Annoying things at concerts. Stop doing this!

Bruce Springsteen on a stage being reached out to by his fans

For most people, live concerts are the only times to feel most connected to beloved artists. We buy tickets month beforehand, anticipate the drive and energy, and then somebody just ruins it. Bad experiences affect us more than hearing our favorite hit live. I've been through this lots of times, and I'd always feel ambivalent about such gigs. It happens because we perceive concerts as a whole thing. I mean, when somebody asks 'How was the gig?', you start recalling the performance itself, the crowd, the overall vibe, and that jerk that spilled your drink. Here are some other annoying things that can ruin our experience of live gigs. 

People with huge backpacks

Come on you now. You're now going hitchhiking, neither on an expedition. I have no idea why take something bigger than a waist bag. If you for some reason have all your belongings on you, leave them at a cloakroom. 
A man carrying a lots of small bags
Girls wearing heels 
There's a special place for you in hell. 
A clumsy man wearing high heels
Bands that don't play hits
If you bought a Gorillaz ticket and Albarn didn't play Clint Eastwood, how would you feel? Would you be happy? No, you would burn the venue to the ground. 
An annoyed man hitting a desk with his head
Love is beautiful, no debate here. Couples making out with a horrible tongue-mouth mashup – not beautiful. 
A tongue-mouth mashup featuring Johnny Depp

When somebody spills your drink

It's a devastating feeling when you realize that crawling through the crowd was meaningless. There's no choice but go back for another beer.
A sad kid

When you spill somebody's drink, and they're mad

Give me a break, it's packed here. It's your fault anyway, you should've been more careful about your precious drink.
A lady from Star Trek saying 'Not my fault'

Tall people

Tall people remember: you are the least expected people at any concert. Stand as close to the scene to ruin somebody's day. 
A joke about height

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Continue readingDec 24th 2017

Why are earphones labeled Left and Right?


Does it make any difference if you wear them the other way round?

Yes, it does. Stereo recordings presuppose that the sound from the left channel will be coming louder from the left earphone. It isn't that crucial for music. This is more about videos. When there's dialogue, and somebody stands to the left, their voice will be louder in the left earphone. The same rule works for car sounds, gunshots, and other stereo effects.

Continue readingDec 12th 2017

Hi-Fi Fo-Fum – A BBC short film about audiophiles in the 60s'.


“Do they like music? Or are they in love with equipment?”

BBC Archive has uncovered a rare video for audiophiles. A 1959 short film called 'Hi-Fi-Fo-Fum' reveals the burgeoning audiophile scene, with more than a little ironic humor as a bonus.
“There is a man in Wimbledon who will go on adding to his equipment until he can hear the sigh of the conductor as the piccolo misses its entry," it goes the introduction. He sounds like our kind of man.
"Is it a religion or a disease? An American psychotherapist calls it 'audiophilia", says the voiceover, as men - and it's mostly men - shuffle in and out of hi-fi stores before rushing home for enthusiastic listening sessions. 
"Do they like music? Or are they in love with equipment?", questions our narrator, as one excited punter buys a new tweeter for 6 pounds 4 pence. And while a lot has changed - we now don't see many shops with individual listening booths - a lot has stayed the same. "A dream of perfection... of machines more sensitive than the ears they play to". It reminds us that enhancers to audio frequencies that the human ear can't hear aren't new. The video also shows the early music critics. "With a dozen different recordings of every work, how do we find the best?" ponders the voiceover. "Rely on the critic; nothing escapes" – is the reply. 

Continue readingDec 8th 2017

The music industry has experienced ups and downs over the past decade. Since the beginning of the '00s, there's a buzzword that just can't leave us behind – the loudness war. I'm talking about the consequences of dynamic compression that's commonly used in popular music. Let's consider Paul McCartney's 1989 song Figure of Eight. The following demonstrates it's original recording with the modern remastered version. 
As you can hear, the snare drum doesn't sound sharp, but more like a padding a piece of leather with a wooden stick. This practice of squashing the sound results in the quiet parts becoming louder, and the loud parts becoming quieter. It's thought that The Loudness War reached its critical climax when Metallica released Death Magnetic in 2008. The thing was that it was released for CD distribution and as an album for the Guitar Hero. The game doesn't compression the sound. Fans could hear the difference between the actual track before the compression and what is there on a CD. 
Music lovers are well-known for being extremely sensitive about the sound engineering and its outcomes. After the release, Metallica's fans submitted a petition asking to remix the record. There's actually another kind of compression going on today — one that allows us to carry hundreds of songs in our iPods. More on that in a minute. 

Digital Compression

Digital compression is the process that reduces the file's size form naturally big (100 MB) to extremely small (5 MB) – so you can carry thousands of them on your iPod. Where's the poop, you may ask. Digital compression is the process that allows a song to go from being a very big sound file in its natural state to a very small file in your iPod — so you can carry your entire record library in your pocket. But at what cost? Here's an explanation by Dr. Andrew Oxenham. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. He specializes in auditory perception – study on how our brains and ears interact. 
"Really, the challenge is to maintain the quality of a CD but to stuff it into a much smaller space. Let's think about how digital recording works. You start out with a very smooth sound wave, and we're trying to store that in digital form. So we're really trying to reproduce a smooth curve with these square blocks, which are the digital numbers. Now, the only way you can make square blocks look like a smooth curve is by using very, very small blocks, so it ends up looking as if it's smooth. Now using lots and lots of blocks means lots of storage, so we end up using fewer bigger blocks. Which means we end up not representing that curve very smoothly at all. The difference between the smooth curve and the rough edges you end up with in the digital recording, you can think of as noise because that is perceived as noise. It's perceived as an error, something that wasn't there in the original recording. The trick is to take the noise — which is the loss of fidelity — and just make it so you can't hear it anymore."

In Hiding

A situation: you are chatting with someone is a quiet room. You hear every word clearly as there's no background noise. If you go out to a busy street, you will get the point of the conversation but probably miss a few words. The traffic noise would mask them. That what happens during the record processing – the loud parts of a recording hide that distortion produced by the erroneous squares of those digital 1s and 0s.

What are we missing?

"There are really different levels of MP3 coding. You can go from much less data — which people can hear the difference — to higher levels of coding which take up more space on your MP3 player but sound better and are basically indistinguishable from a CD. And I would argue that under proper listening conditions — if it's really indistinguishable from the CD as far as your ear is concerned — then you really haven't lost anything perceptually."
Continue readingDec 5th 2017
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