Skip to main content

More on loudness wars!

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.


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. :)

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!

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.

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:

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.

ouzo77 Thu, 04/09/2009 - 01:29
Michael Fossenkemper wrote: 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.

the concept would be the same. you don't have to apply to the standards, but if you want the logo, you have to keep certain specifications.

don't get me wrong, i'm not a fan of standardizing everything, either. and believe me, germans are the masters of standardizing!
this is not about how it's supposed to sound, but how loud it should be. imagine that you're playing cd's or mp3's in random mode and you don't have to adjust the volume for each and every song (especially while driving a car) and still have a good sound with a big dynamic range. i would like that, as most music listeners would...

anyway, whether this system will work or not, and i'm not saying it's perfect and THE way to go, when they get the attention of the normal music listener and make him aware of the problem with overloud music and the advantages of dynamics it would be a big step. because it's not enough that we are aware of the problem, the ones buying the music have to be aware of it.
so if this project will raise the awareness of the loudness wars it's a good thing for me...

by the way, i personally think that a dynamic range of 14 (as suggested by them and measured with their meter) is not necessary. somewhere between 8 and 10 (again as would be measured with their meter) would be enough (for my personal taste).

Link555 Thu, 04/09/2009 - 04:46
Some good points all around. All I know is a lot of good music is being destroyed by this 'fad'.

This standard measures the distortion in the song not the loudness level. The two do not always have to go hand and hand.

You can over compress things and still not clip them. it is possible to make a cd loud without over limiting.

I personally don't see anything wrong saying this recording XX amount of distortion on it, as a consumer I would want to know. Too often know I buy a disc and can't listen to it. If nothing else its a good marketing tool, like THX.

ouzo77 Thu, 04/09/2009 - 05:55
Link555 wrote: This standard measures the distortion in the song not the loudness level. The two do not always have to go hand and hand.

it's also about loudness. what they want to do is measure the dynamic range of the music and compare it to their set standard of 14 (which would be 14 dB of dynamic range). when a title or album has a DR8 (8dB dynamic range) they want to lower the whole level by 6dB so it will have the same or similar loudness as DR14 music. of course loudness is perceived differently on different material, but the difference woudn't be as dramatic as let's say the last metallica and the original release of sting's "dream of the blue turtle" (which do coexist on my ipod!).

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.

Codemonkey Thu, 04/09/2009 - 08:17
My method:

ReplayGain scan as much as possible, set all non-RG-scanned tracks to play back 7.3dB quieter, and it all balances out. Classical stops being a tiny hiss in the speakers and dance stops eating my ears.
This only works on my PC though.

Edit: ReplayGain doesn't affect dynamics - just the master gain of track, which is decided based upon the amount of frequency content (I think it's weighted according to the "flat response").

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 :)