• Mastered For iTunes (When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse)

    The loudness wars and the push for convenience over quality have been going on for quite awhile. After Metallica's official Death Magnetic release was sonically usurpedlink by the sound quality of the downloadable Guitar Hero version many people thought things couldn't get any worse. I'm not saying things have stooped to an even lower sonic level, but the "compression kings" Rick Rubin (Producer), Vladimir Meller (mastering Engineer), and The Red Hot Chili Peppers are at it again. The Chili Pepper's newest album I'm With You is due out August 30, 2011. Listening to the first single The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie via the iTunes Store I noticed something that was a bit surprising but considering this production Trio's history of sonic destruction it did not shock me.







     

    Mastered For iTunes

    According to the notes on the I'm With You iTunes Store pagelink, "The album was produced by Rick Rubin and is mastered specifically for iTunes to optimize sound quality." I've been unable to find information explaining exactly what this means, but it does not sound good (pardon the pun). I hope there are at least two different mastered versions of the album released. I won't hold my breath.

     
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    Comments 160 Comments
    1. AudioDoctor's Avatar
      AudioDoctor -
      optimized for a sub optimal medium?<br />
      <br />
      if they were optimizing it, would they not instead choose to use no dynamic compression, ensure the file was the highest bitrate and sample rate possible, and let us audiophiles download the 2GBs of FLAC encoded music?
    1. barrows's Avatar
      barrows -
      some of the Peppers music, but I just do not listen to it because the recordings seem so flat and uninvolving, such a pity.<br />
      Classic new catch phrase: "mastered for Itunes", I guess this translates into: compressed and limited so as to "feature" less than 5 dB of dynamic range.<br />
      When I was with PS Audio, I suggested we print up some t-shirts with circle slash sign and mp3 on one side, followed by spectrograms (or some other graphic representation) of an mp3 file, a redbook file, and then a 24/96 file on the other side. Too bad these never got made. I wish I knew of some way to promote quality sound in the mainstream-they did it with HDTV... It is curious to me, music as a medium of expression is so much more powerful than video or movies...
    1. Leo Pard's Avatar
      Leo Pard -
      I agree that iTunes is pure sonic excrement. <br />
      <br />
      I disagree about Rick Rubin. He is a genius.<br />
      <br />
      He single handedly saved the careers of the Cult, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and dozens of others<br />
      <br />
      Have you heard Audioslave records? Amazing.<br />
      <br />
      Please provide specific examples of "sonic destruction"?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Leo Pard - Have you ever talked to anyone in the music industry about Rick Rubin? I have. I've concluded he is no genius. Not even close.<br />
      <br />
      <i>"Please provide specific examples of "sonic destruction"?"</i><br />
      <br />
      Metallica -> Death Magnetic<br />
      RHCP -> Stadium Arcadium, Californication, By The Way, One Hot Minute<br />
      <br />
      These are just a few that come to mind.<br />
      <br />
    1. Leo Pard's Avatar
      Leo Pard -
      Chris, with all due respect, please don't pretend you are some sort of music industry insider. <br />
      <br />
      Do your homework..RR has produced a huge catalog of recording.<br />
      <br />
      You DO realize that the a producers pristine work can be destroyed either in the mastering suite, or by a record executive circle jerk.<br />
      I know this to be fact as a long time high school friend works for Universal in production. <br />
      <br />
      Listen to his Diamond discs, and again, the Audioslave records, which are pure sonic gold. Listen to Donovan's Sutras.<br />
      <br />
      We are on the same team..I hate iTunes and Apple should be utterly ashamed for lying to the public when they supposedly started selling "CD Quality" music.<br />
      <br />
      If you did your homework you would know that Metallica drove the process for Death Magnetic. They brickwalled the mixes because they were insecure they would be insignificant after such a long absence.<br />
      What do you expect from a bunch of drug addicted mental patients? <br />
      <br />
      They just put out a press release..RR is producing their next record too.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Chris <i>is</i> an insider in the Audio world and has close ties to the Music world. <br />
      <br />
      You might disagree with him, but he has more contacts that most people make in a lifetime... <br />
      <br />
      -Paul<br />
    1. driven -- by sound's Avatar
      driven -- by sound -
      Agree 100%! Music has the power to stir one's soul... even when they're not looking! :~)
    1. got tinnitus's Avatar
      got tinnitus -
      RR is not only a genius (I think you'll find this is official) he's an audiophile, too. And he cares about the compression issue. <br />
      <br />
      Compression is required. Regardless of the music content. But like all things, there is compression done well and compression done badly.<br />
      <br />
      I wouldn't read too much into the "made for i-tunes" tag. It's a sales gimmick.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. got tinnitus's Avatar
      got tinnitus -
      On RR again....<br />
      He made #72 as below. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      "British geniuses feature heavily in a 2007 list that notes the greatest living thinkers of our time - proportionately more than any other country.<br />
      The top 100 living geniuses was compiled by a panel of six experts in creativity and innovation from Creators Synectics, a global consultants firm.<br />
      The company emailed 4,000 Britons in the summer of 2007 and asked them to nominate up to 10 living people who they considered geniuses.<br />
      Each genius was then awarded scores out of ten against criteria which included: paradigm shifting; popular acclaim; intellectual power; achievement and cultural importance."
    1. heycarlos's Avatar
      heycarlos -
      Since you've talked to people in the record industry and have drawn a conclusion that he is not a genius (not even close) then please share.<br />
      <br />
      I will freely admit I've always admired his work (or what I believe to be his work) especially his production of early hip-hop (Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill, Run DMC, etc) and of course the Cult Electric. <br />
      <br />
      7 grammy awards and an impressive list of production:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Rubin_production_discography<br />
      <br />
      So Chris is this all BS according to your insiders?
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Maybe we should hold off on judging this until someone actually hear it!!<br />
      <br />
      For all we know "mastered especially for iTunes to optimise sound quality" may be the start of releasing lossless compressed 24bit audio - okay maybe that's stretching it too far but it COULD be a good thing and not equate to compression that so many people are assuming.<br />
      <br />
      Eloise
    1. howlingfeedback's Avatar
      howlingfeedback -
      The last metallica album was produced at a level which was butchered by extreme volume levels.<br />
      <br />
      But I think Metallica got the reaction they wanted, they have a history of this, the drum mix on St Anger its appaling, sounds like he's hitting a biscuit tin, but its done to provoke, its delibrate.<br />
      <br />
      But lets not go over the top, to call them a bunch of drug addicited mental patients is wrong, we're talking about sound production here, not judging people without hard facts.<br />
      <br />
      Most off their albums production wise are a good quality.<br />
      <br />
    1. tom's Avatar
      tom -
      for this first single ...Rain Dance Maggie<br />
      <br />
      i have both.. great song
    1. jp11801's Avatar
      jp11801 -
      Given the Stadium Arcadium digital release I'm not sure why this is real news or that someone is taking a "made for itunes" approach give all the 'I" marketing that goes on. <br />
      <br />
      Anyone with a turntable can hear Stadium Arcadium and hear that the 2 track mix tape sounded pretty great with plenty of dynamic range, The LP set mastered by Hoffman/Gray had wonderful tone and dynamics. <br />
      <br />
      So RR does a great job producing the sound and mix but given the climate both he and the RHCP release the final versions hot as hell. <br />
      <br />
      Here's to hoping Hoffman or Gray get to do a vinyl version of this release.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Jud's Avatar
      Jud -
      <i>So RR does a great job producing the sound and mix but given the climate both he and the RHCP release the final versions hot as hell.</i><br />
      <br />
      Yeah, I think this is really the answer. The artists get the production they want. A producer who tries to tell an established artist what to do, rather than the other way around, quickly becomes an ex-producer.<br />
      <br />
      Rather than arguing about labels like "genius," let's just say Rick Rubin's capable of very fine work like the last several Johnny Cash recordings, and has also been associated with recordings of less than stellar audio quality.<br />
      <br />
      (I'm not sure any Chili Peppers album sounds other than flat when one doesn't have a chance to get the visuals of the lads jumping around in their jockstraps. That was early days, though - do they wear clothes now in concert?)
    1. rich's Avatar
      rich -
      if RHCP decided that their newest work of art would be designed that way, no one is entitled to comment. Sounds an awful lot like people who bash George Lucas for adding SFX in Star Wars...I think it's up to the artist to decide what his work of art will be.<br />
      When I receive a letter I focus on the message, not on the paper and the ink that were used to write that letter.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Leo Pard's Avatar
      Leo Pard -
      Hey Chris:<br />
      <br />
      As one other poster pointed out, St. Anger comes screaming out the speakers like a freight train.<br />
      <br />
      In my mind, that pretty much absolves Rick R. Metallica has latched on to an aesthetic they think will put them in a certain place, and they have run with it. <br />
      <br />
      So do we now say Bob Rock is a tin eared buffoon? So how do we account for the Black Album and the rest of his work?
    1. Leo Pard's Avatar
      Leo Pard -
      Yes, I agree...my comment abut Metallica was probably unwarranted.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I guess the point I was making was that THEY have decided what direction the loudness war is going, not Rick Rubin.<br />
      <br />
    1. Leo Pard's Avatar
      Leo Pard -
      The point was not whether the track in question sounds good or not..it is the fact that Chris decided to make a blanket statement about Rick Rubin and Vladmir M. which most of us do not agree with, backed up by a curious statement about conversations with "industry people", un-named, who call into question Rick Rubin's talent.<br />
      <br />
    1. howlingfeedback's Avatar
      howlingfeedback -
      Guess whilst on the subject of Metallica, I like them the production on the Black album was outstanding Master Of Puppets V good (personal fav) Load V good all very good standard.<br />
      <br />
      But drumsound on St Anger ouch, but Metallica like to throw curve balls every now and then not many bands would put out Some Kind Of Monster, but their not every ones cup of tea(UK)Coffee(US).<br />
      <br />