The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Black Sky Thinking

Everything Louder Than Everything Else - Dynamic Range Mastering In 2011
Nick Southall , September 1st, 2011 18:48

Nick Southall examines the state of play in the loudness wars in 2011 with regards to Kanye West, PJ Harvey and These New Puritans. Main photo by the author

Add your comment »

In 2006 I wrote an article for Stylus Magazine about dynamic range compression, a technique applied to music in order to make it louder, and thus, the desperate hope goes, more noticable. It got a lot of attention; as well as being seemingly the first consumer-led piece about dynamic range compression (engineers and techies have been moaning about it for years) it was just about the most-read thing Stylus ever published (beyond end-of-year lists). Numerous musicians, producers, and record company people got in touch with me to say ‘thank you’ for writing it, at least one band was explicitly influenced by it when recording their next album, and Robert Christgau, self-ordained dean of American rock critics, chose to include it when compiling the 2007 Da Capo Best Music Writing anthology.

Five years on though, if I’m honest, I feel like that original article was far too long, repetitive, and rambling, and so I’ve decided to “remaster” it, as it were, trim it, shorten it, update it for 2011, and try and hammer the message home again. Dynamic range compression hasn’t gone away, and while there are plenty of records out there that still sound great, so much of the musical product we have foisted upon is so sonically subpar that people who express surprise at the continuing collapse of the record industry perpetually amaze me. So here goes.

Several months on from its release, and there are plenty of things I find unpleasant about Kanye West’s much lauded My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy...

...The full version of this article is available in Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Music Anthology. Buy it now in the Amazon Kindle store.

Stephen Dalton
Aug 31, 2011 1:28pm

Well done Nick. Excellent, fascinating, highly informative piece on a subject I never thought I would have found interesting. Obviously written by a serious music fan too. So good it actually made my ears hurt..

Reply to this Admin

monkeyboy666
Aug 31, 2011 1:30pm

Good article. Have to agree, after spending some coin on good system (Arcam FMJ components matched to Kef Reference 205/2s) some albums are close to un-listenable at decent volumes.

It's hard to understand why an artist would spend the amount they do on recording an album only to have it butchered when it gets mastered. Why destroy the dynamics of the music of the art and expression?

Reply to this Admin

Rich M
Aug 31, 2011 1:45pm

There's a very interesting article in Sound on Sound this month about the loudness war, which is online http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep11/articles/loudness.htm
right there. Definitely worth reading although it's pretty technical.

Reply to this Admin

avl06
Aug 31, 2011 1:56pm

Brilliant piece - the first on this subject I've read that's from a music fans perspective, rather than a studio geeks perspective.

Reply to this Admin

Peter
Aug 31, 2011 2:16pm

it's the truth....a lot of remasters /new albums sound horrible on a decent system....

Reply to this Admin


Aug 31, 2011 2:16pm

In reply to Stephen Dalton:

I often wish reviewers would give more detail about the quality of the recording as well as the music - or is this seen as too "audiophile"

Reply to this Admin

CJH
Aug 31, 2011 2:24pm

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds modern recordings getting worse, and "remastering" sometimes ruining the sound of great albums. As well as clipping and brick-wall limiting, another big problem is the 'presence peak' - boosting the upper midrange between about 1kHz and 6 kHz where a healthy ear is most sensitive, but which is the first part of the spectrum to decrease due to hearing damage. Artists and producers themselves are sometimes to blame as well - they want their music to 'sound like a record' or even to 'sound like it's on the radio', and when their product is released into the marketplace they want it to compete with everything else - after all their future career depends on it.

Unfortunately the importance of sound quality in the mass market continues to decline - plastic PC speakers and earbuds that emit nothing below 100 Hz are the norm, and the pumping effect of limiting actually gives an impression of 'bass' when there isn't actually anything there. Many people seem to be oblivious to the squishy, shitty sound of cascaded lossy codecs (eg an mp3 uploaded to Youtube).

The 'sound check' feature in iTunes you mention doesn't actually work very well, not that many people even know it's there or use it. Something like iVolume gives much better results but is probably more hassle than most casual listeners will bother with.

A possibly solution in this era of downloading is for artists to make two masters: one "loud" for the mp3 market, and one that actually sounds good which can be sold as a linear or lossless file (wav or flac). But then I can't see any record company execs wanting to pay to master an album twice when they're too cloth-eared to head the difference and could just stick it up their noses instead.

Reply to this Admin

monkeyboy666
Aug 31, 2011 2:36pm

I also think this is one of the reasons why vinyl had had such a resurgence amongst audiophiles/music collectors.

Reply to this Admin

billygoat
Aug 31, 2011 2:51pm

thanks for this clarification...us neophytes need all the help we can get!

Reply to this Admin

John Doran
Aug 31, 2011 3:55pm

In reply to :

I think about this myself sometimes. While some music writers maybe would need to learn more about audio technology and process, we actually have a lot who know what they're talking about on this score, such as Nick here, Frances Morgan, John Tatlock etc. And we have plenty of other writers who are involved with the production and recording of music.

My problem lies in the fact that we don't always - or in fact very rarely - get finished product to review from. I've written two features on the new Mastodon album and even flew out to Atlanta to meet them two weeks ago. I still haven't heard anything other than an unmastered version of the album.

In the past there have been instances when we've noticed in the office that discs have sounded like shit only to be reassured that we've been given unmastered CDs... Then when the albums have been released, lo and behold, they sound like garbage. The recent New Order remasters are a case in point.

When we're sure what we have is the finished product I have no problems with this though. I think I wrote a lengthy review of the last Cure album laying into it for this very reason for example.

Reply to this Admin

David McKenna
Aug 31, 2011 4:43pm

"The film business is forever upgrading its qualitative experience in order to maintain custom, from VHS to DVD to HD to 3D in less than 15 years. The video games industry is perpetually upping visual and audio quality and constantly creating more and more intelligent products for a more and more discerning marketplace. So why is the music industry panicking about changing its game, instead of focusing on upping it?"

Generally agree with everything in this article but there's more to be said on this last point - I can't help thinking that, for the majority of listeners below a certain age, the loudness does equal an upping of quality (or rather, take the loudness away and that will be experienced as a lowering of quality and the recording will be heard as 'murky'.) And 3D is totally bound up with the same brighter/faster/louder pathology (and in the vast majority of cases used in a totally gimmicky fashion).

The fear in this article (and it is my fear too) is that of a person of a certain age observing the impoverishment of a certain art form (the art of pop recording), watching an inferior expression of it become the norm. It's like those older folk who try to explain to young Doctor Who fans that it was better in the old days of rickety sets and basic special effects and the Radiophonic Workshop. That's a niche taste now, as is the kind of production on 'The Drift' - kids are being raised on something else. And you feel like Jamie Oliver patronising people who only eat junk food and explaining that just because they like junk food, doesn't mean they should eat it.

What I'm not saying is "times have changed, just deal with it." What I am saying is that I think younger people have different ears and different nervous systems from you (and me) and they might not even recognise the sonic qualities you cherish. Their priorities are different. A return to that (or a move to something new but equally valid) will probably have to go hand in hand with a significant change in the wider socio-politico-economic context. That's my worst case scenario anyway!

Reply to this Admin

John Blonde
Aug 31, 2011 5:34pm

Good to have Nick's ears back in the game.

Reply to this Admin

cyrus
Aug 31, 2011 6:13pm

The waveform images in the article are a bit misleading as they show only amplitude and do not give a good representation of frequency content. Signal to noise ratio is always an engineering concern, especially with most of today's playbacks happening on poor-quality, noisy devices. All frequencies are not heard equally and just because a visualization of a waveform looks like a solid blue line it does not mean the track is going to assult the listener with "loudness." Even after this re-mastering there is still another side to this story that remains untold.

Reply to this Admin

Sid
Aug 31, 2011 8:09pm

A lot of the "loudness war" mastering also comes from the move to people listening to music on portable formats such as your MP3 players and mobile phones. Which is probably the main audience for a lot of releases now a days. Along as it sounds loud and dynamic on these products then non-audiophiles out there don't care about the subtle magic of a good production and mastering job.

One of the worst things I have heard recently is somewhere DJing with low bit-rate MP3s over a fairly decent PA. Screechy metallic noise and not in a good way.

Reply to this Admin

Spacious Specious
Aug 31, 2011 9:23pm

When people sit down to watch a movie or a TV show, they give it their full attention. When people listen to music, their attention is usually elsewhere. And they do their listening over poor sound systems in noisy environments. Under these conditions, a quiet passage of music is perceived as an interruption. Because of this, the market for "audiophile" recordings has always been greatly exaggerated. You and I may think it's a tragedy, but most people simply do not care.

Sadder still is the fact that it is easier, technically, to "properly" master an album and then install a switchable brickwall limiter in the listening device. "Soundcheck" in iTunes already functions in this manner to some degree. Why can't decent brickwall limiters be installed in our iPods and car stereos so that consumers have a, ahem, CHOICE over what sort of audio experience they desire to have? Why take that choice away from us in the mastering stage?

Unfortunately, bad audio won't kill the music industry. Fortunately, the music industry will kill the music industry.

Reply to this Admin

John Calvert
Sep 1, 2011 10:12am

Probably not purposely, but Dark Twisted Fantasy's distortion suits the aesthetic. Just as the levels are grotesque so to is old Westy's exploding ego - his 'distorted' self perception.

Reply to this Admin

progger
Sep 1, 2011 10:14am

In reply to cyrus :

To expand on this, there are several issues with the waveforms in the article. It's not really fair to compare side-by-side unless the time-scales are the same. You aren't seeing the 'true' loudness in those blue 'bricks' if the time-scale is so great you're looking at a squished-together waveform. It's not necessarily so interesting if the peaks are approaching 0db but how much compression has been used to shoehorn the loudness into the tracks, and what 'damage' has been done to the recording in the process -- and you can get an idea of the degree of this from the area of the light-blue parts of the graphs, the stuff around the zero-crossing point.

Yes to the comment about the resurgence of vinyl: you just can't cut an LP with a blue brick waveform cos the stylus would just skate all over the place. Unsurprisingly, blur bricks are very compatible with FM/frequency modulation radio broadcasting, and CD's. Having said that though, jazz and classical engineers have never had a problem mastering for CD -- like Cee Bee says "It's not digital that's at fault, it's the way we use it."

Great piece, though, and I can't believe that "Raw Power" was remastered to average loudness of -4db (is that RMS?) without ruining it completely!

Reply to this Admin

John Tatlock
Sep 1, 2011 10:36am

In reply to progger:

Responding more to the comments that the article here:

Someone mentioned that the Kanye LP's heavy compression suits the style of the LP. I agree with that, though it's not my cup of tea as a record. And interestingly, that record actually *doesn't* suffer especially badly from low dynamic range. This stuff gets very technical very quickly, and I don't want to bore anybody, but if you're interested....

There key element that makes something sound squished and undynamic is called the "crest factor". This is simply the difference between the average level and the peak levels. I'm over-simplifying a bit, but that's the basics of it.

Because of this, certain styles of music stand up to heavy compression a lot better than others. Hip-hop's emphasis on sudden spikes of kick drum, snare drum, clipped bass note, short stab and so on makes it one such style. You're constantly going from not much sound at all to a massive full scale sound and back again. It's extremely dynamic.

This tends to work really well for anything with a minimalist, beat driven aesthetic. But it absolutely sucks for, say, guitar band music, which is inherently more flowing due to the types of sounds being used. All your chords ringing out and chugging riffing and so on just turns into a shapeless, one-level slurry.

This brings me to my next point, which is that I think David McKenna's hypothesis about young people having a preference or expectation for squashed sounding music is incorrect. If you look at the music that is actually big with the yout dem right now, it's absolutely not squashed-to-bits guitar music. It's big-sounding, sonically dynamic electronic stuff, for the most part.
This applies right across the board, from Tyler the Creator's records to Beyonce's. The stuff that's grabbing the most attention is extremely dynamic.

So I would say that people are unconsciously already expressing a preference for more dynamic sound.

Reply to this Admin

SJC
Sep 1, 2011 10:50am

this was a really great article but i'm not sure about this sentence -

"The film business is forever upgrading its qualitative experience in order to maintain custom, from VHS to DVD to HD to 3D in less than 15 years."

3d is quite gimmicky, often unnoticeable, and often quite pointless, adding not very much to anyone's experience, but more to the wallets of cinema owners and studio bosses. it's just a way to lure people back to the big screen instead of sitting at home with their home cinema setups. its not really making the 'quality' of cinema better, not in terms of the content or visually. and w/r/t sound, often you'll go to see a blockbuster and be assaulted with a barrage of sound effects (ie not much dynamics) and the narrative will take a backseat to the visual effects that those sound effects are made for. not really saying anything new, but more comparable in my view would be how people seem dedicated to getting good home cinema setups, and this is very fashionable, meanwhile, having a good hi-fi setup where the type of sound problems you identify would be easier to hear, is no longer very normal - most people are more likely to get a big LED 50" than they are a good set of stereo speakers. its no wonder people don't care about sound when they are listening to music on mp3s. (personally i would like it if vinyl, cd and mp3 masters were all different - a few recent albums i have bought on vinyl have been uncomfortable to listen to)

Reply to this Admin

SJC
Sep 1, 2011 11:24am

blu ray is actually a better example of the film industry trying to push quality, even if it is often new money for old rope (i'm not 100% sure about HD - its obviously got better clarity but it seems to deplete a lot of the detail and texture from an image, it makes it harder to cover up blemishes, which takes some of the romanticism of cinema out of the equation). but its often like CD remasters. some remasters sound great (stevie wonder SITKOL for instance is fantastic) but a lot seem to be pointlessly rebuffed versions of what was already fine. or they actually make the music worse. eg - the remastered edition of the stones' singles collection made the songs sound unrealistically new and shiny. why would anyone want old material to sound like it was produced this year?

Reply to this Admin

progger
Sep 1, 2011 11:49am

In reply to John Tatlock:

"the crest factor".. cheers John, exactly what I was trying to describe, without having the words :)

Reply to this Admin

Nick Southall
Sep 1, 2011 12:36pm

In reply to SJC:

I'm actually very anti-3D, as a glasses wearer and a cinema goer it gives me a headache and I think it's extremely gimmicky. I probably should have used Bluray as the final example in that line, but the repetition of DVD, HD, 3D won over the formalist writer in me, I suspect!

Reply to this Admin

Nick Southall
Sep 1, 2011 12:40pm

In reply to progger:

With regards to the waveforms, I'm not usually keen on using them as examples as I prefer to trust my ears and hear if something sounds bad, but I thought for the purpose of the article that they'd help people get the gist of the issue. I'm aware that they tell only part of the story. I was careful, in choosing the songs I did, to pick songs of similar lengths for the ones that are compared, however - so both the Kanye and TNP tracks are (from memory) roughly six minutes long; the PJ songs all circa 4 minutes, etc.

Reply to this Admin

Nick Southall
Sep 1, 2011 12:40pm

In reply to progger:

With regards to the waveforms, I'm not usually keen on using them as examples as I prefer to trust my ears and hear if something sounds bad, but I thought for the purpose of the article that they'd help people get the gist of the issue. I'm aware that they tell only part of the story. I was careful, in choosing the songs I did, to pick songs of similar lengths for the ones that are compared, however - so both the Kanye and TNP tracks are (from memory) roughly six minutes long; the PJ songs all circa 4 minutes, etc.

Reply to this Admin

Nick Southall
Sep 1, 2011 12:44pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Thanks for this, John - "crest factor" isn't a term I've heard before but it makes a lot of sense in terms of how I think about this phenomenon. Interestingly, in the "hip hop can deal with compression better than indierock" equation, I think bands like Spoon, who use minimal, spacious, almost hip hop type arrangements in terms of guitars and drums, actually deal with it better than the maximalist, almost rock sound of some of Kanye's stuff (especially MBDTF, which is weighed down with string sections and layer upon layer of sonic opulence).

Reply to this Admin

John Tatlock
Sep 1, 2011 1:02pm

In reply to Nick Southall:

Yeah, Kanye probably isn't the best case in point on that.

The core of the problem is that some people on the inside of the record making process have developed a mad obsession with volume, when in fact volume is entirely under the control of the listener, and I do mean entirely.

If you start from such a completely-unrelated-to-reality place as they are doing, then the chances of ending up anywhere good seem pretty low.

Reply to this Admin

David McKenna
Sep 1, 2011 1:03pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

John, hopefully you're right - that's my gloomiest outlook. The question is whether 'big sounding'(as you argue Beyonce etc are) music is necessarily 'better sounding'. I guess I've been thinking specifically about the populist branch of UK bass music (as opposed to the more hip, and covered on The Quietus, kind). Things like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xgQ-9VXVME that are as much inspired by Pendulum as any original junglists/dnbassers. Sure it sounds big, dynamic if you like, but it's also hyper-compressed (I think) and airless. I've also encountered young producers wondering why you WOULDN'T use autotune on vocals - ie why not get a perfectly pitched vocal if you have the technology to fix it. That all leads towards a homegeneity of sound and experience. I guess that takes the discussion outside the evils or otherwise of dynamic range compression, mind.

Reply to this Admin

Nick Southall
Sep 1, 2011 1:58pm

In reply to David McKenna:

I'm reminded of something I read years ago about Michael Bay, which said he grew up watching pan&scan VHS tapes of classic Hollywood films, meaning they were chopped and screwed in terms of what you saw - the 4/3 frame of the pan&scan one sometimes moving about inside the larger frame of the widescreen version frenetically to capture the key bit of action, and in doing so losing all elegance and context of the rest of the scene. I remember the original UK DVD of Boogie Nights which crunched PTA's beautiful cinematography so that the nightclub appeared to be called "ogie Nig", which is the same thing, kind of. And I wonder if growing up listening on iPod headphones and your mobile's tiny, tinny speaker, and laptop speakers, has done the same to a crop of young producers.

Reply to this Admin

John Tatlock
Sep 1, 2011 2:41pm

In reply to Nick Southall:

I'm very skeptical of the "iPods and earphones have ruined a generation's judgement" thing.

The reality is that genuine high end hi fi has always been something of a minority pursuit. And I would argue that the sound quality that the *average* listner is exposed to is far higher now than it was 20 years ago. An iPod and headphones listening to reasonably (not even the best) high bitrate mp3s offers much greater fidelity than listening to cassetes on a walkman. There are fairly low priced mp3 player docks in any branch of Dixon's that blow the all-in-one hi fi systems of the late 80s and early 90s right out of the water.

Nostalgia for an era when everyone listened to heavy grade vinyl on a well-maintained turtable through high quality speakers is nostalgia for a time that never existed.

Reply to this Admin

John Landau
Sep 3, 2011 12:47pm

This subject comes up every time an engineer sends something out to be mastered, and most artists are understandably confused by the question: "How loud do you want your song to be?" The obvious answer, as Nick informs us here, is not usually a good one, and, little by little, as people hear the difference between music that still has some dynamic range left in it and some of the more notorious examples of dynamic range compression such as Metallica's Death Magnetic and Bruce Springsteen's Magic albums, they're starting to go for higher-fidelity choices.

As a recording engineer who is interested in that very subjective concept of "good-sounding" recordings, it's my job to make that choice very clear to artists.

Reply to this Admin

Ian Shepherd
Sep 5, 2011 10:43am

In reply to John Landau:

Great article, and great to see this being discussed.

I'm a professional mastering engineer and have been campaigning on the issue for a few years, now - I set up something called Dynamic Range Day to draw attention to the issue - if you're interested, there's more information here:

http://DynamicRangeDay.co.uk

I'd also like to second the recommendation for the Sound On Sound article linked to above - it's fascinating stuff for anyone interested in the technical nitty-gritty.

Cheers,

Ian

Reply to this Admin

Cellar
Sep 7, 2011 6:19pm

A bit of nitpick: "as a matter of principle", thanks. And, well, we've been here before, like with the gabber craze back when it first was a craze. People going "We Make Louder!" ("Het Kan Harder!", apparently the motto of some in that scene) while distorting the crap even more out of their latest thingy, live on television. I recall finding an MC in the gutter in those days and playing it for a lark. The sod hometaping it had tried to "improve" it in the process by overtaxing his kit. Really, there was nothing left but vaguely discernable screaming on a >200 bpm doof doof underneath all the distortion. Why anybody'd listen to such is more than I care to speculate about. But then I haven't paid much attention to much of any music at all, nevermind the regular "popular" stuff, as of late.

Reply to this Admin

Tom Collet
Sep 8, 2011 9:58am

I am a avid music buyer with over 2000 records, and CDs. So far this year I have bought a good 30 albums, however after a few bad experiences buying ultraloud distorted albums I have stopped buying new releases unless I am sure the audio quality is good. I have not heard a single new rock release in the last 5 years that sounds reasonable and have stopped buying rock albums- which is a great shame because there are some great modern bands out there (eg Arctic Monkeys, their albums sound atrocious tho).
I downloaded from The Pirate Bay- the new Live Tropical Fish funk jazz album which is great, but its sooo much louder than their earlier CD so I abandoned my plan to buy it through Ebay.
Downloading torrent albums has become a way of previewing the recording quality of prospective puchases- and every download is NOT a stolen handbag, but every download of a distorted album is a dead sale.
Some albums I haven't been able to preview, but which turned out sounding horrendous I have returned to the record shop for a refund or exchange. Staff often say- no returns on purchased CDs (because I may have copied them), but I dont take any shit and so far they have always relented. I would be rather be able to take my laptop in to a record shop and look at the waveform before handing over my money in the first place tho.
I am pissed off I have to go to the extra trouble of doing this when buying music nowadays, and I am sad that so many CDs I would have enjoyed are ruined. I am glad I was alive in the golden age of CD mastering- but I cringe when imagining what Nirvana- Nevermind (1991) would sound like if it was released now (probably like the modern Foo Fighters albums).

Reply to this Admin

implo
Sep 12, 2011 6:52pm

Genuinely perplexing is that these more powerful, successful artists allow their albums to be ruined so absolutely. Maybe I'm being naive, but if you spend months or years on an album and earn your label a ton o' wonderous cash, that should give the right to veto a shit mastering job, obnoxious market trends or otherwise.

I became personally acquainted with over-compression after my debut was crushed to fuckery by some overworked, preset-wielding mastering tech. Even after a protracted tug-of-war, it was, in places, still pushed into clipping. After the 5th round I just gave up, something I regret profoundly; what may be my only release is forever marred. Brickwalled, hatchet-job mastering is a hideous anti-musical practice by people who *do* actually know better.

Reply to this Admin

Vince Millett
Sep 13, 2011 11:17am

I believe the loudness wars started in order to get noticed on radio - here in the UK it was Joe Meek's productions in the 60s that got noticed because they were perceived as louder. all he did was compress them. We are a tiny label and we released a CD in 2008 where we knew we were never going to get radio play so loudness wasn't an issue. We used a top mastering house in London and instructed them to make it sound good and not worry about the loudness.It turned out sounding perfectly loud enough but very sweet indeed. We now do our own mastering but we're very careful to go for sound before volume. There's a balance between the two goals that's actually not too hard to achieve and it lies nearer to sound than to volume.

Reply to this Admin

Michael Hughes
Sep 14, 2011 2:17am

Great article! A minor correction: Scott Walker imitates Donald Duck on "The Drift", not Daffy.

Reply to this Admin

Martin Swan
Sep 16, 2011 6:44pm

As a member/producer of an unsigned band, who have recently gone into a professional studio to master tracks for an e.p. I can say that it's not the mastering engineers who are to blame for this - it's record companies - and often artists themselves - who are frightened of their tracks not standing up to the competition. This is a problem for everyone though - DJs definitely choose loud tracks over quieter ones to get noticed in the same way artists do, and if punters buy loud music because they think its better, then companies will make it loud. The answer is for artists to be sensible AND for people who buy music to vote with their wallets.

Reply to this Admin

Mark Eglinton
Sep 16, 2011 8:18pm

Great piece. Throw Metallica's 'Death Magnetic' into the ummm...mix, too. There's an album ruined by this concept.

Reply to this Admin

Rui Miguel Abreu
Sep 20, 2011 1:58pm

Hello. Could you please shed some light on heaphone choice. I normally use my Sennheiser HD 25 when listening to my iPod. Is there a better combination?

Reply to this Admin

Frans Stummer
Sep 22, 2011 6:43am

Mastering engineers and everyone else mostly HATES smashing the peaks of the signal (=loudness war) and do it because the customers (label, musicians, etc. = where the money is) insist on it.
To make it worse, nearly all available D/A chips CANNOT revert this maximum-volume-all-the-time digital signals back to audio without clipping (ugly, scratchy digital distortion).

Reply to this Admin

Gordon
Sep 27, 2011 11:37am

Great article, thanks very much!

Reply to this Admin

Tom Harris
Sep 28, 2011 3:38pm

Absolutely on-point. I'd always wondered why I felt so enervated trying to listen to Kanye's new album. It seemed gray and soulless and bludgeoning and this article totally nails the reason why.

I've spent the past few months listening almost exclusively to early- to mid-90s indie and post-rock precisely for its sonic vitality and earnestness. Music like Kanye's new record sounds cynical in comparison because it IS cynical in comparison.

Reply to this Admin

DevilMayCry
Sep 30, 2011 2:32am

Practice does make perfect and allows you to get an idea of what works best for your red hair extensions type and desired result. Do you want Jessica Simpson cheap human hair extensions or are you only adding a little more volume and length to your brazilian hair extensions.

Reply to this Admin

Christian Louboutin Wedding Shoes
Sep 30, 2011 3:35am

Each person's character of the selected the style of the Christian Louboutin Wedding Shoes is different also. The style of the Christian Shoes, when many choose when Tiffany and Co Sale can carry presbyopia. Choose Cheap Tiffany and Co is also a kind of knowledge.
Red Bottom Shoes for Cheap,Christian Louboutin Ankle Boots Sale,Christian Louboutin Wedges on Sale,Christian Louboutin Studded Flats,Christian Louboutin Short Boots,Red Bottom Shoes for men,Tiffany Watches,Tiffany Earrings

Reply to this Admin

Guill
Sep 30, 2011 2:54pm

bravo for the link between the fear of disappearance (death) of rock industry and the loud pumping. very mind opening. there is something sepulchral (oxymoron but why not hey) about this compression thing (which opens also a field for sonic brutalizers).

Reply to this Admin

Louis Philippe
Oct 10, 2011 8:37pm

Hi Nick. Thank you and congratulations for highlighting what has become a major problem in contemporary music production. I'd just add one thing, as a musician who's been active for over 25 years. When I started making records, mastering most of them at the old Porky's studio on Shaftesbury Avenue, we often aimed to achieve a level of analog distortion, including on songs (such as mine) which had a huge dynamic range, in order to capture extra warmth - and harmonics - in the final master. As there are hardly any places left which enable us to master onto half-inch tape, we're now forced to use software which, in itself, is what I could only describe as 'non-musical'. It deals with loudness, not colour. Mastering engineers routinely pump up the finished tracks without even asking the artist/producer/arranger whether they want it or not - a brutal standard is imposed on everyone, regardless of their wishes. The question is not even asked. Vinyl releases, which should receive great care in mastering, are now produced straight from digital glass masters without any kind of rectification, with awful results.

The truth is: we're losing our ears. The listening public, which is now accustomed to the narrowed harmonic range of MP3s and MP4s blasted through earphones, loses the capacity to appreciate the subtelty of sound; what remains is then murdered by over-compression. For music, alas, can be killed.

Take care

Louis

Reply to this Admin

Chris "Naive" Robin Meade
May 29, 2012 9:39pm

In reply to Louis Philippe:

I,m sorry in advance for this Mr. Southall as even i a fourteen-year old member of the ADD generation, understand the importance of subtlety and mood in music and every time i listen to an album To be exact, I look for precisely those two things. However, (and be warned as this is the beginning of my rant and therefore very poorly written and inconsistant) i also look for a third particular requirement and that is this does it make me think? I mean yes you can have the best, clean, beautiful, and dynamic sounding record on the best sound system ever made But if the music itself is atrocious and as a result fails to make you think at least a slightly productive thought about society then what's the point? and granted i am indeed gulity of what you and the commentors here on The Quietus Have masterfully pointed out and indeed do not care about the sound quality as long as it is above that of a bootleg but do not think thati do not look for subtlely because of it

Reply to this Admin

Latizzle
Jul 1, 2013 6:24pm

Can't realy fault such a beautiful peice. Well thought through and argued.

http://shekinahonline.com/

Reply to this Admin

John
Oct 8, 2013 5:37pm

Music without its proper dynamic range sounds horrible. CD was invented so as to improve dynamic range from the 50-60dB or so of vinyl and tapes to all of 90dB or so (the range available to a typical human ear. Compression of the dynamic range totally defeats the object of CD recording. One might as well use old 78s if one is going to compress the dynamic range in the fashion of, sadly, too many recording engineers! They need to go back to the time-honoured practice of keeping the dynamic range of the recording as when it was actually recorded. Any professional sound engineer indulging in compression of dynamic range of a recording can only be regarded as a total and utter cretin and ought to be sacked!

Reply to this Admin