High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

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High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby willdude » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:22 pm

Ok, this has bothered me ever since I bought "Blue Lights on the Runway" last year, but now I care enough to ask: I bought this album off of Amazon MP3 in the US. On the song "Blow Ins", there is a distinct, high pitched whistle/ringing sound that comes out of the right channel for most of the song. It starts right after the lyric "Pushes us to the corner of our own life" and lasts til the end of the song. It's especially loud and annoying through my car speakers, but it comes through any speakers/headphones I've tried. I figured it was an error with the mp3, but then I listened to the same song on various streaming sites, as well as downloaded it from other sources, and the exact same sound happens in the exact same place. Has anyone else noticed this? I'm curious if it exists in the physical CD of the album as well. My theory was that it's one of those high pitches that you can't hear after you reach a certain age, but there's no way I could be the first person to notice this.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby Eoin » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:26 pm

Curious. I'm listening to it currently on my studio monitors, but I don't hear anything like you describe. It's constant from that line to the end of the song? No breaks at all?

MP3s etc. don't contain ultraharmonic (or near-ultrahamronic) frequencies, and said frequencies don't really sound like whistling or ringing anyway, so I don't think you're on the right track there.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby willdude » Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:15 pm

Yes, it's a constant sound from after that lyric til the end of the song. (I also hear it a little bit on a later track, I believe it was "The Curtains are Twitchin'", but it wasn't nearly as piercing.) At the time I originally noticed it, I went and checked it against some full-album stream that doesn't seem to exist anymore, the Rhapsody stream (which for some reason won't play when I try it now), and a higher-bitrate mp3 I downloaded, and all versions had the exact sound I described in the mp3 I bought from Amazon.

I've found one current online stream of the track with the exact same issue, from Napster's free streaming site:
http://free.napster.com/bell-x1-music/tracks/11602110#

At about 2:12 is where the sound starts. It depends on what kind of speakers you have. I'm at work, but can't hear it at all on my shitty old iPod headphones, but I can hear it on my computer's speakers, from the right speaker.

Oddly, another stream I found on YouTube (http://free.napster.com/bell-x1-music/tracks/11602110#) does NOT exhibit this problem. Man, is that a great song when I can hear it! :)
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby Eoin » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:41 am

Listening to that one on Napster, in my AKG headphones I do hear a high frequency warbling in the right channel that comes in just where you describe. It stops for the verse at 3:18 and returns at 3:52. Does that seem like what you're hearing? It's the distortion of the high frequency harmonics of the electric guitar by the encoding to MP3 or whatever. I'd guess the frequency is somewhere in the 12-18khz area, which would explain why it wouldn't be noticable with cheaper earphones or speakers. It is definitely not present in WAV or lossless versions.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby willdude » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:42 pm

Yeah, that sounds about right. I forgot that it does drop out briefly before picking up again, so that's probably what you describe. I'll have to figure out what other song I hear it on, too, and see if it's the same problem. Weird, because I've never experienced this problem encoding mp3s. I might have to just bite the bullet and buy the CD, but even then, if ripping it to mp3 will cause the same problem, that kinda defeats the purpose.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby Eoin » Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:17 pm

If you encode it with whatever speed/quality controls set to maximum quality and use a decent bitrate (256kbps - 320kbps) it should come out okay. I have come across that problem a few times on mixes of my own. It happens a lot with classical recordings as well.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby willdude » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:44 pm

That's strange, then, since Amazon usually has high-quality mp3s, either constant 256 kbps or average 256 kbps with VBR (usually LAME's alt-preset extreme setting, I think, which is what I use when ripping/encoding). I'm curious of how this normally works for digital distribution of songs: Does the label provide pre-encoded tracks such that when they're redistributed in various ways (Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster), each reflects any flaws in the original encoding? Or do they provide lossless tracks, and it's somewhat coincidental when the encoding done by multiple distributors has the same flaw?

As an aside, Amazon is usually very good about their quality control. Only two other times have I bought albums where a track had some flaw, and both times they've just given me a full refund, essentially letting me have the rest of the album for free. (Since I bought this one over a year ago, I think I've hit the statute of limitations for getting a refund, though.) One of those times was recently, where the faulty track was, for some odd reason, encoded with a different mp3 encoder than the other tracks. Which brings me back to my original question of at what point in the distribution chain is the encoding actually done.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby Eoin » Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:30 pm

Well, it wouldn't really be coincidental. All of the encoding algorithms are quite similar, and issues with high frequencies that may become distorted are down to the source material. If there's something in the high harmonics of a particular master which lends itself to a compression artefact, it will happen every time you encode.

In saying that, I would presume that the supplier/label/management etc. of the album normally uploads the MP3 versions to Amazon or whoever. It would seem odd for the retailer to be the one pulling out the CD to rip it to MP3, generally.
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Re: High pitched sound on "Blow Ins"

Postby VocalicPage » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:50 am

I read this thread a while ago and was glad to know that I wasn't the only one having this problem. Afterward, I didn't give it another thought until today.

I got the digital version of the album from iTunes, and had the same high-pitched sound. I just kind of wrote it off as one of those things I couldn't fix. I hadn't listened to Blow-ins in quite a while, but it happened to come up on my iPod shuffle recently, and the high-pitched squeal was gone. I'm wondering if iTunes didn't do an update of some kind on that track? (I must admit that I haven't paid close attention when syncing my iPod.)

The high-pitched sound doesn't occur on the vinyl album, obviously. Having other issues with that, which is what reminded me of this thread...
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