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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.


woodstockt67 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...

Greener Mon, 03/16/2009 - 00:54

"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... "

Cheers for a good belly laugh. :P

took-the-red-pill Mon, 03/16/2009 - 07:59

I think you guys are kinda shooting the messenger on this one. I didn't say I liked it. I didn't say it's how it should be. I said it's how it is. Don't be pissed off at me because of the way things are.

Go ahead, take the blue pill. Believe whatever you want.

"But DAMMIT, I WANT to sell buggy whips!!!"

Good luck with that.

jammster Mon, 03/16/2009 - 08:37

Alright, so what is the point?

Should I go get an ipod now and forget CD? MP3 is way better than it used to be. The internet is wonderful for most things, quality music downloads it is not.

I don't buy that terd, it goes down the toilet where it belongs.

Greener 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.