No patches for digital audio releases

One good thing about digital media is that potential issues can be fixed later on with patches. With games and applications patches are very common, but unfortunately digital audio releases don’t get patches.

When CD was the ruling format for audio releases, patches weren’t possible. You would have to make a new release and scrap the old ones.

But with downloadable files and streaming services everything should be possible…

Definition of broken digital audio

When I am talking about broken digital audio in this post, I mean error situations that happen in mixing, mastering or audio encoding steps (and they produce audible issue for listeners). If there are minor errors in those three steps (that might produce broken audio), they can still be fixed with some minor work and new files can be made (and then uploaded to the internet).

I am not talking about the fact that Rick was playing drums completely wasted or that band couldn’t keep the tempo during the song.

And I solely focus on big money releases, since that is were the end user result should be optimal.

Case 1. Batman Begins soundtrack

Batman Begins movie was released on 2005, and according to the Box Office Mojo it was 9th highest-grossing movie of that year. Soundtrack was composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, and it is safe to assume that there were other skilled people involved in that project.

And to the issue, WaterTower Music (Warner Bros.’ in-house music label) has released the soundtrack on YouTube. I am not talking about the invidual tracks, but the whole album as one video. If you go to 47:20 part of that video and start to listen for few seconds, you can easily hear that there are two different tracks playing on top of each other (and that is a major issue for an audio release).

I assume someone joined the invidual tracks manually in their digital audio workstation (DAW) software and botched the thing at that point. And I can safely assume that person didn’t even to bother to listen it (it is over 50 minutes long so…). Nor did anyone else working there with that release.

I get that people make mistakes. That is natural. But WaterTower Music should have some sort of QA team in the building to prevent something like that from happening.

But the bigger issue is that the error won’t get fixed. I am sure WaterTower Music is well aware about the issue, but I am not sure if the no-patch situation is because they don’t care, or because they don’t want to lose their YouTube link / analytics.

In case you didn’t know, by default YouTube does not provide a replace option for videos. YouTube does have tools for that, since record labals have updated some existing videos with better ones (see Tom Scott’s video about this), but those tools aren’t available for most uploaders.

There are quite many music videos in YouTube that have suboptimal audio in them. But once the YouTube URL goes live in social media, nobody wants to fix the situation with new release on another YouTube URL.

For example, Spotify allows anyone to reupload the audio files and keep the old playcount on them.

Case 2. Writing’s On The Wall (Instrumental) song

Spectre movie was released on 2015, and according to the Box Office Mojo it was 6th highest-grossing movie of that year. Main theme (Writing’s On The Wall) was made by Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes. And the song also won an Oscar. So I think it is safe to assume that some effort went into that song.

But as same as with other James Bond movies, there are also versions of the main theme without the vocals (so-called instrumental versions). Unfortunately someone failed at removing the vocals on the full length track, and (specially on quiet parts of the song) you can quite easily hear Sam singing (listen at 3:08).

And in case you were wondering: yes, you can easily hear that issue with sub 100 dollar speakers / headphones. I first noticed this when I was listening the song from Streaming Soundtracks.

Same issue doesn’t seem to bother the shorter 2 minutes 10 seconds version the song that appears in the original soundtrack, so I have no clue what has happened. Maybe someone working in Universal Music Classics can explain this?

But I can still say with confidence that the issue (vocals not removed correctly) will stay that way for as long as I live.

🔥 💿