Bizarre distortion issue with streaming music device

#1
My company uses Mood Profusion iO boxes to stream pandora at our locations (image below). It has a basic RCA stereo output, connected to our open-architecture DSP.

pandora.jpg

In the last week, I have had a flurry of complaints from locations that the music sounds distorted on bass-heavy songs. These complaints came in at the same time that Pandora changed the location of their servers from Seattle to the east coast, which caused the online browser interface at a lot of locations to lock up and require us to contact the provider directly to get the accounts unlocked.

Administrative issues aside, I cannot account for why a system that previously had no issues with distortion or gain structure, would suddenly start distorting. I tried lowering the levels in the processor by as much as 6dB and they're still hearing distortion, albeit more quietly. This points to the fact that the distortion is happening at the output of the box, as opposed to the input of the processor (there's plenty of headroom there).

The output level of the box is controlled by a browser-based interface. I instruct locations to set the level at maximum for simplicity of gain structure when we are commissioning the system. Could the box be overdriving its own outputs in the same way that a laptop can sometimes overdrive its headphone output?

This is one of the strangest situations I have ever encountered in my career. I don't have anyone at Pandora to speak with about this, obviously. I am concerned that they conducted some kind of upgrade to their transcoding algorithm that resulted in different output levels.

Does anyone have any ideas? Any help appreciated.
 
Jan 15, 2011
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Northwest
#2
Can the box be updated manually or is done automatically via the network? I'm wondering if it's more a compression scheme update that needs to take place rather than an output thing at the analog stage. Oh and I'm just speculating here.
 

Jay Barracato

Graduate Student
Jan 11, 2011
1,528
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Solomons MD
#3
We have the same type of system. A lot is in the original recordings as far as I can tell. Basically it needs a new channel eq as you go from station to station.

Some of the more modern stations are so bass heavy and distorted there is very little of anything else left.

Sent from my XT1254

 
#4
I got a response from their tech department asking me to adjust the "inaudible watermark" to -40dB. I changed the setting at one location where it was -12dB down to -40dB, but I don't really understand what this effects. Does anyone know what an inaudible watermark is in this context?
 
Aug 12, 2016
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#5
Wow...am I glad I found this Forum/posting.

I am the "tech guy" at a string of bars. Earlier this year, we started having the EXACT same issue as described in the original posting. A call to tech support with Pandora/Mood Music to check the latest firmware on all of our boxes revealed that the inaudible watermark might be to blame. In other words: Pandora's tech support people are aware of the issue. The support tech claimed that he could remotely turn off the watermark in all of our boxes, which prevented me from having to drive to each location to do it in the GUI. After he did so, I found the setting in the GUI to be unchanged, so I set it to -40db.

Violà! The problem seems to be solved.
 
#6
Wow...am I glad I found this Forum/posting.

I am the "tech guy" at a string of bars. Earlier this year, we started having the EXACT same issue as described in the original posting. A call to tech support with Pandora/Mood Music to check the latest firmware on all of our boxes revealed that the inaudible watermark might be to blame. In other words: Pandora's tech support people are aware of the issue. The support tech claimed that he could remotely turn off the watermark in all of our boxes, which prevented me from having to drive to each location to do it in the GUI. After he did so, I found the setting in the GUI to be unchanged, so I set it to -40db.

Violà! The problem seems to be solved.
Be wary of changing it on devices that haven't had their firmware updated. Pandora has been pushing upgrades remotely, and when they do it tends to reset the inaudible watermark back to -12, which makes it audible again.
 
Oct 6, 2016
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#7
I also subscribe to pandora for business using the Profusion I/O
percussive bass heavy notes create a crackling distortion. Changing the watermark to -40 removes probably 99% of it for me.
 
Dec 1, 2017
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#9
Good morning all, We just switched to Pandora for Business and set up our Mood Player. And like the rest of you on this message thread we are experiencing the distortion in sound quality. I have to think it is coming from the mood player, as other inputs to our amplifier do not have the distortion. I was going to try switch to better quality cables and different inputs, but then I found this thread about the Inaudible watermark settings. I would love to try to adjust this setting but cannot find any directions on how to do it. is this something I can do myself or do I need to call Tech support and have them do it? If I can do it myself, How do I do it? I would really like to get this issue resolved as soon as possible. We are a 24/7 fitness facility and the quality of the music is important to our training clients.

Thanks for the help.
 
#10
Good morning all, We just switched to Pandora for Business and set up our Mood Player. And like the rest of you on this message thread we are experiencing the distortion in sound quality. I have to think it is coming from the mood player, as other inputs to our amplifier do not have the distortion. I was going to try switch to better quality cables and different inputs, but then I found this thread about the Inaudible watermark settings. I would love to try to adjust this setting but cannot find any directions on how to do it. is this something I can do myself or do I need to call Tech support and have them do it? If I can do it myself, How do I do it? I would really like to get this issue resolved as soon as possible. We are a 24/7 fitness facility and the quality of the music is important to our training clients.

Thanks for the help.
You can access this option if you login as the admin (as opposed to the user). You may need to run an upgrade on the device to get that option if it's not visible. You shouldn't be hearing distortion on every song, just occasionally. If you hear it all the time that may be indicative of a different issue.
 
Mar 12, 2018
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Earth
#11
Got it figured out. I work in an establishment that plays jazz using Profusion IO/Mood Media/Pandora for Business. I could play light jazz out of the Mood unit at the lowest level and hear clipping then put on heavy metal at the loudest setting through a phone with no issues. After breaking our entire playback system down trying to confirm the root of the problem, I spent a few hours on the phone with Mood Media (over the course of a few calls).

There is a setting on the back end that users don't have access to called "Presence at Unity". I was able to get this setting disabled and the problem was immediately rectified. It's been two months with zero issues after close to a year with issues every single night.

I'm guessing the setting involves quieter passages in jazz being boosted/normalized while spikes in volume (drum solo, etc) are not being properly compressed.

Hope this helps others.
 
Apr 23, 2018
1
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Minnesota
#12
Got it figured out. I work in an establishment that plays jazz using Profusion IO/Mood Media/Pandora for Business. I could play light jazz out of the Mood unit at the lowest level and hear clipping then put on heavy metal at the loudest setting through a phone with no issues. After breaking our entire playback system down trying to confirm the root of the problem, I spent a few hours on the phone with Mood Media (over the course of a few calls).

There is a setting on the back end that users don't have access to called "Presence at Unity". I was able to get this setting disabled and the problem was immediately rectified. It's been two months with zero issues after close to a year with issues every single night.

I'm guessing the setting involves quieter passages in jazz being boosted/normalized while spikes in volume (drum solo, etc) are not being properly compressed.

Hope this helps others.
Where does one fine the "Presence at Unity" setting? I adjusted the inaudible watermark to -40 and we are still getting random popping sounds occasionally (isolated to the dmx device)