality are all far superior to the old system.  Add to the mix, an upgrade to Pro Tools 11 and I can definitely say that projects benefit from the added quality, clocking and features of the new cards, interface and software.  An added bonus is the ability to integrate completely all of my analog gear easily and quickly into Pro Tools mix projects.

Avid Pro Tools HDX with 16 Channel HD I/O Interface2014-01-21T15:01:33+10:00

Sound of Ice Melting

2010-03-31T19:52:31+10:00

I have been looking for a while to give credit for the installation art that I took a photo of at the top of my site – and finally found it. The work is by Paul Koss and is titled Sound of Ice Melting (1970). This particular installation (and photo) was in the foyer of the Guggenheim museum, New York in March 2009 as part of The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989 exhibition.  It incorporates eight microphones focused at two twenty-five-pound blocks of melting ice.

The viewer is invited to “listen” to the sound of ice melting, which is a way of slowing down the mind to become aware of one’s ambient environment as a live sonic event.

Sound of Ice Melting2010-03-31T19:52:31+10:00

Bindi Irwin – Kidfitness II Aria Nomination

2009-10-08T19:02:48+10:00

bindi-jungle-dance-party

Well, Bindi’s Kidfitness II – Jungle Dance Party has been nominated for an Aria. It has been nominated in the Best Children’s Album category. Unfortunately there is also a Wiggles album nominated 🙁 Winners are announced on the 26th November – let’s hope it is second time lucky.

Check it out at the Aria Awards nominations site. It seems Bindi also has her own website now too.

Bindi Irwin – Kidfitness II Aria Nomination2009-10-08T19:02:48+10:00

Farmhouse Studio Renovation

2016-04-27T18:02:44+10:00

I have been in working with Mark McDuff renovating Farmhouse Studio. New furniture, new wiring, new Digi Icon D-Command Control surface plus a new lick of paint on the floor. It’s looking great! www.markmcduff.com

This week saw us purchase a new Inte I7 Nehlam 2.6ghz Computer.  This was due to Mark purchasing East West’s Composer Collection.  Now the background with this has been, for years Gigasampler was the primary source for orchestral sounds for the projects we did.  With Tascam now discontinuing support for Giga, and Vienna Symphonic Library require a lot of $$$ to update to the new Vienna system, the choice to change over to East West’s Orchestra was made.  We would still use the VSL on the Giga computer as a supplement.

Now all of this was supposed to work fine on Mark’s dual-quad core Mac Pro with 16gig of memory.  However the problem with apple marketing lends you to believe that 10.5 is a 64bit operating system allowing you to use 16gig of memory in a program.  It is actually true, however one problem is that Logic IS NOT natively a 64bit programme, hence you cannot use more than about 3.9gig of memory.  Logic alone takes up approx 1.9gig of memory, not leaving a\lot of the 3.9gig left for samples.

Enter Plogue Bidule.  This is a fantastic program that can be rewired into Logic.  This allows you to use another set of 3.9gig on top of the 3.9 gig in Logic.  Not too bad.  However some problems when changing Logic sessions with rewire crashing, and some performance issues with Play (East West’s sample playback engine) led us to go back to our original concept of running separate computers to generate different sounds.  The holy grail of one computer, one programme, producing all sounds is still a far off dream it seems.  At least until the migration to full 64bit systems and 3rd party software are realised.

Next twist, Play is a 64bit native application.  Yay! However it is only truly 64bit on a Windows system.  The OS X version will allow you to load plugins into ram above 3.9gig, but not utilise streaming instruments, which is where all the power actually lies.  So you cannot load a Steinway piano into ram (52gig!).  Ok, Intel release I7 processor which is amazing by all accounts so we decided to go with it.  In addition to the blazing processor speed, memory bandwidth is far superior by utilising DDR-3 memory in a triple channel configuration.  This means you need to load ram in groups of 3 to fully utilitise the memory bandwidth.  I chose the Asus board which has 6 slots, all filled with 1600mhz 2gig sticks for a total of 12gig.  This is all running on Vista Business 64bit

Now, Plogue Bidule can run native 64bit so SHOULD be able to use Play natively addressing all the 12gig that we put into the I7.  However, we had no end of problems with Play in Plogue Bidule on Vista x64.  As soon as I wired the outputs of play to the asio sound card it would crash.  Other 64bit (x64) VST instruments would load and play fine.  The graphic of Play also seemed to be a little corrupted, but this could also be related to how it was playing.  This was through a different sound card.  Utter despair!

Well, Play is 64bit native on the PC so we could at least load up to 16 instruments in one play performance.  So all was not lost.  However, the way Play standalone works to “save your setup” is archaeic.  It is literally crap, so it was quickly becoming a non-event.  I think there was even mention of going back to Vista 32 to get something that would work by this stage…

more to come

Farmhouse Studio Renovation2016-04-27T18:02:44+10:00

Recording New Carisma Album

2009-05-13T14:04:06+10:00

This week I was in the studio recording Carisma at Ghostgum Audio for their upcoming 2009 Release Album on ABC Classics.  The trio of Flute, Harp and Cello offer a unique blend in this upcoming Celtic Album.   David Jones (drums & percussion) is a guest performer with the group, adding to his appearance on their last album Lily’s Eyes.  Editting and mixing will take place in the next couple of weeks.

Recording New Carisma Album2009-05-13T14:04:06+10:00

Bindi Kid Fitness Aria Finalist

2008-04-26T16:04:44+10:00

Bindi Kid Fitness Cover Bindi’s Kid Fit Album and DVD have been nominated for this years ARIA awards in the category of “Best Childrens Album” The winners will be announced this Sunday night (27 October 2007)

Click Here for the ARIAs Website

edit: Alas, the Wiggles somehow beat Bindi to take out the 2007 Children’s Award! Let’s see what happens with Kid Fit 2!

Bindi Kid Fitness Aria Finalist2008-04-26T16:04:44+10:00

Bindi The Jungle Girl – Now on ABC

2009-05-13T14:07:17+10:00

Just a quick note that Bindi the Jungle Series that I have been working on with Mark has finally started airing here in Australia. It is on ABC Wednesday afternoons at 4:05pm

This follows it’s debut on American Television last month on Discovery Kids.

Checkout the websites for clips and times.

ABC Bindi The Jungle Girl Site

Discovery Kids Bindi The Jungle Girl Site

Bindi The Jungle Girl – Now on ABC2009-05-13T14:07:17+10:00

New York, New York

2009-05-13T14:08:15+10:00

The Empire State Building and New York From Rockafeller Center - 70 Stories UpPhotos from our trip to New York on the way to Scotland the Brave in Toronto. This was a bit of a let’s see if we can bring the show back to NY kinda tour. At this stage we might be back in February 2008

edit: unfortunately we will not be in North America next year, but will be reviving the show once again for our Perth debut and return trip to New Zealand

Click Here for Photos

New York, New York2009-05-13T14:08:15+10:00