Audio quality/level problems
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Posted 7/17/11
Generally I find the audio and video quality on Crunchyroll to be satisfactory, but I've noticed that a handful of the new shows this season seem to have their audio mixed at much higher levels, which is resulting in audible clipping.

No. 6 is particularly egregious (waveforms are direct captures from my sound card) :



That's a ~20 second clip from around the five-minute mark of episode 1 (again, 720p stream), where Shion and Safu are having a normal conversation. The audio is constantly clipping, making everything sound loud and scratchy, even during the dialogue. Furthermore, the audio for episode 1 is entirely in mono. Episode 2 is at least stereo, but it retains the high levels and constant clipping. One shouldn't *ever* see the waveform getting flattened out on the tops and bottoms because it hits 0dB full scale like that, and it should *definitely* not be happening when characters are just talking (i.e. the sound isn't expected to even be particularly loud at that point.)

I haven't noticed problems with the audio levels to such an extent in shows from previous seasons. Are the source videos you've been getting just mixed particularly badly this season/for these series, or has something changed in your encoding process?

Usagi Drop's soundtrack also occasionally hits levels where the audio distorts (this clip is just a couple of seconds from episode 2, where the audio is expected to be loud-ish (Daikichi is shouting)) :



There are just a couple of places per episode like this where the audio gets truncated at 0dBFS (note the top of the waveform) which produces a little audible crackle. A couple times per episode isn't the end of the world and I wouldn't normally complain, but if the higher levels that drive things into clipping is a trend, it's a worrisome one.

The audio quality is important to me and I enjoy watching a lot less when the audio is distorted like this. If it keeps happening, I'll be tempted to seek alternate sources for my anime. Is anyone else bothered by this?

As a point of reference, here's some of the audio from Steins;Gate, which sounds like it's reasonably well mixed:



Note that nothing hitting full scale and getting truncated. Kamisama Dolls from this season sounds reasonably okay as well, so it's not necessarily a problem across the board.
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