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RABid Offline OP
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Have you noticed that under some audio conditions, some songs become unrecognizable while others hold up? I noticed it again this morning while taking a shower. I'm on my sister's farm and was using only my iPhone for audio in the shower. The higher pitched noise of the running shower took out certain highs that really threw some songs off big time. I've also noticed this in the car when the sound is turned way down, or when driving in heavy rain.

One thing that happens... Beats created with sounds that have a quick decay on the filter to add some pop to the individual sound, then are heavily compressed. When you remove the highs you are left with more of a pulse after the beat that can change the timing. When you mix sounds of this type with sounds that don't have filters you can actually change the pattern of the rhythm. That is just on drums. When this affect happens to apps, rhythm guitar and other instruments it really messes with a song.

Has anyone else noticed this? If not you must not have a sister who insists on turning the volume down to 1 while riding in a car. Does anyone ever test for this? I know people test their songs on different speakers, but do you test at different levels and simulate different conditions?


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Yes indeed!! In fact, I use this phenomenon to help me mix, and wrote the article Improve Your Mixes with Pink Noise - Really! about deliberately masking audio to find out whether levels are balanced with each other or not.

It sounds like a crazy idea but the people who have tried it agree that it's a very helpful technique.

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I notice this in the car when listening at a low volume.

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I always test mixes at low volume. If it sounds good in my "acid test" system at low volume, I'm done.

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Back when we went to restaurants....one favorite Tex-Mex place, always crowded, always playing rock radio 60s thru 90s barely audible above the margarita-fueled din - we made it a game to name the tune while waiting for our orders. And yes! It was remarkable how unrecognizable lots of tunes became with all that masking noise. Someone would guess right, and the rest of us would say no way, doesn't sound like that song at all. But it would be.

My ears have to have a downbeat or I get totally disoriented, listening. So I can confirm what Rabid says in the OP about the perceived beat changing due to the masking.

nat

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This is a great thread!! Thanks RaBId for posting it and thanks Craig for writing that article (bookmarked).

The basic theory rings true to me without even trying it. I guess I'll have to hunt down some pink noise.

There is more than one kind of pink noise, true? I've heard it described as "filtered white noise" with no more definition than that. You could analyze pink noise on an RTA but how do you choose which is best and for what style of music?


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I notice the same thing with speech. I usually listen to Morning Edition on the radio and unless I turn the volume up on the dinky clock radio in my bathroom really loud, when I get in the shower a lot of the words get lost. Then when I turn off the water I have to dive for the volume control or the speech is too loud.


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