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Old 21st November 2021, 09:28 PM   #1
psionl0
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That audio sound

Back in the 1930s manufacturers started incorporating automatic volume control (AVC) in their radios. The reason is fairly self evident. Radio stations varied enormously in strength and users would often be caught unaware when they tuned in a strong station without adjusting the volume control first. The result would be an ear splitting blast of sound. In addition, the volume in radios was sometimes prone to random changes without an apparent cause. AVC masked all of that.

You would think that in the 21st century that this would be just historical trivia and a non issue today. Not so. Although the video is usually close to perfect from all sources, there is a huge indifference when it comes to the level of sound that is fed into your computer or TV. Switching between sources such as FTA or Netflix or YouTube etc invariably means rushing to the volume control to readjust the sound.

I can understand why YouTube could be problematic. Different types of recording devices and varying levels of skill among the people making YouTube recordings unfortunately means that anything goes. It is still annoying when a YouTube is so soft that I can't hear it properly even with the volume turned up full. It is especially annoying when the source is a commercial news site such as Sky News.

What is even more astounding is that when it comes to external audio sources, there is no standard for the output level. Combine that with the fact that there is no standard for the audio sensitivity of the computer or other playback device and the result is often sheer frustration.

I don't understand this indifference to audio. If nobody is going to agree on audio standards then why don't computers have AVC at least?
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Old 21st November 2021, 09:59 PM   #2
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My dim recollection is that advertisers figured out pretty quickly how to get past AVC, by raising the volume and then clipping the peaks, thus technically keeping the volume below the requisite peak but making it seem louder. The resulting distortion doesn't affect speech all that much, and audio quality isn't the point anyway.

But I do agree, the lack of standards nowadays is a mess. You can't guess what volumes things will be at.
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Old 21st November 2021, 10:35 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
My dim recollection is that advertisers figured out pretty quickly how to get past AVC, by raising the volume and then clipping the peaks, thus technically keeping the volume below the requisite peak but making it seem louder.
This practice is not just restricted to advertising. It is pretty much standard practice with commercial stations for ALL audible material. You might be lucky to get a 3 db difference between the loudest and softest sound. Such a heavily modulated signal is supposed to travel farther and reach more audiences.

If only they would do that with computers . . .
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Old 22nd November 2021, 05:09 AM   #4
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There are actually standards, but following them has got more complicated since it was realised that concentrating only on peak levels wasn't good enough because a heavily compressed soundtrack sounds much louder than an uncompressed one despite not peaking any higher. Nowadays it's all about Loudness Units which try to take into account the perceived loudness of material and there are standard limits for peak levels, short term levels and long term levels. The more complex it's become, the fewer content creators understand it.

Also it doesn't help that different streaming services have settled on different target levels. There's a bit about that here in the wiki page for the European standard EBU R 128 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBU_R_128 It mentions that YouTube will reduce the sound levels of uploaded material that's too loud but won't increase the levels on material that's quiet.

The US and Japan operate their own similar standards.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 01:26 PM   #5
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The old AVC or AG(ain)C was important for AM radio because a high RF signal would saturate IF amplifier stages, and not only result in a loud AF output but also play havoc with bandwidths and cause AF distortion.

With the advent of FM this became less critical, but there was still the problem of sidebands and other bandwidth effects, so the AGC still exists.

However, what you are asking about is AF volume control, but that is an entirely different game. The RF signal strength of a radio receiver is mainly a question of the field-strength of the received radio signal. The volume of an AF sound is extremely dynamic and depends on the content of the sound-track in question. Imagine a recording of two people speaking in an otherwise silent room: How will the volume control "know" what is the important sound, the faint background noises or the spoken words? Or take a classical concert: From silent violin solos to crescendo?

An automatic volume control would have to parse the entire sound track and try to figure out a sensible volume setting.

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Old 22nd November 2021, 06:00 PM   #6
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Easy fixed. Stop watching sky news.
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Old 22nd November 2021, 07:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
The old AVC or AG(ain)C was important for AM radio because a high RF signal would saturate IF amplifier stages, and not only result in a loud AF output but also play havoc with bandwidths and cause AF distortion.

With the advent of FM this became less critical, but there was still the problem of sidebands and other bandwidth effects, so the AGC still exists.

However, what you are asking about is AF volume control, but that is an entirely different game. The RF signal strength of a radio receiver is mainly a question of the field-strength of the received radio signal. The volume of an AF sound is extremely dynamic and depends on the content of the sound-track in question. Imagine a recording of two people speaking in an otherwise silent room: How will the volume control "know" what is the important sound, the faint background noises or the spoken words? Or take a classical concert: From silent violin solos to crescendo?

An automatic volume control would have to parse the entire sound track and try to figure out a sensible volume setting.

Hans
The purpose of the anecdote was to point out that 90 years ago the attitude was "Here is a problem. Let's solve it". The current attitude seems to be "Who cares? If the sound is too soft then let the user get a more powerful sound system".

Sound compression technology is not as difficult as you make it out to be. It is not as good as having the correct input levels in the first place but as long as nobody cares if you can hear the bloody thing or not . . .
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Old 23rd November 2021, 01:38 AM   #8
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Sound compression is used a lot, my points are:

- The old AGC system is something quite different and far easier to solve.

- Automatic regulation of audio volume is virtually impossible "on the fly".

Hans
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Old 23rd November 2021, 08:58 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Sound compression is used a lot, my points are:

- The old AGC system is something quite different and far easier to solve.

- Automatic regulation of audio volume is virtually impossible "on the fly".

Hans
Ignoring what I posted and repeating your earlier assertion doesn't advance anything.

Obviously AGC is not the same thing as sound compression but the latter doesn't require an "entire sound track" to adjust the level and it is intended to be a "work around" to compensate for a lack of audio level standards.
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Old 24th November 2021, 03:01 AM   #10
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There are audio level standards. The problems are a combination of the rules being complicated because the problems are not simple* and an internet full of new content creators who don't know the rules anyway.

*You have users listening on headphones, on speakers, in mono, in surround sound, in noisy environments like cars and that's before you get to legitimate creative use of more compressed or more dynamic audio levels or the balance between speech and music and sound effects and where to strike the balance so everyone who wants to hear the dialogue clearly can do so. The problem, even for professionals, of trying to prevent a jarring transition at programme junctions between material intended to create different moods, is not easy. TV advert breaks are just one of the more obvious examples.
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Old 24th November 2021, 04:10 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
There are audio level standards. The problems are a combination of the rules being complicated because the problems are not simple* and an internet full of new content creators who don't know the rules anyway.
It is not just the internet. It's hardware too.

Many devices (including computing devices) have an audio output jack but the output is so low that it can barely be heard even with the most sensitive of headphones. Even with the volume turned up full, an ordinary amplifier barely makes the sound listenable. Conversely, many amplifiers are so insensitive that even inputs with a bit of grunt in them are barely made audible.
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Old 24th November 2021, 01:55 PM   #12
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I've had a bit the opposite problem with some audio from computers, in that it's too loud. I wonder if psion10 has overlooked some computer master volume setting.

What I really miss is a feature now never seen on notebooks, which was present on one I got back in 2002: a line input jack. Line voltage (i.e. what a CD or tape deck sends to the amplifier) is, I think, standardized. I used to be able to dub CD's off of cassette and LP onto CD's using that and a program that also could filter out clicks and hum, and the quality was very good.
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Old 24th November 2021, 02:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Ignoring what I posted and repeating your earlier assertion doesn't advance anything.

Obviously AGC is not the same thing as sound compression but the latter doesn't require an "entire sound track" to adjust the level and it is intended to be a "work around" to compensate for a lack of audio level standards.
You can't know the proper volume setting till you have parsed the whole sound track. Audio level standards are a fine idea, but don't seem to be even in the offing.

Hans
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Old 24th November 2021, 03:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
You can't know the proper volume setting till you have parsed the whole sound track. Audio level standards are a fine idea, but don't seem to be even in the offing.

Hans
I can see that that would be true if fidelity and sound quality are your goal, but what if your goal is simply to limit volume? If you care less about verisimilitude, can't you just set a floor and a ceiling and either compress or just clip to fit?
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Old 24th November 2021, 08:13 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
You can't know the proper volume setting till you have parsed the whole sound track. Audio level standards are a fine idea, but don't seem to be even in the offing.
You are just making this up.

AGC is easy for AM because it has a carrier or FM because the amplitude is constant but what about SSB? It has no carrier so how do you think that AGC is applied? Does the radio wait until the talker has finished sending before calculating the level and replaying it?
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Old 25th November 2021, 08:09 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
You are just making this up.
Not at all. It would be possible to add some regulation based on a slow-attack AGC if you don't care about dynamics.

Quote:
AGC is easy for AM because it has a carrier or FM because the amplitude is constant but what about SSB? It has no carrier so how do you think that AGC is applied? Does the radio wait until the talker has finished sending before calculating the level and replaying it?
The carrier is re-inserted in the receiver, otherwise the signal is incomprehensible, but AGC is more tricky in SSB.

Look, what are we talking about, here?

- Are we talking narrow-band voice communication radio? In that case, you don't care about dynamic range and quality in general. You can clip, AVC regulate and tweak a lot; it just has to be comprehensible.

- Or are we talking about quality audio as in HIFI, for music reproduction? In that case forget clipping, SSB, and simple regulation schemes.

OK?

Hans
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Old 25th November 2021, 08:11 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I can see that that would be true if fidelity and sound quality are your goal, but what if your goal is simply to limit volume? If you care less about verisimilitude, can't you just set a floor and a ceiling and either compress or just clip to fit?
If you don't need quality reproduction, fine! Clip amplitude, limit frequency range, etc.

ETA: But reading the OP, psionl0 is obviously talking about music and quality sound reproduction.

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Old 25th November 2021, 06:31 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
You are just making this up.

AGC is easy for AM because it has a carrier or FM because the amplitude is constant but what about SSB? It has no carrier so how do you think that AGC is applied? Does the radio wait until the talker has finished sending before calculating the level and replaying it?
I got around the problem by re encoding the data into another program but it's time consuming, the Volume level is in the compression layering.
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Old 25th November 2021, 07:39 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
But reading the OP, psionl0 is obviously talking about music and quality sound reproduction.
Why are you so determined to misrepresent what is a very simple topic?

There should be no excuse for the wide disparity between output levels from the same audio source depending on the device or medium from which it originated. This is especially true in the case of voice. There should be no need to constantly adjust the volume control the way that we are forced to do now.

If the world is too lazy to agree on a standard for output levels then at least let the playback device have an audio compression option. It may not be a "true" reproduction of the original audio passage but that is not important for voice transmissions. This is not difficult to do and, as has been pointed out above, radio stations already do this (for voice and music) to get the maximum modulation possible from their transmissions.
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Old 25th November 2021, 10:17 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
You can't know the proper volume setting till you have parsed the whole sound track. Audio level standards are a fine idea, but don't seem to be even in the offing.



Hans
You are talking about doing it properly. These days, just compress the whole thing. Who cares about dynamics

There are popular "brick wall" limiters that crush the life out of everything.
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Old 26th November 2021, 12:08 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
You are talking about doing it properly. These days, just compress the whole thing. Who cares about dynamics

There are popular "brick wall" limiters that crush the life out of everything.
And, of course, I would expect corresponding technology at the other end that can raise volume with its accompanying noise.
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Old 26th November 2021, 08:51 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
It is not just the internet. It's hardware too.

Many devices (including computing devices) have an audio output jack but the output is so low that it can barely be heard even with the most sensitive of headphones. Even with the volume turned up full, an ordinary amplifier barely makes the sound listenable. Conversely, many amplifiers are so insensitive that even inputs with a bit of grunt in them are barely made audible.
To be honest I don't recognise the problems you're describing.
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Old 26th November 2021, 09:11 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Why are you so determined to misrepresent what is a very simple topic?
I'm reading your post, that's all.

Quote:
There should be no excuse for the wide disparity between output levels from the same audio source depending on the device or medium from which it originated. This is especially true in the case of voice. There should be no need to constantly adjust the volume control the way that we are forced to do now.
Are we?

Quote:
If the world is too lazy to agree on a standard for output levels then at least let the playback device have an audio compression option. It may not be a "true" reproduction of the original audio passage but that is not important for voice transmissions. This is not difficult to do and, as has been pointed out above, radio stations already do this (for voice and music) to get the maximum modulation possible from their transmissions.
International standards (and it would have to be that) are notoriously difficult to agree on and nearly impossible to enforce.

However, since you feel you being misinterpreted, and since others than me seem to not quite see what the big problem is, perhaps you could elaborate a bit, maybe give a couple of examples: What exactly are some situations where you feel the need to adjust the volume?

Hans
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Old 26th November 2021, 08:22 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
To be honest I don't recognise the problems you're describing.
Seriously? When you switch between free-to-air TV, Netflix, Foxtel etc you never have to adjust your volume control to get the same level of sound?
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Old 26th November 2021, 11:35 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Seriously? When you switch between free-to-air TV, Netflix, Foxtel etc you never have to adjust your volume control to get the same level of sound?
Even within the range of free-to-air channels I see this problem.

Everything else is fine, but one set of channels (owned by a single station) is ridiculously loud.

For Netflix I have the volume up to around 80%, I have to remember to turn it waaaaaay down before switching back to a free-to-air channel.

My least favourite is the free-to-air channels that take a dolby 5.1 signal and just broadcast the left and right channels. The result of this is that all conversation, which is heavily mixed into the centre channel, drops out, leaving ridiculously loud background noise and near silent conversation.

I only realised that this was happening when I noticed that I was watching a movie on a SD channel by mistake, when I switched to the HD (MPEG) channel, suddenly the actors voices were louder than the background noise.

There needs to be a special circle in Hell for people that do audio that badly.

Grrrrrrrrr.
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Old 27th November 2021, 02:00 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by novaphile View Post
Even within the range of free-to-air channels I see this problem.

Everything else is fine, but one set of channels (owned by a single station) is ridiculously loud.

For Netflix I have the volume up to around 80%, I have to remember to turn it waaaaaay down before switching back to a free-to-air channel.

My least favourite is the free-to-air channels that take a dolby 5.1 signal and just broadcast the left and right channels. The result of this is that all conversation, which is heavily mixed into the centre channel, drops out, leaving ridiculously loud background noise and near silent conversation.

I only realised that this was happening when I noticed that I was watching a movie on a SD channel by mistake, when I switched to the HD (MPEG) channel, suddenly the actors voices were louder than the background noise.

There needs to be a special circle in Hell for people that do audio that badly.

Grrrrrrrrr.
I suspect that is exactly the result of trusting some computer algorithm or other automatic regulation.

Hans
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Old 27th November 2021, 03:09 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Seriously? When you switch between free-to-air TV, Netflix, Foxtel etc you never have to adjust your volume control to get the same level of sound?
Honestly, no.

I watch (UK) free to air through the TV itself and other services (Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube) through an Amazon Fire TV stick which I suppose limits the hardware changes but I don't find much need to touch the volume.
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Old 27th November 2021, 03:31 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Seriously? When you switch between free-to-air TV, Netflix, Foxtel etc you never have to adjust your volume control to get the same level of sound?
Mmm, I was thinking: In some of the streaming apps we use, there is a volume control. This will go on top of the one in the TV. If that volume is set rather high or low, you will need to compensate on the volume setting of the TV.

What you will then wanna do is set your TV to something reasonable for a free air channel (which doesn't have this extra volume control), then go into each streaming app and set the volume appropriately. That might solve the problem.

Hans
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Old 28th November 2021, 11:25 AM   #29
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