Turn It Up To 11!

Music recordings these days are becoming entirely TOO LOUD. Peter Mew, senior mastering engineer at Abbey Road studios:

“Record companies are competing in an arms race to make their album sound the ‘loudest’. The quieter parts are becoming louder and the loudest parts are just becoming a buzz.” Mr Mew, who joined Abbey Road in 1965 and mastered David Bowie’s classic 1970s albums, warned that modern albums now induced nausea.

Via Esoteric Trivia

13 thoughts on “Turn It Up To 11!”

  1. This was made very obvious to me when I recently decided to put a bunch of albums onto an MP3 player to listen to in the car. I tried to shuffle the tracks, but it was a total disaster because of the huge differences between the levels of the tracks. When I analysed the situation a little more closely it was obvious that the fault was with heavy compression, usually of the type that splits the signal into frequency bands and compresses each independently. The more ‘modern’ recordings where the worst. I notice one of the comments on the original piece says that MP3 encoding makes the problem worse and it certainly seems like that to me because the distortion is unbearable on some things. I’ve never been too keen on the sound of MP3s and I’ll certainly not be using them for in-car entertainment again.

  2. Agreed. I put all Donald Fagen’s solo albums on my mp3 player and found that the first one ‘The Nightfly’ is considerably quieter than the latest. I guess the only way to compensate for this would be to do some fiddling around when transferring between CD and mp3 (and vice versa) to adjust the levels. Maybe there’s some free software out there on the Interweb thingy that could help?

  3. I agree concerning the problem with everything being too loud.
    Loudness can give an extra boost to music when deployed with care. But it just doesn’t work when everything is loud.
    And theres a limit to how loud things can (may) get.
    The consequence is that everybody just has to wear earplugs, and then nothing is loud…:)

  4. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that not only exists in new albums, but old ‘remastered’ ones.

    “The Nightfly” is a good example; I believe the CD master we have is actually a vinyl master, transferred to CD without properly EQ’d to take advantage of the dynamic range of digital. That’s why it’s so quiet. The snare cracks in “Walk Between the Raindrops” are already at peak volume, so you can’t really make it louder without changing the overall sound.

    Warners did that a lot in the 80s with the first CD issues of albums. Unfortunately, they haven’t done it properly since and when they get around to ‘remastering’ it, I’m afraid they’ll just limit and compress the sound and make it louder, not better.

    BTW, did Ryko ever get around to re-doing “You Are What You Is” and “Tinseltown” and fix that horrible over-compressed CD mastering job?

  5. The problem with gain change software is that when you make the load tracks quieter you don’t get rid of the distortion that is already there, but you can at least produce a situation where you don’t have to keep diving for the volume control. If you make the quiet tracks louder you run the risk of introducing some distortion of your own.

  6. MP3 Gain will remove clipping caused by ripping a song at too loud a gain setting(if you’re using it to lower the gain) but if the clipping is in the original source you can, at least, reduce the abrasivness of the distortion.

    I started using it just to get all my MP3’s at relative volume. Since there’s no standard for mastering volume/compression it’s very easy to turn up a track from a ‘quiet’ disc (Michael Hedges – Aerial Boundries, for instance) and have next the song, in a shuffle, blow your fucking head off.

    I only discovered the clip removal by accident. Of course now I love it.

  7. Another very popular example could be the newer Super Audio hybrid CD of Pink FloydDark Side Of The Moon, which is louder than older versions of this title. Louder means always more compressed, which always alters the original dynamic.

    My older ’80s ordinary Harvest CD of Dark Side sound quieter but much better because it has the dynamics of the original master (hopefully).

    I think also the newer Zappa releases suffer from this. I find Trancefusion rather unlistenable. Buffalo could be more dynamic, too.

    The first twoofer release of Overnite Sensation/Apostrophe sounds much better than all later versions. It’s much quieter. Most people hate this, because they are conditioned to the modern way of mastering already.


  8. the irony here is that the the current technology allowing for huge dynamic range and yet we’re hearing harsher dynamic compression than ever!
    check out the somewhat recent peter gabriel remasters (particularly peter gabriel 4) to hear the possibilities of CD dynamics being explored (though 20 years too late)

  9. Lee R., they did remaster “Tinseltown”, if you’re referring the Chisulu job in 95. I agree about the dynamics range, in general, studios seem to be approaching digital like it was analog and not understanding that the new sound needs to be more sculpted, TMHE, most new musics sounds muffled or that whistling compressed sound. 80’s cds especially have this problem (though not Zappa-label cds like the original Jazz from Hell release, the old Rykos are terrible for compression, TMHE).
    Re: the Darkside of the Moon, when you buy the SACD mix, keep the original. The SACD mix is primarily for a surround sound system, listen to it on that, the Quad-mix is awesome while the stereo mix of that release holds something to be desired (on the whole). It’s too bad that they didnt just fool around with an SACD-only release, perhaps with some bonus tracks of isolated tracks or of novelty radical Quad remixes with bouncing tracks. Anyone hear about the proposed Quad Wall or was that shelved?

  10. Paul: Ah..ok, I just have the 1990 first Ryko issue mastered by Bob Stone, not Chisulu. They should really advertise on the package that it was re-remastered in 1995 properly.

  11. Ironically enough, many modern recordings also induced nausea at low volume.

    Thank you, I’ll be here all week! Try the brains, the chef assures me they’re excellent!

  12. Loudness did’nt make the music better, so if the music is bullshit, turn it off, so it can’t hurt your ears and brain.

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