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Music is getting "too loud"

If this has been linked already, apologies, but a friend just mentioned to me that he'd read about music being too loud in a newspaper the other day.

It turns out that the loudness wars have been discussed in some detail in the UK press recently...

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2007250708,00.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/arti...in_page_id=1770
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle1878724.ece
http://www.independent.ie/national-news/di...ick-691046.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/news/20070604_music.shtml
http://www.spectator.co.uk/clivedavis/3154...-of-sound.thtml
http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/music/a59597/e...g-too-loud.html

etc etc (lots of coverage!)


and various reactions to it...

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/06/...c_too_loud.html
http://www.punknews.org/article/24013

etc etc etc

(Google music too loud, or Peter Mew loud, via Google itself or Google news in the UK and there are many more references)


It's rare a Hydrogen Audio pet subject gets so much attention!


One of these pages led me to a detailed but not too techy 2006 article which I hadn't seen before.
http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/wee...und-forever.htm

There are, of course, loads of other good articles - most linked from HA somewhere.

Cheers,
David.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #1
Interesting. Thanks for informing us about that.

I just hope that in the future, articles covering the loudness-race dont forget to explain to their readers, that the music is only recorded too loud, and that they will just turn down the volume knob, so that in the end, it isnt actually louder, but "just" without any dynamics left. Explaining it with phrases like "the music is recorded too loud on the CD, so that the sound and dynamics get damaged." is easier to imagine for non-techies, than weird technical terms.

- Lyx
I am arrogant and I can afford it because I deliver.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #2
Explaining it with phrases like "the music is recorded too loud on the CD, so that the sound and dynamics get damaged." is easier to imagine for non-techies, than weird technical terms.


So what is wrong with Peter Mew's phrases quoted in those links?

Quote
"The quieter parts are becoming louder and the loudest parts are just becoming a buzz."

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #3
The loudness race is here to STAY.
We will just have to live with it.

Notice that record companies don't care a bit about this...

Someone just begged Mute Records/UK to not make new Recoil's album sound that loud... and just guess which volume peak this album is...

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #4
I dont care about major labels - my issue with the loudness race is that it is affecting non-majorlabel music as well. But for the nonmajors to recognize the problem in the first place, it needs at least constant low-profile publicity. I dont wish for a dynamics-revolution in the entire music INDUSTRY..... i just wish for the non-totally corrupted part of it to stop going further into this one-way-street.

- Lyx
I am arrogant and I can afford it because I deliver.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #5
Well, at least some independent labels aren't buying into the loudness wars. There are OkkaDisk titles that have a healthy, even amazing degree of dynamic range; CINC immediately comes to mind. Of course this particular example isn't terribly valuable if you're not interested in Ken Vandermark or the other artists that OkkaDisk records.

Still, I'll take a happy though where and when I can find it.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #6
Notice that record companies don't care a bit about this...


I doubt the petition will get far. I wonder about a web-based "Audio Hall of Shame". How would some of these record labels fancy the publicity of having their recordings being singled out as bad recordings with audible distortion? The public don't want to buy "bad recordings with audible distortion" but they're not all aware of the matter--maybe just aware they don't like this or that or it gives them headache, but not that it's been made like that and how and why.

Similar things exist -- admin rights Hall of Shame:

http://www.threatcode.com/admin_rights.htm

Badware reports:

http://www.stopbadware.org/home/reports


If it's possible for bad audio quality to be demonstrated with waveforms, to say nothing of what it sounds like, how could inclusion be disputed?

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #7
They just now noticed?

YEOW!

Well, at least they've noticed now. What is the level norm standard for a modern rock CD, anyhow?
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #8
I don't like to mention this band -ERASURE-, but they have just released a new album. The thing is... producer Gareth Jones setup a interactive blog while doing the recording and mixing sessions. I read quite a few posts on it saying "please no loudness war ok?".

Now you take a respected producer like this one in music industry who has been in the business for over a decade, and you just notice the outcome of the record - loud, just really silly plain loud. And no, he didn't reply any post regarding the loudness requests, but he did manage to answer other posts about doing pasta and cooking dinner.

Could have he just asked the mastering engineer a "please, no loud"? Nobody knows. The record was probably mastered by someone else and the decisions of making it loud came from another else! Or would it be that decision started with him? I remember when he was working a track he said "finishing touches on the track and a little compression here and it will just be ready for mastering".


Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #10
Good news, even if probably the major labels do not care. I give a shit about major labels.
Unfortunately, knowledge in germany about this tends to be at 0.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #11
Looks like it's an issue with British TV too:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/05/tv...me_regulations/


Actually, apart from the adverts, British TV isn't too bad. It's getting worse - commercial broadcasters are worse than the BBC, and even the BBC have audible blanket compression across programmes which previously would have had sympathetic compression.

Despite this, across the terrestrial ("over-the-air") free-to-air programming (which still accounts for the majority of viewing) levels are matched across almost all channels, nothing is thrashed against digital full scale, and you can still find plenty of programmes with an open, unsquashed sound.

Perversely, some of the commercial digital radio stations provided on the terrestrial digital TV platform have some of the worst compression (dynamic and psychoacoustic!) anywhere.


There is a consultation about what to do about TV adverts. I've not heard an advert for years (PVR, so no live TV, and not much commercial TV anyway) but apparently they're getting louder. Maybe I should mention ReplayGain as a solution?

Cheers,
David.


I wonder about a web-based "Audio Hall of Shame".
That's a great idea. Does anyone have the time/incentive to do it?

I think it would work if you ReplayGained everything (or manually adjusted the levels), and compared similar good and bad examples. Good and bad remasters would be perfect.

You'd have to pick your examples carefully though. An early, dynamic release from 3rd generation dubs with bad EQ compared with a new, clipressed release from the original master tapes with careful EQ might give confusing signals! Best to compare like-with-like where ever possible.

Maybe a thread in the HA uploads forum is the place to start? There are already huge threads citing good and bad mastering examples.

Cheers,
David.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #12

I wonder about a web-based "Audio Hall of Shame".
That's a great idea. Does anyone have the time/incentive to do it?

I think it's a great idea. It has been suggested previously to create a database with RG values from CD's. Although it's not a real estimate of the dynamics, a few attempts to define a true dynamics estimate has already been covered here.
Can't wait for a HD-AAC encoder :P


Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #14
I'm glad the mainstream media has written about this now. I've tried many times to tell people about the loudness war but most people don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I am completely incapable of dumbing stuff down for people.. honestly... So at least now I can direct people to dumbed down articles so at least they are aware of the issue.

I have personally taken it upon myself to boycott poorly mastered CDs. I download music before I buy it to make sure it is mastered well and if it is then I buy the CD. The last CD I bought was 65daysofstatic's The Destruction of Small Ideas.

I also bought Californication from Amazon.co.uk and demanded a refund because it sounded horrible. They gave me a full refund.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #15
The loudness race is here to STAY.
We will just have to live with it.

Notice that record companies don't care a bit about this...

Someone just begged Mute Records/UK to not make new Recoil's album sound that loud... and just guess which volume peak this album is...


Unfortunately you are right and its wrong to believe that this is mainly a pop music problem. All they have to do is ignore or dismiss us complainers - a 'minority'. They will say that its the sound that people are used to hearing and will not like it the other way around etc etc. They did it to me years ago when I complained to a producer. They will treat you like a FREAK. Even normal people will look at you funny when you try to explain this phenom and they do it to me all the time so I stopped.

Here in Australia there is no awareness at all and they are one of the biggest offenders of the loudness race.
wavpack 4.8 -b256hx6c

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #16
After reading some of these interesting articles, I asked myself if it isn't possible to slightly reverse the overcompression? Stupid question maybe, but we already have ReplayGain to lower the average volume of audio to a standard level. Isn't it then possible to decompress the audio a bit to gain again some dynamic range? I guess it would have a serious impact on the audio quality if this would be done too heavily, but just some percents of decompression...? Anybody an idea?

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #17
No it is not. How can a dynamic range expander know where to increase the volume and where to decrease it? In a normal mix you might have snare drum hits being momentarily louder than the guitar, when you compress them they are all the same level. How can anyone know that the snare drum hit was supposed to be louder? It can't work. Compression is destructive.

And that doesn't even take into account that some albums have clipping throughout. Look at this:



How can you possibly know what sound audio was there during those clips. You can't. It is lost forever.

The only way to cater for everybody is to have uncompressed audio stored on the CD and use a compressor on the user end. This is what Dolby Digital (AC3) uses. AC3 also has a defined normalisation level which leaves plenty of headroom in the mix.

If Sony/Philips had forseen this problem they probably would have set a standard normalisation level in the CD spec. like AC3 has.

In the days of vinyl, some amplifiers did used to have user side compression and this was usually known as "loudness".

edit: There is one way, of course, to expand the dynamic range and that is to store the details of the compression along with the audio. Microsoft developed a format known as HDCD which is backwards compatible with red book CD players but with an HDCD player it will expand the dynamic range. This is a very backwards way to go about things though and, as far as I am concerned, a hack. Storing uncompressed and using compression profiles on the user end is by far the best way to go about this.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #18
Damn compression!  I thought the compression was "relative": everything would be compressed a certain precentage. You wouldn't know the percentage, but maybe you could decompress a little bit. That was my idea. But if, like you say, the compression is destructive, then there's no way back indeed. And the clipping would be make it useless indeed.


Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #20
Can one not simply return CDs that clip and demand the money back on grounds of potential risk of damaging HIFI equipment? It's a proven fact, right?

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #21
What is the level norm standard for a modern rock CD, anyhow?

Replying to a pretty old post here, but...

I bought Beck's new pop/kinda-rock single, called "Timebomb", off iTunes yesterday (originally released August 21st). Bob Ludwig mastered his last three albums, "Sea Change", "Guero" and "The Information", and the latter is extensively loud, though "Sea Change" sounds gorgeous. Tracks on "The Information" fall between -11dB RMS and -12.5dB RMS. I easily noticed how loud "Timebomb" was in comparison, and decided to bring it in for analysis. Not surprisingly, it weighs in at about -10dB RMS, and that's including the silent head and tail. I've only heard metal eclipse that sort of figure at around -9.5dB RMS, which is excessively, uncomfortable, insanely loud.

I can listen to a few -10dB RMS tracks at typical listening levels before I begin to feel fatigued. I have other albums that hover around -14dB RMS that I can easily listen to for hours on end.

It's very surprising how destructively mastering engineers, driven by the assumed fists of record labels, are pushing modern releases. Bob Ludwig has even spoken out about the state of over-compression, but it seems he's still quite willing to push out masters that are, by all accounts, ridiculously over-compressed. I can tolerate over-compression, and additionally welcome a nicely compressed, meaty album (Like Nine Inch Nails' "The Fragile", even though Tom Baker seems quite content with incredible amounts of clipping), but -10dB RMS is way beyond tolerable for me.

Such a sickening trend.

Music is getting "too loud"

Reply #22
Damn compression!  I thought the compression was "relative": everything would be compressed a certain precentage. You wouldn't know the percentage, but maybe you could decompress a little bit. That was my idea. But if, like you say, the compression is destructive, then there's no way back indeed. And the clipping would be make it useless indeed.

That's not what compression is. Compression is the reduction of dynamic range, not just the reduction of volume.

Can one not simply return CDs that clip and demand the money back on grounds of potential risk of damaging HIFI equipment? It's a proven fact, right?

I did. I returned Californication to Amazon. Not for the risk to Hi-Fi equipment.. but just because I know it should not sound like that. Poorly mastered CDs are defective products.

 
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