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Loudness Wars - Whose Fault? DJ Software
Old 2nd January 2011
  #1
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Loudness Wars - Whose Fault?

Hi People

Just a question that I've been pondering over for some time. We all know what the loudness war is and what's going on and how it harms music and all that. But what I wondered is - where does the pressure for loud masters come from?

Is it the audience, who want the best signal to noise ratio in their cacky music system? The label who are releasing the record alongside other loud releases? The band, who want the biggest sounding mix around?

My experience is that it's the band usually, but I can't understand why they're so keen to record their music in such high fidelity then trash it with a limiter.

I just wondered, from those regularly mastering - where do you find the pressure for loud mixes generally comes from?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
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I get asked for it pretty much all the time!
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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It's nothing to do with signal to noise any more. It's a whole host of misunderstandings; I wouldn't point the finger at any particular group of people. A&R, the bands, mastering engineers, mix engineers, pushers, people who playlist for radio stations, advertisers. The knock-on effect is legislation (in the EU, at least) for MP3 players to be limited in volume which then encourages louder still masters.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
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This is (and always has been) a pissing contest between bands and labels. The consumer certainly never asked for this... And it most definitely isn't helping their SNR...
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
jdg
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its all your fault
Old 2nd January 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdg View Post
its all your fault
I blame society.


DC
Old 2nd January 2011
  #7
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I see and smell a lot of smoking guns, but nobody ( noone ) pulled the trigger ...
Old 2nd January 2011
  #8
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It's all my fault.

Now you know it.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #9
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Andy Worhol
Old 2nd January 2011
  #10
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the human ear and how we perceive louder as better. The way I see it, the loudness war has been going on since the first attempt at recording from just getting a hot signal to really super super hot stuff of today. Lately the use of ipod only listening seems to make the lack of dynamics irrelevant as most people just don't care and it actually makes it easier to hear with all the background noise but again , its sort of sad and dangerous. But , and this might sound nutty, I actually ran all my classical thru a compression setting so that when I listen to music when I commute, I don't need to turn the volume up or down. I'm not in it for the sound quality really more so just trying to hear all the music as I tend to memorize scores and try to place all the notes and how the orchestration sounds.


So that and the poles.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #11
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it's always someone else's fault.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #12
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In my experience, it's 100% the bands and the record labels.

I was seeing -22dB to -16dB on just about everything till 1993, then all of a sudden, everybody was going for -10dB and it's slowly crept up from there till we have -3dB or even -2.5 on every crackly, mushy, unintelligible, distorted mess released for the last two years. It's going to keep getting worse until people just stop buying any kind of music at all. I wasn't an engineer in 1993. In fact, I think I had just gotten my first CD player around that time (or a year earlier) and I never thought it was noisy. I never thought "oh, that's not loud enough". I just set the volume to a comfortable level and never thought twice about it. I'll admit that I didn't have many CDs but I did have quite a variety in selection from Nirvana to classical. When I travelled, I had a Discman, which had an auto-gain switch on it. I hated the way it sounded, but in noisy situations like a jet liner, I sometimes used it to help keep from losing low level details without it getting too loud. You'd think there'd be a superior version of that technology these days. Like, something that could analyze the level of something in advance and switch some metadata in the header to even out the levels from one song to the next without destroying the dynamics.

Oh, but wait, that would essentially end the loudness war and bands couldn't pat themselves on the back for being louder and crappier sounding than whoever. Therein lies the real issue.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #13
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I think there are many factors. We work with music and music is the reign of subjectiveness, everything is flavor relative or trend subjected, but when a producer or a group goes to a mastering studio, they want an objective parameter to be sure that their money were used to do a better sounding song and for a lot of person perceived volume is that objective parameter.
In a competitive world "too much is not enough!"
Best regards
Leo
Old 3rd January 2011
  #14
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its the radio's fault, and tv - record companies want their songs to pop louder than one its next to. squeaky wheel gets the grease... or money...
Old 3rd January 2011
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Unfortunately louder tracks get more attention in sales and promotion meetings. I actually blame a lot of the current problem on the combination of MIDI, DAT machines and the concept that everything should be "normalized."

This resulted in MIDI-based pop records being louder and all artists wanting their new releases to be just as loud as the MIDI-based records. The irony is that the extra distortion often results in crushed recordings sounding weaker over the air.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #16
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MIDI and DAT? Sales and promotion meetings? Respectfully ... that was a long time ago!



The answer is Fear. One of the two main human emotions.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #17
jdg
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i think the other emotion is boner
Old 3rd January 2011
  #18
soulstudios
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I'll take the blame
Old 3rd January 2011
  #19
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To the extent that it is waged at the mastering stage, the loudness war begins and ends with mastering engineers.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmaximon View Post
To the extent that it is waged at the mastering stage, the loudness war begins and ends with mastering engineers.
Disagree. I work mostly with independent artists, and they will fire MEs who refuse to participate in the loudness war. I believe that most MEs wish that the war had never started. I have very rarely heard a ME argue for a hotter master. I have heard hundreds of artists argue for a hotter master.

Someone else said it already. FEAR. Fear on the part of the artists and labels that lower mastering levels will make them sound weak in a playlist.

.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Disagree. I work mostly with independent artists, and they will fire MEs who refuse to participate in the loudness war. I believe that most MEs wish that the war had never started. I have very rarely heard a ME argue for a hotter master. I have heard hundreds of artists argue for a hotter master.

Someone else said it already. FEAR. Fear on the part of the artists and labels that lower mastering levels will make them sound weak in a playlist.

.
It is your decision to participate, and your FEAR [of being "fired"] that makes you succumb.

Every profession has challenges, and professional responsibility.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post

Unfortunately louder tracks get more attention in sales and promotion meetings.
Unfortunately, that type of misinformation exacerbates the problem.

Great songs will almost always win. They don't have to be "the loudest". Think about it. Who really believes that the guy with the loudest song gets the deal? That's ridiculous.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #23
PBM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post

The answer is Fear. One of the two main human emotions.
The other one being surprise.

Our two main human emotions are fear and surprise

... and ruthless efficiency

... (and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope)
Old 3rd January 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmaximon View Post
To the extent that it is waged at the mastering stage, the loudness war begins and ends with mastering engineers.
?...what?

I don't think so.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmaximon View Post
It is your decision to participate, and your FEAR [of being "fired"] that makes you succumb.

Every profession has challenges, and professional responsibility.
It's the guy who's paying's choice..The decision to fight is theirs, the responsibility of the engineer is to advise the client and give them what they are after in the best possible way.

As for fear,...LOL, sorry mate thats an absurd idea that you'd be fired for not producing a outlandishly loud master
Old 3rd January 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmaximon View Post
Unfortunately, that type of misinformation exacerbates the problem.

Great songs will almost always win. They don't have to be "the loudest". Think about it. Who really believes that the guy with the loudest song gets the deal? That's ridiculous.
It's not misinformation, it's the truth of the matter. I've had artists tell me they havn't had a track signed because A&R guy said they're tracks wern't loud enough.
I've had pluggers say the cdr must be "loud" for the programming meeting...

Bob's absolutely right.

In the ideal music industry the "great" track will be the one to succeed...but life ain't like that,...the charts are testament to that.

As for the public...they don't give a toss about the loudness as loudness doesn't impact on sales. Marketing/exposure does though
Old 3rd January 2011
  #27
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Another factor is conformism. Global village is a very conformist place: we can't go on burning petroleum but we do it, we can't go on making pollution but we do it, we can't go on with financial speculation but we do it, we can't go on thinking world is an infinite place with infinite resources but we do it, we cannot go over 0 dB but always we try it.
Art and music are the mirror of the times we live.
Only living in a more participated and more reasonable way can make better music.
Best regards
Leo
Old 3rd January 2011
  #28
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Yep. Stop this endless silly discussion about loudness. If you don't like loud masters, don't make loud masters. If you like it, then go for it.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IIIrd View Post
It's not misinformation, it's the truth of the matter. I've had artists tell me they havn't had a track signed because A&R guy said they're tracks wern't loud enough.
I've had pluggers say the cdr must be "loud" for the programming meeting...

Bob's absolutely right.
No. In this case he is perpetuating a myth to create an excuse.

And I think your anecdotes are nonsense, and not controlling on any of the issues. You just need to get great songs to the right people to get signed and that is not a "loudest track wins" contest.

If you are slugging it out with stupid music battling other stupid music you may get more caught up in the bull****, but who cares about that anyhway?
Old 3rd January 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IIIrd View Post
It's the guy who's paying's choice..The decision to fight is theirs, the responsibility of the engineer is to advise the client and give them what they are after in the best possible way.

As for fear,...LOL, sorry mate thats an absurd idea that you'd be fired for not producing a outlandishly loud master
Look man, everyone wants someone to do something wrong. It does not mean you have to do it. You are not a sheep. Making overloud masters in harming the entire industry and if you calling yourself a professional you have a responsibility to the whole, not just to the parts. Now you may not like to admit that, but it is in fact the ethical truth of the matter. Overloud master do nothing good for the music, only harm, and the first rule is "do no harm".

There is a built-in ceiling with digital audio. You do whatever processing is beneficial to the music and that help it to translate well on a reasonable variety of playback systems, and you render it using the optimal bit resolution, and that's it. Full stop. Pushing it past that is doing harm, and no good. Like it or not, that's the reality of it. So maybe folks could just grow up and grow a pair, and stop acting like its a shouting match, or whining about how helpless they are against their brutal clients. So that this era doesn't go down in history as the era with the worst-engineered, most mangled audio of all time.

Btw, it was not, and never will be, me who says I'm afraid of getting fired because I won't produce an outlandishly loud master.
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