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Re: Digital Distortion

Subject: Re: Digital Distortion
From: Walter Knapp <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 14:24:20 -0400
Rich Peet wrote:
> Many already know this stuff and can disregard this post.
> But for the ones out there that are fairly new to digital recording 
> take note that distortion in the digital world does not sound the 
> same as distortion sounds in the analog world.
> In fact there are some well sold "famous" CD's out there on the 
> commercial market in natural sound that have a lot of digital 
> distortion.  Sometimes you have to know the critter to identify that 
> the recording is distorted and sometimes the people doing the 
> final "master" don't have a clue what a critter sounds like.
> Linked is a stereo 400kb wave download that is distorted on both 
> tracks.  One track is clearly more so but looking at the spectral 
> display can make you wonder a long time how the computer made the 
> bird sound like that. 
> I hope this post helps someone avoid recording that perfect sound 
> that ends up being more techno-garbage.

Nasty clipping, or maybe a limiter being overloaded. Note that you can 
get this sort of stuff before even getting to the digital. The analog 
front end can clip too.

Can hardly pick out the actual call for all the mess. Though I did not 
try filtering.

In some cases I should say that you may have to tolerate some of this 
distortion in a recording. Some things you get one shot at it, and have 
to live with what you got. Though this clip I'd not even keep. Lots of 
my frog survey recordings contain some clipping, unavoidable when you 
have to record regardless of conditions and need to get everybody. But 
listening recordings should try and avoid this.

I can attest that you need to carefully check the master. The GA Frog CD 
got all the way through the production run before I caught that one 
track had been dropped and another substituted. Somewhere after the 
master was checked for errors. I expect a new master to arrive today for 
me to sift through. And this time we also requested a copy of the run 
setup too before production. The studio doing the mastering had no clue, 
you had to know the frogcalls and be following along in the booklet.



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