Revolution Upon Us
Level control in digital audio has traditionally been based on peak measurement. Where peak meters were enough in early days of digital, 15 years of research at TC Electronic has been devoted to discover better routines, by which high definition audio isn't harmed because of old vices. Several TC technologies were donated to the new broadcast standards emerging, and they are part of the revolution I'm discussing here.
A continuation of peak level normalization would have had disastrous consequences for music, drama and film. It would have undermined audio's storytelling potential, and prevented an undistorted sound from reaching the consumer. In a peak level world, it makes little difference whether you're listening to micro speakers or to a fine reproduction system.
Fortunately, there were other passionate audio professionals wanting to stop our medium from falling victim to limbo practices, without inflicting more patent protected technology upon it. The organizations and research institutes considering such aspects were EBU's PLOUD, NHK, ARIB, IRT and CRC. We owe them a big "thank you" for helping the revolution.
Listeners rate loud commercials and promos the number one issue when asked if they're annoyed with broadcast audio at times. In 2008, BCAP took the consequence and voluntarily defined loudness based control practices for interstitials in the UK, thereby cutting the number of complaints regarding strident commercials to less than 50% of the year before.
Taking the British results into account, and realizing how the original ITU-R BS.1770 is blind towards the major audio broadcast problem, the above organizations came up with complementary tools for BS.1770 to deal predictably and automatically with interstitials as well as with regular programming.
Today, pro audio therefore holds a suite of efficient and coherent tools, based on open standards, to control the loudness and to avoid overload during production as well as distribution to any platform, be it iPod, CD, HDTV, mobile TV, or cinema. New tools are backwards compatible, so broadcasters may take advantage of the full palette of improvements, regardless if a local guideline is still rooted in the first BS.1770 standard. TC processors and meters consequently support BS.1770 as well as subsequent improvements embodied in BS.1770-2, EBU R128, TR-B32 etc.
On a global scale, broadcast is adopting a transparent and predictable loop, spanning from production over distribution to various end-listener platforms and logging.
TC Electronic embraces this closed loop based on open standards, and we stand committed to support further loudness and true-peak based improvements in years to come.
Without forgetting linear audio, TC will continue optimizing delivery of data reduced formats such as AC3, MP3, AAC, DD+, Ogg Vorbis etc., and we will refine trickle-down techniques for dealing easily with multiple platforms without locking broadcasters into proprietary solutions.
Equipment on these pages meets new standard criteria, but you will recognize the same consciousness and do-what's-right-for-audio shine through when considering TC processors, amps and speakers for other applications, e.g. live, install and production.
Welcome to a world of superior, transparent, and ever-improving audio. Welcome to our world.
Thomas Lund, HD Development Manager