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The "Loudness Wars" in Numbers (Dire Straits, Stevie Wonder, Van Halen & more)

Cream

Not The Brightest Member
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These are numbers taken from Dynamic Range (DR) Database (www.dr.loudness-war.info/). The site contains user-submitted data of the dynamic range of various vinyls, CDs and SACDs. Dynamic range is the measurement in decibels between the loudest and the softest part of a recording. The numbers here go from 1-20. 1 being the worst. 20 being the best. The first number is the overall DR of the album, the second is the DR of the "worst" track on the album, and the last is the DR rating of the most dynamic track on the album. Ex. If an album has a DR rating of 1 it would be painful to listen to. The entire album for be the same loudness causing the ears to fatigue very quickly. An album this devoid of dynamics could only be listened to in small doses at a time.

To the numbers: Here we have three copies of Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms. One of the most dynamic records of all-time. Notice that in 20 years of EQ, compression and "remastering" it has been robbed of half of its dynamic range:


Here's another example of a great album ruined:


Fortunately, they haven't tampered with this one in 12 years...


...Or else it would probably look like this!


What's the worst album I could find? The aptly titled Songs for the Deaf album by QOTSA:

(The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication is tied for this honor)


So, whose music has gone unscathed and unmolested?



So far, they've spared the birth of cool.

Stevie Wonder is holding tight to the original analog tapes for good reason:


So, does a higher DR rating mean a better sounding album? No. In the case of Stevie Wonder, there have been some grumblings about the recent remasters being too shrill despite maintaining a reasonably high DR rating. But, by in large, a higher DR rating hints at a more dynamic, less compressed, less monkeyed-around-with, closer to the original source, and -- most importantly -- a more listenable and comfortable album.

Where do your favorite albums rank? See if you can find a 2 or below. A 20?

(NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with the site or the project, but I do use it before making any CD purchase)
 
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83stratman

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6,217
I generally hate "remastered" cds. If I want to buy a cd from years ago I seek out the original cd issue. I never knew why, but this is probably it. Remasters to me never have done justice to the music. They are usually fatiguing and bright compared to the originals.
 

fetishfrog

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Messages
9,314
What sucks is, CDs have a huge dynamic range potential and an incredibly low noise floor and instead of taking advantage of this, they usually get squashed into oblivion.
 

telelion

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2,806
Excellent thread and find Cream and should be a must read for everyone on this site.

I knew things were bad, but when "audiophile" artists like Mark Knopfler and Paul Simon are allowing or maybe not in charge of severely damaging their past catalog, it is just very depressing. So much for the "improved" remastered versions cropping up every few years that are supposed to be better than the last. They're worse every time.

There should be labels on the packaging so the discerning listener/consumer can see for himself how the recording fairs in the dynamic range. Old and new.
 

fuzz_factor

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4,196
^^^^^ Yikes! I thought the new ZZ Top album sounded like crap, and now I know why. The music isn't bad, but the recording... :dunno:dunno
 

mute

Member
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313
^^^^^ Yikes! I thought the new ZZ Top album sounded like crap, and now I know why. The music isn't bad, but the recording... :dunno:dunno
Me too -thought the music was good but can not listen to it much: Ear fatigue sets in pretty quick

Great to have that loudness site - will be checking there before I buy.
The music industry must be run by shortsighted morons - believe a large percentage of its decline can be attributed to the poor sound quality of even though people are not aware of the loudness issue -they simply do not feel like listening because it gives more irritation than satisfaction.
 
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rob2001

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16,927
Unfortunately none of this matters to millions of people listening on earbuds and cell phones.
 

DRS

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12,359
Question
If the first number is the dynamic range of the entire album, how can a single track have a greater dynamic range? Wouldn't that be the greatest range for the entire album?
 

A-Bone

Montonero, MOY, Multitudes
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102,990
Unfortunately none of this matters to millions of people listening on earbuds and cell phones.
I'm afraid this is largely the case. I also seem to recall a study done at Stanford a few years ago that demonstrated that the younger students of today preferred the crappy, compressed, loud sound to the tones from good vinyl and even CD mastering.
 

oldman22

Member
Messages
358
I agree that the modern day master is overdone and too loud.... but I think some times people get way to offensive on some masters. I got the new Bleach Vinyl that was remastered and I think it sounds better than the original. The original was done for $600 and mastered quickly. The remaster actually makes the album listenable now. Classic albums like Bob Dylan and Nick Drake that were done to analog shouldn't be touched but also their hasn't been very many Nick Drake pressing so I would take what I could get...
 

V-Type

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3,471
Im so happy I hung onto many vinyl,cassettes,reels and first -2nd gen cds(mid 80's - early 90's).
The musicality is so much more present in many ,many more cases vs Any post 90 digital works imo.
Their are exceptions though a few Pink Floyd and Zeppelin Studio Master series Cd's/DVD's actually capture the wealth that digital when done right can can yield.
 

'58Bassman

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4,928
I generally hate "remastered" cds. If I want to buy a cd from years ago I seek out the original cd issue. I never knew why, but this is probably it. Remasters to me never have done justice to the music. They are usually fatiguing and bright compared to the originals.
But a CD that was originally mastered for vinyl and not altered for CD will never have a consistent sound from one track to another because mastering for vinyl requires that the EQ settings for the outer tracks be completely different from that of the inner tracks because the linear speed of the vinyl passing the stylus is much slower at the inner tracks. For that matter, song selection is dictated by where they will fall on the album because of the sonic content and how the linear speed works for/against it. At slower speeds, high frequencies and bass don't mix well. At 33-1/3 RPM, the outer edge is moving at 1255.875"/minute and at the inner, it's less than half of that. At almost 21"/second, one cycle of a 20KHz signal is about .001" and amplitude is another big factor.

Another problem with the original CDs was the sampling rate and how it was filtered to minimize aliasing distortions. The phase shift made a lot of great recordings sound really bad.
 

Cream

Not The Brightest Member
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,187
Question
If the first number is the dynamic range of the entire album, how can a single track have a greater dynamic range? Wouldn't that be the greatest range for the entire album?
I believe the first number is just an average of the tracks. The second number is the least dynamic track and the third is the most dynamic track but on the website, if you click on the title, you can see track-by-track data. Once you average all of the tracks you get the first number.
 

Cymbaline

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4,412
The worst offender I've ever heard is Metallica's Death Magnetic. Every time I hear it I want to wring Lars' tiny little neck.

It sounds like playing a CD through a Marshall stack.
 

Jon C

Silver Supporting Member
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17,881
Fascinating post & link, thanks.

Just of interest in a couple of random looks:

Steely Dan: almost all "green" (good)

Wilco: Almost all "red" (bad)

Weather Report: almost all "Green"

U2: Lots of red & yellow ...
 

83stratman

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,217
For me, your post is academic (although technically true on paper). Old CDs usually sound better and more "musical" to me. If I don't enjoy it as much, who cares what the science says?

But a CD that was originally mastered for vinyl and not altered for CD will never have a consistent sound from one track to another because mastering for vinyl requires that the EQ settings for the outer tracks be completely different from that of the inner tracks because the linear speed of the vinyl passing the stylus is much slower at the inner tracks. For that matter, song selection is dictated by where they will fall on the album because of the sonic content and how the linear speed works for/against it. At slower speeds, high frequencies and bass don't mix well. At 33-1/3 RPM, the outer edge is moving at 1255.875"/minute and at the inner, it's less than half of that. At almost 21"/second, one cycle of a 20KHz signal is about .001" and amplitude is another big factor.

Another problem with the original CDs was the sampling rate and how it was filtered to minimize aliasing distortions. The phase shift made a lot of great recordings sound really bad.
 

Cream

Not The Brightest Member
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,187
The worst offender I've ever heard is Metallica's Death Magnetic. Every time I hear it I want to wring Lars' tiny little neck.

It sounds like playing a CD through a Marshall stack.
You're right:


Still not as bad as "noise music" maker Prurient's album "And Still, Wanting"

This album is not even dynamic enough to be scored with all the tracks hovering around the 0db mark. An album like this is painful and ear damaging in any amount.
 

fuzz_factor

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,196
Just curious - growing up in the 80s and 90s, I thought Aerosmith sucked pretty badly. Recently I've listened to their first four albums (digitally as 320 bitrate mp3s on decent headphones). Now I know why they're so influential, Dude Looks Like A Lady notwithstanding!

Does Aerosmith sound a lot better on vinyl or early CD pressings?
 






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