WARNING: another very long post!
While I realize these are applied for the common good, such techniques as multiband compression, peak limitation, cutting off mirror frequencies, and increasing the music volume (in comparison to the sound one) leave me with a touch of uneasiness. For example, if the original Doom experience is having more sound than music reaching your ears, then so be it! (Isn't it?) Although, as a purist, I might be biased.
Because in the old days, if you had a Roland Sound Canvas, the inputs would have had to have been plugged into either your sound card's line input or another input on your stereo system or mixer that your sound card was also plugged into. In either case, the volume of the music is inherently out of the game's control because of the simple fact that the game is not creating the music audio, the sound canvas is. The game has a music volume slider yes, but this controls the MIDI data volume being sent to the Sound Canvas, not the actual overall analog output volume of the Sound Canvas itself. You would've had to have set your own desirable volume before/while playing the game on the Sound Canvas anyway. I do this now with my CM-500 and MT-32 and old DOS games that support them when I use them and have to find a good balance between game sound volume and synth sound volume. So, if the music files recorded are too quiet it's not REALLY indicative of the original's experience since you could have turned it up back then as well. The idea is to find a balancing compromise when recording digitally because it really is an entirely different playing field.
However, I think part of what the community (at least, the Chocolate-Doom one) is interested in, is in "unmolested" music. "Nothing beefed up, [so as to be] giving the pure sound of the original tracks to people who don't own one of those Roland devices."
I feel I should explain, though it is a bit of a challenge to do so to the uneducated or inexperienced, that the purpose of mastering and all the work we've done to our respective soundtracks, was to preserve the original quality as much as possible. Not to add to it or "beef it up". There are many things I could do to add to it like remove the SC-55's onboard reverb completely and add a newer higher quality reverb digitally, add real distortion effects on the guitar instruments, delay echo, and so on. There are other concerns with recording from a synth module like this that exist simply due to the nature of being recorded and not generated from the real thing. It's impossible to exactly emulate the circumstances of playing with a real existing synth module unless you actually have one. It's the same audio, yes, but it's now being played back as a digital waveform inside the game port, not as an analog signal straight to your speakers. Again the game has no control over the Sound Canvas volume, just the volume of the MIDI data that is SENT to the Sound Canvas. And so, this is a perfect example of the age-old analog vs digital scenario.
If you want THE EXACT same experience unmolested, then you simply have to get a Roland Sound Canvas. :) However, the differences are minor when you look at the broader picture and aren't worth considering unless you're a hardcore audiophile (like me! :D). At any rate, it's not as simple as recording the tracks straight from the Sound Canvas and being done with it. For one thing, what should the analog volume on the Sound Canvas be set to when you're recording music from it? What should the input volume on your sound device that you're recording on be set to? There is no standard or environment to copy from the initial experience because that was analog and not digital, so you have to create a standard to work around. And usually the one that preserves the most quality is also the quietest. Much quieter than any other software on your computer would ever generate. This is why a lot of people still prefer analog recording over digital recording. However, it's impossible to record and playback analog sound from inside a piece of computer software, unless you actually have something like a Sound Canvas. ;)
This is going to sound fairly technical, but I don't know how to explain it any other way. You can skip below if you start to feel your head spinning!
spoiler - highlight to read:
Without trying to be too technical, as you can guess the difference between analog and digital is not a minor one. The sound that comes out of your speakers from the Sound Canvas, while digitally generated, is analog in that it is sent through analog signals and produces vibrations in the air from your speakers to your ears that we call sound. Sound doesn't really "clip" when you turn up your speakers until it hits the speakers' maximum capacity to produce vibrations in the air. When that happens it starts distorting because it's receiving too much signal to reproduce accurately. You can turn it up as much as you want almost alongside the game volume without any adverse effects. This is not the case for a digital recording. The volume sliders on your computer screen do not function the same way as turning the volume knob with your hand. Your computer is sending the digital recording waveform as an analog signal to your speakers, but the recording itself is a digital representation of that initial analog signal from the Sound Canvas. There's a conversion that takes place there. It sounds the same to your ears, that is, it produces similar vibrations from your speaker, but it really isn't. The digital audio spectrum inherently has a volume ceiling that analog does not have (outside of hitting your speaker's maximum capacity) and when you hit this digital ceiling the audio clips and distorts before the signal even gets to your speakers.
So, when recording digitally we have to compensate for this conversion because all of the sudden the music is being generated in the same field as the sound effects, and the sound effects are much louder than the music. There are different formats of digital sound on a computer with varying sampling and bit rates. Higher bit rates means a much more broader spectrum of volume that can be turned up or down. Higher sampling rates means the sound can be clearer and crisper and less muffled because it has a broader frequency range to encompass that sound in. The sound effects in Doom are of very low bit and sampling rates (probably 8-bit, 22Khz). Yet, modern source ports can set the game's sound settings to be as high as 24-bit and 48KHz. This doesn't really change the quality of the sound because those sounds are still 8-bit and 22khz, but they are being played back in a higher quality setting, except that they might sound a bit more grainy due to the extra crispness of the higher sampling rates.
When the music tracks are recorded they then exist in a digital realm of audio, whereas before they didn't. So now in the digital realm we have a volume ceiling which the audio CANNOT go above without clipping and distorting, no matter what your speakers' volume knob is set to. So a standard must be set as to which volume level to use when recording. Initially in digital recording, everything is recorded quietly, but not TOO quiet or you'll hit the "noise floor" which exists at the bottom of the digital volume spectrum, then you'll hear background noise that distorts the audio. Recording quietly preserves audio quality while creating "headroom space" for large spikes of volume to exist without hitting the digital ceiling. However, if you were to use these tracks without altering them in any way you would find that they are simply far too quiet in-game. You could turn down your sound effects to a much lower level and turn your speakers up, but you'd find that after you're done playing every other sound on your computer would be extremely loud.
When you're playing with a real external synth module, none of the above technical jargon matters because you can set the volume independently by hand with a real world knob without worrying about distortion. Two completely different settings of sound (the Sound Canvas and the game audio from your sound card) are being output to the same speakers (sometimes different speakers, depending on your setup). In-game in a source port, the digital volume sliders act differently. Now the digital music recordings ARE being controlled directly by the game and the music slider affects the digital audio output of each song rather than the MIDI data because there is no MIDI data! So now the volume of the digital recording has to be of an acceptable listening level AND stay within a margin of digital decibel units before distorting. So, to compromise as a way of "turning up" the music without the volume spikes hitting the digital ceiling and clipping/distorting, you compress the audio waveform data. This "squeezes" the soft and loud volume levels closer together so that the softer parts are louder but the volume spikes aren't hitting the digital ceiling. Actually, what's happening is the loud volume spikes are being compressed down closer to the same level as the softer ones and then everything is turned up, which is basically the same thing. I use a multiband compressor which only compresses certain frequency ranges (like high pitched or "treble" sounds, and low pitched or "bass" sounds and every range in between) so that the compression is less noticeable. This is the struggle I had when recording my soundtrack and why I chose to go with a bit of compression in the end. But as I said, I do have the masters unaltered and could always release that. But seeing as Logic has already done so, I see no need! :)
The idea is to make it louder. As loud as the other sounds coming from the game, but not too loud as to overpower them. As it ever is even with a real Sound Canvas, the idea is to find a balance. Modern sound designers have to do the same thing when putting sounds and music into a modern AAA title. Something they didn't have to do back in the DOS days (unless you were listening to Adlib music). It's not an easy job either. The more control you have over sound in a game the more work you have to do and compromises you have to make to balance it all out because in the digital realm, unlike the analog realm, you have an extremely specific, limited, and defined workable area that you can work in.
And that goes for any other digital medium like graphics (size and number of pixels, number of colours, number of animation frames), or even disk storage space. It's not infinite. Everything with computers is a collection of different combinations of ones and zeros and as such have inherent limitations. We can keep making higher quality content and hardware and push those limitations higher, but they will always be there. No matter how good a quality digital photo you have, it will never be the same as the actual scene. No matter how big your hard drive gets you will eventually reach the maximum capacity if you keep storing stuff. No matter what bit rate or sampling rate quality level you record an analog sound in it will still be limited to a specific scale of volume units that you cannot go above. And because the industry is the way it is, people will keep making music that pushes the limits of the digital ceiling to try and sound "the loudest" on the radio, in the theatre, and even on your computer in software form. Google "the loudness war". So we will probably never have enough room where we don't need to get close to the digital ceiling.
I have a hard time writing all of this without sounding like bashing both of you. Trust me, this is the farthest from my authentic intention. If I could talk to you guys face to face, you might understand that better. My delicate manners seem somewhat obscured by the coldness of all this text.
No offense taken, Twipley. You're concerns are quite understandable and I detected no offense in your post. :) And I'm sorry, once again, that this is so long. I tend to get very wordy.
EDIT: I see that Logic replied already (and much more succinctly than I have!) while I was typing. Anyway, I hope that I explained my decision well enough (probably overly so).
Music Artist & Freelance Composer/Producer
Roland SC-55 Music Packs
DOS gaming soundtracks the way they were meant to be heard!
Last edited by MusicallyInspired on 12-30-13 at 23:51