King Crimson, Discipline on CD: a blind listening test

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by albertop, Jun 23, 2018.

  1. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    After Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Yes, it’s now time to test your ears on King Crimson’s Discipline!

    The samples below have been prepared from five different CD masterings of the original album mix (thanks to @Plan9 for providing some of the samples). They are in FLAC format and have been level adjusted.

    Excerpts from the following songs have been included: Elephant Talk (1’00”), Frame by Frame (1’14”), Thela Hun Ginjeet (1’03”), The Sheltering Sky (1’29”) and Discipline (0’:59”). The length of each sample is therefore: 5’48”.

    You can click on the links below to download the five samples:
    Sample A
    Sample B
    Sample C
    Sample D
    Sample E

    The rules of the game:
    • You can choose one sample only;
    • You are allowed to change your vote while the pool is open;
    • You can’t view the results before you vote;
    • The results will be publicly available when the poll closes;
    • Votes are also publicly displayed;
    • This poll will close on Saturday, 7th July 2018 (2 weeks from now). The sample sources will be revealed on that date.

    A few suggestions:
    • Simply discuss what you hear and why you like or dislike a particular sample. Guessing the sample sources should be avoided while the poll is open. We can start that discussion in 2 weeks;
    • It would be great if you could listen to the samples through speakers and headphones before voting. Alternatively, specify whether you have listened to the samples on speakers/headphones only.

    I am really looking forward to seeing the results of this blind listening test. Let's see if they will confirm the discussions made on these old threads:
    Getting To The Bottom of King Crimson On CD
    King Crimson's Discipline on CD

    In two weeks, I'll also post a sample of the SW's remix. That will allow you to compare it with five different versions of the original mix (just out of curiosity). Perhaps, that could also be an occasion to continue an old conversation that started here:
    King Crimson 2009 re-issues CD / DVD stereo/5.1 all inclusive thread (Part 2)

    Thanks in advance for your participation. I hope you'll have fun!
    Mbe, g.z., Rob Hughes and 5 others like this.
  2. Jwest97

    Jwest97 Regional Director of the Couch and T.V.

    Las Vegas, NV
    Listening through my Klipsch R14M's and Akai AA-R50 (Entry Level speakers and and Reciever), There wasn't too much to say. Sample B was pretty punchy in the low end department, but quickly became a little boring. The other samples didn't come off as vastly different. I switched to my Yamaha C-50 pre amp and Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones and stuck with them for most of my listening, which I found to be a lot more revealing. Sample E was dynamic, but it was too bright for my taste. Sample B's punch was was nice to start out with, but nothing seemed to really stick out after that introduction. I think it was more compressed. Sample A was a great candidate, but the upper mids were just a little much for me. It sounded a tiny bit unnatural, if that means anything to anyone. I was conflicted when choosing between Sample C and Sample D. They were both pretty similar but I found the Low End in Sample D to be ever slightly more pleasing. I think I was personally most impressed with Sample D. None of them sounded bad to me, but I definitely have my favorites.

    I enjoyed this test. It really allowed me to decide which version of the album that I liked the most. Now I know what version to get for myself. I guess I'll found out in two weeks.
  3. Diablo Griffin

    Diablo Griffin Synthpop, City Pop, and Rock Enthusiast

    United States
    Thanks for starting this thread! I'll be sure to give these samples a listen very soon.
    albertop likes this.
  4. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've asked someone to shuffle the samples for me, so that I could also participate and vote :).

    I initially thought it would have been quite easy to identify the five different masterings, or at least the two most recent remasters. And... it wasn't that immediate! I found them, but not at my first listen.

    I generally use headphones for this kind of tests, but this time I've decided to use my home system: Denon AVR, Monitor Audio Silver 8 and Cambridge Audio 651 Blu-ray player (in which I plugged my USB with the samples).

    Now, let's get to the point: I voted Sample B, but I wasn't really sure between B and C. I thought they both sounded very good. To my ears, they were literally identical. I won't explain too much of my listening experience; just the reasons that led me to exclude the other samples.

    I excluded sample E because it was too bright for my taste: very dynamic but bright, so the vocals become harsh at times, like in Frame by Frame. Discipline was also a bit trebly.

    I also excluded sample A for EQ reasons: another bright mastering. I think the vocals are too prominent in Elephant talk and Frame by Frame. Guitars are buried because of that, but are then too forward in sheltering sky (quite narrow stereo image here, too). Discipline is not too bad, there's quite a good bass and the guitars lead the track. Just bright.

    Finally, I excluded Sample D, mainly because of compression. I think the tonality is ok, even if vocals and guitars tend to be buried sometimes. Sheltering sky is quite nice, it's a good transfer and I think the stereo image is wider here then on the other samples. This mastering shines on calm tracks like this. Thela and Discipline are compressed, I don't like how they sound. The impact of the drums has also been reduced in Elephant Talk and Frame by Frame. They sound good, but not as good as B or C.
    Plan9 likes this.
  5. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I thought this test would get more votes :shrug:. Anyone?
  6. Jwest97

    Jwest97 Regional Director of the Couch and T.V.

    Las Vegas, NV
    Now I'm really fascinated to see these results!
  7. dlokazip

    dlokazip Forum Transient

    Austin, TX, USA
    B, C, and E seemed very close, but B sounded more dynamic with a crisper drum sound.

    Excluded A almost immediately. Sounded kind of flat.
    albertop likes this.
  8. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for voting! I'm curious to know what you think about D :). Is it the worst of the bunch for you, or is A the worst?
  9. dlokazip

    dlokazip Forum Transient

    Austin, TX, USA
    I don't think D is as bad as A, but is not as good as the other three.

    All of this being relative, though. None of them really sound bad.
  10. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks, I agree. It’s all relatively speaking, as they all sound reasonably good.
  11. Jwest97

    Jwest97 Regional Director of the Couch and T.V.

    Las Vegas, NV
    Dang it, I revisited this with my speakers and I feel tempted to change my answer. I don't know if I'm being swayed by the change in set up, or by other people's answers. oh well... All I know is that I'm still not taken by sample B.

    I'm not going to change my answer since that's against the rules, but I am starting to doubt myself. Things that sounded exciting in my headphones are sounding kind of anemic through my speakers.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2018
  12. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    @Jwest97 , of course you are allowed to change your vote until 7th July!
    It happens the same to me. When I pick something hearing through headphones, then I change my mind with my home system...
    In general, I can agree with you on both B and D. None of them is perfect, they both sound good and bad in different ways.
  13. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here you can download the same level-adjusted sample of the SW's remix:
    Dropbox - Sample F Remix.flac

    This is not part of the blind listening test (let's call it Sample F), but you are welcome to comment or compare it the other samples. Bear in mind we are talking about different mixes.
  14. Jwest97

    Jwest97 Regional Director of the Couch and T.V.

    Las Vegas, NV
    Yeah, I'm going to have to change my answer. B is a lot better over the speakers, but still sounds muddy in a few places to me. I also feel like it takes what was supposed to be more nuanced in the percussion tracks and drags it way up to the front. I'm also going to blame my headphones for being hyper detailed, because over my speakers, sample D (the one I initially preferred) sounds more like it was coming in from the other side of a wall. The bass is really tight, but I can't get over the muffled highs through my bookshelf speakers. Maybe I should take my time with some of these. At the very least, I can take solace in the fact that the master I originally chose wasn't completely crushed to death. They're all great (except for Sample F). The master on Sample F is really compressed. Maybe Wilson's mix is great, but I won't know because I think that may be the only one of these masters I can't say sounds good. At least, that's my opinion. I'll go with sample C.
  15. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Perhaps there are no votes because people are still listening to the samples, as they are so long (almost 6min each) ;).
  16. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Golden Gate
    Maybe they're having trouble discerning any significant differences.

    Or is that just me?

    The usual disclaimer: I'm not an audiophile. Or not much of one, anyway. I seldom participate in these.

    My only claim to qualification is that I've listened to this album roughly 74 billion times. Which is several billion times fewer than The Power To Believe or Larks' Tongues In Aspic. But I digress.

    My gear is in my profile. Nuthin' fancy. What's not listed is my cheap-o entry-level Sennheiser cans. Which I just about never use. But they were helpful here.

    To complicate things, Wilson's remix is my go-to version. Period.

    To further complicate things, I'm 68. Eh? Whatdja say, sonny?

    Went with C. Seemed the least-futzed-with, and most 'natural' version. Barely discernible air around the percussion, which is entirely absent in all other versions.

    A is blah. Safe EQ choices.
    B exhibits too much digital reverb.
    D exhibits bass bloat at the expense of everything else.
    E is actually enjoyable to me (here) but, though balanced and fairly clear, everything is boosted unlike any other version. I'm not evangelical about preserving the original 'feel', but E would prolly get old fast.

    But damn, those are subtle variances.

    With my luck, I've probably chosen the generally-disliked Definitive Edition.

    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
  17. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. I agree completely. It's also been hard for me to discern differences at the first listen (even if I prepared the samples myself, funny)! But I don't see this as a problem. There have been other blind listening tests in the past with very similar sounding samples (see DSOTM or Meddle), and members were still participating. With Pink Floyd albums, most masterings are great and it's really hard to pick differences. Not in this case, differences are a bit more evident, if you listen carefully. When I did the test, I decided to stick to Thela and Discipline to pick these differences. Doing that, I immediately excluded A and D for the reasons explained in my post above.... then, yes, B and C sound the same to me.
  18. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    It's also my go-to version (the remix). It's curious to notice how different it sounds when compared to the original mix.
    Dropbox - Sample F Remix.flac
  19. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Golden Gate
    I know. To me this album always needed a remix, going back to day one. Partly because of my (still-lingering) anti-80s, anti-tinny-new-wave bias, and partly because 70s Crim records had so much more meat on their bones.

    I understand if 'philes would criticize the EQ on Wilson's (if there even is any; my impression is that what's on the multis is on the master, tonally speaking). But when Tony Levin is in the studio, he damn well better be heard.
    tedhead, dlokazip and albertop like this.
  20. Plan9

    Plan9 Mastering Engineer

    Toulouse, France
    Generally yes, but in the case of the King Crimson remixes, they were all mastered by Simon Heyworth after Steven Wilson was finished.
    JediJoker likes this.
  21. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I don't remember reading many posts against the tonality of the remixes. A few animated posts about the mastering yes, and also revisionism, particularly on Lizard. S&BB and Discipline were also seen by some members as compressed, back in 2009/2011, but that's all (AFAIR). Overall, the remixes of the KC discography have been highly praised, especially the surround versions. For the '80s albums, I like listening to both originals and remixes. In a way, they are two different beasts. For the other albums, remixes for life, I'm not listening to the originals anymore, sorry :cool:.
  22. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

  23. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Okay, for what's worth.......

    My first impression was - wow, this is a great album. It's of its time, and others had done some of this better (Byrne/Eno, for example), but that takes nothing away from the achievement. It's a solid effort, and worthy of seeking out the best version.

    I listened using a Linn Majik amp, and Sennheiser 650's (headphones) only.

    One final observation that applies generally to all these samples: The bass needs work. I'd of liked more bass on all these samples, I found it pretty thin throughout.

    Sample A: I thought this was a nice clean mastering. I especially enjoyed the drums, which has a nice discrete place in the mix. You can easily isolate a single instrument and follow it throughout the samples, which adds depth to the entire thing,

    Sample B: After the first sample this was a bit jarring. This is muddier, more diffuse. Of course this comes at the price of clarity and detail. it's not terrible, and in fact I wouldn't mind it so much - but after Sample A this soured the palette a little.

    Sample C: Pretty unspectacular, I think. The note I made on it was that it was 2-dimensional. It felt as though the samples were already in a descending order of detail. The music has lost some life here, and isn't as exciting.

    Sample D: What can you say about this? I think the cliche is "someone threw a blanket over the speakers". The whole thing felt smeared and smudged. You're really losing something here, imo.

    Sample E: Well, this was rubbish. Just awful. It sounded compressed to my ears. Just about everything good about the music was lost. Just terrible. I really had trouble getting through it. Honestly, if you have this version then you could replace it with any of the others and get an improvement (although Sample D gives it a run for its money).

    That said - there's one clear winner, and it's not particularly close. Sample A was the winner for me. I think this allowed each musician to be appreciated, as well as the whole. It was more alive and fresh.


    ps: Thanks for bumping this, I missed it first time around.

    pps: I like to go on first impressions. If I listen over and over I might change my mind slightly, but like most things, first impressions are hard to shrug off.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
    albertop likes this.
  24. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for voting @Vaughan . (Have you voted for A?)
    I couldn't find a better way to describe sample D: "Someone threw a blanket over the speakers"! That's the same feeling I had when I was preparing the five samples. Of course, if you listen to it on its own, that feeling fades away a little (the others are quite bright IMO).

    You can also find a link to the sample of the remix in post #18. Of course, that's out of the game, it's just out of curiosity.
  25. albertop

    albertop Forum Resident Thread Starter

    1 more week...

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