‘Dynamic Range’ & The Loudness War – Sound On Sound

In the press and on the Web, the backlash is growing against the ‘loudness war’, the practice of trying to make recordings sound as loud as possible, so they are perceived as ‘hotter’ than rival releases.

[…]

We’ll find out whether recent music is really louder, and whether it’s really less dynamic. We’ll also consider the hypothesis that loudness may be a stylistic marker for specific recent music styles, instead of being a bad habit only motivated by despicable commercial reasons.

Anyone who cares about how music sounds is aware of the “loudness war.” But do you understand exactly what happens when a record producer pumps up the volume of a recording? This article goes into great detail about loudness and audio compression, why it can be good, and why it can be excessive.

Source: ‘Dynamic Range’ & The Loudness War | Sound On Sound

8 thoughts on “‘Dynamic Range’ & The Loudness War – Sound On Sound

  1. As a classical snob, I can only smirk/snort. You listen to music of little intrinsic value, so is it any wonder its producers have to bugger it to make it more exciting/appealing/interesting?

    The dynamic range of classical (and I assume jazz) SACDs and BD-Audio recordings is spectacularly wide. Nyah, nyah, nyah,

  2. As a classical snob, I can only smirk/snort. You listen to music of little intrinsic value, so is it any wonder its producers have to bugger it to make it more exciting/appealing/interesting?

    The dynamic range of classical (and I assume jazz) SACDs and BD-Audio recordings is spectacularly wide. Nyah, nyah, nyah,

  3. this article, while noteworthy, is five years old and only relevant insofar as a snapshot of what took place up tim that time. A lot has happened since then—some of which has been reported in this blog. Since streaming accounts for a significant music sales segment, its interesting to note that the Loudness war is almost over. On the other hand there are still artists that insist on 1980s/1990s mastering methods. A prime example is the latest Joe Bonamasa album. I had to violently turn down the volume!

    As a professional I too am frustrated that the industry as a whole is stuck in basic stereo from the 1950s. Cinema sound is thriving enthusiastically while music afficianados are stuck as being “spectators” and not participants with a heightened sense of realism and envelopment.

    • If you’re talking about using surround to increase one’s involvement, I completely agree. But this can’t be done “after the fact”. The musicians have to decide how surround is to be used, before they start recording. It can’t be left to a third party.

  4. this article, while noteworthy, is five years old and only relevant insofar as a snapshot of what took place up tim that time. A lot has happened since then—some of which has been reported in this blog. Since streaming accounts for a significant music sales segment, its interesting to note that the Loudness war is almost over. On the other hand there are still artists that insist on 1980s/1990s mastering methods. A prime example is the latest Joe Bonamasa album. I had to violently turn down the volume!

    As a professional I too am frustrated that the industry as a whole is stuck in basic stereo from the 1950s. Cinema sound is thriving enthusiastically while music afficianados are stuck as being “spectators” and not participants with a heightened sense of realism and envelopment.

    • If you’re talking about using surround to increase one’s involvement, I completely agree. But this can’t be done “after the fact”. The musicians have to decide how surround is to be used, before they start recording. It can’t be left to a third party.

  5. I have no use for pure loudness other than perhaps in the car, to overcome engine and road noises. Dynamic range is all I care about (classical, classic rock, etc.) and usually with headphones – otherwise I end up fiddling with volume too much or annoying anyone near me. Wide dynamic range is absolutely thrilling. Also agree that movies are doing a better job with sound than other music producers, generally. There are some soundtracks that are simply stunning because of the dynamic range.

  6. I have no use for pure loudness other than perhaps in the car, to overcome engine and road noises. Dynamic range is all I care about (classical, classic rock, etc.) and usually with headphones – otherwise I end up fiddling with volume too much or annoying anyone near me. Wide dynamic range is absolutely thrilling. Also agree that movies are doing a better job with sound than other music producers, generally. There are some soundtracks that are simply stunning because of the dynamic range.

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