Super loud CD's

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Mario-C., Feb 21, 2003.

  1. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    Nov 17, 2002
    Mexico City
    Home Page:
    So I bought this band's new cd and I couldn't get through the first track, I opened it in peak to see what's up and guess what ? the whole cd looks like a friggin' square wave, is this the new trend or what ? I understand everyone is pushing the envelope and wants that hot sound but I think this is insane, I mean I can't listen to a single song without getting ear fatigue, what do you guys think ?
  2. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    It's a disturbing trend. As long as labels and artist keep demanding we crush stuff, we're kind of at their mercy. Hopefully you and others will encourage clients to see the great advantage to restoring a wider dynamic range. Remember the days when songs actually got louder at the chorus? There is so much emotional energy in dynamics that artist are discarding by producing mono-level music. And you're right; you get tired and turn it off. Artist' are making their audiences turn off their music. It's not a great marketing strategy.
  3. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Like the "temporal wars" on "Enterprise", (based on the Star trek series by Gene Roddenberry), we are at, what is called "loudness wars"

    Consumer CD players have a point where you can actually clip their outputs by creating a CD that is too hot.

    When I first started in Digital, (1982) zero VU was at that time, -17dB.

    This has been ignored and once this profession opened itself up to non professionals without the background of knowledge necessary to stay within the realm of consumer electronics, the standards changed for the worse. All but gone are organic recordings from popular acts due to ignorance AND stupidity.

    Once, this profession was really taken seriously with labcoat technicians at the helm. I am one of those labcoat technicians actually but to "get the gig" it is imperitive to do "what the other fools do" or get left behind in the dust with statements..."can you make it louder?"

    It is a trend that ALL mastering engineers want to put to an end.

    The only way this can be addressed (IMHO) is for the consumer electronics manufactures to put a brick wall on their outputs at -10dB RMS and anything over that is simply rejected by the CD player as "unreadable".

    Of course this will never happen.

    I am for, forming an alliance with other mastering engineers to stop this foolishness.

    The notion that "the guy that masters the loudest gets the money" is the epitome of ruining this art.

    I would like to see how this will eventually get ironed out..but the future looks quite bleak actually in this regard.

    Their are CD's on shelves that have signal to signal ratios of less than 3dB as we speak.
  4. maor appelbaum

    maor appelbaum Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    i am happy this issue came up.
    when i was djing at some metal clubs i had alot of problums with new cds that came out --they were
    too hot and alot of p.a equipment made it distort and it whould set off the limiters every second.
    then i would play an older cd and it sounded great.also at home on my sterio
    i always had problums with some cds that sounded good but still they were very very loud and i was getting tierd heaing them so i whould change to some old school stuff.
    thats way i am always saying that volume isn"t the only thing important -somtimes its much better to have a less volume cd then one with over-volume.
  5. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    All I can say is, this trend has ruined the latest cd's from two of my favorite artists. I don't even want to listen to them. I only do out of respect and in hopes that somehow I'll get used to it and start to enjoy the albums.

    Ya'know, if I want the music louder I'll turn up the god-damn volume.

    The other day, I popped in a cd after watching a DVD and the damn thing almost blew out my speakers (and ear drums).

    It's getting rediculous, folks.

  6. dax

    dax Guest

    I too am very pissed about this. I bought the New Red Hot Chilli Peppers cd just the other day. I will be the first to tell you that I do not have a golden ear. Although when I popped this thing in for the first time I got some serious ear fatigue. Its the worst I have ever seen on an album. After I got really mad, I loaded each song in Cubase, and readjusted the audio levels. Now it is alot better, but I wish I didnt have to do that in the first place. There was NO dynamics to this wav at all. Go ahead and give it a shot. Load one of there new songs up in any wav editor, and prepare to be very surprised.
  7. cjenrick

    cjenrick Active Member

    Nov 15, 2002
    It's our fault. Our children are the ones doing this. Maybe we didn't raise them right. Maybe humankind has peaked out. My theory is we peaked around 1969. This is when horsepower in cars peaked. This is when music peaked. (IMHO) Never to return again. It's all downhill from here folks. As Lemmy from Motorhead said when asked about the future of mankind:" Were all going to melt into one big human stew."

    Hey, does anybody remember some kids from Berkeley that invented this HDCD thing? (is that right, high definition CD, right?) What ever happened to that? Is it still around? I am still waiting for a CD that sounds like a good piece of vinyl. What CD do you think comes the nearest to this?
  8. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Hi all

    I guess we all agree
    It has got to stop

    Let's all write some emails to magazines the (almost normal) people read.
    Just an informative piece we could put together here as a whole.
    Let's get together, make our points more clearly (laymanlike), write a concerned and also funny article and let's all email it to magazines.
    f.e. Future music, Computer music, Interface, several message boards etc.

    Let's bomb our opinion onto the world.
    [sorry about this, couldn't stop myself]
    No, seriously, we all know it, let's not argue to eachother, get it out there.

    Let me start in a naive way:

    'If I have the loudest song on the radio, I get the most attention....'

    And (a bit more seriously):

    'My favourite bar has the music on a really low volume. Music has to be very compressed or else I wouldn't hear anything in my favourite bar besides the occasional snare.'


    Let's not complain. Write something usefull together and we'll rain it all over them.

    Enough is enough

  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Ok, I have been doing decompression now for 22 years.

    It can be done, uses gobs of computer power (now)(notice 64 bit 192K) and it is difficult, hard to teach.

    Perhaps there is a way I can market this.

    Look at the files.

    Second picture is Sher "half breed" as I received it from the compressed CD remaster for a movie. Next is the remaster at 64/192

    First pic is what I did to it..

    Huge difference and I only had the trash file to work with.

    Now those who want to scrutnize my screenshot, yes I use creatives archetechure for running my apogee cards and my prototype sony D/A,

    I can go to 2 megs/second if need be.

    This song was 1.5gigs for a single song in mastering.

    Takes a super machine to do super fidelity.

    It CAN be a cost of experience and time.
  10. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    High Definition Compatible Digital is a Pro Audio encode/decode process patented by Pacific Microsonics. The process encodes 20-Bits of information onto a 16-Bit disc allowing your music to sound more clear even when played on a non-decoding CD player. If you play an HDCD on a CD player with a decoder, you get the full 20-Bits of resolution.

    The process also has an immaculate peak limiter which simulates tape saturation as level is increased. An HDCD played on a non-decoding CD player will sound like a loud, peak limited CD. When played on a CD player with a decoder, you get the fully restored dynamic range. This is perfect for music that needs to be "hot" for radio while allowing home listeners to be free of ear fatigue and experience the full emotional impact of a greater dynamic range.

    Pacific Microsonics was purchased by Microsoft a few years ago. They have since made an agreement with Euphonix to manufacture and market the Model Two. Skywalker Sound recently purchased a few units to run a 5.1 room. I have a Model One which I like a lot. It’s not for everything. I have used it on a couple rock projects that just wanted to be very limited, but also on a few jazz and new age projects that wanted to be relatively loud for commercial release but have the option of allowing listeners to get back the dynamic range at home.

    "HDCD provides more dynamic range, a more focused 3-D soundstage, and extremely natural vocal and musical timbre. With HDCD, you get the body, depth, and emotion of the original performance not a flat, digital imitation." (* from the HDCD web site) For more information on HDCD please visit:
  11. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    :eek: Enough, something must be done heh heh, I vorked in zee laboratory, and come up wit dis monster....heh heh heh..currently in production.

    (Dead Link Removed)

    Pampers, Huggies, or Depends, you might need em the first time.

    --Rick, aka (Mad Scientist)
  12. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    I'm a fairly young guy who's fairly new to all of this, so even though i've known about the volume wars for several years now, all my favorite artists were doing it and I never seemed to care or even truly appreciate how bad it sounds... until I got ahold of the Avril Lavigne CD.

    I like to do bit accurate transfers of CD tracks to my DAW for reference when mixing. This I did with the first track of Avril's album. I have logged hundreds of hours of listening on my K240's, but none of that prepared me for what I heard when the first chorus hit. This is absolutely the loudest CD I have ever heard, and I also have NSYNC's 'Bye, Bye, Bye' on my DAW for reference. Another notoriously loud track, this one was pushed several dB over, then normalized back down to -1.0 dB. Even this was weak in comparison. On Avril's track, in the chorus, I never saw the meters drop below -2.5 dB. Not once.

    While i'm not a mastering engineer, or even a recording professional (yet), I want to help the fight. I do what I can by refusing to clamp down on the L2 on the tracks that I produce and educating everyone I can of the evil trend of overcompression. You should see some of the faces I get, even from non-musicians, when I zoom in on that waveform and show them those hacked off tops. They can't believe that it's a "pro" job. Then, when I explain Fletcher-Munson to them, it all seems to make sense.. or does it?

    I know i'm not a "pro" and my opinion doesn't matter blah blah blah; I just wanted to give some perspective to this issue that I feel so strongly about.

    By the way, did you all see this one?

    Peace. And Dynamics.
  13. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    Folks, I hate to be negative, but I think the Genie's out of the bottle. I doubt that we will ever go back to dynamics in pop music. Things really took off when "mastering software" became available & cheap. Normalizers are everywhere. They threaten our sanity & professional lives. What's worse is that I have participated in this, because I can't say no. How do you tell a client that it's better to be a couple (or more) dB lower than the other discs on his CD changer. People might agree in theory, then realize the personal sales implications & opt to get that level. Complaints always arise. Major releases that contribute to this nasty trend should be boycotted.

    Very few people sit & listen to 60 minutes of music at home anymore. Car stereo almost demands compression. This could be done more elegantly by putting a compressor as a button on the car stereo unit itself.

    I ALWAYS try to cut vinyl from non-normalized, minimally compressed masters. Compression is not a given when vinyl is cut.

    But CDs are the issue. Let's just hope level heads prevail when SACD & DVD Audio come up more in popularity. Maybe we can restore naturalness & increase quality at the same time?

    Hopefully yours.....
  14. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Perhaps the production itself can be changed to have the tops of the songs start out soft.

    We don't have to buy or listen to recordings that sound like ass ourselves. I will be on the refuse side of the coin. If the track cannot have at least a 12 dB signal to signal ratio, no need for my name to go on it unless it is a test tone CD.

    So I lose business. Who cares, My decision.
  15. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    I hope so too, but I am afraid someone will take them to the max as well, and start the whole thing over again :eek: .

    A question, when is this stuff going to exceed the maximum permissible limit? Amplifiers run out of current eventually, are new chips going to be needed to handle this onslaught of power demand :c:

  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I think we are witnessing the death throes of the Mastering Industry as we know it. It may survive but it will be in a truncated form. Only the top Mastering houses will remain to service the record industry because the record industry wants to run up front costs to create a situation where the artists don’t get paid a lot. Ton of charges convolute the books to the point no one can understand them. The rest of the business will be done by the artists themselves. This is evident to me judging from the posts readers here at RO have made regarding this topic. No matter how much we try to convince recordists to have their work mastered at a professional mastering facility, they continually opt to do it themselves against the best advice. I find this very frustrating. It is annoying that people will ask for advice and when it doesn’t fit their “game plan” they just go ahead and do it the way they wanted to in the first place. Just as “Pro” studios have fell by the wayside in favor of home recording so will “Pro” mastering. An unfortunate turn of events. Fats
    Tannoy, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D , Genelec, Hafler, KRK, and PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  17. byacey

    byacey Active Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Alberta, Canada
    I Notice the words "normalize" and "compress" are both used to signify a bad thing as far as mastering goes (with regards to overdoing it). I normalize to -1dB. I normally compress as little as possible, Peaks at -1 and falling to -25 or 30 during program material. Should I be choosing a lower level as my absolute peak level or is this acceptable. Most of the music I am involved with is classical, folk , choral and acoustic / ethnic. I could really care less if my material is the loudest on the radio, but I think it should be in keeping with similar industry norms. Am I far off base with my methods?
    Bill Y.
  18. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Bill, I look at the single loudest peak and do it to -0.05dB but then again, it depends on the music. An up tempo song may get this treatment...certainly a string quartet would not. It is relative to the music and how songs track together within an album.

    On up tempo stuff, usually my RMS is around -18 I have classical that runs "piano" (p) for 85 % of the chart with one huge creshindo in the middle and one at the end, 30 min piece that actually RMS's at -34 and peaks at 0.05 for (ffff)

    Again, it is taste.

    You are safe with the -1dB. 99% of playback units can handle that. (CD players)

    What is happening is 2-bus compression during mixing, another set of compressors in mastering, then backing off to -7DB then slamming the whole thing RMS at -4dB. This is the problem. For super heavy metal, -12dB has happened here RMS, the music needed it....but only after I decompressed the 2-bus that was at -6dB to begin with RMS.
  19. paulpreamble

    paulpreamble Member

    Jun 10, 2002
    As a live-long Rush fan, I'm pretty familure with the sound quality of their releases. This past year when the Vapor Trails CD was released, I was in total disbelieve. The levels were so high that it sounded distorded on anything I played it on. I almost blew the speakers in the car when my changer switched to this disk from the Rush Hemispheres CD. I ended up buying the record when it came out and dubbed it into the computer for a fast remaster to CD. I figured I couldn't go wrong as the levels couldn't be that hot on a record or the needle would jump out of the tracks!
    Well, although it sounds much better, it still sounds overdriven and very harsh. I find this same trend in many releases and end up never listing to theme much.
    Just thought I'd share my story with you.
  20. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Not one person here says they have a preference for the sound of clipped off, crunched and destroyed music.

    Will the industry wise up?

    SACD's I have also have (of popular music) a tendency to be brittle, bass shy, shrill and painful. Even the very well recorded original TOTO IV (well mixed too) on Super audio compact disc "sounds like ass".

    Here you have a format capable of exceeding the quality of any analog machine out there, and this is what you get. Garbage. Not just one SACD but Roger Waters "in the flesh" (several others)...Nasty sounding.

    If they butcher DSOM to be released on 03-03-03 then all is lost and calibration standards are gone. Remember, Alan Parsons "was not even approached" and he purposely mixed the album for Multichannel (Quad and dual Quad, 8 channels) use.

    I blame the problem with SACD's on mastering engineers trusting behemouth speakers that measure flat to the low 20's in a lab room or free space room but cutting the bottom due to making it right in a bass heavy room ..hence, poor bottom on these SACD's. The "audiophile dip" at 3K is making them shrill. The ultra extended highs, making them sound rolled off. 2 Channel SACD are what I am talking about. Yes, they are even compressing the crap out of them.

    Next problem.

    Streaming internet. Their was a time when a 256K stream was very close to as good as it gets in playback. My Favorite stations in streaming have gone to heavy audio compression of the signal and they are nasty now.

    ONLY the DVD-A releases I have heard of late tend to be very properly done in popular music and the LP's and old school CD's.

    Other genres do not suffer the fate as bad as pop music and Rock.

    I know of no engineer that really likes their work when they do this.

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