Blind test - lend me your ears!

Blind test - lend me your ears!
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Hey music friends!

I would like your opinion on the following songs, for which three different versions are available. My goal is to gather as many opinions as possible in order to determine whether there is a trend (I have posted the same thing on other forums as well, in hopes of getting a lot of votes).

I am not saying what this is about yet, in order to get your honest, objective opinion. But once I have enough votes I will stop counting them and explain why I am doing this and answer any questions you may have.

Please do not read the replies and comments before making up your own mind, as this might introduce a bias (for instance: “this member whom I respect has chosen such version so it must be the best one”). Don’t try to guess what are the differences or why there are any, just have a relaxed listen and choose whichever version gives you the best listening pleasure. Whenever possible, please listen on various devices (headphones, monitors…)

For each of these two songs, please let me know which is your favorite version (one single choice per song).

Thank you for your help!

First song

Second song

Here are my answers:

Pop A and Jazzrock B

Ah curiosity…

1 Like

I am going to go with

my pick

Pop B
Jazzrock B

1 Like

I don’t know how to hide my answers but it is C for both.

1 Like

Neat! If you go to the “gear” icon on the top right, you can select “Hide Details”.

My picks

Pop: C
Jazz: B

Curiosity indeed!

1 Like

My picks

Summary

I’m choosing two because I’m not certain which one I prefer. I’m tending to go with the guitar tones with more presence and volume.
B and C for Pop
B and C for Jazz

I’m listening on an iPad so it’s hard to decide between the two I chose. I almost felt like there were certain parts that I liked from each. The electric guitars were a focal point for me because there is such a tonal difference between A, B and C.

So here are the results and an explanation on the test.

For each song there is a version that has been provided by the “online mastering” service by BandLab, another by SoundCloud, and another by a human ME (myself). The average loudness (LUFSi) has been matched for each song so this wasn’t playing a role in the decision. There are dynamic range differences, but they are minor.

I ran this test simply because I was curious about what the others would judge as “the best sounding version” compared to my own taste. There is obviously a degree of subjectivity in this test so it isn’t exactly possible to settle on one or the other version as “the best”. However, comparing these versions with commercial hits in similar genres can be a good indicator of a master’s capacity to blend in the industry standard, which I am suggesting you do if you’re curious (and if your opinion changes after this, let me know!).

Without further ado, here are the results.

The figures show the proportion of votes for each version. When there was a tie, one vote has been counted for each version. I ran this test on 4 different forums and private FaceBook groups, gathering roughly 40 different opinions.

Pop song
A = human master: 35,9%
B = BandLab : 25,6%
C = SoundCloud : 38,5%

Jazz/rock song
A = BandLab : 16,7%
B = human master: 47,2%
C = SoundCloud : 36,1%

It is interesting to note that trends differ from one forum to another. That would possibly tend to demonstrate that there is a bias coming from people reading the answers and being subconsciously influenced with a larger sample but I think the number of votes isn’t large enough to determine that.

So there you have the data. I would like to mention that automated services (not only BandLab and SoundCloud but the numerous options like Landr, emastered etc) are marketed as “online mastering” but are nowhere near resembling how mastering is done professionally for the majority of commercial releases.

These services are only applying automated processing on a 2-bus mix, while human mastering actually entails a lot more:

  • Quality control before a song is released forever (typical issues detected by a human: hiss, background noise, clicks & pops, final sustain cut off too soon, editing mishap, etc)
  • A fresh view by an experienced human with an artistic sensibility, and the opportunity to apply subtle dynamic enhancements (such as volume automation on a chorus to make it bigger, EQ automation on a specific section with a different arrangement, etc)
  • Delivering appropriate file formats for distribution (44,1kHz/16bits for CD, 48kHz+/24bits for digital, MQA or Apple Digital Masters, a cappella or instrumental versions for sync licensing, etc)
  • Suitable use of dithering/noise shaping when necessary
  • Delivery of DDP images or vinyl premasters
  • Metadata embedding (such as ISRC codes, etc)
  • The opportunity to have a human feedback on a mix you have obsessed over during weeks…

I hope this was entertaining, or maybe even enlighting.

4 Likes

Pop: The thing I noticed most was the vocals. I liked B the least. I’d go with A, but there’s a harshness to the vocals that I think needs to be tamed.

jazzrock: C had too much low end. A is a little dull but feels more natural. B is a little more hyped sounding, but slightly harsh. I’d probably go somewhere between A and B on this one.

1 Like

Listened to POP - IMO the vocals are either recorded on a low grade condenser or mixed in a way that the harshness and sibilance is brought to the fore. I liked pop C the best of the mastering as it was least annoying on vocals. If the vocals were better mixed I’d guess POP A would’ve been my choice.

Jazz C probably my favourite as it sounds more open/breathing as opposed to my second choice B, which is a bit more modern bright mastering, which will probably work better in other genre like metal or hard rock, but seems a bit too “modern” for what I want to hear in that genre.

1 Like

@bozmillar your analysis makes sense to me.

@Descent yes the vocals were recorded on a cheap mic inside an untreated closet, clearly not ideal.
It’s funny that you say version B would work best for metal, because that is exactly what I though of version C! To me in C the kick sounds like it belongs in a metal mix.

If anything, this tests shows that we are definitely not interpreting what we hear in the same way.

I have added the original mixes by the way, in case anyone is interested in hearing how different the masters sound from them.

B is pretty bright for rock jazz and leans towards hard rock, doesn’t mean I’d call it optimal metal mix or anything :slight_smile:
Honestly - depends how versed you’re in the genre, I am part of the “Heavy Metal Revival” business with my current band, so the interesting is that a lot of people are trying to dial down the mixes and open up dynamic space, going for an early raw all acoustically recorded Iron Maiden (think 1st two albums) kind of sound. So - metal in general is a very broad topic.

You have the absolutely dreadful drum replacement crowd, like say these guys

utterly fake, typewriter drums :slight_smile:

and here is the real early 80s production:

Hi Glad you got some help so far. I am not good at that. Liked the laid back intro and the dudes voice is very mellow. I lost track of the words after 45 sec, but I think I have hearing loss? Seemed heavy on the right side after that 45? That is if I have my headphones on the right way. cool stuff