Skip to main content

Interesting site I found. Not sure if its been mentioned here.

I guess everyone is worried that after consumers have a LOUD CD in the deck, and switching to a Dyanamic CD(not so loud),
that the consumer will wonder,
"Why the hell is this one so low."
And they will link that to quality issues, or something of the such.

Im talking about regular consumers, that have no Idea about music production and mastering. They just listen to music.

Though there are other factors.
Just rambling on here.

Topic Tags


Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 12/02/2008 - 20:41

The loudness wars are ruining my enjoyment of music. All of my mastering clients want their stuff super loud to compete with everyone else's music. They think that if their stuff is not as loud as some other artist's music that some how their music is less salable or marketable.

I am beginning to think that really loud music is being supported by audiologist and hearing aid manufactures to ensure they have plenty of work in the years ahead. My 15 year old niece listens to her IPOD at levels that would cause my ears to shut down and start bleeding. I have gone to concerts and seen people sitting inside the speaker stacks. When I go to NY for the AES I have to take hearing protectors to protect my ears from the subway train noise and then I get to the AES and go into a booth and see someone listening to headphones and I can hear what they are hearing just fine since they have the volume control at 11. I am not sure what it is about loud music but a lot of people seem to listen at high levels to over compressed and limited music and seem to find enjoyment in the process.

There is nothing wrong with dynamics and if you go to a classical concert you will find that there are all levels from fff to ppp and everything in between. It is normal for music to be dynamic and the ear needs time to relax in between ppp passages which is why my ears always feel good after going to a concert and getting themselves gently exercised. If I have a punk or hip hop client in for mastering my ears always feel like they have gone ten rounds with a prize fighter.

Until people start to want dynamics back into their music and until artist start demanding good well mastered tracks the loudness wars will continue unabated.


RemyRAD Tue, 12/02/2008 - 21:21

While we all muse over the loudness wars & perceptual loudness value, there is that air of excitement of getting a 20 pound, bag of crap into a 10 pound bag. It is, after all, your last chance up at-bat to knock the signal right out of the ballpark. Sure, I like a full dynamic range. But in all actuality, it really depends upon the source material. The art of recording is still a highly unnatural act. Nothing actually sounds real. But we try to invoke the feeling of reality, sincerity, intimacy with our electronic interpretations. There is no natural or unnatural. No correct or incorrect. There is only the sense of good feeling or bad feeling.

Give me the goods! Where's the beef?
Ms. Remy Ann David

BrianaW Wed, 12/03/2008 - 05:56

I admit, I'm guilty of this at times... but only sometimes. I am however tracking an album now that I plan to register with that website and the CD will have the sticker on the packaging. The loudness wars are going away... more people are turning to vinyl as well (probably for a lot of the same reasons). Vinyl sales went up by 40% since 2007.

The new way is music mixed for junky systems. Before the 90's, it was all about the good sounding home sound system. Now the attention is focused more on home theater sound, and musicality has gone out the window. Crappy mixes for crappy car stereo systems and crappy ipod's and crappy computer speakers or mini bookshelf systems. How many people have a really good sounding music system these days?

These things I'm writing are basically just me complaining, but I do think the loudness wars are coming to an end and I think that true hi-fi is being reintroduced to a new generation.

Another possibility... the damage to the nerves in the ear causes a rush of endorphins that the listeners become subconsciously addicted to? I know that's how it is with a lot of people that are chronically late... we are addicted to the adrenalin rush. :)

Dozer Thu, 12/04/2008 - 07:56

It is a skill however to get a track loud and still maintain dynamics. Actually, is seems that is where the money is.
Though as we all know, some tracks will never have
the ability to be as "super-loud" as they want, due to the way the song was mixed.

"Now Im going to ramble a-bit, stuff we've probably
heard before."

I want my track loud, can you make it that way for me?
If they get back something that just doesn't seem loud, they will go elsewhere, or complain about that.

For instance, if a listener visits someones myspace page, and was listening to their music. "Just listening to the jams man"

Then they click on another aritists profile, and their music is louder, they will, more than likely, link this to higher quality.
There seems to be nothing that could ever be done about it.
Its like "Natural Selection". :lol:

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 12/04/2008 - 20:05

Actually if people would use their volume controls they could have the music at the level they want it. I never understood the idea of having everything sound the same level wise. That is what the engineering team put the volume control on your car radio/IPOD/Stereo system/boombox for. Have we gotten so lazy that we cannot move the volume control to make things louder or softer? Even surround sound amplifiers for DVD playback come with a remote with a volume control to control the 5.1 sound so you don't even have to get out of your chair. No wonder 1/3 of the US population is obese. Maybe we ought to start a campaign to do finger exercises so people can again use their volume controls.

BushmasterM4 Fri, 12/05/2008 - 10:27

Compare Metallicas' Black album to the new one. Its sad the loss of fidelity over the last 10 years. Its a shame, there are some descent songs on the new Metallica cd. I bought the vinyl thinking it may have been mixed and mastered better but it wasnt. My 30 year old turntable cringed when I played the album :)

anonymous Fri, 12/05/2008 - 14:42

BushmasterM4 wrote: Compare Metallicas' Black album to the new one. Its sad the loss of fidelity over the last 10 years. Its a shame, there are some descent songs on the new Metallica cd. I bought the vinyl thinking it may have been mixed and mastered better but it wasnt. My 30 year old turntable cringed when I played the album :)

Dude :(

I listened to the new one and thought it was some of the cleanest digital editing I've ever heard. Every second of music is cleaned, scrubbed and had every spark of goodness removed from it. I thought the vinyl was going to be something worth owning. :(

JoeH Mon, 12/08/2008 - 01:41

As usual, MIX magazine has some decent articles in it about the loudness wars. THis month's issue is a "Mastering" Issue, so there's some things in there worth checking out about the loudness wars, including an interview with Bob Ludwig.

Speaking of loundess, I can't stand listening to music on commerical FM radio anymore; it's just unreal what they've done to crush the signal (already squashed and ruined in most cases before it ever hits their processing). Ditto for so many commerical releases from artists who really SHOULD know better.

I have found dynamic range is still out there on some CDs, even in rock and pop. John Hyatt's new release is enjoyable, so is Lindsey Buckingham's "Gift of Screws". Sure, there's plenty of hot levels on much of it, but there's a song on there that actually has loud and soft passages (traces of real emotion, too!) and you can hear it for yourself on a track called: "Love Runs Deeper." I haven't looked at the waveform on a screen, but the intro and verses are noticably tamer than the choruses, and when the choruses do come in, they SLAM in. Amazing what that sounds like, in the right hands, on a CD (it even translates to my MP3 player, with tracks I've ripped myself.) It might be just good mastering, or it might have been planned ahead of time. Either way, it's a goddamn bresh of fresh air in a sea of garbage.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There WILL come a time, perhaps in our professional lifetime, when there will be "re-releases" of material that has been remixed/remastered WITHOUT the insane loudness crushing going on now. It will be sold as something "NEW" and just maybe the masses will flock to it. (Anyone remember the old 'Full Dynamic Range" stickers on old vinyl records from the 50's and 60's? :twisted: )

Similar to the vinyl to CD reissues of the 80's & 90's, this is going to be what the record labels will do to make $$$ from old product. (Save your raw tracks and non-Finalized pre-mastered mixes, folks. It WILL be a revenue source for you someday. ;-) )

I can see the ads now: "Hear it the way it was recorded in the first place, before they crushed the life out of it!"

RUSH or Sting's last three or four CDs would be good places to start.

AllAboutTone Wed, 12/10/2008 - 22:37

Greener wrote: I don't understand how people fail to see this really simple thing about audio.
If you want it louder, get a bigger funking amp and speakers!

Very true, louder CDs come from great preamps such as API and others, its all about putting the harmonics distortion in the mix, makes it huge and full.
I can remember when i did not have have good pres and I could mix CDs to +3 on CDs, now since i use great preamps I can mix less than 0 and still get a louder mix than the non pre not to mention the fullness.

AllAboutTone Wed, 12/10/2008 - 22:38

AllAboutTone wrote: [quote=Greener]I don't understand how people fail to see this really simple thing about audio.
If you want it louder, get a bigger funking amp and speakers!

Very true, louder CDs come from great preamps such as API and others, its all about putting the harmonic distortion in the mix, makes it huge and full.
I can remember when i did not have have good pres and I could mix CDs to +3 , now since i use great preamps I can mix less than 0 and still get a louder mix than the non pre not to mention the fullness.

anonymous Wed, 12/10/2008 - 22:56

AllAboutTone wrote: [quote=AllAboutTone][quote=Greener]I don't understand how people fail to see this really simple thing about audio.
If you want it louder, get a bigger funking amp and speakers!

Very true, louder CDs come from great preamps such as API and others, its all about putting the harmonic distortion in the mix, makes it huge and full.
I can remember when i did not have have good pres and I could mix CDs to +3 , now since i use great preamps I can mix less than 0 and still get a louder mix than the non pre not to mention the fullness.

I understand the "want" to have one CD sound louder than another on a particular system. But, I've never enjoyed listening on small systems and have always built systems that have enough power to spontaneously combust. So no matter how quite the recording, I can usually amp it enough to drive the speakers to the brink of destruction. What I want is dynamics! Move the air!

Meh, the loudness wars seem to have been fought for in-ear bud headphones. Ipoods, like hats with inbuilt radios, are toys.

jammster Thu, 12/11/2008 - 00:24

Greener, I agree!
Too much of the music today is made to compete for loudness, and it is a shame. At least its a shame to us that have a bit more class and know a good song when we hear it. Thanks for fighting the good fight. This over hyped attitude has to go to the dump along with all that garbage for a song music! I hope things will turn around soon, there is just way to much rudeness in the world! Last thing i want is a rude song to listen to!

Dozer Sat, 02/07/2009 - 13:40

I just had an experience the other day.
True story I swear.

I was at my wifes brothers how drankn some brewskie and listening to some jams.
My wife had brought an older CD.

Well my wifes brother tells his wife to change the CD.
That CD was up next.

Now the CD before that was a newer release. Very loud.
She popped in the studio and went to the other room for something.
The CD started playing.

Of course the older CD, it was more dynamic and lower in volume. Not your typical "Loudness War Conformist" types songs.

So he instantly yells from the kitchen table where we are, thinking his wife is in the living room by the radio.
Hey, Turn that sh*t up. We can't even hear that sh*t.

She didn't answer(she was in another room in the house).
So he yelled again and I said she was in the other room.

He said.
What the hell is wrong with that disc? Where did you guys get it?

I instantly jumped at the situation and started asking the questions.
Questions that were freaking him out.

So whats wrong with the CD?
Whats wrong with it??
Its to damn low??
Is this a burnt disc?

No, but what do you think about the disc. What about the quality.
What the hell are you talking bout fool?? hahaha

Answer the question mayne..
Its cheap as hell!!! You got ripped.
It probably was messed up at the factory.

No it wasn't.
So what is wrong with just turning it up??
I dont feel like f*cking gettin up to turn up the damn CD.
Why didn't they make it loud.....

I explained the deal to him. But he was trippn because of the weird questions.

Again, this really happened. I know it sounds hard to believe.
But It was a perfect opportunity.

anonymous Fri, 03/06/2009 - 02:14

I hate how much the RHCP album stadium arcadium suffers from being too loud. You just can't here any dynamics anymore everything is a brick wall. Anything mainstream is like that now. The album I just released I mastered with Ozone, and I really try to avoid having it too loud. I used abbey road for a model while I mastered it. if you listen to those beatles CDs they aren't squshed. You can see and hear the dynamics on those.

dvdhawk Fri, 03/06/2009 - 21:17

Unfortunately, we're making product for people who want to make albums, but don't listen to albums. Apparently the general public doesn't have the attention span to listen to an entire album anymore. Everybody has their iPod on shuffle. The only time they hear two songs in a row by the same artist is when they accidentally tune-in to two-fer-Tuesday on their local rock radio station.

We recorded a FOLK CD a few years ago, that the artist wanted to be ridiculously loud. His reasoning - because when he put the first (not-final) final mixes in his CD player on shuffle with other non-folk materials he couldn't hear his music very loudly while showering with his wife. (a mental image that made me want to gouge out my mind's eye, by the way) Anyway, his project was 3 breathy vocals, acoustic guitars, flute and assorted other relatively delicate acoustic instruments. He thought he should have the same perceived loudness as his favorite CDs. We had him bring some of those CDs and they consisted of bass, drums, keys, big beefy vocals - material that could withstand much heavier compression. Obviously it's apples and oranges - but OK he wants it louder. We pushed the levels to the limit of what we thought was musical, and got him the new only slightly compromised 'final-mix'. Nope, not loud enough. Pushed it more. Nope, not loud enough. Round and round until I had about a cakebox full of CDs just in the re-re-re-remastering. Nope, still not loud enough.

So finally under the "it's your baby" disclaimer we had him present while we re-mastered his project and limited the living crap out of it with a Waves L1. By the time we got everything loud enough to suit him, it absolutely drained it of what made it interesting musically and sonically to me. The client is as happy as a clam, and as far as we were concerned, we ruined it at his insistence. Oh well.... we hated to do it, but he's the one writing the check. We made sure we kept the purer more dynamic version for the archives.

Somebody scream me a ballad right now!

took-the-red-pill Sun, 03/15/2009 - 20:26

At the risk of ridicule, or at least, being voted off the island...

There are a few things at play that seem to be missed here.

#1 The customer is always right. The 'customer,' or downloader of music, wants to hear that soft passage just as loud as the rocking out, in your face part of the song. Whether the artist is whispering, or screaming, they want it maxed out, so they can hear it all. And so the customer(the purchaser, not the artist) is 'right,' whether we like it or not. I first noticed it with Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead. I marvelled that her whispering and screaming were exactly the same volume.

#2 This one is even more important: music is almost ALWAYS listened to in daily life where there are jackhammers, the hum of a car, the sound of a shower, kids fighting, the noise of an office, or the bustle of Wal Mart.

Therefore, everything seems to be as squashed and loud as humanly(or digitally) possible, so that even the quitest parts of the song will cut through all that crap and noise in the room/car/office/bar without someone having to turn things up and down all the time.

One person, in a great room, with a great stereo, two hours to kill, and no distractions happens to most people never! One has to be realistic as far as the circumstances under which most people listen, and make our songs work withing that.

I think talking about 'bringing back dynamics' into music is much like saying, "I think we can bring back buggies, so we can go back to selling buggy whips." That ship has sailed.

Case in point. Got a copy of Mystery White Boy? i was so stoked to have some Jeff Buckley in my collection. Then I tried to listen to it while I was working on my house. I would turn it up, to hear the quiet stuff, because it was inaudible over just the general noise of the house, and then he'd nail it, and I'd be running to turn the blasted thing down, because the walls were shaking. It's so frustrating I don't play it any more.

It's too bad, because he does a lot of things there worth listening to. I've considered running the whole thing through my recording software and compressing it so I can at least listen without one hand on the frigging volume knob.(I'll ignore the current chorus of 'BOOS' at that statement.

9 Crimes by Damien Rice is like that too. You guys would probably laud it's dynamic range, but in reality it can be a frustrating listen.(love the music tho)

Another case in point. I had submitted some MP3's of my songs to a guy who ended up playing 3 of them on his internet radio show. My stuff was put into a one hour radio show with a batch of other artists.

My work still has what I thought was a 'normal' dynamic range, but compared to others, it seems to be overall quieter, and have more range. This not because I'm a purist, but because of my current level of experience.

Anyway, I was listening, and it came to my song, and much to my disappointment, my stuff was waaaaaay quieter. The quieter sections of my songs were almost inaudible. I had to jack the volume just to hear it. Then of course, when my song was done the next person's just about blew my head off.

So what am I to do? Bitch and complain? Send a nastygram to all the other artists who had songs on the show, demanding they not squash the hell out of their stuff? DUH!

No, in all likelyhood I'll have my songs mastered, and make sure it's ripping the top out of the meters, just like everyone else's stuff, so I don't have that buffoon yelling from the other room, "Turn that $#!+ up so we can hear it!!!"

Like MP3's, pirated music, and the automobile, I think squashed, loud as hell recordings are here to stay, like it or not. I suppose we either play along, or go to the closet, find the old revolver, and play that Russian game with the really bad ending....

My two red pills


jammster Sun, 03/15/2009 - 21:14

took the red pill:

Yes, there may be times when compression is appropriate for your enjoyment. However, Its too bad you have to resort to drugs (taking pills), that is, to do what you do.

Did you visit the link in the beginning of the thread?

Seriously, have you considered the alternative? I believe music is better enjoyed the way the artist intended it to be listened too. Maybe you should consider a vacation? Things can get stressful this time of year. In the words of Robbie Robbertson:

"Go back, Go back, Go back to your woods"

BDM Mon, 03/16/2009 - 00:34

jammster wrote: However, Its too bad you have to resort to drugs (taking pills), that is, to do what you do.

'took the red pill' is a Matrix reference, kinda like a dose of 'reality' (yes, i am a geek).
anyway, the postulated 'fact' that most people apparently listen to music while hammering nails or shopping at hellmart etc. is a little depressing to me. but these are not the people i am hoping to target. the day i bow to techniques that sacrifice dynamic quality to be heard over jackhammers is the day i quit recording, or studying the ART of recording...
its like a painter using only fluorescent colors to stand out in a gallery...

anonymous Mon, 03/16/2009 - 08:47

How about I don't take any pills and I make music which doesn't pander to the needs of the technologically and intellectually deficient?

People like loud masters because they sound louder on a given system. Systems like cheap portable players or cheap radios or whatever cheap piece of crap they are using...

A piece of music that has lows and highs, dynamics throughout the whole piece is much more moving than one constant stream of loud noise.

I don't listen to mix tapes all that much, I'm a much greater fan of entire albums that have depth and feel. Ones that carry me on a journey for more than 2m:30s at a time... Yes I realise that 99.99% of music made falls into the "single" category but I don't listen to 99.99% of music because it's rubbish.

The ideas you are a messenger for are ones that espouse making music solely for profitability, purely to fit into the corporate idea of short radio hits sung by chicks with nice tits... This is great if all you want to do is make money but if what you really want to do is make great music then anyone would be doing themselves a favour by not limiting the crap out of it and not killing the flavour of your tunes by pushing it past the point of "maximised" and into the realms of distortion.

If the only thing you think leather workers make is buggy whips then you're more myopic than I thought. Have you ever seen leather seats in cars? Yeah I'm nitpicking now, but your "message" is one of ignorance.
Mastering Engineers are there to polish and round out an entire album. They are there to make the whole project better, pushing them just to make it louder hampers other aspects of the process and forces them to hand you a worse product than what could have been possible.

To sum up, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right.

Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 04/08/2009 - 15:17

I'm totally against standards. I would rather have distortion that the artist wants than some governing body dictating what a record has to be. This will destroy the music industry if it's implemented. Let the market work, and it will correct itself naturally. If someone puts out a dynamic record and it sells 20 million copies, guess what the next fad will be. If you intervene and regulate it, kiss music goodbye and say hello to musac.

ouzo77 Wed, 04/08/2009 - 15:33

the question is, will it correct itself? somebody would have to make the first step, somebody with a big name, but they are usually the ones pushing the limits (just listen to the last metallica, madonna...)
it's not about setting standards for the way an album has to sound, but more of a technical standard. in movies they are doing it for a long time (dolby/thx) so why wouldn't this work with music? back in the vinyl days there were also some kind of standards which had to be followed so the record would play back correctly.
bob katz's k-system is another approach at setting standards for mixing and mastering...

Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 04/08/2009 - 18:57

the difference is... in film, Dolby and THX has limitations and requirements to put their logo on the film. If you want to put the logo on the film, they dictate the requirements. In the music industry, we don't have this. The only thing we have is the limitations of the medium and that medium is going to change.

There are no standards in the film industry, just licenses. Even then they aren't following the standard. every year films get louder and louder.

Supply and demand should regulate our industry, not regulation. Let the consumer decide what they want, not a bureaucracy.

soapfloats Wed, 04/08/2009 - 21:48

I'm with Michael on this one.

I was so thrilled when I had a client reluctant to use voxup mixes b/c he didn't want his vocal to be TOO upfront. Not just b/c that's the sound he wanted, but b/c he felt that was the sound his audience wanted.

If we open the door to regulatory standards instead of letting the market speak... well, look at how well all those "bailouts" are working.

If people want to treat art in such a careless manner, let them.
While I don't think the issue of loudness will ever go away (for reasons mentioned above like the WAYS people listen now), I do believe that people like those who have b*tched about albums like Stadium Arcadium and Death Magnetic can provide a balance.

Some people still want music to be music. These forums are proof of that.
Eventually, enough people will get tired of a crappy product and ask for something better.

By the way, that client eventually went for the voxup mixes b/c he felt they improved presence/intelligibility w/o compromising his main concern.