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Music Entertainment Technology

The Loudness Wars May Be Ending 294

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Mike Barthel reports on a technique called brick-wall limiting, where songs are engineered to seem louder by bringing the quiet parts to the same level as the loud parts and pushing the volume level of the entire song to the highest point possible. 'Because of the need to stand out on radio and other platforms, there's a strategic advantage to having a new song sound just a little louder than every other song. As a result, for a period, each new release came out a little louder than the last, and the average level of loudness on CDs crept up (YouTube) to such a degree that albums actually sounded distorted, as if they were being played through broken speakers.' But the loudness wars may be coming to an end. Taking advantage of the trend towards listening to music online — via services like Pandora, Spotify, and Apple's forthcoming iCloud — a proposal by audio engineer Thomas Lund, already adopted as a universal standard (PDF) by the International Telecommunications Union, would institute a volume limit on any songs downloaded from the cloud, effectively removing the strategic advantage of loudness. Lund's proposal would do the same thing for any music you could buy. 'Once a piece of music is ingested into this system, there is no longer any value in trying to make a recording louder just to stand out,' says legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who has been working with Lund. 'There will be nothing to gain from a musical point of view. Louder will no longer be better!'"
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The Loudness Wars May Be Ending

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  • I hope... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday July 22, 2011 @03:44PM (#36850450)
    I hope this is able to transition to broadcast television broadcasts. I'm sick and tired of commercials being substantially louder than the program they're playing within. Every time a commercial break comes around I have to mute the fucking thing, which seems like the complete opposite of what they're supposed to be trying to accomplish.
  • by djdanlib (732853) on Friday July 22, 2011 @03:56PM (#36850660) Homepage

    You can make all the recommendations and standards you want, but you can't force the studio engineers to obey them, nor can you change the studio executives who are demanding the loudness and writing the checks to the studios. There is a great deal of the attitude in the music industry that "I make a lot of money doing this, and you don't, so my way is clearly right!" So, this movement will probably involve a lot of independent artists. We need pop artists on board.

    If we can somehow start a campaign to get people to enjoy an expanded dynamic range, maybe we can raise awareness of how much better music can sound. Maybe albums/tracks engineered correctly could have another small logo somewhere indicating such a thing - call it something like "HDR Audio" (High Dynamic Range) that makes people think.. "Ooh, HD, this one is better than the one without it" or "HDR is the popular thing in photography, so it's probably good with audio".

    I'm all for more artists and engineers preserving the vitality of their music.

  • by manicb (1633645) on Friday July 22, 2011 @06:16PM (#36852592)

    "In Absentia" was their commercial breakthrough, you could do worse than that. Porcupine Tree are a leading "new prog" band, meaning that their rock music incorporates progressive ideas but is based on a modern sound rather than retro callbacks. Pure Reason Revolution are another great band in this area. Try Muse for something more digestible (Origin of Symmetry for guitar riffs, Absolution for epicness, Black Holes And Revelations for more experimental yet commercial anthemic stuff with synths.)

    It's pretty hard to be a new band that sounds like 60s/70s rock without sounding like generic rubbish. There are a few bands that have sort of done it, like Wolfmother and arguably The Darkness. Clutch have pulled out a pretty solid string of blues/rock albums.

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Friday July 22, 2011 @08:47PM (#36853734) Homepage

    I hate the compression ramifications as much as anyone. However, it does make the sound more like a square wave, which is how the C64 SID chip sounds (I'm also a bit of a chip fan). You get particular harmonic overtones which help give richness to a sound. So maybe people are really responding to *that*.

    Obviously the producers are going about it all wrong though, since they get the 'square wave' style, but also lose detail with most of the instruments.

    You can get the best of both worlds.

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