Take Me to School (Understanding Audio Better)

Cool site for learning how to understand Audio better.


I figured this could live here as I don’t want to further clutter up the ‘All Things Music’ category. It’s a really great data expose on the repetitive use of song lyrics.


Nice read. It’s an interesting thought though. Without going into the data and just having a think as to what your personal thoughts are. It’s a tough question. Just off the top of my head I would have said pop songs were more repetitive in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Just gut feeling. I don’t know why. It just seems that there were more catchy maybe cheesy repetitive pop songs around then. I may be mistaken. Just thinking out loud really. Interesting though.


I thought the article was interesting, well written, seemingly solid in research and methodology (albeit limited in scope), and aesthetically engaging. That website is a time suck, so watch out! I think one aspect of the music industry that the article doesn’t address is the proliferation and accessibility of music. The sample set is certainly ‘Main Stream’ oriented and doesn’t include a lot of artists that don’t fit that mold. Indie, in all it’s forms (hip hop, folk, rock, etc.), isn’t overly repetitive and often socially conscious, but not included in the analysis because it doesn’t have the artist recognition (Though the same could be said about earlier generations of indie music; however, I would still argue music has never been this easy to produce or access making the potential data set that much larger and complex.). Strangely, I think the analysis is a more reflective piece on how binary, how this or that, US culture has become as a whole. The article almost reads like you either have to choose repetition or shun it all together if you want to find main stream success in today’s music industry. It’s ridiculous… There’s plenty of room and enough resources for everyone (another totally different conversation to be had here!).


This is certainly a hugely complex question with no easy answers. There are just too many variables to give a simple answer.


Oh for sure, it’s a good conversation and point of reflection though as music is a shared experience and representation of a few aspects of our culture. Couple the above data and research with the below and the conversation expands in complexity (even if the music is contracting).


Yes, interesting article. There are a thousand other factors to consider. One that struck me was the relationship between personality and genre:

Mainstream pop appeals to one social segment and one set of expectations from music. Pulling two extremes from the 1980s chart (in the original article), the Cars were a 3 minute light singles band, while Bruce Springsteen was the master of long and complex laments. Despite the common misreading of Born in the USA and the happy feelings it evoked, they had completely opposite goals for the bulk of their careers.

In addition, non-vocal artists and genres can be quite complex despite simple lyrics. Many metal sub-types as well as progressive and orchestral rock focus on musical structures while the lyrics are often secondary (e.g., Nightwish released an album with two discs: one with and one without lyrics; virtually everything from Yingwie Malmsteen is about guitar only). Also consider the moody atmospherics of the early Cure (vs. later straight-up pop), and the structured textures of Sonic Youth and the early Pixies.

For the consideration of vocal complexity, this hip-hop study made an impact upon its release:

I purchased an Aesop Rock album because of the study – and found his style was as much word salad as it was lyrics. Interesting, but certainly not for every day.

Finally, my view on ‘mainstream’ pop is that it was largely an artifact of the broadcast era. Long ago there were live entertainers, roaming bards/minstrels, high-brow court music, sheet music, and ordinary people playing folk music at home. With the invention of the record, radio, and TV networks, the means of production and distribution were costly and limited. So, mainstream music was born. This appealed to the largest market segment and offended few.

Mainstream started to break down in the 1960s with the rise of rock & roll, and then really split from ‘broad casting’ into ‘narrow casting’ around the release of The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). Shortly thereafter there was heavy metal, punk, progressive rock, and a million niches. One couldn’t turn to a single radio station any more, and this has become every more fractured with the rise of DIY production and the web.

So, what this article calls ‘mainstream’ today is a very different thing than what happened until the 1960s. If you made it then you had the talent or charisma to get through the tight industry filters, or were chosen very carefully to be the flavor of the week. Today, mainstream is inoffensive happy-and-danceable music that appeals to people on first listen and doesn’t scare advertisers. Different era = different definition.

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Been listening to him since early 2000s, his latest stuff is hard to get into but the dude has a vocabulary for sure.

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Whilst that is a neat explanation, it misses out and sadly encourages readers to not recognise our ability to perceive frequencies much higher than 20khz - that then as a result of often being cut off abruptly, change and influence the frequencies we hear directly.

Authors David Blackmer

and James Boyk provide insight into this



There’s reason to believe that it’s just IMD or sensory organs allowing perception thereof via bone conduction or similar. Sure humans might be able to reliably perceive ultrasound in controlled conditions (https://superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/ultrasound-audibility.8033/), but whether or not this actually means anything for music is another matter entirely.

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There is nothing really stopping the CD standard being now amended to allow a frequency response twice, what it currently provides. If we compare the typical CD player - noting exceptions being Pioneer’s Legato Link there is an abrupt filter between 20khz and 22.05 Khz. Looking at the graphs provided by James Boyk it is IMO un-natural to abruptly filter well known acoustic instruments. http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~boyk/spectra/spectra.htm

If we compare to a Denon DL103 cartridge, it has a frequency response to 45 Khz

We can thankfully now see some digital device manufacturers already catering for extended frequency response like this one to 80Khz https://www.fiio.com/m9_parameters

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I do not very often listen to live, unamplified music, almost never nowadays in fact, so it may well be that my ears are simply ruined. That said I’d really rather have well-done Redbook (44.1kHz, 16 bit) than hi-res releases made simply for hi-res’s sake.

Convenience, really, and the fact that most consumer gear or listening environments simply won’t be able to the increased sampling rate or abyssal noise floor justice. Moreover having to deal with that much more data may well just be unnecessarily taxing on systems.

I’m familiar with the studies you’ve linked to so far, I came across them a long while back when I sought to determine whether it was worth my time investing in DSD or no. My hearing/pitch differentiation tops out at just around those 17.4kHz mosquito tones over on audiocheck.net, though I need ideal listening conditions to discern that much, and I personally see no need to increase the frequency bandwidth of common music codecs; storage is getting cheaper, yes, but it’s still a massive pain in the pooter keeping an archive of 4.5GB albums in check. Honestly at that point building a decent analogue system may prove a better pursuit.

But that’s simply my opinion, and my average hearing.

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Good discussion, I think both sides have merits. Depending on the listener, environment and gear used higher freq/lower freq could add that last bit of enjoyment…but on the flip side, if you can’t discern it what is the point…outside of getting the sound to it’s max potential possibly.

At the end of the day no one is wrong for liking what they like (speaking in terms of music, and music gear here lol).

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There have been two disc-based formats that have tried this.


SACD was typically offered in a form where it had both a standard Redbook CD standard playable layer, as well as a high resolution layer. So you could play it on standard hardware.

The market, collectively, said “We don’t want it.”

DVD-A was a harder sell, as it needed a DVD-A capable player to play at all.

The market was even less polite about DVD-A.

I am deliberately excluding HFPA (Blu-Ray Audio) as it seemingly never made enough headway for even most audiophiles to have heard about it, let alone bought into it.

Which is not to say there’s no technical merit in a higher-resolution distribution media. There’s just not sufficient demand for anyone to bother.

Look at the numbers around streaming services, even. Lossy services are far more heavily subscribed than lossless ones. And even those that offer lossless material have a lossy-tier which often makes up most of the subscriber base. All those users have to do to get provably higher fidelity audio, never mind speculatively-audible improvements which may or may not even exist in the master, is click a different subscription option and pay $20 a month instead of $10 … yet even among audiophiles many don’t bother.

The studios have made several attempts at selling higher resolution material. So far it has always worked out the same way.


Cater to the many not the few…but charge a butt load to those few :wink: because they “know” and will pay for it.

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Exactly. If we look at the bizarre marketing efforts of record companies detailed in the wonderful video https://youtu.be/oVME_l4IwII we can see why little effort to promote SACD has been made. Very few of us would be concerned with higher audio quality where such artists are prominent, because I dare say few of us would purchase a SACD of this type of music.

The historic problem is record companies no longer talent scout, and rely on artists presenting a business case that sadly has very little to do with music, or proper audio presentation.

SACD is popular to those who know about it, and care about actual music and should be encouraged.

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I’m in the camp that thinks SACD should be killed, with fire.

It needs to be replaced with something that either a) isn’t hobbled with quality-crippling restrictions, limiting high-resolution output to the built-in analog outputs on four-figure players that utilize internal DAC technology that is handily outpaced by standalone units at 1/10 to 1/20th the price, or b) that doesn’t requires jumping through an asinine array of hoops, with ultra-specific hardware and software requirements (most of which is no longer made), to extract the audio to play on something sensible.

At best, physical media is dying.

For most it’s already dead.

The battle now is in convincing the labels, and then the studios, to treat the source material “properly” (it’s all nonsense anyway if that part is omitted), keep processing in as non-destructive format as possible (which pretty much means high-resolution PCM aka DXD, as that avoids the greatest number of mathematically lossy conversions), and then making it widely available for high-resolution purchase in a suitable high-resolution format (PCM, DSD and MQA are all viable, even if the second and third are not universally supported nor, necessarily, desirable per prior caveats).

The record companies can undertake whatever marketing they like … the public already voted - convenience and price trump quality. It’s true of music. It’s true with movies. It’s true with cars, cameras, food and even healthcare.

Unless you can deliver usefully (i.e. people care) better quality, for the same price, without sacrificing convenience, it’s a losing battle.

While others tilt at that particular windmill …

I’ll be exploring and enjoying the several life-times of existing, compelling music, that already exists and is easily available. Not all of it is in ideal shape, technically, but I’d still rather listen to poorly recorded good-music than “English Recorder Classics” in Native DSD512.

Compare the SACD release of “Ella and Louis” with an original, pre-digital, version and, well, you’ll get my point.


The masses will win every time…and they take no prisoners…Look at the different mediums of the past couple of decades:

Beta vs VHS: Beta technically better? but VHS was cheaper and easier to get a hold of

Laser Disk vs DVD: once again Laser disk was “better” but who wanted to have a CD the size of a record? Ain’t nobody got space for that!! :wink:

HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray: this one was closer, but Blu-ray dominated so bye-bye HD-DVD… as I recall HD-DVD had a better storage capacity? don’t quote me, and I’m being lazy about moving my hands off the keyboard to grab my mouse and click on the “new tab” icon and search for myself as I’m not “that” vested in this :wink:

and finally

Physical vs Digital media: Digital is wining out, everything as a service creates too much revenue and is super easy for the customer/consumer, because they don’t have to store anything larger than a tablet/phone/laptop/computer/game console, etc. to gain access to things they purchase…now if ever there was a problem with the internet those solely relying on it for entertainment are kinda f’d…but you can always download your playlists to your device based on most services.

Outliers: Resurgence in Vinyl collectors/they never really went away but now they are back with a vengeance… also it seems CDs and to a much smaller degree Tape players are also having a resurgence…I blame hipsters and others of their ilk :wink: I have a small LP collection, and a decent FLAC collection that I ripped from my CDs and promptly donated.

Feel free to ignore this post as it is me just rambling and avoiding doing a review :wink: and are also just my thoughts on the matter and not scientific/or overly analytical in any way shape or form.


IIRC laserdisc was double sided and required both sides for a feature length. In that sense, it inherited my least favorite feature of vinyl records, namely that you can’t listen to a full album uninterrupted, at least not without special equipment. A good movie, like a good album, is a complete work and deserves better.


Most feature-length LaserDisc movies were 2-discs using 3 or 4 sides. I had hundreds of the bloody things (pre-DVD getting its shit together).

An interesting anomaly was that often that one disc would be lower-quality CAV and the other (shorter one) more consistent CLV.