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Loudness war thoughts
Old 20th May 2006
  #1
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Loudness war thoughts

I found this to be an interesting yet retarted scenario. I mixed a song for a band and I knew off the bat that they were interested in competing in and winning the loudness war. So without telling them (THATS THE KEY), I did a mix and master that competed in the war and one that did not compete in the war. I played the two mixes at the same volume so the mix wouldnt be judged on volume.

They basically said that the mix that competed in the war sucked balls which I of course agreed with. They then went on to express their satisfaction with the quality and clarity of the mix that didnt fight the war. After the assesment, I explained to them what I did and how the volume on the better mix would not be as loud etc. They then started to change their tune and disregarded the quality of the mix and ultimately went with the mix that was louder KNOWING it didnt sound as good.

This kind of pisses me off because it can make any engineer (mixing or mastering) look like a jerk off. Your basically taking something that you worked hard on and got to sound as good as you can and taking a hacksaw/limiter to it and ultimately that represents your work. However, if you dont give the client what they want, they dont use you. So there is the artistic side and the business side.

Hmmm....................
Old 20th May 2006
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart
I found this to be an interesting yet retarted scenario. I mixed a song for a band and I knew off the bat that they were interested in competing in and winning the loudness war. So without telling them (THATS THE KEY), I did a mix and master that competed in the war and one that did not compete in the war. I played the two mixes at the same volume so the mix wouldnt be judged on volume.

They basically said that the mix that competed in the war sucked balls which I of course agreed with. They then went on to express their satisfaction with the quality and clarity of the mix that didnt fight the war. After the assesment, I explained to them what I did and how the volume on the better mix would not be as loud etc. They then started to change their tune and disregarded the quality of the mix and ultimately went with the mix that was louder KNOWING it didnt sound as good.

This kind of pisses me off because it can make any engineer (mixing or mastering) look like a jerk off. Your basically taking something that you worked hard on and got to sound as good as you can and taking a hacksaw/limiter to it and ultimately that represents your work. However, if you dont give the client what they want, they dont use you. So there is the artistic side and the business side.

Hmmm....................
Hmm, I can understand your frustration. I just ask myself if it is valid to compare the mixes like this. Let's say the louder version would include more harmonic bloom than artifacts, wouldn't the louder version then start sounding better on lower volume levels when the "bad artifacts" aren't audible enough compared to the harmonic bloom? I just ask myself if any psychoacoustic effects like this can mess up their loudness/clearity perception and ultimately make them want the louder version... I just thought that maybe you should have them compare the two mixes on the same level but then on different volume levels, maybe they choose the limited version then? Try that, if they always choose the quiter version, then I agree it sucks...
Old 20th May 2006
  #3


In some ways, it's easier when they want it loud. You don't have to work as hard mixing, tracks with marginal tonal qualities can be saved, and you never have to worry about ruining the dynamics of a song.

I'd still charge them as much, though.

The other tack you could take is mix it to sound good and punt it to the mastering house to squash. I've had things ruined in mastering before.




-tINY

Old 27th August 2008
  #4
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TheNoize's Avatar
 

Interesting that what you mentioned reminded me of some points I made in this article:

“The Loudness War”: Oh Please… | Moozek
Old 27th August 2008
  #5
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I ALWAYS give clients ONE mix, and it's the right one, the one I know sounds best. Fortunatelly, everyone knows I'm a know-it-all -asshole,
so i have fewer clients, henceforth less studio income, less nonsense, less dumb song mixing
and more time for my own un-popular song crafting and creations!
I have a day job and don't need dumb people's presence or money.
Old 28th August 2008
  #6
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
I think I am the only one who is in 90% of the cases frustrated when a mix is coming back from mastering. Mostly my fader levels are destroyed by a stupid limiting.

What was in the back is coming up front....
I wish I could find a mastering house which is just handling a limiter like rear eggs.
Old 28th August 2008
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
I think I am the only one who is in 90% of the cases frustrated when a mix is coming back from mastering. Mostly my fader levels are destroyed by a stupid limiting.

What was in the back is coming up front....
I wish I could find a mastering house which is just handling a limiter like rear eggs.

+1 here...
Old 28th August 2008
  #8
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Mike Brown's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MR5D View Post
+1 here...
Just keep trying new dudes. I finally found a guy who does what i like to my mixes, knows what I am picky about, tells me things to make his life easier, and takes the initiative and does something I didn't intend when he knows it will make the song better.
Old 28th August 2008
  #9
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I do the same, but the loud version isn't too different sounding (once adjusted for fair comparison) that everyone always prefers the softer one. Learning how to do "loud" without noticeable artifacts is the whole ball game it seems. This is of course, lamentable, chiefly because all the care that goes into walking that fine line should be put into TONE, not VOLUME. This is why I do my own mastering now, I figured out how to get it as loud and clean as Sterling, but I put more care and effort into the sonics. After 20 or so disappointing results from the big mastering houses over the years I decided to make the tonal shaping as well as the volume shaping part of a 2 step mixing process.
Of course you need a lot of experience, a killer room/monitor and reliable references for many genres, plus a way to cross check mixes in several domestic environments, and frankly most mixers shouldn't mess with this stuff until they have it nailed. But if you trust yourself to do a better job than the the big guys, why wouldn't you? After all, modern mastering is not as difficult or mysterious as modern mixing. Don't believe me? Consider this, a great mixer can learn to master well WAY quicker than a great masterer can learn great mixing. Yeah, yeah, I've heard all the arguments here but stop! The mixing skill set is infinitely larger than the mastering chops, kinda like comparing Charlie Parker to BB King.
Only someone who who doesn't understand both skills would disagree, ahem, IMHO...
Old 28th August 2008
  #10
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Not to defend insanely loud, but.... Regular folks don't listen in studios. Take a mix that is quiter and see how much fun you have cranking the volume up on a cheap boombox or computer speakers. Either you have the volume knob all the way up and you still want more volume, or you get the volume knob 3/4 of the way up and the poor little amp in the thing is sucking all the life out of the music trying to keep up. I know engineers like to say, "just turn it up stupid!", but it's not quite that simple in regular-people land.

That said, part of mixing most commercial genres is knowing how to a) make a mix SOUND big and loud and b) make a mix that will withstand the limiting in mastering without falling to pieces. I used to bitch and moan about what the limiter did to my mixes... that was back when I sucked LOL. Now, no worries. So either I'm really good at mixing now, or I'm really deaf....
Old 28th August 2008
  #11
Deleted 99dc753
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
Not to defend insanely loud, but.... Regular folks don't listen in studios. Take a mix that is quiter and see how much fun you have cranking the volume up on a cheap boombox or computer speakers. Either you have the volume knob all the way up and you still want more volume, or you get the volume knob 3/4 of the way up and the poor little amp in the thing is sucking all the life out of the music trying to keep up. I know engineers like to say, "just turn it up stupid!", but it's not quite that simple in regular-people land.

That said, part of mixing most commercial genres is knowing how to a) make a mix SOUND big and loud and b) make a mix that will withstand the limiting in mastering without falling to pieces. I used to bitch and moan about what the limiter did to my mixes... that was back when I sucked LOL. Now, no worries. So either I'm really good at mixing now, or I'm really deaf....
I do not think that I am bad at mixing.
I make fair mixes and I mix for the song....and not for the level on the 2 bus.
So it is up to the ME not do destroy my intension of the mixing job.

And by the way I deeply believe that Mr. Stavrou is right.
He wrote:

"In my opinion likable is always better as to have the loudest song."

In other words if the song sucks the limiter wont help you either.
But if the Song is great listeners will crank up the volume knob and I do agree to this.
Old 28th August 2008
  #12
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So how did we do it 10-15 years ago? Has everyone gone deaf or something?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
Not to defend insanely loud, but.... Regular folks don't listen in studios. Take a mix that is quiter and see how much fun you have cranking the volume up on a cheap boombox or computer speakers. Either you have the volume knob all the way up and you still want more volume, or you get the volume knob 3/4 of the way up and the poor little amp in the thing is sucking all the life out of the music trying to keep up. I know engineers like to say, "just turn it up stupid!", but it's not quite that simple in regular-people land.

That said, part of mixing most commercial genres is knowing how to a) make a mix SOUND big and loud and b) make a mix that will withstand the limiting in mastering without falling to pieces. I used to bitch and moan about what the limiter did to my mixes... that was back when I sucked LOL. Now, no worries. So either I'm really good at mixing now, or I'm really deaf....
Old 26th January 2012
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tazman View Post
So how did we do it 10-15 years ago? Has everyone gone deaf or something?
i know i'm very late to this party, but i've been doing a bit of research (albeit late, again!) and i realise, our noise floor has gone up over the years!

Yes - studios and their technology have made controlled environments have lower noise floors,
cars are now more acoustically treated, esp the more expensive ones,

but there's so much outside noise which is competing with our music.
Old 26th January 2012
  #14
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O.F.F.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart View Post
I found this to be an interesting yet retarted scenario. I mixed a song for a band and I knew off the bat that they were interested in competing in and winning the loudness war. So without telling them (THATS THE KEY), I did a mix and master that competed in the war and one that did not compete in the war. I played the two mixes at the same volume so the mix wouldnt be judged on volume.

They basically said that the mix that competed in the war sucked balls which I of course agreed with. They then went on to express their satisfaction with the quality and clarity of the mix that didnt fight the war. After the assesment, I explained to them what I did and how the volume on the better mix would not be as loud etc. They then started to change their tune and disregarded the quality of the mix and ultimately went with the mix that was louder KNOWING it didnt sound as good.

This kind of pisses me off because it can make any engineer (mixing or mastering) look like a jerk off. Your basically taking something that you worked hard on and got to sound as good as you can and taking a hacksaw/limiter to it and ultimately that represents your work. However, if you dont give the client what they want, they dont use you. So there is the artistic side and the business side.

Hmmm....................
I'd just like to point out that BOTH your versions competed in the Loudness Wars, it's just that one was fighting on the losing side. ;-)
Old 26th January 2012
  #15
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bugscoe's Avatar
 

An interesting side bar article on the loudness war and why this author thinks it's over. This came across my news feed a couple weeks ago so forgive me if it's already been discussed on this forum somewhere:

The Loudness War is Over | Greg Reierson of Rare Form Mastering Writes About the Loudness War and Future of Music Delivery
Old 26th January 2012
  #16
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I think there were three mastering jobs done on the long-delayed Chinese Democracy by GNRs, and Axl went for the one with the least brickwalling. It's noticeably quieter compared to today's releases (obviously), but since it was so long since they released an album, it fits in quite well alongside their old pre-loudness war albums.
Old 26th January 2012
  #17
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Yes, but the framing of the issue assumes that it is valid to compare them in such a way... and as such is naive at best.

It goes back further than itunes really. Back when cd stores first started having listening stations, customers would always pick the louder songs. You can belittle them all you want and call them stupid, but it is what it is, and that's what happened time and time again.

Goes back further than that really. I was well aware of the issue in the mid 80's making mixtapes... and well aware of the impact of loudness on dancefloor participation.

As to the mastering thing, it's one of the main reasons you either need to spend half your life searching for the perfect relationship with the perfect ME... or figure out how to do it yourself, because the whole concept of just not worrying about any compression at all, and then handing it off to someone who will DRASTICALLY alter the sound is foolish at best.

At least consider that the "best mix" is subjective. To you, it might be the mix that sounds best with matched volumes on a hifi system in an ideal listening environment. That's pretty far removed from "reality" in more ways than one, however. Perhaps, the "best mix" is the one that attracts the most listeners and gives more enjoyment in more listening situations. (noisy cars, computer speakers, earbuds, building p.a. systems, etc) Looked at from that vantage point, it's not going to be either the non- compressed or the hyper-crushed version that is "best", but rather somewhere in the middle... and probably leaning towards louder.

Neither answer is "right"... just more or less appropriate depending on what "best mix" means to you.
Old 26th January 2012
  #18
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart View Post
I found this to be an interesting yet retarted scenario. I mixed a song for a band and I knew off the bat that they were interested in competing in and winning the loudness war. So without telling them (THATS THE KEY), I did a mix and master that competed in the war and one that did not compete in the war. I played the two mixes at the same volume so the mix wouldnt be judged on volume.

They basically said that the mix that competed in the war sucked balls which I of course agreed with. They then went on to express their satisfaction with the quality and clarity of the mix that didnt fight the war. After the assesment, I explained to them what I did and how the volume on the better mix would not be as loud etc. They then started to change their tune and disregarded the quality of the mix and ultimately went with the mix that was louder KNOWING it didnt sound as good.

This kind of pisses me off because it can make any engineer (mixing or mastering) look like a jerk off. Your basically taking something that you worked hard on and got to sound as good as you can and taking a hacksaw/limiter to it and ultimately that represents your work. However, if you dont give the client what they want, they dont use you. So there is the artistic side and the business side.

Hmmm....................
Yeah, there are two sides to this but again, as a paying customer, I want the option! Give me a choice! One mix should claim "Mastered for Maximum Loudness" and another could be labeled "Mastered For Your Listening Pleasure" or maybe just not say anything. Whatever the case, I get really pissed when I hear good songs that were butchered in mastering.... Maroon5 anyone?
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