Thanks, this was super helpful.The loudness wars preceded CDs by approximately 40 years. The perceived volume of masters was quite important at the time, as louder recordings were more likely catch the attention of radio listeners. When mastering for vinyl, the medium's inherent physical characteristics limit the amount of compression that can be applied. Digital media such as CD (and certain analog media) introduce no such limitations and so studios were afforded the freedom to make their masters as loud as desired.
This is rather subjective but there are many remasters possessing less dynamic range than the originals which most people find preferable; AC/DC's Shoot to Thrill being one such example. More dynamic range is not always preferable.
Not by any appreciate amount. If the noise floor of a given recording is audible, this would in fact reduce the maximum dynamic range.
As mentioned, more dynamic range is not always preferable. Depending upon the individual recording and the genre of music, it can absolutely be preferable to most listeners (audiophiles included).
If you are at all familiar with Queen's earlier albums, then I'm sure you will agree that the remasters are a significant improvement!
To most listeners, anywhere from 8dB to 15dB of average dynamic range will typically sound quite pleasant but once again, it is highly dependent upon the content. Some modern music is crafted with limited dynamic range being an intentional component. The trouble often arises when a studio decides to further compress music which was never intended to be "loud", destroying the nuance of the recording.
Answers in bold.Hi all!
Im confused about the so called loudness war.
First, I wonder why DR compression became a thing with CDs. It seems to me nobody was discussing loudness war before CD. But I might be wrong. Yes, there was DR compression but I don't remember it was an issue. That's because CDs have no limits on how loud program material can be. Too low of a crest factor will cause the cutting lathe stylus for record production to overheat, and too high of a peak level will cause the reproduction stylus (as well as the cutting stylus) to jump out of the groove and create a pop. Plus, lookahead brickwall limiters were only possible in DSP.
I have read that making music sound louder makes people wrongly think it sounds better, like louder=better, hence people buy it. But by the time CDs arrived, people were already enthusiastically buying DR uncompressed vinyl. So from the pure marketing point of view, I see no reason to DR compress music. There was no need to convice people to buy CDs. CDs where the real deal back then and everybody loved them. Then, what was the need to DR compress music when CD arrived? The argument that this was done purely for marketing reasons does not convince me. But Im no marketing expert and I might well be completely wrong. It was entirely marketing based.
My second question is perhaps a heresy. Can a DR compressed album (remastered) sound better (be more faithful) than the previously DR uncompressed version of it? The answer is, as usual, "it depends."
Let me explain. Lets take any Led Zeppelin album. It seems to me that the newer the version, the less dynamic range it has. There have been countless of versions of Led Zeppelin IV, for instance. As you go from vinyl to CD and as years go by, every newer version seem to have less DR. As far as I know, band members have been involved in the remasters. They seem to endorse all remasters. The same happens with Iron Maiden remasters. As far as I know, band members seem to claim their newer versions (remasters) sound better. Yet these newer versions have less DR. But can you argue against the artist? Fidelity seems to be related to being faithful to what the artist intended. If artists tell you their remasters sound better, does it make sense to argue against the artist? With in reason, yes. Artists often have compromised hearing from high volume shows - prior to the days of IEMs they usually didn't even wear earplugs, and shows are definitely at hearing damage levels.
Now, Im probably gonna say something very, very foolish because I know my knowledge is very limited (Im basically ignorant and I admit it): Is it possible that one particular album shows a very wide DR but in truth some of that wide DR is due to some very, very soft noise introduced in the recording process? I mean, very soft sounds or noise that are very soft but that should not be there, not part of the song, but somehow got their way into the final recording.... Then if you release a new version and you cut out such unwanted soft noise, DR might seem to be reduced when in fact, it is not. Actually, yes! That's entirely a thing. For that reason, LUFS incorporates a gate so noise below a set level is not included in the calculation.
Now, Im also confused because some people in music forums strongly (almost religiously) recommend to buy japanese remasters of old CDs. For instance, I have read people who absolutely recommend buying the japanese remasters of Judas Priest. But when I look for them, these japanese remasters are also heavily compressed. The same people consider the UK/US 2001 Judas Priest remasters to be absolute crap, but the newer Japanese remasters to be absolute gold. Yet the japanese remasters are heavily comporessed. So, why one must be better than the other? Why one compressed version is garbage while the other is diamond if both are DR compressed? Because the Japanese one sounds better. There's more to sound than compressed/not compressed, the tonal balance also must be considered.
Here I have talked about rock, pop and metal and sometimes I think for such kind of music DR compression is unimportant. Within reason, yes.
As far as I know, classical music CD are never DR compressed and if done it would be a huge mistake, I guess. That's because compared to pop music (which I am including rock, blues, pop, EDM, etc) classical and jazz has enormous composed-in dynamic range. Compression would be stepping on the composer's intentions.
But I wonder, is it a mistake to buy remasters? Or is it a case by case situation? Absolutely case-by-case. Some sound better than others.
I desagreeThat's because compared to pop music (which I am including rock, blues, pop, EDM, etc) classical and jazz has enormous composed-in dynamic range. Compression would be stepping on the composer's intentions.
in Jazz, it's not enough loud is common
John Coltrane & Don Cherry The Avangarde
year Dr avg min max
2012 08 07 08
1990 13 13 14
Remasters i bought from film soundtrack, jazz are compressed and recoded in the 50's 60's
over compression and the loud mastering is a common practice, a reflex. the business trumps art.
Artists often don't know about the technical side of making a record. Also I don't know if trusting the ears of old people who have been exposed to very loud music for decades is really the best idea. I think musicians listen differently than let's say audiophiles. Other things are important to them. It would be good if they listened to the professionals in the studio instead of just doing what they want. Especially to rock/metal people, if you ask them if they want it louder, of course they want it louder. Also, nobody wants to risk being quieter than somebody else. Sadly this leads to a lot of metal albums with absolutely dead drums and horrendous upper midrange because the spectrum is already full of energy anyway (because of all the guitar overtones) and then they compress it to hell.As far as I know, band members have been involved in the remasters. They seem to endorse all remasters. The same happens with Iron Maiden remasters. As far as I know, band members seem to claim their newer versions (remasters) sound better. Yet these newer versions have less DR. But can you argue against the artist? Fidelity seems to be related to being faithful to what the artist intended. If artists tell you their remasters sound better, does it make sense to argue against the artist?
Exactly!The real solution would be some new format that puts the final compression stage into the playback equipment. ...
While my preferences run mainly to acoustic/classical music, there's a good amount of modern music that I would buy, or at least listen to, if the recordings weren't squashed to death. Rival Sons, Dream Theater to name a couple, have some music I like but is so severely compressed it is simply un-listenable at any volume quiet or loud. It's really a shame. Some musicians deserve much better recordings of their art. I understand they want their music to sound punchy & exciting, but that is best achieved with a MUCH lighter hand on the dynamic compression settings. The heavy hand currently being used is so extreme it simply squashes the life out of the music.... I don't need to "argue against the artist". The product is the total sum of all parts, that is the musicianship, but also the sound. If they decide to make their album sound like shit, I'm not gonna listen to it. And I think sound is a huge part of the success of a song or an album. The world is full of well-known songs where people say oooh I love the music, but would they still love the music if the song didn't sound as good in the first place? ...
This would be intensely difficult to design. Different limiters don't behave the same way - it's not uncommon for mastering engineers to have multiple different brickwall limiters in their "toolbox" so to speak for different program material because their compressing action actually changes the spectral information differently from one another. I can speak to this for sure as I've tested it. DMG Limitless doesn't sound the same as FabFilter Pro-L 2 doesn't sound the same as Izotope's Ozone Maximizer, and it's visible in a spectrum analyzer.The real solution would be some new format that puts the final compression stage into the playback equipment. Now that nobody buys physical media anymore, it would even be easy to introduce. Just distribute files with the respective metadata and standardize a final compressor with different settings for different usage types.
Another perspective is that once you are applying compression, you've already thrown fidelity out the window so why worry about the finer points? Some audio players and car stereos have built-in dynamic compression for just this purpose. It does the job, raising the quiet parts so you can hear them over ambient noise.This would be intensely difficult to design. Different limiters don't behave the same way - it's not uncommon for mastering engineers to have multiple different brickwall limiters in their "toolbox" so to speak for different program material because their compressing action actually changes the spectral information differently from one another. ...
you know, I can't help but find it funny that people throw compression around as a boogie man, because to get music loud requires mixing and arranging for it. It comes into mastering already loud - it's not uncommon for me to get mixes in that are already above Spotify's -14 LUFS Int guideline, and the client (be that artist or producer or label) always wants it louder.Another perspective is that once you are applying compression, you've already thrown fidelity out the window so why worry about the finer points? Some audio players and car stereos have built-in dynamic compression for just this purpose. It does the job, raising the quiet parts so you can hear them over ambient noise.
The nice thing about this (applying compression on playback, not in the recording) is you can keep the original recording unmolested for folks who want fidelity and listen in quiet environments that can handle the dynamic range.
Yet that is precisely the point. When compression is only applied during playback, it gives listeners the option to eliminate it entirely. Or use whatever they need for their listening environment or their tastes.... it makes very little sense to do this on the playback side for multiple reasons. ... there's another point from my perspective, and that is "do you really want to put this in the hands of a tech company?" ...
Agreed. Considering an orchestral piece can span 90dB of dynamic range, a small amount of compression can be beneficial, depending on the background noise level of one's listening environment. That is generally provided at the production end.A certain amount of compression can be very positive to help set the volume level with playing with it during playback as it goes through the roof or drops away.
I check https://dr.loudness-war.info/ to see the values of the copy that I have or plan to buy. But it's definitely not the whole story. Bruno Mars' 24K Magic is compressed to death. One of the best sounds that I have ever heard lately. (In contrast, any album of Norah Jones with avg. DR below - let's say - 12 are not so good. I listened to Come Away With me with 14 avg. DR, then a badly published 9 avg. DR it was really bad compared to the good one.)