LosslessBob – What the information means
As a lossless recording version is reviewed and found to be useful (as in offering something new and not just another cdr rip of a previous circulated version), it is assigned an LB number and processed into a database. If an info file exists, an attempt is made to import most of it into the database as matching good info file information is the easiest way to identify a recording version. Often there is no info file or other version identifying information so sometimes additional versions of a show are given a letter identifier such as version “a” to differentiate them. Additional notes are added to the database entry such as the number of cdrs, their timings rounded up to the next minute, when and where the recording was obtained, ratings, comparisons, quality, annoyances from other members of the audience, flaws, and a numbered track listing. At this point a snapshot of the database entry is taken and written as a file to travel on with the lossless set as it is passed on to others. What is on these web pages is a more current snapshot which may be different if updates were made. It is hoped eventually that the original txt and md5 files can also be made available for review.
Some notes will refer to audience annoyances like sing-along, talking and background talking. Basically when these notes are made, the listener wanted to tell these people to shut up. So if they are very brief and stopped shortly, they are not cited. Noting these annoyances was a later decision so not all shows have these types of notes.
Some notes will refer to the spectral frequency. This a feature of some wav editors to see the density of the frequency spectrum. Some notes will say something like not much or nothing above 16k. Certain recording devices such as mini-disc and some mics produce less dense patterns in the high end. Converting wav to mp3 and back to wav will also remove some of the upper frequencies. Also sometimes remastering will remove or increase various frequency bands. Sometimes this results in a less full sound and others times who knows. Also some old recordings may have a band near 16k caused by interference from a nearby tv during an analog transfer (earlier recording notes misname this a hiss band although it was not heard as hiss and sometimes would come and go in a recording version; newer notes will call this a tv band). Making notes sometimes on unusual spectral frequency densities is a more recent development and the hope is it will help better identify recording versions.
outstanding = A+, 5
excellent = A or A-, 4
very good = B+, B, or B-, 3
average/good = C+, C, C-, 2
poor = D+, D, D-, 1
very poor = F, 0
Basically those not serious about Bob will be more likely to be to able to enjoy A ratings. A listener will need to be a little more into Bob to enjoy B ratings. Only serious devotees will want to listen to those rated C. Anything below C is stuff that will probably only be listened to once by those very seriously into listening to everything by Bob. Still it is very easy for some to adjust their internal listening filters to tune in to whatever sound quality is presented. Some recording versions are just too harsh to be listened to at higher volumes and have to be turned down to be listened to and they get lower ratings as a result.
Not all recordings have letter ratings since that was a later decision to add more finer rating categories. Sound ratings are always subject to change on a subsequent listening and unfortunately sometimes affected by enthusiasm for show content or what was just previously listened to or mood, but generally they should not be off by more than 1 letter level. If a rating changes during a subsequent listening, it is found to be more likely to move down no more than one letter level. When a rerating moves up it is likely to move up only one + sublevel.
When more than one version for a show exists, sometimes a comparison is done. For the comparison, Bob’s voice is considered most important. A small 15 to 30 second sample from one of Bob’s quieter songs while Bob is singing is compared back to back. An attempt is made to make the sound levels similar. The reviewer has a bias to a warmer sounding or less harsh vocal as this sounds more natural. That puts a bias on mic recording gear giving advantage to binaural mics over cardioid. Basically those which capture a wider sound are preferred over the narrower sound. Of course the wider sound can bring in more annoying crowd behavior, but this is not part of the comparison criteria and the notes on talking should be considered in tandem.
Sometimes on a comparison there is reference to an eac compare. This is a utility within the eac software to compare wav files. There may be notes that it was an exact eac match or a close eac match to a previous version. A close eac match may differ in the offset or a few spots. However this is usually only one track being tested and there are no assurances that the rest will match the same. The assumption is that these matches indicate there is nothing new for the version to offer and review is stopped unless there were flaws noted for the prior version and then the new version is tested to see if they are also present.
So ratings and comparisons should only be considered as guidelines and not fixed in stone. And for those who record shows, apologies if you do not like the rating or comparison, but just remember the reviewer’s bias does not appear to be shared by the majority and the comparison sample may have not been representative and there are differences in stereo playback systems. For those doing remasters, if you boost the levels up so that they clip, this can add harshness and if you raise the midrange and high-end, this can also add harshness. Adding harshness in Bob’s vocals is not considered a good thing when the comparisons are done. The majority of remasters that fiddle with the tone have been found to add harshness and generally are not considered as good as the originals.
As far as accuracy of the information, much relies on the original information passed on with the lossless set. Obviously on listening, some older shows listed as masters are probably not. There is also still confusion on older shows on who taped what as some recording versions have been misreported as another taper. As far as flaws listed sometimes they are missed and not noted. Sometimes comments or flaws noted on one show get mistakenly entered on the wrong show. Similarly sometimes there are typos on where the flaw is such as wrong track or time. But overall the accuracy rate should be high.
Some of the terms used to describe a recording version are further demonstrated with images.
And a big Thanks to all those who participated in helping spread Bob’s music.