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Author Topic: Loudness Wars  (Read 7422 times)

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March 25, 2011, 07:49:06 PM
Why do people do it? so many albums these days are compressed at the mastering stage including ones that I like, I just don't see it as very musical to have no dynamic variation in an album. I think one of the reasons "The Seldom Seen Kid" is one of the best albums of the last 10 years is because it has dynamics, which made it one of a few.

Why is it desirable to treat music in this way? Why does it need to be loud? If people like it surely they will turn it up if they like it and if it's on the radio they will compress it anyway.

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March 27, 2011, 10:51:10 AM
Why do people do it? so many albums these days are compressed at the mastering stage including ones that I like, I just don't see it as very musical to have no dynamic variation in an album. I think one of the reasons "The Seldom Seen Kid" is one of the best albums of the last 10 years is because it has dynamics, which made it one of a few.

Why is it desirable to treat music in this way? Why does it need to be loud? If people like it surely they will turn it up if they like it and if it's on the radio they will compress it anyway.
People, Record Labels, Businesses maximize their music to compete against the next guy. It's a pure business mind set not stemming from anything else but to compete. It started when a record label decided they wanted their music louder then all the others. And to most people louder means better. But as we all know now in this industry that is not the case. So that's how this trend got started. So labels know now that they're killing that art, hard work and life put into making these albums, yet they still continue on doing so. This is what I call ignorance! One main reason I can think of is because there are no guide lines, rules or quality control measures in the music industry. Pretty much anyone can make their album and put it out. I heard from friends that the film industry has a standard dB level at which they mix movies at. I don't think this would be helpful in the music industry cause every mix engineer does their thing differently. But I do think there should be a lower limit at which a master can be released at. Also it shouldn't be entirely monitored by levels on a meter but also our ears. If an album comes in to hot to a ME then part of their job should be to also bring it down to the listening standard level. We all are listening to music way to close to the digital ceiling and this is not beneficial to anyone. But I have no clue how this mad squashing will get under control...

I mix 20dB lower then a commercial released albums, and that level sound great!!!

  • ***
March 27, 2011, 05:20:12 PM
It certainly doesn't help when all the new bands are asking engineers to make their song as loud or louder than "insert famous band here" and anything slightly quieter isn't good enough.


Why do people do it? so many albums these days are compressed at the mastering stage including ones that I like, I just don't see it as very musical to have no dynamic variation in an album. I think one of the reasons "The Seldom Seen Kid" is one of the best albums of the last 10 years is because it has dynamics, which made it one of a few.

Why is it desirable to treat music in this way? Why does it need to be loud? If people like it surely they will turn it up if they like it and if it's on the radio they will compress it anyway.
www.mikeslatermusic.com
Certified Pro Tools Operator
15" MBP, Apogee Duet, M-Audio BX5a's

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March 27, 2011, 11:48:44 PM
Let the needles move!!   ;D
Cubase V5 with Yamaha N12

  • *****
March 28, 2011, 02:47:34 PM
Relative volume fools people all the time, even trained professionals!

Have you ever inserted a plug-in and felt the mix sounded better, then actually matched the level with the plug inserted and without it, only to realize it actually doesn't sound much different, or even sounds worse with the new plug? I have!

It's the same with a CD. The first thing the band or whoever is going to do is take the CD and put it in their stereo. Then they'll pop it out and listen to something they're familiar with (which, if released in the last 10 years will be LOUD) Then, pop the new CD in and notice that it's 'small, not exciting, doesn't sound as good as the other one.' It can be 100% a volume difference, which if they corrected by turning the volume knob, they would hear, but they don't want to assume people know how to operate their volume knobs!

I remember years ago, we had a little punk rock label, and didn't know anything about mastering. The first CD we released was easily 12db below commercial CDs of the time. And a few people commented on it, etc. But college radio still played it, and no one ever returned it. That was in the days of CD tray machine, where you'd put in 5 CDs and hit 'random'. That really made the level difference obvious!

I hope that in the future, we see more consumer gear able to adjust a track so the the RMS (or perceived level, more importantly) is consistent from song to song.

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March 28, 2011, 05:30:54 PM
John, I agree on relative volume, confuses me with effects (including a lot of compressor) which boost the volume by default which is annoying but my argument is on the side of keeping the dynamic range of the original mix whilst effectively normalising it.

  • *****
March 28, 2011, 05:43:50 PM
John, I agree on relative volume, confuses me with effects (including a lot of compressor) which boost the volume by default which is annoying but my argument is on the side of keeping the dynamic range of the original mix whilst effectively normalising it.

I agree we should protect dynamic range, and leave a little headroom t avoid interpeak distortion. I just was giving my opinion on how we got here! :)

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April 04, 2011, 05:49:25 AM
For some stuff I like the loud compressed sound.  It really does add an aggressive edge.IMO.  I am fine with trying to achieve loud as long as I feel I am not ruining the track by doing so.  I do think that some engineers cop-out taking the perceived "high ground" on the loudness wars instead of digging in and really learning how to do it.  Once an engineer knows how to make something sound good and loud at the same time I see them much less likely to complain about it. 

I am not painting everyone with this brush and certainly no one here because I don't know any of you or your work.  Certainly we can all point to examples like Death Magnetic (Metallica) as casualties in the loudness war.  But then you listen to something like Dark Horse from Nickelback or the Fame Monster by Lady Gaga and these loud well produced albums have something that a pink floyd type production would take away.  Chinese Democracy from the new G'n'R is a quiet album that really has no sonic benefit from being as quiet as it is.  When level matched it doesn't sound better then other commercial releases. 

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April 04, 2011, 06:15:32 AM
Didn't this start happeneing about the time the Sony Walkman came out, and people started shoving ear buds into their ears?

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April 04, 2011, 06:37:15 AM
Didn't this start happeneing about the time the Sony Walkman came out, and people started shoving ear buds into their ears?


Nope the loudness wars is something engineers always wanted to have happen, sort of.  Back in the days of records if you recorded too hot the record would skip thus making a ceiling to the maximum loudness a record could be produced at.  Engineers were often frustrated with this limitation and a decision had to be made about how loud vs how many returns from customers with records that skip.  When it moved to tape you could go louder but then at a certain point you'd get tape distortion plus a lot of releases were still happening on vinyl.  In the digital age the only maximum is our gears ability to not distort in a way that is audibly unpleasing.  People are learning all kinds of new tricks to get loud good sounding recordings.