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It's time to end the "Loudness War"


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#1 BurnabyJoe

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 12:31 AM

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I can guarantee just about every user on here has an iPod or an mp3 player. When you put it on shuffle have you ever noticed some songs being WAY louder than others and thus having to adjust the volume all the time to prevent your ears from bleeding?

This is what has now been dubbed the "Loudness War" - http://en.wikipedia....ki/Loudness_war

This effects EVERY genre, what's the point in spending hundreds even thousands on good sound equipment if the source sucks?

I bring this up because as a person who loves music, and cares what it sounds like, I want to share this information with you.

Some of you may already know about this phenomenon, but a majority of the population doesn't, myself included up until a few months ago.

Watch this youtube video first:



I'm no audiophile myself, but this video explains the loss of DYNAMIC RANGE. The punch of the snare disappears, they louden up the quiet parts of the song to match the snare's loudness. If you we're to crank the beginning of the video real loud it would sound PERFECT but the end of the video does not.

Why do record companies do this? Similar to extremely loud commercials on TV, when you hear a song on the radio the louder one is supposed to catch your attention, but you are losing tremendous sound quality just because of this cheap marketing scam.



Big difference in punch and clarity eh?

When you look at the audio in a visual like that it looks so absurd, when you think audio you think of those peaks and valleys not a big wall of sound in this loud cuts.

Another great example is this video, comparing the dynamic Guitar Hero tracks (yes the video game) to the ACTUAL CD which is a pile of crap, and you can hear it:

<<<< BEST EXAMPLE

This effects mp3's, CD's, and even new Vinyl LP's. It effects all genres. The record companies think we all want loud garbage quality and don't care. There is nothing wrong with LOUD! the key is YOU have the volume nob, and turning up great quality music sounds amazing! Turning up this loudness crap just cripples your ears.

If you have any CD's or LP's before say 1991 you are generally clear of this. I have G'N'Rs Appetite for Destruction on CD and it is mastered very good. But many CD's I currently own are mastered horribly. Even bands like Metric, who aren't heavy and loud to begin with.

***Another good tip!! Don't assume "Digitally Remastered" means better! I have both copies of Nirvana's first album Bleach on CD. The one released in 1989 and the recent re-release from 2010. Yes believe it or not the 2010 release sounds WORSE!

We need to end this loudness war and GET WHAT WE PAY FOR. Even if you don't pay for music you have to be pissed off, what happened to listening to your favorite music in good quality?

http://www.dynamicrangeday.com/

Edited by BurnabyJoe, 17 March 2011 - 06:20 PM.

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#2 The Wizard of AZ

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:22 AM

I CAN'T HEAR YOU

YOU NEED TO SPEAK UP
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#3 trek

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:44 AM

Yes. Some of the brand new tracks sound like they are clipping. I dont know why studios master the tracks like that, it sounds terrible.
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#4 Buggernut

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:18 AM

Even if you don't pay for music you have to be pissed off

That's like complaining about stolen goods being broken.
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#5 J.R.

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:27 AM

I hate to be the bearer of bad news (especially as I agree with you) but most people don't care and it's unlikely to change thanks to that.
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#6 D-Money

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 03:10 PM

I enjoyed the irony of Songs For The Deaf (QOTSA) being in the examples of the Wikipedia article.

I hate it it when I get distortion on the drums when turning up a great song. I hope they curb the trend.
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#7 LostViking

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:07 PM

The only time when I actually enjoy something being 'loudened' is with DVDs/TV/Movies.

I hate when I rent, buy, or download a movie, have to set my speakers to maximum volume in order to hear the quiet parts, and then face a thundering explosion of loud when the loud parts come in.

If I was going to watch on a home theater setup, it would be great to have the peaks and valleys all over the place, it does sound way better. However, if I'm on my laptop at 3am and want to watch a movie, it pisses me off to no end. My Lord of the Rings Extended DVD collection is the classic example. I literally cannot hear any of the whispering or talking, even with laptop set to max volume, yet the music and shouting and fighting is way too loud to be played in my apartment (my laptop speakers are actually fairly loud). Its like dynamics gone mad, and its really frustrating.

Most DVD players and computer movie players don't have a normalize function to fix this either (I can do it myself with Vdub and Audition, but its really time consuming).

Loudness is very useful for late night movie watching, particularly in an apartment. Its also good for music, people like to set their headphones, car stereos, etc. to a certain volume. With great dynamic range you can't set a particular volume, you are not in control of how loud your music is.

But the good, ol fashioned peak/valley does sound awesome. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is a great album, complete with a massively dynamic range that just oozes musical goodness from every orifice.
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#8 TOMapleLaughs

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 12:56 AM

It's annoying to me in that there is no consistency between old and new music. A standard should've been set long ago.

However, i believe new music is louder partly because there is way more sound being generated, period. By computers. All those vocal effects and background loops didn't exist in the past.

Even the ridiculousness of sampling and looping Public Enemies "Fear of a Black Planet" is quiet by today's standards. And that's kinda sad, considering the effort that went into Fear as opposed to most albums today.
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#9 BoggyDepot

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:23 PM

What you said makes sense, but it's interesting to note... the wiki article includes albums like Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses, Dirt by Alice in Chains, Songs for the Deaf by QOTSA, and Angel Dust by Faith No More - those are absolute CLASSICS!
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#10 silverpig

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:26 PM

It's annoying to me in that there is no consistency between old and new music. A standard should've been set long ago.

However, i believe new music is louder partly because there is way more sound being generated, period. By computers. All those vocal effects and background loops didn't exist in the past.

Even the ridiculousness of sampling and looping Public Enemies "Fear of a Black Planet" is quiet by today's standards. And that's kinda sad, considering the effort that went into Fear as opposed to most albums today.


That has nothing to do with it. You can layer 30 parts over each other and still have good dynamic range that isn't done poorly like this.
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Posted 16 March 2011 - 09:45 PM

I usually buy the remastered disc if my old copy was transferred from an analog source. I sometimes hear hissing when I turn the volume up. I do agree clipping is a bad thing, though. I used to normalize my audio to -95.0 dB, but now I set it to -92.0 dB. The audio on the actual discs, however, should be set to a lower volume to prevent clipping. There certainly should be some regulations in place.

My old Trooper album has this disclaimer on the back side.

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#12 BurnabyJoe

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 10:32 PM

The Doors - 1988
Wolfmother - 2006
RHCP - 1995
GNR - 1987
Linkin Park - 2003

Just examples of CD's from the 80's that sound great, and everything else since the early to mid 90's that has gone to hell.

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#13 BurnabyJoe

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 10:50 PM

Last one:

1991 - Loreena Mckennit's the Visit (What a recording should sound like)
2009 - Metric's Fantasies (Goes to show this goes beyond hard rock and heavy metal) I have rap and jazz recordings that look like this wall of noise.

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Edited by BurnabyJoe, 16 March 2011 - 11:05 PM.

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#14 Dazzle

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:29 PM

I bet most people on this board use the stock ipod earbuds.
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#15 JoGuitar

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:57 PM

Yep..it's all gone to crap...

Your resident Audio Engineer...
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#16 nux4lyfe

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 04:09 PM

I am a audio engineer myself and I cannot help but shake my head every time I get a client who destroys their song by asking me to master it as loud as possible...great example of a horribe mastered Album is Eminem's latest one, great cd but man did they do a crap mastering job..too loud!
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#17 JoGuitar

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 04:17 PM

I am a audio engineer myself and I cannot help but shake my head every time I get a client who destroys their song by asking me to master it as loud as possible...great example of a horribe mastered Album is Eminem's latest one, great cd but man did they do a crap mastering job..too loud!


How did I not know there was another Audio Engineer on these forums?!

If we get a few more we can start our own sub-forum with topics like:

Pre-Amps - Who makes the best?

and

Digital Consoles - No longer a total pain in the butt
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#18 ThaBestPlaceOnEarth

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 05:48 PM

It's like night and day listening to a recording from recently and a recording from back in the day. I don't know about this loudness was but you don't have to be a genius to recognize that sound quality's been going downhill. I mean, I love loud music but that's to be achieved by better equipment on the part of we the listeners, not on the recording end where it's got to be about quality.

Edited by ThaBestPlaceOnEarth, 17 March 2011 - 05:49 PM.

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#19 nux4lyfe

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 08:01 PM

How did I not know there was another Audio Engineer on these forums?!

If we get a few more we can start our own sub-forum with topics like:

Pre-Amps - Who makes the best?

and

Digital Consoles - No longer a total pain in the butt


Sarcasm or are you for real? :mellow:
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#20 JoGuitar

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 09:36 PM

Sarcasm or are you for real? :mellow:


I am for real. No sarcasm involved.

Edit: I should clarify, I am a live FOH and Monitor Engineer not a Studio Engineer, but I do love to dabble in recording and producing from time to time

Edited by JoGuitar, 17 March 2011 - 09:43 PM.

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#21 Ghostsof1915

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 10:00 PM

I remember in the 80's the reason behind everyone dumping vinyl and tapes was to improve the sound.

Digital is fine as long as it's in a good format and it's engineered properly. I think the problem is the system to get music from the artist to the people is where it's broken. In addition it's harder to find good music instruction, and get people who know how to compose music.

The craftsmanship in music has gone to hell. No one experiments. No one wants to take the time to improve. The distribution system is fracked all to hell.

This is why the industry is what it is. They are selling products now, not music.
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#22 JoGuitar

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 10:09 PM

The real problems started happening when we started loading our songs onto computers and iPods, the mass compressed crap sound became the "norm" and you didn't have to make an effort to put decent mastering in place cause it was just going to get butchered through some sub-par ear buds anyway...I put on my Al Green records and marvel at how rich they sound...same with most Motown, and 80s new wave/rock.

EDIT: for Typo

Edited by JoGuitar, 17 March 2011 - 10:12 PM.

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#23 Venom52

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 10:19 PM

i'm always adjusting my volume so I can listen to the good parts of the song, but when I get it to the volume, all of the other crap is so loud that I have to turn it down anyways.
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#24 BurnabyJoe

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 10:34 PM

The real problems started happening when we started loading our songs onto computers and iPods, the mass compressed crap sound became the "norm" and you didn't have to make an effort to put decent mastering in place cause it was just going to get butchered through some sub-par ear buds anyway...I put on my Al Green records and marvel at how rich they sound...same with most Motown, and 80s new wave/rock.

EDIT: for Typo


This pisses me off though, I can somewhat understand iTunes and even radio play having this epidemic. But the fact of the matter is people like myself who buy CD's now days are a niche market to begin with and clearly care a lot about music and the way it sounds. You'd think they would master the CD's properly.
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#25 toshabaker

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 10:51 PM

I remember in the 80's the reason behind everyone dumping vinyl and tapes was to improve the sound.

Digital is fine as long as it's in a good format and it's engineered properly. I think the problem is the system to get music from the artist to the people is where it's broken. In addition it's harder to find good music instruction, and get people who know how to compose music.

The craftsmanship in music has gone to hell. No one experiments. No one wants to take the time to improve. The distribution system is fracked all to hell.

This is why the industry is what it is. They are selling products now, not music.


It's funny, in the 80's people actually cared about sound quality. I remember all my buddies and I would buy the nicest amps and speakers and stereos for our cars, spending all of our discretionary income on this stuff. If you wanted to record music for someone from a CD onto a cassette, you had to make sure it wasn't that cheapo ferrous oxide stuff, oh no, it HAD to be chromium dioxide or metal tapes. Then, somehow, early in the 90's, there was almost a backlash against the whole audiophile thing, coinciding with the whole grunge and alternative scene, and sound quality never really recovered from that. I know there's good music coming out nowadays, but I find most new releases hard to listen to because the sound quality is so staticy and clipped.

Maybe I'm just an old fogey, but there's something to be said about being blown away by a new album with good music AND good sound quality.
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#26 JoGuitar

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 08:51 AM

Listen to the new album by My Chemical Romance if you want to hear the worst mastered POS that I have ever heard. Welcome to the Black Parade on the other hand was brilliantly engineered
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#27 Echo Park

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 01:49 PM

I can't say that I'm really into MCR, but, I have listened to the new album, it really is terrible mastering, at least to me. I don't know if either JoGuitar or nux4lyfe are into Radiohead, but I think that their new album is quite well mixed. Everything has it's own place and you can pick out every little detail. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea and the first few songs are a little frenetic for my taste, but I was wondering what other people thought of the mixing.

Also, being in a band myself I actively take part in the recording and mixing of our songs, and none of them look like a big wall of sound. Mind you we do all our recording and mixing ourselves - great results when you know what your doing, but since none of us really know what we're doing it's hard to get the desired results.

Also, since most of this is new to me (as we've just recently started recording our music) I wouldn't mind some clarification on what the difference between mixing and mastering is.

Thanks!
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#28 JoGuitar

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 03:11 PM

Mixing is what the producer/engineer in the studio does..he is resposible for capturing each instrument and sending a mix to the mastering engineer...a mastering engineer is responsible for making sure that from track to track an album has the same consistent volume...so it doesn't go LOUD SONG...really quiet song...Medium Song... The problem here is mastering is being taken up to the highest peak and then squashed back down...sure everything sounds equal but it also sounds like mush...a good mastering engineer can balance from track to track while maintaining a high dregree of fidelity from the original mix...
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#29 terrible.dee

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 03:12 PM

As a professional in the field, let me tell you this:

If I DON'T Compress the snot out of my mixes durring the mastering phase of a project my clients bitch untill I DO.
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#30 JoGuitar

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 04:53 PM

It's really kind of a catch 22...you have to keep the clients happy in order to get paid...but sometimes it's at the cost of personal preference even though we're paid for our listening skills...
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