"the death of dynamic range' in audio...

MichaelK

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6,476
It's one of my pet peeves. It makes cranking up the stereo impossible. With a severely limited recording, anything louder than a car radio at medium volume is unlistenable, and makes it painful to sit through an entire CD. It's a shame, because even if the music is good there's no way to know. That kind of mastering kills it.

It's what radio wants, and what they want they get.
 

Scott Peterson

Administrator and Co-Founder of TGP
Staff member
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37,437
It is the main reason I am forced to listen to most current music at 90db or less; I cannot stand that white noise grating you get when you jam current music.

I do mastering and the main thing you *constantly* get from most folks on the first pass is: "Can you make it louder?" Clients want less than 2-3db of dynamics in the music. It is a nearly impossible task and IMHO the results are that constant white noise searing thing in my ear. bah! I hate it!
 

MichaelK

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6,476
Every now and then you come across a CD so artfully mastered that it's "loud" yet listenable, even pleasant. I wish I knew how it was done, but if everybody could do it those guys wouldn't be earning top dollar.
 

malabarmusic

Member
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1,700
Originally posted by Scott Peterson
... the main thing you *constantly* get from most folks on the first pass is: "Can you make it louder?"...
As suggested in joseph's link, it seems that a lot of folks missed school on the day when we all learned about that miracle invention of modern science called the ...

VOLUME KNOB!!

- DB
 

MichaelK

Member
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6,476
Originally posted by malabarmusic
As suggested in joseph's link, it seems that a lot of folks missed school on the day when we all learned about that miracle invention of modern science called the ... VOLUME KNOB!!
The "reasoning" behind the loudness is that (they believe) if a person is scanning radio stations, they'll stop at the loudest station they hear. It might be true, I don't know. Since a radio signal is limited to a certain volume level (I'm not up on the technology, I'm just paraphrasing to the best of my understanding), the most compressed signal the most apparently loud. If station "A" is broadcasting a less compressed signal than station "B," it will appear less loud to the person flipping through the dials. So if a CD can be compressed to the point where it actually clips a few times at -0 dB, the record companies prefer that to a -001 dB limit, because it might sound just that much louder to the person scanning.

This is all part of the reason I find listening to commercial radio in the mornings so oppressive. The song is compressed to all sh*t already, and five seconds from ending they start in with the WHOOSH ZIPZIP noises to pump every available milisecond to top volume so there's no drop in level, G-d forbid, before the DJs (always a team of at least three giggling idiots, it seems) start laughing in my face at maximum compression. I guess those noises are also to remind you that they're "nutty" and "crazy" and having a big ol' party in the studio. My wife can listen to it; I can't stand it.

Sorry for the rant. I guess I feel it's not off-topic because it's all the same thing. I wonder, does this crap really make a difference in ratings, or did a small group of people just make that assumption in a competitive panic?

If I want to keep up with what's current I peruse the charts and listen online at the lowest level possible, so I can hear. Sometimes I even come across a decent song. :)
 

malabarmusic

Member
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1,700
Originally posted by MichaelK
The "reasoning" behind the loudness is that (they believe) if a person is scanning radio stations, they'll stop at the loudest station they hear.
My sense is that radio stations compress the broadcast signal so much that the dynamic range/loudness of the source material almost doesn't matter. This might be a semi-valid point when it comes to CD jukeboxes, though as those shift to MP3s the issue kinda sorta goes away.

Of course, the vast majority of artists pushing for "louder" masters are unlikely to ever worry about radio or jukebox airplay ... :eek:

Maybe someday reason will prevail. In the meantime, we can all just say no to digital clipping in our own humble work.

- DB
 

joseph

Member
Messages
1,472
Originally posted by MichaelK
This is all part of the reason I find listening to commercial radio in the mornings so oppressive. The song is compressed to all sh*t already, and five seconds from ending they start in with the WHOOSH ZIPZIP noises to pump every available milisecond to top volume so there's no drop in level, G-d forbid, before the DJs (always a team of at least three giggling idiots, it seems) start laughing in my face at maximum compression. I guess those noises are also to remind you that they're "nutty" and "crazy" and having a big ol' party in the studio. My wife can listen to it; I can't stand it.

I can't stand it either, it's that 'LCD' thing (lowest common denominator), and it's nationwide.

One solution- actually the only solution if you listen to radio- is just tuning in the local public radio or college station. All the others, like you say, are the same.

I'm lucky....the local public radio station has a jazz hour several nights a week where the DJ plays his own collection of classic vinyl LPs from 60s and 70s era Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan......even if you didn't like jazz, still the tone of the pianos, the ride cymbals, saxes....even in the car, I could realize that the idea "stuff sounded better on the radio back 30 years ago" isn't bogus nostalgia...it's real!
 

straticus

Member
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3,101
Originally posted by Scott Peterson
It is the main reason I am forced to listen to most current music at 90db or less; I cannot stand that white noise grating you get when you jam current music.

I do mastering and the main thing you *constantly* get from most folks on the first pass is: "Can you make it louder?" Clients want less than 2-3db of dynamics in the music. It is a nearly impossible task and IMHO the results are that constant white noise searing thing in my ear. bah! I hate it!
WORD!

I saw this band called The Living End on Letterman a few months ago and liked them enough to buy their CD. These guys rocked! Well, I bought the CD, threw it in the CD player and was hit in the face by this harsh, brick wall of sound. Everything slamming me at once with no room or space for the music to breath. It's hard to tell what's going on in the song because everything is coming at you full force.

I don't know, it's hard to explain but I hear it more and more these days. The best way I can describe it is the CD sounds too loud even when it turned down. The CD isn't even listenable, forget turning it up! It's a prime example of what's wrong with the way music is mixed these days. That was the first and last time that CD made it's way into my CD player and that's just sad because the band rocks and the music is great ................. but the sound of the CD is hideous!
 

MichaelK

Member
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6,476
Originally posted by joseph
classic vinyl LPs from 60s and 70s era Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan......even if you didn't like jazz, still the tone of the pianos, the ride cymbals, saxes....even in the car, I could realize that the idea "stuff sounded better on the radio back 30 years ago" isn't bogus nostalgia...it's real!
I agree. You would probably enjoy the interview with Rudy Van Gelder in this month's Mix magazine. His engineering for Blue Note (and I believe Impulse) was nothing short of perfect, IMHO. I'll bet a large percentage of those records you're hearing were recorded by him.

I've only skimmed it, haven't really read it yet. Unfortunately, he usually doesn't like to reveal specifics, like gear and technique. Maybe this time he's spilling some of the good stuff, I dunno.
 

aleclee

TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
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12,545
Originally posted by malabarmusic
My sense is that radio stations compress the broadcast signal so much that the dynamic range/loudness of the source material almost doesn't matter.
My understanding is a bit different. Given the attack and release settings on the stations' limiters, you don't want to hit 'em. They probably do some compression in addition to the limiters (due to the limited dynamic range of radio) but there was a time when things weren't crushed like they are today.
 
T

TheArchitect

Originally posted by MichaelK
It's one of my pet peeves. It makes cranking up the stereo impossible. With a severely limited recording, anything louder than a car radio at medium volume is unlistenable, and makes it painful to sit through an entire CD. It's a shame, because even if the music is good there's no way to know. That kind of mastering kills it.

It's what radio wants, and what they want they get.
Its not what radio wants. Its what dumb asses at record companies want because in their little pee brains they believe that if their record is louder people will pay more attention to it. What they can't seem to comprehend is that 1) the compression radio applies to a broadcast is looking for peaks to tame. When it doesn't see them it clamps down on everything effectively making it quieter. 2) THE COMPLETE LACK OF DYNAMICS AND THE CLIPPING DISTORTION IT CREATES MAKES PEOPLE TUNE IT OUT AND TURN IT OFF BECAUSE THE BRAIN DOESN'T LIKE BEING PUMMELED WITH WHITE NOISE. KIND OF LIKE WHEN PEOPLE TYPE IN ALL CAPS.
 

straticus

Member
Messages
3,101
Originally posted by TheArchitect
...............2) THE COMPLETE LACK OF DYNAMICS AND THE CLIPPING DISTORTION IT CREATES MAKES PEOPLE TUNE IT OUT AND TURN IT OFF BECAUSE THE BRAIN DOESN'T LIKE BEING PUMMELED WITH WHITE NOISE. KIND OF LIKE WHEN PEOPLE TYPE IN ALL CAPS.

Thanks for the laugh ............ I needed that:D
 

MichaelK

Member
Messages
6,476
Originally posted by TheArchitect
Its not what radio wants. Its what dumb asses at record companies want because in their little pee brains they believe that if their record is louder people will pay more attention to it.
... when it's played on the radio.

They don't care how much you like it once you've paid money for it.
 

johnspeck

Member
Messages
1,240
My band just had our record mastered for release on WB this summer. We went with a reputable mid-budget facility that had done several big records.

We had to have three revisions done, to bring intended eq and dynamics back into the songs. There's still an element of the 'loud at low volumes' syndrome, and when I gave a mastered copy to our soundman to load into his laptop, he laughed at the levels. Some songs were at or near 100%. It seems to be EXACTLY what the labels want to hear; if it's mastered 'properly', they complain of it being too quiet compared to other recent releases.
 




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