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Thread: The 'loudness wars' of modern music production

  1. #1
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    Default The 'loudness wars' of modern music production

    Discission of the processing of modern recordings to make them louder and therefore more marketable to the general public.

  2. #2
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    Default Bok Katz talks about loudness and compression - the sort of distortion the 20-somethings generation

    Modern mastering kills music by crushing it's dynamic range to make it more marketable to those who do not know any better.

    Excellent introduction here. Tragic quote "In the next 30 years there's going to be a lot of deaf people walking around."

    DAW = digital audio workstation ( a computer/software deticated to editing audio)

    Bob Katz Part 1 here.

    Bob Katz Part 2 here

    Bob Katz here.

  3. #3
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    Default Great music destroyed by " remastering"

    I've mentioned beofre (and show examples I think) of how remastering seems to have everything to do with marketing and nothing to do with fidelity.

    Having show in my videotalk on clipping how to interpret the sound analyser display (suggest to look at Clipping #1 and specifically, Clipping #2 to get a feel for the subject and the critical importance of giving the audio some 'air to breath' = dynamic range and away from the 100%, 0dB line) then look at real music examples from the Michael Jackson catalogue here.

    Another one of thousands of examples here from Billy Joel. Fatigue in my book is an absolute no-no. The point the presenter makes is that to sell modern music radio air play is absolutely essential. And as he says, when a normal dynamic recording is buttend up against a super-compressed on, the normal one sounds completely washed-out. Nobody would buy it.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  4. #4
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    Default Great music from the past

    It's a good thing that the best music (i.m.o.) has long been written, and released with good to excellent fidelity. Original versions (not the remastered ones) can usually be found quite easily, whether in libraries*, used or even the internet. Most 'music' that's being produced these days wouldn't be worth bothering even if it was recorded and mixed with the greatest respect to fidelity.
    Good new releases still find their way into the shops though, they might not be advertised much, or at all.. But if you look hard enough, you will find them..

    *I don't know how it works in the UK, but libraries here usually have a respectable media section as well, full of great music of the past, as well as new material..

  5. #5
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    Default Can we measure - and require publication of - clipping distortion?

    Very eye-opening: thank you for posting.

    What really hit me the hardest is when Katz subtracted the mp3 signal from the original leaving mainly the residual noise and distortion caused by clipping. Absolutely horrendous.

    While I understand that establishing standards for loudness across an industry might be very difficult (especially getting people to follow them), would it be possible, I wonder, to have a single objective measurement of clipping distortion caused by signal overload and excessive compression, and force publication of this spec? That way there'd be something objective to look at, and people might be more attracted to lower-distortion recordings, even if the distorted ones initially sounded "better" on a superficial level.

  6. #6
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    Default Good read

    A really good read about this subject (and a lot more) is the book: "Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music" from Greg Milner.

  7. #7
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    Default A full day on the tanning bed

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    The point the presenter makes is that to sell modern music radio air play is absolutely essential. And as he says, when a normal dynamic recording is buttend up against a super-compressed one, the normal one sounds completely washed-out. Nobody would buy it.
    Exactly like the marketing of HDTV's, which on display in the stores are always set on "Vivid", or some such thing, so the greens look nuclear and the skin tones like a full day on the tanning bed. Display such a TV next to one with accurate colors, and the accurate one will never sell.

    Bruce

  8. #8
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    Default Mad world of music

    It's depressing to think that the future of music is in the hands of morons. These engineers and producers should think themselves artists but act like con men. Are we really living in an era of minuscule attention spans? It doesn't take long to hear compressed music for what it is, despite it being more ear-catching initially.

    It should be the easiest thing in the world to buy music you want to listen to, but even that has become like work and needs to be researched etc.

    This world is mad, and the audio world no less.

  9. #9
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    Default The lost art of the appreciation of quality

    Quote Originally Posted by jair44 View Post
    This world is mad, and the audio world no less.
    I wouldn't say that. I would say that we live in a world in which, for a variety of reasons, people's attention spans are growing ever shorter and more fragmented. One of the results of that is to increase the motivation to grab people's attention by any means necessary. The problem with that is that the real appreciation of quality in almost any area of human endeavour requires both knowledge and time.

  10. #10
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    Default All is not lost

    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    The problem with that is that the real appreciation of quality in almost any area of human endeavour requires both knowledge and time.
    Yeah, I guess you're right, it's probably always been this way.

    At least I can listen to Richard Hawley's Truelove's Gutter cd to prove to myself that there is still hope.

  11. #11
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    Default A sound engineer explains BBC loundness policy

    Quote Originally Posted by jair44 View Post

    At least I can listen to Richard Hawley's Truelove's Gutter cd to prove to myself that there is still hope.
    I would like to think that somewhere there is, apart from in the classical world, an uncompressed or limited vocal recording, but I doubt it very much, even for Richard Hawley. In voice capture the most important part of the vocal recording chain is a compressor / limiter.

    To get an idea of how much sound is compressed, all you have to do is to listen to the relative volume of the BBC audio streams mentioned elsewhere. They are all engineered to the same PEAK level but the AVERAGE level is determined mainly by the source material and, to a lesser extent, treatment in the studio. I have to increase gain for the Radio3 stream by at least 10dB if not more to get the same "volume" as Radio2, especially during the afternoon.

    I remember a heated discussion between a BBC channel controller and a group of us "purist" BBC engineers over the addition in the signal chain of a processor designed to "increase the range" of FM broadcasts in poor reception areas and in cars. It worked by increasing the average volume, and transmitter modulation by compressing the audio by as much as 20dB. The effect of this multi-band compressor was to create a "tearing" effect on choral music most noticeable on boy treble voices during the Wednesday broadcast of Choral Evensong, in addition to squashing the life out of the music's dynamic!

    Listening today, I feel our engineer's voice was heeded as the broadcast which now in any case falls outside of "drive-time" is much less compressed than before, but the PEAK limiter must still be in place.

    I no longer live in the UK so cannot directly compare the internet / satellite streams with the FM output.

    A COMPRESSOR increases volume in proportion to the input level "squashing" the sound a little or a lot dependent on it's settings. Soft sounds are made louder, and loud sounds are attenuated.

    A LIMITER is basically an audio brick wall set to the maximum level a recording system / transmitter can accept without overload. A limiter is a form of compressor with an extreme setting.

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_range_compression
    Paul

    "If all else fails, read the instructions"

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