Why do classic rock albums sound different than today?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by sws1, Nov 14, 2017.


  1. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    Aside from the volume difference, and compression differences, which I understand, what is the reason (do you think) for the sonic differences between a 70s rock album and today?

    What I hear:
    Much more bass today
    Lots more stereo material - sounds much wider today
    Todays music is MUCH brighter. Drums are snappy, etc.

    Is it that with digital, you can record more low end?
    Is is purely stylistic? i.e., no one back then would have wanted a sound like today
    Is it related to the need to put on vinyl?
    Is it that technology today makes these things easy to do?

    In testing my monitors, when you a/b a modern rock track against a classic rock track, the sound is SOOOO different. The classic rock tracks sound small and dull by comparison.
     
  2. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Supporting Member

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  3. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    The corollary to my original question is, "Why does the Joshua Tree sound like it was smothered in mashed potatoes, given they were the biggest band at the time?" It just sounds so dull. Even the remaster sounds like mush. I wish they'd re-record.
     
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  4. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    I'm not sure I buy that completely. If you switch genres (e.g., old Steely Dan), they were able to produce an album that sounds like it could fit today. Good use of stereo, deep bass, lots of high end.

    Are you saying the fidelity was not as good, or that they were limited in terms of the number of tracks?
     
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  5. Taller

    Taller Member

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    In a DAW, you can utilize as many plugins and tracks as you want. In a real studio environment, you were limited to what was on hand and making it all fit in the space of 4, 8, 16, or 24 tracks (for the most part). In turn, IMHO, the recordings were as good as you could make them within those limitations. That said, it makes it all the more amazing to listen to an album like 'Sgt. Pepper's...'
    Because of the increased flexibility that a DAW allows, there's also been an advancement to recording techniques used (I'm thinking specifically of parallel compression on drums that make them 'stand out' more).
     
  6. Rex Anderson

    Rex Anderson Member

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    Is it that with digital, you can record more low end?

    Tape could record low end. Vinyl records could not store it well.

    Is is purely stylistic i.e., no one back then would have wanted a sound like today?

    Production aesthetics have changed over the years. Every decade had a style and sound, especially for drums. It's an evolution.


    Is it related to the need to put on vinyl? Partly.


    Is it that technology today makes these things easy to do? Yes to some degree. Recording and mastering engineers have learned a lot about sound quality and monitor loudspeakers have gotten much better.

    A lot of vintage gear (consoles, compressors etc) is still in use and sounds just like it did in the 70's but engineers know how to make it sound different.

    In testing my monitors, when you a/b a modern rock track against a classic rock track, the sound is SOOOO different. The classic rock tracks sound small and dull by comparison.[/QUOTE]

    Make sure to listen at the same volume, but that is hard due to mastering techniques that compress and limit to make perceived volume louder.
     
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  7. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Supporting Member

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    Tape, much like tubes, have a much more natural compression than almost any digital recreation. The signal to noise ratio and dynamic range was just as good as today's high bit digital in the later recorders. Moreover, recording tape machines had/have their own imperfections for better or worse that imparted "that sound" in the pre-digital recording world. Digital recording was/is about accuracy of the source material. So, it can be less forgiving and it just isn't the same reproduction of the source as tape. That's not saying it is better or worse. Just to the OPs point, it sounds different.
     
  8. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    I do compare with volumes the same, and the old ones mostly still sound narrow by comparison.

    Perhaps back then, your typical 4-5 piece rock band wasn't conceiving of what a band like Muse does today...with their incredibly multi-layered tones. 3 or 4 samples under the kick drum, etc.
     
  9. taez555

    taez555 Member

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    Limitations on # of tracks and gear, combined with well rehearsed and prepared bands.
     
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  10. gtr777

    gtr777 Supporting Member

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    I think limitations had a lot to do with it as well then just the medium. Many mixers only had certain frequencies that could be adjusted. Effects wise you were limited by the amount you had on hand. Track counts were much lower compared to today where most commercial records have 100+ track counts. Also routing...back then every time you added an effect the signal had to travel a length of cabling unlike today. I'm sure that had an effect on the tone. Also just how many times you ran the tape could effect the tone. Every time the tape went past the play head you were potentially losing fidelity.

    So many other reasons but these are some that I can think of besides just being recorded to tape.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
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  11. Craig L

    Craig L Member

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    It probably also depends on the tape and recorder being used, recording decks were evolving pretty rapidly back then. 2 inch tape running at 30 inches per second on a 24 track recorder sounds a lot better than the smaller tape used in the older 16 track decks.
     
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  12. mbell75

    mbell75 Member

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    Most of todays music is highly polished with a ton of tracks and modern mics using computer based DAWs. When we go into record this new album, we are going to do it as old school as we can. We are going to play live all in the same room with old school room mics to capture the live energy and vibe and we are doing it analogue, no digital. Will probably be time consuming because if someone messes up, not like you can just punch in to their track and fix it in post. Will be awfully rewarding though. Some of it is also how you are listening to it. My friend has a massive sound system in his studio. The turntable alone is worth like $5k I think, incredible speakers and sub woofers. Listen to a digital version of a song, even a newer one, and then listen to it on vinyl. The difference is night and day. The vinyl has a warmth, depth and presence to it the digital file just cannot duplicate. Like the difference between a tube amp and a digital amp.
     
  13. Hurricane

    Hurricane Member

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    :cool:
    I bit$hed about the poor quality on my Itune downloads
    and got them to re down load the song and solved many
    poor quality sounding issues .

    I thought the digital revolution was going to solve inconsistencies
    in sound quality and it has over all in the individual recording independent
    artist . These recordings all seem to sound consistent and great where digital
    re issues do not at first .

    A lot of us who were there during these classics came out and know when we
    are being fed poor quality or inferior quality sound .

    ¡ Can't fool us on that !

    When [ Direct To Disc ] recording came out they were the rave and then CD's
    popped up and killed the [Direct To Disc ] industry .


    This LP [ Direct To Disc ] is what many audio repair center's and audiophiles used
    to test their speaks/systems :


    EZ :

    HR
     
  14. GaryMcT

    GaryMcT Gold Supporting Member

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    You will notice that old boom boxes sounds fantastic for music from the period, but modern stuff sounds terrible on them. They weren’t designed for wide frequency range.

    I found the same thing with a 50’s jukebox I own. Only the old stuff sounds good on there, and it sounds great!
     
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  15. mixwiz

    mixwiz Member

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    As for the drums, much of it was the style of the day. Drums were recorded as dry as possible and as a result, many sounded like quaker oat boxes. This led to the complete opposite in the late 70's and 80's, the era of cathedral reverb and gated verb snares.
     
  16. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

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  17. Crowder

    Crowder Dang Twangler Silver Supporting Member

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    There were a lot of standard practices in mixing and mastering that were put in place due to the limitations of tape, vinyl, AM radio, etc. Frequencies below or above a certain range were going to be rolled off eventually, so a lot of engineers went ahead and did it at their stage of the process so they wouldn't have to wonder how the final product was going to be compromised by the next process down the line. The people designing the hardware surely considered these limitations too, which had an impact on where EQ bands were placed (among many other factors).

    A by-product of this is that more attention was paid to the midrange and fitting everything together. There was still a desire to make things sound bigger and better on record than was possible in a live setting, which I think is how we ended up with that thick midrange that really flatters voices, guitars and snares.

    If you go back to the first generation of "mixed and mastered in digital" albums you can hear how the mids thinned out and there was a sudden emphasis on lows and highs. People were so excited to hear those things for the first time and they overdid it. It sounded fresh to a lot of us because it was different, but it didn't age very well. I'm thinking of 1986-1988 or so.
     
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  18. batsbrew

    batsbrew Member

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    rundgren mixed bright.

    i think anyone could have mixed something that sounds modern now, and it not have to do with tape.

    case in point.... foo fighters wasting light.
    done on tape.

    the tape argument is really irrelevant to me....

    it's more about choices.

    a lot of todays music is harsh.

    in the 70's, especially with vinyl playback, they were limited with highs and lows,
    but gravitated towards a mellower overalll sound, because people used to actually sit around and listen to entire albums back to back.....
    if you did that with a lot of modern mixes,
    you'd have a headache!
     
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  19. zeffbeff

    zeffbeff Member

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    I'm not sure if technology is the primary culprit.

    The Strokes first album is digital, but it sounds very mellow, because that's what they were aiming for.

    I find today's extreme production to be harsh.
     
  20. MikeMcK

    MikeMcK Member

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    Don't forget about the fact that '70's albums were vinyl (or cassette). I'm not talking about which is "better", but there were limitations imposed by pressing vinyl records. This is part of the reason the first CD's (made from the same masters used to make records) were called harsh, brittle or grainy. People thought that digitizing music was losing information. On the contrary, digitizing was accurately reproducing information that had always been lost in the analog manufacturing process.

    Today's hottest mastering engineers tend to be a lot younger than they were in the '70's. Back then the thought was that successful mastering engineers were people who'd been in music for 30 or 40 years. What folks didn't realize at the time was that 50- or 60-year-old ears were better for mastering, since they tended to lean on high end information that would eventually be attenuated in production... basically accounting for the limitations of vinyl.
     

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