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The record that issued the modern loudness era? Or as i call it the "loudness strain"
Old 21st May 2006
Gear Addict
RhOdEz's Avatar

Hmmm , it all went wrong when first Waves L1 limiter went out - i'll explain .
As i can see there were cases of crushed mixes before that , but not majority - and it was not as attractive to people as crushed L1 mixes - i clearly remember the hype after seeing more and more flat cds .Before L1 only SOME of high profile records were destroyed but were listenable - after L1 records lost their mojo and all that's left is pure limiting energy and awfull distortion and killed depth of field .After that point for me it all went to hell - someone just needs to find first ME who abused his fresh copy of L1 and made that sound attractive to clients ,i can remember L1 being "holy grail" for some time (just like aphex exciter decade before that ?) .
I blame waves - or first dude who mastered with waves L1 with full boost
Old 21st May 2006
Gear Addict
lefthando's Avatar

Originally Posted by thethrillfactor
Most diseases can be traced back to a starting point.

If its a mosquito carrying viruses or a sick monkey or a human carrier.

I was wondering today what record set the standard for the overlimited CD's that are being produced today?

I am guessing something that won a couple of grammies and sold lots of units.

Only a record with these kinda accolades i think coulda got all of the mooks at the labels to kinda look for this in their records.

Any guesses?

Maybe if we can trace it back and figure out where the "loudness strain" started we can find a cure for the problem.

In medical/scientific terms I believe this is called "Patient Zero"

The first Record I remember being loud was my cassette copy of the Deep Purple compilation "Deepest Purple". The Technics cassette peak meters were pinned all the way through Speed King. I loved every minute of it at the time. Nothing else in my collection came close.

I also recall the Red Hot Chile Peppers: BSSM being pretty loud.

Then later the same band put out "One Hot Minute" which was mind-numbingly louder then anything else at the time (1993 I believe?) This loud CD still challenges my ears.
Old 22nd May 2006
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar

LPs were always cut pretty much as hot as one could get away with. The two labels that cut the hottest singles were Atlantic and Motown probably beginning in the early '60s.

Both labels really needed to get independent distributors and promotion people excited in order to survive.
Old 1st July 2006
Lives for gear
FossilTooth's Avatar

Originally Posted by guid0
"livin' la vida loca" was the first song I heard where "hypercompression" artifacts were noticeable.
Have you not heard the Beatles song "she said she said" off of revolver?

Talk about audible compression! Those cymbals make me smile everytime I hear em. They may as well be going in reverse!

Granted, it's not across the whole mix, but I don't think all of the artifacts you're hearing on charles dye's mix come from stereo bus compression.

Old 1st July 2006
Registered User

I'm with fossiltooth on this one. Beatles were the first group of note to use compression as a sound effect. The more contemporary answer to your question is "Nevermind."
Old 1st July 2006
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar

Originally Posted by freedy
I'm with fossiltooth on this one. Beatles were the first group of note to use compression as a sound effect. The more contemporary answer to your question is "Nevermind."
Important to note that Beatles records were never cut particularly hot and had little or no peak limiting done to them them. I remember playing "Hey Jude" back on the turntable in the mastering room at Motown and cutting an acetate from it without any compression or limiting that was several dB. hotter.
Old 1st July 2006
Lives for gear
octatonic's Avatar
Metallica- The Black Album.
Old 2nd July 2006
Gear Nut

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the Led Zeppelins beginning albums.

Not to claim any similarities - but some of my work sounds pretty good if smashed firmly.
Old 2nd July 2006
Gear Maniac
DigitalDrugLord's Avatar
I have to say NIN. I remember a engineer in 1998 was looking at one of their songs in a 2 track editor, and i remember clearley how i noticed the begining of the song was very mellow, so the waves was tame. Then i took a peek at the 2nd half of the song (where the song rocks out) and i couldnt believe it. It was a solid block in the wave viewer, so it went from dynamic to solid block... I just remember asking "how the hell are they doing that"?

Then theres always the story (i wrote of it somewhere else) of the Tramps "Disco Inferno" that was mistakenly double mastered. The record was louder than everyone else at that time (disco era) and others followed, though this is a vinyl example and not CDs.

But to be honest i have to go with the others here and say it really busted wide open with

Nevermind.. i mean they even gave the distortion a name, it was called "grunge" for gods sake.

I remember when they use to do a "album" version that was dynamic and a "radio" version that was more limited.
Old 2nd July 2006
Registered User

I'll take back some hot air

Of course, other producers were using compressors before George Martin. The band just pushed him to experiment with sounds is what I meant. So I change my 2 cents to dunno really.
Nevermind was certainly a watershed of some kind. Culturally if not compression-ally. The disease I am more concerned about is everybody singing like eddie vedder. That sing from your throat al joson/cher kind of sound.
Old 3rd July 2006
Gear Head
Peter Project's Avatar

btw, imo the loudest album out there right now is Green Day's American Idiot.[/QUOTE]

I heard that the new Death in Vegas record was the loudest to date. Apparently it's not even listenable on smaller playback systems. It just comes out as crazy distortion. I havent heard it yet, but it made me laugh...
Old 4th July 2006
Lives for gear
pixelhead's Avatar
I can speak from experience that the early House Music Days were an all in out war. I worked at one of the Larger House Studios in Chicago in the late 80's and I would go to the mastering sessions to get acetates burned and we would ask what was the last House record they did and for who and we would make them burn ours hotter. I can remeber having to go back to the studio to change the mix and shorten the song so we could get louder bass on the vinyl. Those were the early house days of House with Jamie Principle, Steve Hurly, Frankie Knuckles.
Old 4th July 2006
I think the early 90's (90-92) were just good, clean, recordings. They'd made it passed the 80's "keep it from peaking", but the albums came out very clean.

Around '94 there was a change. Limiting was starting to be noticible. ME's were realizing that few people would hear 2dB of peak limiting.

Those were the happy medium. Pop in Nirvana's In Utero for an example. Lot's of dynamics, but noticibly hotter than the previous 90-92 generation. Things started getting ugly and blurry after that.

I always encourage bands and artists I work with to move closer to that level.

I've also made one of the loudest masters I've ever heard. I prefered it's sound when it was about 6dB quieter, but it still sounded better than a lot of the modern megavolume masters. Probably has a lot to do with the fact that it wasn't mixed with volume in mind.
Old 4th July 2006
toolskid's Avatar

Anyone heard any newer James Holden?
Old 4th July 2006
Lives for gear
JDN's Avatar

Originally Posted by Dave Peck
Hmm. When was Garbage 2.0 released? Although to be fair, it does have a few quiet spots between the pegged spots.

wow, maybe i'm a minority but I think that CD sounds really good...especially by todays standards. That was loud no doubt, but I thought it was a nice blend of the technology standards at the time(2 inch and pro tools) and definitely came before the "loudness" wars, which as far as i can tell, has been going on really on the CD format since the early 90's, was in full effect. I think there's great low end on that CD...I used to do live sound at a sunset strip rock club and always used that for my EQ curve test....that and "Down In It' by Nine Inch Nails cause that 808 kick just kicks serious ass...and that was back when CD's were more like Transfers(1989)

FYI, I'm not a live "sound guy" I've worked professionally as a mixer and engineer in the mainstream for several years now.
Old 4th July 2006
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar

Originally Posted by freedy
Of course, other producers were using compressors before George Martin. The band just pushed him to experiment with sounds is what I meant...
According to Norman Smith compression on every mike channel was SOP at EMI studios for pop music that was going to be extensively overdubbed using multiple generations of tape. We just hadn't heard very many EMI pop records in the U.S. before the Beatles. Everybody at the studio hated it but felt it sounded better than the tape hiss would have.
Old 4th July 2006

Originally Posted by warhead
I'd like to hear from Bob Katz or Bob Ohllson on this, I'm willing to bet this stuff started back in the 50's.

By the way, did you know that the loudness race has already reached the finish line? There's nowhere to go from here! Due to electrical limitations, you won't EVER find a CD that's louder, by more than a dB, than the current loudest CD, Black Eyed Peas "Let's Get It Started". To my ears, it's a couple of dB LOUDER than American Idiot. Some distinction!

Though I started cutting records in 1971 or 72, I was on the periphery of the pop scene, doing a lot of independent work, concentrating on folk music, jazz, and direct to 2-track audiophile stuff. So Bob O and other "old timers" would be better equipped to tell you about the loudness race at Motown in the 60's, but I know they will tell you the loudness war has been going on forever. However, at its peak, the largest perceptual difference (at the same position of the volume control) between the loudest and softest pop LPs was, I would say, no more than 5 dB. I say "perceptual" because the actual measured sine-wave magnitude difference between the old and the new cutters was probably no more than a couple of dB. 3 cm/sec versus 5 cm/sec or so... Ask Bob O. to fill in that blank.

But unfortunately, the conversion to digital recording opened up a can of worms that we are eating today. Digital recording permitted the natural forces that lead to a loudness race to create a 14 DB RACE that started circa 1990 and ended today. Before digital recording, physical limitations prevented the average level from being increased.

But even with digital recording, things were rather quiet in the beginning. have a wonderful CD of Black Sabbath, produced in 1980, original analog tape circa 1973 that would blow you away. Black Sabbath. Let me say that again, Black Sabbath. Dynamic, punchy, clear. But you'll have to turn up your monitor gain! By at least 10 dB compared to today's average pop disc. Tragic. Let me say that again. Tragic.

Somewhere around 1990, Sony had invented the DAL-series peak limiter, but that was so expensive that it was generally used by experienced engineers in a conservative manner, but it did allow some people to raise the bar a couple of dB. But in the mid 90's, the Finalizer was invented, and the Waves L1.

And ever since about 1990, we've been going up about a dB a year, and there were only about 14 dB left in 1990, so do the math :-(. Yeah, one of the milestones (sic) was "Livin' La Vida Loca". But I'm sure there were others before it, though not much earlier than 1993, I'd say.

Old 7th August 2009
Here for the gear

I'm a big fan of the sound of RATM's first record, suits the style, still has dynamics, things get loud when they're meant to.

I also call shenanigans on anyone showing me a picture of a waveform and declaring that 'it's too loud'. Sure it helps demonstrate the point, but simply because a waveform doesn't have clearly visible transient peaks does not mean that it doesn't sound good. I personally couldn't care less what the waveforms of my masters look like, I care what they sound like.

Keep going down this road and you'll have clients bringing back masters because (although they sound great), they don't look the same as [insert latest trend].

Old 7th August 2009
Lives for gear
FireMoon's Avatar
It was Stock Aitken and Waterman started it all... They admitted that they pumped an extra 3db, compared to an average, onto their singles in order to make them stand out in places of work and shops that played radios... It was quite cold and calculated by them, if you listen to their productions and i use the term loosely, the vocals are pushed way forward and the backing is just a piss poor adjunct to selling the hook line...

Can't blame them for doing, i suppose, but did they ever let the cat of the proverbial bag by doing so.. Don't know if it's on-line but there is an interview with Pete Waterman where he details and admits it was a deliberate ploy...

What people tend to forget, outside of the UK is that. Back in the mid to late 80s you only needed to get on 2 playlists over here to get saturation coverage of the country. Radio 1 and Capital Radio in London had ,by far, the biggest share of the audience. So S,A & W knew that their trick would reach the biggest audience possible, in Britain...
Old 7th August 2009
well, the BOX that ushered in the abuse of the era is this one:

Harmony Central®: Waves Releases L2 Ultramaximizer Hardware Limiter/Converter

February 3, 2000 -- WAVES, a leading supplier of Pro Audio Processors, today announced the release the L2 Ultramaximizer a 2U 19" rackmount hardware audio limiter/converter. The heart of the L2 is the proprietary brick wall look-ahead peak limiter algorithms and IDR (Increased Digital Resolution) dithering technology from the award-winning L1 software...
Old 7th August 2009
Good distinction: modern loudness wars.

Because there were bigtime loudness wars going on in the sixties with regard to 45 rpm singles (almost entirely the province of rock, soul, and other youth pop).

45 singles were, in a very limited sense, the Mp3s of the day. They were typically played in big stacks on changers -- or in jukeboxes -- and so were subject to all the competitive loudness issues that a single Mp3 in an Mp3 player's shuffle might be. The jukebox aspect was especially crucial in the shaping of those loudness wars, since the jukebox was a place where, for a dime a side, kids could see if they wanted to drop a whole buck or so on a single. (Remember, a buck back then was the equivalent of 7 or 8 bucks today -- so buying a single for a kid back then could be a big deal. An album was typically only about 3 to 4 times as much, depending on whether they were mono or stereo. [Movie soundtracks, classical, and Broadway shows were typically a buck or so more. But singles often weren't issued from such albums.])

They were also often subject to very poor manufacturing processes using inferior, grossly 'stepped on' vinyl. (The 'opposite' of virgin vinyl: recycled vinyl with loads of impurities, primarily paper labels ground into the mix when cut outs/overstock and used records were recycled for their vinyl.)

The mixes on the 45 singles of the 60s were virtually all mono. The once widely popular RCA 45 changers were strictly mono and for a long time the labels put out the word that you would destroy your stereo records by playing them on mono machines... but at the point where it was no longer economically feasible to put out two versions at two price points, the companies suddenly 'invented' stereo records that supposedly wouldn't be hurt by mono players.

It was, of course, a total fabrication, not an invention. No technology was advanced and nothing changed except they stopped making mono records and selling them cheaper. This worked out very nicely for the labels, since it meant that they forced the bottom tier buyers to pay approximately 20% more per record.

Anyhow, when I was an audiophile kiddie, reading everything I could on hi fi, I could never understand why 45 rpm records sounded so ****ty -- since you should have been able to make a considerably superior fidelity 45 rpm record. (Though with a shorter maximum content.) Indeed, there were a few stabs at such ultra-fi vinyl discs in the late 70s, some 12" 45 rpm EPs that were nicely made on good vinyl. But clearly it wasn't something any mainstream labels cared about.
Old 18th September 2011
Here for the gear

Oasis recording, mixing, and mastering info

Originally Posted by Jules View Post
Was the Run DMC Vs. Jason Neven remix was the ground zero for the totally flat lined 'solid waveform"?

The Oasis producer Owen Morris was on record for trying to be (and succeeding to be) the loudest around. I am pretty sure I know the mastering engineer for those records too....John Davis of (now closed) Whitfield St - I think I recall him telling me he found it funny / absurd the way they pushed it on Oasis.. Like a "tee hee - this is fun" experiment in over-the-top-ness.. Well it sure payed off for em..!
I'm very late to the thread here, but you might be interested in my new website Oasis Recording Information | How their early albums were mixed and mastered
It features some detailed information on the production of Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? from their producer Owen Morris.
Old 18th September 2011
Lives for gear
Boschen's Avatar

Originally Posted by dorisinger View Post
I think this strain has its origins not in music but in media advertisement. Subsequently the strain has mutated and spread into infecting the media itself. It's what I call the Wheaties flu.

Everyone's noticed that TV commercials are loud. They're mixed hot, to max. levels. Why? Experience and research has shown that this draws the consumer's attention and sells more product. Same with radio, but not as extreme. The loudness war roughly parallels the advent of television as a content medium for music. Music videos are basically music "commercials" designed to sell records and promote performers. How do you make a successful commercial? You mix it hot to get people's attention and sell more records.

You heard it here, MTV is the "Typhoid Mary" of the loundess strain. It's not any one album, or one piece of software, or the advent of the CD, or any one DAW. All of these things are symtoms of the underlying disease, they make it easier to produce successful (i.e. louder) commercials. And now the strain has spread throughout the media. These commercials quickly made it to radio, and everybody wants to sound like everybody else on radio, so everybody has to be as loud or they don't think they're stuff is as good. So, even the performers who don't sell with commercials (videos) feel that their music has to be as loud in order to compete in the market. The infection rate is virtually 100%, no easy cure in sight.
Excellent diagnosis!
Not good.
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