SH Spotlight Why the new "LOUDNESS CRAZE" in digital mastering really robs music of life..

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Dec 28, 2006.

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  1. Lownotes

    Lownotes Senior Member

    Denver, CO

    Those darn artists! If they could just be eliminated from all of this...
  2. Stefan

    Stefan Senior Member

    Montreal, Canada
    I think we have to remember the "least common denominator" factor. Joe public equates loudness with good sound. It's unfortunate--actually it really sucks--but it's a reality. I seem to recall reading in another thread on here that when some record companies did some "man in the street" tests, they found that most people preferred the sound of a loud, maximized recording. As long as record companies need revenue, they'll cater to the demographic that produces the most revenue for them. A small percentage of disgruntled audiophiles will unfortunately not change the world. If loudness sells, it'll stay with us for awhile.

    The same thing can be said about tape hiss. We may say that it's not distracting and that we actually prefer that it be there, but a lot of people out there equate tape hiss with old, crappy recordings. If they pick up a remaster that's been no-noised into submission, they think it's tremendous.

    The situation will only improve with more exposure of the issue. In time, if Joe Public hears for himself that perfect sound forever is just marketing hype, AND the recording industry perceives that there's a market out there for good sounding recordings, it will get better.

    So discussing it hear is fine, albeit preaching to the converted, but spreading the word elsewhere is essential. The youtube entry at the beginning of the thread is tremendous.
  3. John

    John Senior Member


    Yeah, you have a point there. He records all analog at times and the CD still gets squashed. I agree, you would think he would have the clout to stop it, hmmm.

    MBERGHAU New Member

    Is there anyway to tell if the CD I purchase has been compressed? The problem for most of us is that when we buy a CD we do not notice it right away. We pop it in our car or personal audio and cannot tell. Only later when we are listening on our big rig in the peace and quiet do we notice the problem. I would love to avoid buying any CD with this type compression but it sounds like we are all vulnerable to supporting this trend unknowingly.
  5. johnny 99

    johnny 99 Down On Main Street

    I found that Stadium Arcadium sounded good on cd. Nowhere near as loud and distorted sounding as Californication which is a sonic disaster. I would LOVE to hear this on vinyl with our host's touch because I truly believe it was the best rock album of 2006 and it will be a long, long time before another rock record this good is ever released again.
  6. mecano

    mecano Escape The Human Myth

    Athens Greece
    For a couple of songs maybe,but for longer periods i don't think so...very tiring.But i'm talking about actually listening.Most people today don't listen they only hear i.e. the CD is just backround noise for them.
  7. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion

    Winchester, UK
    If anyone wants a chance to have their say in a wider forum, email me as I'm writing an article for the UK press.

    [email protected]

    I'd like to know in your words why you are unhappy with the sound of some specific releases.

  8. BeatleJWOL

    BeatleJWOL Carnival of Light enjoyer... IF I HAD ONE

    Absolutely right.
  9. Stefan

    Stefan Senior Member

    Montreal, Canada
    That's exactly the point. A lot of those sales are to people who just want music as a soundtrack to their lives but without really sitting down and listening to it with any degree of discrimination. The primary reason for most companies' existence is revenue generation, so obviously, they're going to go with what sells.

    A similar point came up when I complained to the program director of our local classic rock station about repetition. His answer was that I was basically an exception to the rule because I listened over long periods. The ratings stats showed him that most listeners tune in for short periods of time and are looking for Black Betty, More Than a Feeling, etc., etc., and will only stop where they find the familiar.

    Unfortunately, it's an industry based on feeding the consumption of the masses. Those of us who want good sound and variety will only get more of what we want if we can convince enough others to want it.
  10. ZenArcher

    ZenArcher Senior Member

    Durham, NC
    Well, of course, that makes perfect sense! What radio station wants its audience listening over long periods?
  11. Stefan

    Stefan Senior Member

    Montreal, Canada
    One that wants to increase exposure of its advertisers! If people are less likely to stay on a station, they are also less likely to hear advertisements. In fact, they are more likely to change the station as soon as an ad comes on.

    Anyway, we're hijacking the thread needlessly here. The point is that the loudness craze and the limited playlist of commercial radio are two results of an industry focused entirely on mass appeal. Until record companies think they can make more money by releasing music that's not been brickwalled, we won't have change. If enough people complain loudly enough and word gets around, then at some point, decision makers are going to figure out that true improved sound is a saleable commodity and then we'll have a new round of "re-remasters" that might actually sound good.
  12. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    New York
    Hi ZenArcher,

    Agreed, 100%.

    Why do these folks think that when we scan the radio dial, we stop at the loudest signal? Most folks I know will stop when they like the song.

    And as to the person in the street wanting it louder? I'll believe this when I see people buying records just because they're loud.

    I remember what the record companies were doing in the days when they were making money hand over fist:
    1. The signed acts because they were different, not because they sounded like someone else or like some "American Idle" (spelled that way on purpose, thank you) contestant.
    2. The utilized a concept called "artist development", instead of demanding a million sales from the first single and dumping artists that don't achieve this.
    3. They were listening to the Music and not the bean-counters.

    Now it seems, they want to substitute sheer level for all of the above. (!?!)

    There, I've said it. I feel better now. Thanks.

    Best regards,
  13. RJL2424

    RJL2424 Forum Resident

    Loudness, schmoudness...

    I wholly agree with what the video clip was trying to prove. Maximized music, when normalized back down to its original level, now sounded flat and gutless to me. Down with such craptastic mastering!
  14. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    New York
    Oops. Sorry for the fast typing.
    The first word in items #1 and #2 should be "they", not "the".

  15. tps

    tps Forum Resident

    Philadelphia, PA
    This is true. BUT, years ago, when I worked at an FM station before the management told me how I must set the audio processing, it was set the way I thought I should be set. We did get listeners because they liked our music, but more often than not, they would make the comment "I don't receive your station very well. It's not as loud as the others." They probably thought they were being helpful, pointing out what they perceived as a problem; of course I understood exactly WHY they were having that "problem", but after the first couple times of trying to explain, I came to the conclusion that they simply were not interested in understanding why it was actually a good thing, rather than a problem.

    For some reason, very few listeners ever complain that it's "too loud". Unfortunately, if they complain, the usual complaint is that it's not loud enough. This forum is one of the few places I've ever heard the "too loud" complaint. As many have pointed out, we probably have quite an uphill battle to make any change in the public's perception. The Youtube video is great, but I'm guessing that, except among the already converted, the unfortunate reaction will be "so?"

    BTW -- One night, in the early AM hours, I tried a quick test. I disabled the audio processing ("proof" mode) and played an MFSL LP. Very interesting. The modulation peak light came on at 100%, while the modulation meter never got above 20%! That confimed my conclusion that some mild form of limiting/clipping was necessary for FM. Further subsequent experiments seemed to indicate that clipping off the occasional peak, so the average level could be brought up to a more reasonable value, did not seriously degrade the audio.

    Digital audio (HD radio) mostly eliminates the need for clipping, at least from CD program sources, so long as the program chain never exceeds unity gain. However, due to the fact that many HD stations are in the process of "going digital", where there are still many analog links in the chain, making it hard to keep the overall chain at unity gain or less, most stations employ some sort of "protection clipping" at the A/D that drives the HD digital input. One might argue, quite correctly, that super hot CDs could be a problem if fed into the HD exciter at unity gain. My position is that considerable lower than unity gain should be used with super hot CDs, so that the average level is a better match for more reasonably recorded material. But, unfortunately, it's probably only a matter of time before we get listener complaints that the HD signal is not loud enough.
  16. Spirit Crusher

    Spirit Crusher Forum Resident

    Mad Town, WI
    There was a thread a while ago with a quote from Rick about the mastering of his records, all by Vlado Meller. Rick believes "louder is better".
  17. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

  18. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    New York
    Hi tps,

    I understand. Too bad those folks didn't know they could turn it up simply by twisting their volume control. ;-}

    I find the best sounding radio stations all, without exception, sound lower in level than the not-so-good sounding ones. And all of the records on my shelf I would consider in the top class sonically all, without exception, sound lower in level than the not-so-good sounding ones.

    Like light and darkness, level must be balanced against Music. If you want more of one, you must accept less of the other.

    Best regards,
  19. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    New York
    Hi Grant,

    I can only speak for those I know but not a single one stops at a station simply because it is loud. In fact, they'll quickly move on, unless they love the tune, in which case they'll quickly turn it down.

    But how many buy a record just because it is loud?

    I believe that is because the bean counters were in back rooms, not front offices.


    Best regards,
    ...where nothing gets compressed... ever!
  20. HadYourPhil

    HadYourPhil New Member

    Naples, FL, USA
    The pre-emphasis used in FM broadcasting necessitates limiting for any kind of modulation. When FM was born, the high frequency content was far lower than in today's music, so this problem wasn't a problem yet. Actually, it took the original Optimod (8000) to first tame the problem.
  21. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    True. Which helps explain why older recordings (in their more-natural-sounding mastered incarnations) tend to sound MUCH better than the latest ones, as far as pop and rock music stations go. The top end is so hot on the newer items, plus the relentless push towards zero dynamic range and cramming as much as possible of the sound up to the magic 100% modulation value, means that new music usually sounds totally turdsville on FM. I often hear hazy bits of somewhat hissy mush interspersed between bits of bass and midrange. Anything with any significant degree of HF content gets mushed out, be it the sparkle of the strumming of a steel-string acoustic guitar, hi-hat beats or cymbals in general, and the sibilants of vocals; any or all of these oftentimes actually cause the levels of the remainder of the music to briefly drop out.
  22. dgsinner

    dgsinner New Member

    Far East
    The loudness craze in digital mastering ruined (on CD) one of my all time favorite recordings.

    It is

    The Charlatans -- PHS 600-309 (1969) in the US and Philips SBL 7903 (1969) in the UK.

    This great 60s album was reissued in 2004 on the Acadia/Evangeline label under the title "San Francisco 1969". From the first few seconds of "High Coin" I knew this one was a mistake. All of the higher volume sections are pushed to near zero dynamic range and it sucks. The original vinyl album is still the only way to go with this particular album.

    Note: "Re-Mastered for this CD re-issue by Loud Mastering, Taunton, Somerset, UK"

  23. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    True. :agree:
  24. Batears52

    Batears52 Senior Member

    Near Baltimore, MD
    I am not a broadcasting engineer. The closest I ever came to anything like that was taking transmitter first every half hour...then they changed it.

    I've been reading some (not all) of these posts about audio processing by broadcast stations, and I have a question:

    It's 2007 - Why should the trials & tribulations of broadcast audio processing have ANY bearing on how my CDs sound when I play them at home?

    Yes, I've heard the expression that a CD is "radio ready". Why? Are they so cheap that they can't make a "radio version" & compress the hell out it? Are radio stations still playing CDs? I don't think they are around here. How is the music delivered to stations these days from the labels? (I'm old enough to remember meeting with label promo people every week & being given a stack of the 45's they were working!) ALL the stations here sound like c**p! Every one! Their audio chains are the equivalent of a steamroller! So we're smashing the heck out of the music & then giving it to radio as an mp3 or whatever...and they are flattening it even more!

    This is 2007!! Make a decent sounding CD...and then give radio whatever you want!

  25. TheNomadicSoul

    TheNomadicSoul Active Member

    I see what you're saying, Dexter. But the average music "listener" (who barely listens at all...) wants to buy the CD or MP3 (or whatever) and have it sound just like it did on the radio. If it's not compressed to hell and back again, it won't sound "good" enough or "loud" enough like it did on the radio. At least I think that's why...

    But I agree, radio stations sound like crap. The crap music most of the top 40 contemporary stations play is a completely different thread...
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