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Track Gain

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Fatmangolf View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 Dec 2017 at 5:48pm
I have given into temptation and am trying out digital levelling of loud and quiet tracks played through my Squeezebox Touch. Specifically I have turned off the Vollock and fixed/max output levels, then turned on Replay Gain. Previously I would have "no, it compromises the sound" but now I am not so sure.

My reasoning was two-fold, obviously fixing the problem of some tracks being very quiet and some very loud was a motivator. Secondly one of the best hifi's I have heard is Phil's system where he uses the digital volume control on his Touch, so why would it spoil mine?

If you are still reading and not measuring me up for going into the Straw Man, here's what I did.
  1. Touch settings - audio: turn off fixed volume and set Volume Adjustment for track gain
  2. Touch volume - set at about 90% to avoid digital clipping on peaks of boosted tracks
  3. Reprocessed my FLAC, ALAC, and MP3 files to add Replaygain Track Gain and Album Gain tags
The third step is using the EBU R128 calculation method which can be done as tracks are ripped or imported into your music library. In my case it is a DSP option in dBPoweramp's CD ripper or file convertor. I looked at the advance setting then used the default reference loudness of -18LUFS. I did not process the gain changes so the encloded music has not changed, my software just added the tags for Track Gain and Album Gain. As always test a few tracks you have security copies of before starting a batch run with tens of thousands of tracks!

I read that this levelling of tracks is the default setting on Spotify and iTunes, where it is called Normalise. That is the same process as I before encloding music as FLAC or other file formats.

If you've read about dynamic range (DR) this will be familiar stuff. Ditto for the 'loudness wars.' Having used multiband compression and various DR plugins when producing music I was interested in the simple way Replaygain with EBU R128 evens out those efforts to produce a hot mix, fixes the 'too loud' problem and generally makes for an easier listening session.

At the moment I am liking the change and not hearing any adverse effects. No distortion and my music still sounds very good.

So has anyone else tried this before and have you any tips?

Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Chris Firth View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Firth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2017 at 7:12pm
I have used the Replaygain settings for Squeezebox playback, and my advice is that you should leave it turned off if you want to get the highest sound quality.
Another tip is to set the player so that the digital volume control doesn't work, because that too causes degradation of sound quality.

My amplifier has remote control of the analogue volume pot.
It's also why I posted it in my wants list in the GSP preamp thread.

I used the Replaygain stuff up until earlier this year, when I decided to get a Raspberry Pi to run server, and was confused as to why things sounded noticeably better than with the Windows PC I had been using.
I eventually pinned it down to the Windows PC being set up to use Replaygain, and after I turned it off there was no difference in sound quality when switching between the servers.
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Fatmangolf View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2017 at 9:34pm
Thanks for this Chris. From the Logitech forums I had picked up that fixed/max output was best before I really got working on the EDO and TT3 mods so I went for Vollock=On and turned off the volume adjustment feature a few years ago. So this is the first time I have tried them really.

I love the sound  (or lack of) of my Majestic DAC and Proprius amps which are each metres from my listening position so having a volume control on my Touch is quite appealing for everyday listening, even if I go back to fixed/maximum level for serious listening. My recent investigation has been to find out how the user convenience and sound quality balance out. It is only a slight fall in sound quality on the material I've heard so far, really that's 44k1.16 bit so I need to try with more HD material to really tell what I would miss by letting the Touch adjust the levels.

Anyway I reasoned that I could change to fixed/max level immediately so I have Audio Settings on the Touch's home menu. That also allows me change quickly to no volume change on tracks being played back, coming in when the next track starts. From your experience what were the relative impacts of the Touch on sound when each of these two features was in use?

As a postscript I think I may previously have advised you on this forum that letting the Touch adjust digital volume change could affect the sound quality. Please excuse my inconsistency and curiosity now.

Right now I have volume adjustment on for track volume adjustment and have fixed/max on. I turn the latter off for early morning and late night listening.

Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Fatmangolf View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Dec 2017 at 5:36pm
I'm enjoying the easier listening with replaygain, above all not having 'Maxell moments' of loud recording pinning me back in my chair. That was expected but hearing quiet tracks played back louder has been a bonus. The net effect is a gain range of over 20dB.
Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Firth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Dec 2017 at 6:32pm
Those are the same things I enjoyed, Jon.
It was only installing the RasPi/piCorePlayer for serving duties, and hearing the negative effect of Replaygain on sound quality that convinced me to switch back to a more purist approach.

The more purist approach does mean a lot more getting up and down when listening with headphones Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Dec 2017 at 2:55pm
With respect Chris I did acknowledge your point the first time you made it. And I agree with you on the SQ. My point is that for everyday listening the Replaygain feature is convenient and can be turned off easily on my Squeezebox Touch (it's in Settings - Audio Settings if anyone else is curious) for a straight through unaltered feed to my Majestic DAC. It's a handy option and I admit I have changed my mind slightly...

Here's what I wrote about three years ago on 27 January 2015:

"I tried volume levelling with some 'loud' albums when I first had the Squeezebox Touch but thought things sounded better with the volume fixed on max and no volume levelling.

It's a nifty feature. My approach does mean getting up off the sofa slightly more often, which is probably a good thing."

This was in an interesting thread about recording levels on MP3's and vinyl LP's. Although I was dismissive of 'volume levelling' then and I still think the unaltered signal sounds better I now like the fact the digital volume control can easily be switched to max and replaygain easily disabled on my Touch. Unlike most of the mods I do no tools are needed other than my hands and eyes, so no screws loose on the table, no soldering, no moving heavy boxes around!

This was the thread which has lots of other good ideas. GSP Preamp - https://www.hifisystemcomponents.com/forum/gsp-preamp_topic2279_page14.html

It was Tony (tg) who made me aware of replay gain in October 2013 in another thread. https://www.hifisystemcomponents.com/forum/what-to-do-re-low-volume-in-original_topic2024_post21593.html

Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drewan77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Dec 2017 at 3:31pm
I've always left this feature off on my SB Touch's & prefer to adjust volume album by album.

The wrinklies among us have used vinyl for most of our lives so getting up to adjust something seems perfectly normal anyway (probably need the exercise).
Older than I once was, younger than I'll be
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Andrew
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