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The loudness wars part 3

October 14th, 2008 tj No comments

Completely out of the blue I decided to have another look and see if the article I mentioned in my other posts about the loudness wars had come back online.  And lo and behold, it has!

So, without further ado, here it is….

Imperfect Sound Forever

It’s a long read.  But it is worthwhile, if a little depressing.

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The loudness wars part 2

September 28th, 2008 tj No comments

Well, after a bit of digging it seems that the article I mentioned yesterday won’t be coming back.  Which is a shame.  I found a version of it on the Wayback Machine, but there were so many prompts asking for login details it was beyond annoying.

For anyone who wants to read up about the basics of over-compression and how it affects your listening experience, check this Wikipedia article.

The phrase loudness war (or loudness race) refers to the music industry’s tendency to record, produce and broadcast music at progressively increasing levels of loudness each year to create a sound that stands out from others and the previous year.

This phenomenon can be observed in many areas of the music industry, particularly broadcasting and albums released on CD and DVD. In the case of CDs, the war stems from artists’ and producers’ desires to create CDs that sound as loud as possible or louder than CDs from competing artists or recording labels.

However, as the maximum amplitude of a CD is at a fixed level, the overall loudness can only be increased by reducing the dynamic range. This is done by pushing the lower-level program material higher, while the loudest peak sounds are either destroyed or severely diminished. Certain extreme uses of compression can cause distorting or clipping the waveform of the recording.

It basically means that modern CDs tend to sound uniformly loud rather than have the quiet-loud dynamics that music usually has.  It explains why I couldn’t stand to listen to the whole of Death Magnetic in one go.  It wasn’t the songs (they’re not great, but they’re the best songs Metallica have recorded in years), it’s the fact that it’s just relentlessly loud.  It left me feeling tired about halfway through.

There is hope though.  Turn Me Up! have started a campaign to get CDs mastered properly again and restore some of the magic they’ve lost.  And I finally picked up a copy of The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow the other day and was glad to see a mention of Turn Me Up! in the booklet alongside a note saying that “in order to preserve the excitement, emotion and dynamics of the original performances this record is intentionally quieter than some. For full enjoyment simply Turn Me Up!

And that’s the crux of the matter.  You can listen to a properly mastered record at whatever volume you want to and it will sound great (though obviously, louder is better ;) ) but with an overly ‘hot’ record it’s stupidly loud at low volume and gets worse (clipping galore) the louder you get.

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The loudness wars

September 27th, 2008 tj No comments

I read an interesting article last night about the loudness wars and the effect on CDs and listeners.  I was going to post a link on here and add my two-penneth, but the site is down now.  Typical.

Keep your eyes peeled though.  I’ll post it when it’s back up.

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