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Old 01-30-2008, 11:46 PM   #1
DaFjory
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The loudness war – why?!

I listen to my music through headphones 99% of the time, and only in the past year have I begun to realise the terrors of the Loudness War. I can hear it for myself, and I've read a good deal about it. It's something I've come to take a very strong stance on. For those who don't know what I'm on about, just dip into this doozy and get educated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

My main rant is that our favourite guitarslingers and bands have all fallen victim to this loss of dynamic range in their CDs, within the past decade and a half. To namedrop; I'm talking Satch, Vai, Dream Theater, Stratovarius, Megadeth, Symphony X... the lot of 'em. Basically all manner of bands from the Metal forum, and this 'ere Shred forum of ours. Nobody's bands are safe!

So to explain my point in practical terms – for some strange and unexplained reason, our heroes are releasing their music with insane amounts of clipping and distortion on the waveforms. They're so goddam loud, you end up lowering the volume in shock upon first playing a CD, and then afterwards even more so once you start developing earache. Simply put, it's bad mastering.

Not only is it loud, it sounds like crap as well. I'm a huge fan of DT, but pretty much all their stuff post-A Change Of Seasons is total mush. Their absolute worst album for clipping must be either ToT or SDoIT. It may be fine music in itself, but it's not pretty to listen to for hours on end in terms of mastering. The ears just aren't designed to tolerate such compressed sloop. At least mine aren't.

So why are they doing it? Why is it that amazing, professional musicians like Satch or DT are either allowing their work to be poorly and cheaply mastered like pop CDs – "the louder, the better" as the theory goes, according to the record companies – or doing the handiwork themselves. You'd think they of all artists would be above such flawed and juveline logic. Their music is awesome, and should be awesomely mastered too. I want to hear dynamics all over the place – soft, harsh, high, low, quiet, loud; the works.

Instead, anything Satch has made since during and after Crystal Planet is nothing but a wall of noise. There's no dynamics, no subtlety. It's in your face and in your ears constantly. Why, Satch? You're supposed to be making real music for people who appreciate the good stuff – why let some hack of a mastering engineer ruin it like the latest Sugababes album or something similar, just because it "has to be loud"? It's not right.

Another mystery to me is our own beloved John Petrucci. Great music aside, Suspended Animation has the misfortune of being the biggest wall of noise I've ever subjected my ears to. I actually avoid listening to it often simply because it's a drag for my ears to absorb all that clipped, compressed mush. I brought up this example once before in another topic, but I want to reiterate it here – listen to the first big, sustained chord of Glasgow Kiss. Turn it up or down, whichever you prefer (it doesn't matter either way). Now, do you hear that? That's static, for crying out loud!!! Why, Mr. Petrucci? Why...?

This is the reason why I love anything from the '80s – there's looooooads of headroom on the waveforms, and you've actually got loud and quiet parts. "But it's so quiet and tinny!", I hear a bunch of idiots say. Oh, you want it louder? Well crank up the volume yourself, you lazy bastage! I don't care if you want it all loud for your iPod or cheap earphones – I want my music oozing with tons of headroom and plenty of dynamics. Not mastered 'hot' or loud just for the sake of it.

Those kinds of albums (from the '80s and early '90s) really are joy to listen to. The Vinnie Moores, Greg Howes, Tony MacAlpines, Joey Tafollas, Racer Xs, Jeff Becks, Marty Friedmans, Jason Beckers, Steve Morses, Shawn Lanes and Yngwie J. Malmsteens got lucky by having their work released back then – nobody to master it badly, since the loudness wars hadn't begun! Then came the mid-'90s... *sigh*
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Old 01-31-2008, 01:01 AM   #2
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I like distortion, I think that Paradise Lost was one of Symphony X's best albums to date. And who are you to call Satch's tunes a "wall of noise?"
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Old 01-31-2008, 01:27 AM   #3
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loud makes music good...hearing every instrument clearly is important. if you listen to old recordings they are almost whisper soft

i could see if you wanna keep that kind of dynamic range in classical music, but for rock & electronic music?? come on dude
you're buying into the audio hysteria
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Old 01-31-2008, 07:18 AM   #4
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I think you are way overreacting.

Of course mastering is just going further and further making everything louder but mastering isn't the only reason for this. Guitar sound, equalizing nowadays are all pumped up to the max.

I don't think albums like the latest satch records aren't dynamic at all.
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Old 01-31-2008, 07:36 AM   #5
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Yeah, seems like every song past-00's is compressed to hell and back. Erotic Cakes is a good example but the mix there doesn't really sound bad though. I don't know about Vai... he does most of the producing himself, and if memory serves me correctly, he feels the same as you. But yeah... I agree with you.
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Old 01-31-2008, 08:50 AM   #6
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Old 01-31-2008, 10:47 PM   #7
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I like distortion, I think that Paradise Lost was one of Symphony X's best albums to date.

Indeed it is a great album. Michael Romeo's guitars have a great distortion to them. But what I don't like is the audio distortion added by the clipping. It's very ear-draining to listen to in its entirety – unlike all their previous efforts, which had headroom and didn't clip. Romeo always uses distortion in his tone, but he's never had to distort the CDs as well. That's the point I'm trying to make.

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And who are you to call Satch's tunes a "wall of noise?"

I am, that's who? I spend good money buying his music (I own every album), so I will automatically expect a quality product instead of compressed mush. Musically, I'm looking forward to his new stuff... but sonically, I'm dreading it.

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loud makes music good...hearing every instrument clearly is important. if you listen to old recordings they are almost whisper soft

That's just a wrong way to look at it. I was in that exact same mindset a year ago, but I quickly grew out of it once I realised what was happening. If I want to hear something better, I simply adjust the volume on my own system accordingly – I don't need some twat of a mastering engineer doing it for me, at the expense of track quality. "Whisper quiet" says plenty of gorgeous headroom to me.

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you're buying into the audio hysteria

You've bought into it.

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Originally Posted by flamencogod
I think you are way overreacting.

And you're underreacting. Join the cause let's and enjoy well-mastered music again!

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Of course mastering is just going further and further making everything louder but mastering isn't the only reason for this. Guitar sound, equalizing nowadays are all pumped up to the max.

Pumped to the max when they clearly don't need to be. I'm listening to some Dokken albums from the '80s, and IMO they're mastered as perfectly as can be. George Lynch's guitars sound fine to me!

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I don't know about Vai... he does most of the producing himself, and if memory serves me correctly, he feels the same as you.

He might've agreed at some point, but clearly not when he had Real Illusions mastered. Clips all over the place.



And hey, I'm not normally this amped over issues of less importance otherwise in the world. Nor am I attacking any of the good folks I've quoted (I'm not usually so snappy, honest!) But just for this one agenda, I had to get my views out to somebody. I don't know who else to vent them to! The record companies and artists obviously don't care a smidge.
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Old 01-31-2008, 11:45 PM   #8
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That's just a wrong way to look at it. I was in that exact same mindset a year ago, but I quickly grew out of it once I realised what was happening.

so what you're saying is you were quite happy listening to your albums till you read the article
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Old 02-01-2008, 12:26 AM   #9
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Not what I'm saying at all. I only came across that article after a long while of trying to figure out why I had always been happy listening to the music itself, but then began to notice the excessive loudness and apparent 'wobbling' sound quality of a large number of albums in my collection – the most frequent ones being those made after '95, and a whole bunch of remasters (Iron Maiden and Van Halen being the worst culprits).

I looked into it more by typing in such search handles as "maiden remasters", etc. and subsequently clued myself up on what was going on. So the result, after all this time researching and doing practical comparisons of various albums, is the original post I made here. Granted, I may be looking at it in a different way now than I was a year ago, but I didn't originally set out to find something wrong with my music. It came to me by itself, and through my ears. Now I simply know better.
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Old 02-01-2008, 09:30 AM   #10
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Am I the only person who when listening to some of these exampled CD's notices NOTHING THE FUCK WRONG!? Suspended Animation has superb mastering and I have had no problems with clipping, or over distortion. Either your ear is as sensitive as a Bon Jovi fan or you have got no sound system worthy of giving you the full quality of the sound.
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Old 02-01-2008, 09:56 AM   #11
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Superb, my ass. Look at the waveforms in a sound editor – a crapload of the peaks are just flat, chopped off lines. I can hear it, and I can see it there. I don't know what 'Trucci was on when he had that stuff mastered.

I don't quite get the "Bon Jovi fan" bit. Sure, I'm seeing them in June with a friend because he bought me an expensive ticket (he adores 'em, whereas I only like them somewhat and wouldn't have gone otherwise), but I don't see that having anything to do with the sensitivity of my ears.

Quite the opposite about the sound system part, too – I'll readily admit to not having a brilliant setup, but I know for a fact that the effects of clipping would be emphasised even more with a crystal clear Bang & Olufssen or something.

Oh, and a prime example of the 'wobble' I was talking about would be the remaster of The Divine Wings Of Tragedy. Play the original and the remaster back to back, and those wobbling, wavering drums are just hilarious...
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Let some LIGHTS into your life!

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Old 02-01-2008, 10:01 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magero
Am I the only person who when listening to some of these exampled CD's notices NOTHING THE FUCK WRONG!? Suspended Animation has superb mastering and I have had no problems with clipping, or over distortion. Either your ear is as sensitive as a Bon Jovi fan or you have got no sound system worthy of giving you the full quality of the sound.


Dude... I get a headache when I listen to Suspended Animation. It's horrible.

It's more likely you have the bad sound system, by the way. It's not fiction. It's real. I can't help it your ears aren't developed enough yet to hear it. Hey, be grateful.
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Old 02-01-2008, 11:41 AM   #13
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Then I feel grateful I can listen to the music without getting a fucking headache afterwards. Jesus.....
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Old 02-01-2008, 02:27 PM   #14
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[QUOTE=DaFjory]

He might've agreed at some point, but clearly not when he had Real Illusions mastered. Clips all over the place.

QUOTE]

Agreed, I think km'pee'du'wee stands out the most because its maxed out with so few instruments it shows through more.
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Old 02-01-2008, 02:41 PM   #15
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Be grateful you're not listening through studio monitors...
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:49 PM   #16
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i don't think we should take re-masters into account here since they are being compressed over a second time to maximize volume
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:02 PM   #17
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I should notice, that one of the more recent CDs I bought, which is a remaster cd, is ironically one of my quietest (Megadeth's Greatest Hits). I have new cds also that or no louder or quieter than the others. I notice dynamics and a lot of new and remastered music. Just another paranoid Audiophile thing.
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Old 02-03-2008, 09:18 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaFjory
Superb, my ass. Look at the waveforms in a sound editor – a crapload of the peaks are just flat, chopped off lines. I can hear it, and I can see it there. I don't know what 'Trucci was on when he had that stuff mastered.

I don't quite get the "Bon Jovi fan" bit. Sure, I'm seeing them in June with a friend because he bought me an expensive ticket (he adores 'em, whereas I only like them somewhat and wouldn't have gone otherwise), but I don't see that having anything to do with the sensitivity of my ears.

Quite the opposite about the sound system part, too – I'll readily admit to not having a brilliant setup, but I know for a fact that the effects of clipping would be emphasised even more with a crystal clear Bang & Olufssen or something.

Oh, and a prime example of the 'wobble' I was talking about would be the remaster of The Divine Wings Of Tragedy. Play the original and the remaster back to back, and those wobbling, wavering drums are just hilarious...

Problem number 1.
Music is to be listened to and enjoyed. If you can't enjoy it, then don't listen. Simple. Unless you happen to become some revolutionary sound producer in the next few years, you ain' gonna change anything by complaining. Also, If you get to the point of analysing the mastering process to THAT point, music has lost its effect. Sure you may do it "for the love of music" but when it comes down to it, if you're getting so anal as to start putting songs through music editors to try and analyse the scope, sorry dude, I'm not taking anything else seriously.

Oh and
If your ears were "as sensitive as a bon jovi fan" they would be amazingly sensitive. Like a freakin' bat.
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Old 02-03-2008, 09:32 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Magero
Problem number 1.
Music is to be listened to and enjoyed. If you can't enjoy it, then don't listen. Simple. Unless you happen to become some revolutionary sound producer in the next few years, you ain' gonna change anything by complaining. Also, If you get to the point of analysing the mastering process to THAT point, music has lost its effect. Sure you may do it "for the love of music" but when it comes down to it, if you're getting so anal as to start putting songs through music editors to try and analyse the scope, sorry dude, I'm not taking anything else seriously.

Oh and
If your ears were "as sensitive as a bon jovi fan" they would be amazingly sensitive. Like a freakin' bat.

who's to say that hes not curious as to why this music (that he liked on the original CD) sounds strange to him on the remastered CD, so he took a look at the waveforms to compare the two to see if he was hearing things differently or his ears were just playing tricks on him?

and does it matter how he noticed it? the point is he does notice it. And there's no reason for it really. You want it louder? turn it up. You want it even louder than the maximum you can get with the "old style" mastering? then you're a dumbass who's going to end up deaf.
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Old 02-03-2008, 10:44 AM   #20
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I went almost deaf from Paradise Lost with Genesis my volume is on lvl 12, I listened to paradise lost on 6 and it STILL was too freaking loud!
Now I had a couple of weeks that I had to ask people to repeat what they said for like 3 times before I coukld actually understand/hear it. Guess my listening to early metallica in that time saved me or something.

But what can we do against this problem?? Put the volume lower?
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