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Digital Stress?


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Just ran into this article today. I don't know if I can totally agree, but I've had enough uncomfortable feelings about digital over the years to believe there is at least a trace of merit to what the Dr. has to say. What do ya'll think? web page
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I don't think digital recordings in and of themselves are the source of 'digital fatigue' per say, but rather the huge amounts of Compression applied to the Mastering process of CD's and other types of digitized recordings in todays music. The Nyquist Theorem, - (Nyquist taught us that for periodic functions, if you sampled at a rate that was at least twice as fast as the signal of interest, then no information (data) would be lost upon reconstruction. And since the Fourier Theory had already shown that all alternating signals are made up of nothing more than a sum of harmonically related sine and cosine waves, then audio signals are periodic functions and can be sampled without lost of information following Nyquist's instructions. This became known as the Nyquist frequency, which is the highest frequency that may be accurately sampled, and is one-half of the sampling frequency.


Harry Nyquist (1920's) showed that to distinguish unambiguously between all signal frequency components we must sample at least twice the frequency of the highest frequency component.


If the Nyquist Theorem is eventually proven wrong or lacking, it could lead to the digitizing process as a whole as possibly being the culprit or at least suspect in the cause or a precursor to the so called digital fatigue. But since his Theorem is still substantiated, corroborated and intact the logical conclusion as to the source of 'digital fatigue' is not in the digital conversion process itself but as I think; it is in the massive amounts of Compression used in the digitizing process of the majority of todays music CD's and other types of digital recordings.


And I think that that Guru doctor is hoping to cash in on unsubstantiated and unfounded scientific proof to the contrary, and so he's trying to sell those 'supplements' to an unsuspecting and uninformed public.


Anything to make a buck, right Doc? :rolleyes:

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There's a trace of merit here, yes. Especially when you consider the original article was written in 1980, when available digital technology produced some pretty harsh and strident-sounding recordings.


I think it is certainly cool that Dr. Diamond is evangelical about the benefits of music to human beings, and even cooler that he has a band that performs great American standards for senior citizens who might not otherwise get to hear live music. He has a lot of interesting things to say on the site, but they're undermined by a lot of fallacious reasoning throughout, typified by the following argument at the very beginning:


"At the age of 70, when some 50% of American males are already dead, some 80& of musical conductors are still alive, healthy, and productive."


Two problems here: (1) Of those conductors, how many are female? Females typically live longer than males. (2) Even if we ignore the first problem, the number of conductors in the world is such a small fraction of the number of males that any freshman statistics student could tell you (provided they didn't cut a lot of classes) it's an insignificant, unrepresentative sample. That means no cause-and-effect conclusions can even remotely be drawn about music prolonging life, at least not from this argument on its own.


He also repeatedly refers to his testing process as very difficult and containing many variables, requiring expertise, etc. In itself, this is not so audacious a claim, insofar as it's true of anything that truly follows the scientific method. But the vaugeness about the details of the test seems to contradict an essential tenet of that method: repeatable results. The thing that looks most suspicious in this regard is footnote 6:


"Note that after a certain period of exposure to the digital signal, the subject will be so reversed that there will be a paradoxical false pseudo-positive response. This can totally invalidate the results of the untrained tester." (Italics are his.) Wha? I'll translate: "If you repeat my test and get different results, you must be doing it wrong!" The classic pseudoscience dodge of untestability. (For a great discussion of this, read the chaper in Carl Sagan's excellent book The Demon-Haunted World entitled "The Dragon in my Garage.")


In fairness, I haven't read the AES journal articles this summary article was based on, but you can look 'em up and download them online (www.aes.org) and I intend to do so. At this point, my evaluation is somewhat affected by the fact that Diamond's web site hawks a supplement pill that's supposed to counteract the effects of listening to PCM recordings! Besides, Walter Becker of Steely Dan was onto the problem a long time ago. If only he'd known about the Life Energy supplement... hell, I'll chop it up and snort it for when I listen to anything tracked through 888/24's!


OK, so I'm getting facetious. Fecetious, even. Dr. Diamond obviously has some knowledge and vocabulary both in the music/recording and holistic health areas, and sees a niche. That's fair. I've even noticed differences in my emotional state when I listen to a current audiophile digital recording versus a first-generation chestnut from my CD collection. I think the grain of truth is simply this: Sonics that contain harsh, strident artifacts do indeed cause stress. This isn't necessarily because they're digital, though it might be a byproduct of bad digital. Fingernails on a chalkboard, or fingertips on an inflated balloon are much more stressful than "If You Love Someone Set Them Free" in my old Magnavox CD player, and they're both completely analog signals!


Now if we could get Dr. Diamond fired up about today's mastering practices... :idea:

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine


Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse



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I drove a truck for a while and people displayed digital stress toward me quite frequently, but that's another study, I suppose.


I'm not buying into the supplement, but I can certainly relate to some of what he says. I think perhaps there is something to the sampling rate, as well. I don't sense that "coldness" in later samples like I did in the earlier ones. Most of us can immediately feel the warmth of an analog recording.


Perhaps this even has something to do with--I almost hate to bring it up again--the fact that stereo piano samples sound so terrible in mono. We're only getting half the sample. Maybe that's why it pisses so many of us off. :idea::P

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Sure, the subjects fall asleep easier with analog. It's the hiss! You can buy devices made to generate white noise to help block out background sounds. With the analog recordings it comes built-in!


I wonder how many composers died before they got around to being composers? Or maybe the traits that are inherent in a naturally longer-lived person are similar to the traits that make someone want to be a composer. Maybe we could claim that being the pope makes you live long, as popes were all real old people...


If it's the "detail" of digital recording that gets this guys goat, maybe he should simply start using Wal-Mart stereos for listening to the music; very little detail survives those sound systems.


Although when music is shoved through a lossy compression system (like mp3) a lot of artifacts are going to exhibit themselves (pre-echo, etc), so a person used to quality sound reproduction could be put on edge by them.


Maybe he needs "digital-ready" speakers?

"shit" happens. Success Takes Focus.
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I think the difference in "warmth" between early digital recordings and later ones has more to do with the development of understanding of the medium, and what contributes to what experience, than it does with any substantial change in the technology itself.


It's a kind of Catch-22, because the people who care enough to record in 24/96 or at 48kHz are also the people who'd probably sound better in 16-bit "straight standard" digital as well, whereas the engineers recording directly to standard probably in some cases would still sound harsh and cold if you gave 'em terabytes of storage and a Nyquist frequency of 88kHz to work with...



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MP3 is a compressed format but there is not a substantial loss (theoretically at least) when compressing audio (.wav, .wma, etc.) into .mp3's. But as we know, some of the data is lost in the conversion and compression process and the sound is less than optimal nor is it ultimately truly desireable needless to say if you are an audio purist. But as we know .mp3's are a great way to take a large .wav or other audio file and make it much smaller and a whole lot easier to store and share with others on the internet.


However this convenience of compressed audio introduces problems in playback. Sound quality lost due to compression and the unpleasant artifacts of decompression cause apparent listener fatigue. The recording also loses its life-like qualities, sounding flat and tinny, causing in some cases for the listener quickly to lose interest.


Current technologies addressing this problem are lacking in several ways. Most are designed to compress the dynamic range: making the music sound louder but ultimately losing detail, clouding clarity and creating fatigue in the listener. Other alternatives introduce vector-based (HRTF) - Head Related Transfer Function - 3D positional schemes that, while adding the perception of width in certain listening positions, have the undesirable effect of adding phase anomolies, comb filtering and audio "picket fencing" effects to the listening sound field.



>> Enter Intel Corporations software only audio sound restorer solution - "Sonic Focus".


The article below is taken from UK based journalists, that were invited to a sound demo carried out by Sonic Focus, the company charged by Intel to develop the Intel Audio Studio, the underlying software to analyse and modify the sound stream to restore compressed audio to its former glory.


>> "If any of you have heard through a reference Hi-Fi system the effect that encoding to mp3 has on a high quality audio stream you may never buy an online mp3 again. The sound engineers of Sonic Focus, absolute specialists in audio streaming and psycho-acoustic designs, have created an engine (Adaptive Dynamics Refinement System) that through software alone has the capability to restore the compressed sound. I was sceptical at first, as I questioned how you could put something back in that had been discarded at the encoding stage; my scepticism was soon to be laid to rest. The demo, in both stereo and 5.1 matrixed surround was breathtaking; the realism given to Eric Claptons guitar was amazing considering the 128kb rate mp3 that was its source. "


Adaptive Dynamics Refinement System (ADRS)


PS: This development by Intel Corp. in conjunction with Sonic Focus is suppose to revolutionize the PC Audio experience and from what I understand Sonic Focus's software will be available in the not too distant future. It will only be available on Intel Motherboards (the lastest ones) but I would think down the road the Sonic Focus software will be made available to all Intel based Brands of Motherboards eventually. At least I hope so anyway.


The next step after that would be to not only have the ability to listen to fatigue free compressed audio on a PC but to be able to encode .wav and other audio file formats using a similar technological breakthrough method and convert them to .MP3 or .CDA and then burn them to CDR's and be able to listen to that same high quality fatigue free sound in your Car, portable CD player, or your Home CD player. :)

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Originally posted by Anomaly:

Just ran into this article today. I don't know if I can totally agree, but I've had enough uncomfortable feelings about digital over the years to believe there is at least a trace of merit to what the Dr. has to say. What do ya'll think? web page

I think he's trying to sell you something. Notice that the claims are completely anecdotal. The highly impressive numbers in sqaure brackets are footnotes not references to peer reviewed journals.


That said, CD standard sampling (44.1Kzhz, 16 bit) is clearly not enough to give genuine High Fidelity. Even though you will see hugely impressive numbers for fidelity they are measuring the sound as if it was analog - ie by using very long running sine waves. These contain no positional information at all.


You can see the problem in its simplest form by considering a sine wave at exactly the Nyquist frequency. By shifting its phase 90 degrees you can go from a nice fat signal to no signal at all! At lower frequencies the signal out will change as the phase of the signal (relative to the sampling) changes. So your high frequency partials get mangled even though they are less than the Nyquist frequency.


I can't wait until we get 96Khz 24bit DVDs as a consumer standard. Its strange to me that the industry has not already moved to this, especially as it would be a nice fillip to the record companies, just as people duplicated their collections when we went from Vinyl to CD.


I would also like to see synth manufacturers go to 96Khz. I am sure we will end up with that as a standard and we don't want to still be using 44.1 Khz synths when that happens.

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