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Discussion Starter #1
Proposed Track 6
Rebecca Pidgeon
- Auld Lang Syne / Bring It On Home To Me

This track, sung by three vocalists (Rebecca Pidgeon, Felicity Huffman, and a male vocalist (unlisted)) is a favorite of M.E.'s. I will get with him and ask about moments in the track that he listens for and add them in.

The track begins with Rebecca speaking in a moderately reflective space. Her voice can be heard quite clearly echoing off the back and side walls early in this track, and her sibilance is airy and distinct. Esses are sharp and slightly metallic, and her tongue pops :)26, :36) off the roof of her mouth. She is backed by a piano that is well mic'd and should appear as an individual instrument on the left stage(left to left of center on the stage). Unlike some recordings that have multiple mics in the soundboard that spread the piano across the stage, this is an individually localizable instrument placed mostly left of center. The piano is warm, but not dull with good high frequency detail and attack. I would venture to guess that the pianist is facing the listener as the low notes appear further right than the high notes which appear furthest left on the stage.

At 1:05, Rebecca begins singing and her first words have a bit of a guttural quality on 'If you'. She exhibits her generally nasal though pleasant sound. The rest of the band comes in at 1:32 with drums, bass, and a guitar coming in. The guitar (left of center) is strummed with a pick on the left stage and each string on the acoustic guitar is distinct. You should get a feel of the texture of the pick to string, though it sounds like a nylon strung guitar. You hear the strum louder than the notes being played for most of the guitar part as if it's mostly for texture not tone. The left guitar part is set further back as the second female vocalist comes in at 1:59. There is an electric guitar that comes in to the right at 1:35 or so. It is a warm sound with a slight mix of fuzztone and some reverb- sounds like a Gretch with vintage humbuckers a'la Brian Setzer's rockabilly rythm tone. It spends most of its time back with the piano in the mix but comes forward just behind the sax for a bit. Bass is center stage and tends to blend a bit with the low notes of the piano. It is not boomy but is full and clean. Finger pluck is not distinctly evident. Drums are led by a muted snare probably hit with a stick due to the tight attack. The snare is warm and muted and set back behind everything else on the stage just right of center. A muted ride cymbal is also evident and ticklike with almost no ring.

A saxaphone comes in for a solo on the left stage and it is very sweet - syrupy sounding. Nice highs but not piercing. A good mix of reed and brass in the tonality. I do not hear any distinct finger/valve sounds or breaths from the musician - just the burnished tone of the sax from 2:26 to 2:55. At 3:00-3:01 there is a bent note from an undetermined instrument - It is located at the same place and depth as an electric guitar that comes in shortly (right of center between Rebecca and Felicity, about mid-depth in the stage) , so I suspect it is a bend with volume swell from that instrument.

At 2:56 Felicity comes in right of center and behind Rebecca singing "Bring It On Home To Me". Felicity is backed by a male vocalist at far left stage. The male vocalist is behind Felicity, and Felicity is behind Rebecca putting the male vocalist pretty far back in the mix.

The track ends with a rolling cymbal flourish, a note from the sax, and a strum of the electric guitar (rolling from left to right) as the last piano notes ring on with the muting bar lifted for at least 7 seconds after the cymbal fades.

Judging notes:
Overall the stage seems to have a left-bias to it. There are more instruments placed to the left and they place further left on the stage than the instruments on the right stage. Center is centered by Rebecca, but overall the left stage is busier and has more distinct 'far'left' information than there is 'far right' information in the track. This track would therefore be a poor choice for judging stage width and balance as the left stage is naturally heavier in the mix. Instruments are focused and individually placed, so instrument size could be judged here. The bassline does not strech particularly low, but moves from below to above the usual midbass transition frequencies, so midbass/subbass transition could be judged here though not as easily as with Spanish Harlem due to the density of sound in those frequency ranges on this track. Differentiating the low notes of the piano from the Bass guitar may be done here as only the clearest setups will resolve this. There is not a lot of other specific detail in the midbass, but quite a bit in the midrange, so midrange clarity and detail could be judged here. There is a lot of midrange layering so midrange clarity could be judged here. High frequency detail will be judged here simply due to the delicacy of Rebecca's sibilance and the air in the early parts of the track. Ambiance will also be evident early in the track and is likely to be noticed by most judges. The male vocalist is also pretty far back in the track, so detail and clarity of his voice may also be an area of awareness by some judges. Similarly with the acoustic and electric guitar parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Chuck indicated via email that he has most of them. Maybe we can get him to rip the songs in some lossless format and upload them to DropBox. Hint-hint!

I'll upload this song as soon as I can and post a link here.

Anyone have a favorite/preferred upload location besides HotFile and MegaUpload? Anyone averse to Dropbox?

-T

Here it is:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/29395224/ALS.m4a
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Next track up is an ugly one. It's available as a free download from the Chesky site in 192KBs MP3 and the dropbox file is included here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/29395224/Stepping.mp3

Title: Circle Of Drums
Artist: Babatunde Olatunji
Genre: World / African
Label: Chesky Records
Release Date: 2005
Song- Stepping (Isise)

First off, on the free download this track clips starting at :36. I hope that is not the case with the CD version as the clipping appears in the midbass/subbass region. I'll have to wait until tonight to pull it into Audacity and see what it really looks like, but it sounds like ass on my AKGs.

There are a number of drums in this track - I tried to go through and count them out/ place them on the stage but got lost. There are at least 8 drums, a left and right cymbal, a left shaker, a snare, and two hand-hit toms to the right. For most of the song the shaker (left) and cymbal (right) keep counterpoint. There is a drum that appears at :24 with a resonance of some sort that sounds like a loose mount or something rattling behind the drum and gettin picked up by the mic. The drum that comes in on the left at :36 with the /beat pause beat beat/ rythm definitely clips or overdrives the mic throughout most of its use...and it gets used a lot. There is quite a bit of information well into the 20Hz and below region. If this track were cleaner on that big drum it would be a heck of a workout for finding resonances, but with the mic clipping I think many will confuse that artifact with a faulty/buzzing/bottoming midbass driver. It will be interesting to compare this mp3 with the actual CD track to see what differences exist.

I am left rather stunned and confused as to why THIS track would be selected for judging. It will be a difficult track to get right, and 'right' will be extremely subjective given the boomy nature of the big drums. Only the toms seem dry, taut, and well recorded. Everything else has way too much room boom. After the intro it is pretty boring and though it does have a lot of low frequency information it is of rather unpleasant/boomy quality. It seems a poor choice at this juncture from my perspective, and unlikely to sound really great in any car. Trainwreck.

-T

EDIT: This track is hampered significantly by a poor transfer to mp3. The original recording does not suffer any of the anomalies noted here. I recant my statement that this is a trainwreck. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Sounds perfect for my setup!
You are setup to reproduce crappy drum tracks? Suh-weet! ROFL!

I was hoping that the new disk would be better. Instead we are going from a dancing T-Rex in the background of Grandma's Hands to a pigmy mating dance on Stepping. Well, at least there's more diversity, right?
 

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I have a Telarc recording of Korean drums on vinyl that has some of the same issues you are describing. Excellent recording but disturbing at the same time. I know for a fact It's not my gear.

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Title: Ink
Artist: Livingston Taylor
Genre: Folk
Label: Chesky Records
Release Date: 1997

Song- Baker Street

The track begins with a 'rhythm' acoustic guitar at stage left (generally strummed down), four triangles to the left of center, a finger-plucked (probably upright acoustic) bass at deep center stage is body mic'd (no finger pluck evident), and a 'lead' acoustic guitar (occasionally up-strummed for counterpoint) at the right stage. The triangles are ...heavy for lack of a better term. They are not as airy as triangles tend to be and sound almost crystalline or glasslike. They are left to sustain with a metallic sheen and they continue to ring on to subsequent notes. They are not harsh.
The layering in this track is...almost disturbing. A number of sounds are laid almost on top of each other in this recording with no real sense of space or depth to separate them. In that sense it has a 'pop music' quality to it. Each instrument seems to be pot-panned to its location and not placed there naturally which I find odd from a Chesky recording. The guitars are close and larger than life to the far left and right. Livingston is dead center with the upright bass directly behind him. The bass is nicely recorded and set back in the recording in level, but you don't get the sense that it is at the back of the room. A pair of bongos (that were probably recorded in a separate recording space due to a pleasant ambiance that nothing else in the recording possesses) are placed deeper in the mix to the left and left of center. At 1:08 the triangles MOVE (apparently they are hung on a rolling cart?!) on the stage from left of center to dead center. They do overshadow his voice from time to time, namely from 1:08 to 1:16 often appearing where his head is on the stage (versus behind him). The harmonica is quite well recorded and appears just to Livingston's left ear (just to the right of center) apparently to deafen him (it is really close to being part of the center image). It doesn't seem to faze Livingston, however, whose voice is well recorded and has his trademark 'palpability' and 'chest' to it. If Livingston's voice is life sized, the guitars are ten feet long, however. Very close mic'd to capture the detail and texture of the pluck and string, they are blown out of proportion in the mix. In comparison the bass and bongos seem properly sized with Livingston on the stage. There is a slight (early/short) vocal reflection in the recording, but it is inconsistent with the rest of the acoustic space. Neither guitar show signs of room interaction as they are mic'd too close to notice. The bass seems recorded in a moderately dead space but I think there is a little bit of reflection from the floor there. The bongos are the only instruments that have a clear indication of room size in the recording, and they are placed back far enough that you could accept that as defining the acoustic space of the recording (or at least the depth of the room).

All in all this is a very pleasant studio recording in a pop music sense. It does not have the feeling of space associated with a 'live session' recording and the instruments, though they harmonize well together and are mixed together don't quite pull off the illusion of cohesion. The moving triangles and juxtaposition of space make this an unusual recording to judge from. I would not see this track used to judge instrument size or room ambiance. The track has a good center, left, left of center and right image. There is little to no 'right of center' in the recording making this another generally left biased track. The bassline is low in volume in the recording; just enough to fill out what would be an otherwise empty lower register besides the bongo. This is a really pleasant easy listening track with good detail that isn't overrun by any one thing. It is very well balanced tonally, and I think tonality is the one judgeable trait it really has going for it. Everything is smooth and detailed. That's about it from a judging perspective though. No significantly apparent height, depth is only due to the recording of the bongos, instruments are not properly sized, and they are layered over each other. For a judging disk this falls to 'meh' in technicality and 'pretty decent' in tonal enjoyability.
 

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Title: Ink
Artist: Livingston Taylor
Genre: Folk
Label: Chesky Records
Release Date: 1997

Song- Baker Street

The track begins with a 'rhythm' acoustic guitar at stage left (generally strummed down), four triangles to the left of center, a finger-plucked (probably upright acoustic) bass at deep center stage is body mic'd (no finger pluck evident), and a 'lead' acoustic guitar (occasionally up-strummed for counterpoint) at the right stage. The triangles are ...heavy for lack of a better term. They are not as airy as triangles tend to be and sound almost crystalline or glasslike. They are left to sustain with a metallic sheen and they continue to ring on to subsequent notes. They are not harsh.
The layering in this track is...almost disturbing. A number of sounds are laid almost on top of each other in this recording with no real sense of space or depth to separate them. In that sense it has a 'pop music' quality to it. Each instrument seems to be pot-panned to its location and not placed there naturally which I find odd from a Chesky recording. The guitars are close and larger than life to the far left and right. Livingston is dead center with the upright bass directly behind him. The bass is nicely recorded and set back in the recording in level, but you don't get the sense that it is at the back of the room. A pair of bongos (that were probably recorded in a separate recording space due to a pleasant ambiance that nothing else in the recording possesses) are placed deeper in the mix to the left and left of center. At 1:08 the triangles MOVE (apparently they are hung on a rolling cart?!) on the stage from left of center to dead center. They do overshadow his voice from time to time, namely from 1:08 to 1:16 often appearing where his head is on the stage (versus behind him). The harmonica is quite well recorded and appears just to Livingston's left ear (just to the right of center) apparently to deafen him (it is really close to being part of the center image). It doesn't seem to faze Livingston, however, whose voice is well recorded and has his trademark 'palpability' and 'chest' to it. If Livingston's voice is life sized, the guitars are ten feet long, however. Very close mic'd to capture the detail and texture of the pluck and string, they are blown out of proportion in the mix. In comparison the bass and bongos seem properly sized with Livingston on the stage. There is a slight (early/short) vocal reflection in the recording, but it is inconsistent with the rest of the acoustic space. Neither guitar show signs of room interaction as they are mic'd too close to notice. The bass seems recorded in a moderately dead space but I think there is a little bit of reflection from the floor there. The bongos are the only instruments that have a clear indication of room size in the recording, and they are placed back far enough that you could accept that as defining the acoustic space of the recording (or at least the depth of the room).

All in all this is a very pleasant studio recording in a pop music sense. It does not have the feeling of space associated with a 'live session' recording and the instruments, though they harmonize well together and are mixed together don't quite pull off the illusion of cohesion. The moving triangles and juxtaposition of space make this an unusual recording to judge from. I would not see this track used to judge instrument size or room ambiance. The track has a good center, left, left of center and right image. There is little to no 'right of center' in the recording making this another generally left biased track. The bassline is low in volume in the recording; just enough to fill out what would be an otherwise empty lower register besides the bongo. This is a really pleasant easy listening track with good detail that isn't overrun by any one thing. It is very well balanced tonally, and I think tonality is the one judgeable trait it really has going for it. Everything is smooth and detailed. That's about it from a judging perspective though. No significantly apparent height, depth is only due to the recording of the bongos, instruments are not properly sized, and they are layered over each other. For a judging disk this falls to 'meh' in technicality and 'pretty decent' in tonal enjoyability.
I agree with the Bongos giving a sense of the size of the room AND the one instance of the vocals. I thought the Harmonica was a little forceful and pronounced as if it was moved forward towards the mic from behind Livingston's left side. The Bass did seem low to me, but that could be my tune. I don't have anything for reference other than the CD I recorded and demo'd in my truck.

Great job Todd.

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Absolutely. Thanks for providing the track!

I really hope that the other tracks on the disk do a better job exhibiting the specific judging criteria. So far it's slim pickins!
 

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maybe MECA is finally taking a key from other orgs and designating specific tracks for specific things and getting away from the all in one tracks.

if so, this makes things easier and harder at the same time and alot will depend on the judges experience and knowledge and adherence to the rules
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I agree. I hope the Judges' training at Freezefest and other similar opportunities will help solidify the intent of each of the tracks. There seems to be a lot of diversity amongst the choices, but so far 2 of 3 don't hold up under tight scrutiny with obvious shortcomings as overall technical tracks. Mind you I am but one set of ears on these reviews, so I HIGHLY (no pun intended) anticipate more opinions on them (that's yous guys!). I am not billing myself as a set of golden ears, just trying to be accurate and complete as possible given the circumstances.
 

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ill get to it soon enough. I have the flu right now.

but I'll use the IASCA disc as an example.

1st half of the disc is tonality.
each track is used specifically to judge a specific area.
Superman Planet krypton is for subbass
The next track is Midbass
Star Wars is highs and midrange
etc....

Then you have technical tracks
Clair Marlo is the only track that you are suppose to use to judge center image.
The other tracks are the other imaging sections

doing things this way has obvious benefits--you can judge quicker, bc you only need to listen to specific sections or specific tracks to hear and score that area.
good judges do this anyway even with the chesky Disc.
I quick judge, Vinny does etc...

it also makes it very clear what track is used for what so there is no confusion. I found it somewhat frustrating that looking at the MECA scoring guidelines that for just about every single category it said use Spanish Harlem.

another good thing and bad thing is it can make tuning easier bc you can compensate in some area to make certain things stand out on certain tracks and it shouldnt matter in the end on another track.
Of course it may make it really jump out on another track--but if that area isnt being scored, then technically it shouldnt matter.
so thats where judging experience comes into play.

anyways, I am curious to see where all this goes

I am going to Thank Steve for including a pink noise track and plead with him to mandate a judging level to have more consistency across judges.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Next track up is an ugly one. It's available as a free download from the Chesky site in 192KBs MP3 and the dropbox file is included here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/29395224/Stepping.mp3

Title: Circle Of Drums
Artist: Babatunde Olatunji
Genre: World / African
Label: Chesky Records
Release Date: 2005
Song- Stepping (Isise)

First off, on the free download this track clips starting at :36. I hope that is not the case with the CD version as the clipping appears in the midbass/subbass region. I'll have to wait until tonight to pull it into Audacity and see what it really looks like, but it sounds like ass on my AKGs.

There are a number of drums in this track - I tried to go through and count them out/ place them on the stage but got lost. There are at least 8 drums, a left and right cymbal, a left shaker, a snare, and two hand-hit toms to the right. For most of the song the shaker (left) and cymbal (right) keep counterpoint. There is a drum that appears at :24 with a resonance of some sort that sounds like a loose mount or something rattling behind the drum and gettin picked up by the mic. The drum that comes in on the left at :36 with the /beat pause beat beat/ rythm definitely clips or overdrives the mic throughout most of its use...and it gets used a lot. There is quite a bit of information well into the 20Hz and below region. If this track were cleaner on that big drum it would be a heck of a workout for finding resonances, but with the mic clipping I think many will confuse that artifact with a faulty/buzzing/bottoming midbass driver. It will be interesting to compare this mp3 with the actual CD track to see what differences exist.

I am left rather stunned and confused as to why THIS track would be selected for judging. It will be a difficult track to get right, and 'right' will be extremely subjective given the boomy nature of the big drums. Only the toms seem dry, taut, and well recorded. Everything else has way too much room boom. After the intro it is pretty boring and though it does have a lot of low frequency information it is of rather unpleasant/boomy quality. It seems a poor choice at this juncture from my perspective, and unlikely to sound really great in any car. Trainwreck.

-T
OK, now with the actual track available - and not the MP3 - it is clear why this track was selected. It seems the conversion process to MP3 was the problem with the apparent clipping.

These drums are not easy. They are going to challenge your midbass and subbass drivers. Those left side drums are going to make you want to kill yourself trying to get them right. Nice taut heads with a full body and a reflective room. Freaking awesome.

They do get slightly tubby, but you will be immediately able to tell if it's the flabby bottom end from the room or the flabby bottom end from a crappy setup. These will be a tough one.
 

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Listening to Tracks through my AKG

Vivaldi could be used for Highs and Width ( I think)

Coryells is definitely Midbass-midbass to subbass transition
seems to be a very easily track to get alot of bloated sounding midbass
I'd prob quit listening after the 1st 20sec or so bc its an annoying track-definetlyyyy woooooould noooooot waaaaaant toooo heeeeear thiiiis duuuuude siiiing whiiiile oooon LSDDDDDDD....

Circle of Drums track is definitely a midbass to subbass transition track

Gypsy Flamenco I think could be ambiance, def seems that way through headphones and perhaps Width with the handclaps on both sides

Ink--is definitely a midrange track, just like the last disc using livingston taylor for midrange purity
I like this track but I prefer the original

Rebecca Pigeon track reminds me of that ALL SAINTS track, that came out in the 90s
-anyone know what im talking about?

Todd was right, this is a very bass heavy collection of music. a somewhat welcome change from the previous disc. I vehicles will add some warmth hopefully tryin to get the bass right


I'll listen on the home system or car and get an idea on imaging later this week
 
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