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Old February 19th, 2012, 05:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
Igor Samurovic
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Loudness war or presence war?

I've been thinking about the fact that I can't turn any recent records loud enough to really enjoy them, because they're produced in such a fashion that presence is greatly increased during mastering. Now, that 1200-4000 range on most modern mastered and vintage remastered mixes is just too damn loud. Am I the only one to see it that way?

You all know what Loudness Wars are about, but are you certain enough how little sense it makes? Who are those people that force it? Artists, record companies or engineers?

Most people focus on loss of dynamics when talking about loudness wars, forgetting that frequency response gets squashed as well (usually killing a great deal of bass, and boosting presence region by a load).

So, what are general thoughts on this subject here? Mind you, I am not talking about any reasonable compression that's usually done during mixing, it always sounds like a mastering squash (the greatest offender ever being Death Magnetic).

Also, I must add that I prefer Sneap's mixed and mastered albums to pretty much anything today, since he does seem to take this into account to an extent, mad props to him. I can listen to The Root of All Evil throughout without any ear fatigue (pretty mad for a death metal record)!
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Old February 19th, 2012, 06:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Both, really. I think people are coming around to this a little bit, there's this nice middle ground it seems people are finding.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 09:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Maybe mastering engineers are gradually losing their hearing, so they keep turning up the presence? Kidding...

But seriously, it's probably just an over-application of the Fletcher-Munson trick for squeezing out more perceived volume (boosting the 1k to 4k region, to which the human ear is naturally more sensitive). While it sounds crisp and clear at low volumes it kills the ears when turned up. Conversely, stuff that sounds really warm and powerful when loud comes across as muddy at lower volumes.

Also the consensus on what defines "good guitar tone" has fluctuated. For a while the consensus has trended toward crisper, harsher sounding guitars for the sake of articulation, aggression, and clarity. This carries over into the final mix and master. I think that's why the Catharsis s-preshigh impulse is popular, because it's one of the least honky and muffled impulses out there. Old school types seem to prefer the rounded highs instead, which sound relatively lo-fi in comparison, but prevent ear fatigue and leave more room in the mix for other stuff.

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Old February 20th, 2012, 01:11 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by neptunian View Post
Maybe mastering engineers are gradually losing their hearing, so they keep turning up the presence? Kidding...

But seriously, it's probably just an over-application of the Fletcher-Munson trick for squeezing out more perceived volume (boosting the 1k to 4k region, to which the human ear is naturally more sensitive). While it sounds crisp and clear at low volumes it kills the ears when turned up. Conversely, stuff that sounds really warm and powerful when loud comes across as muddy at lower volumes.

Also the consensus on what defines "good guitar tone" has fluctuated. For a while the consensus has trended toward crisper, harsher sounding guitars for the sake of articulation, aggression, and clarity. This carries over into the final mix and master. I think that's why the Catharsis s-preshigh impulse is popular, because it's one of the least honky and muffled impulses out there. Old school types seem to prefer the rounded highs instead, which sound relatively lo-fi in comparison, but prevent ear fatigue and leave more room in the mix for other stuff.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 02:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
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i believe most people dont even listen to loud music. just use it as additional background noise. also i read that 90% of all listeners use earbuds...

mastering for small systems or earbuds its important to boost the presence region as its home of the lead vocals. you dont want your lvox ever to get
lost on systems with subwoofers or bassy headphones.. the thing is : all small systems boost highs and lows, so its important to work against that.. we've got to face reality here:
no one ever listens to music on a flat system, people use the shittiest shittiest stuff. if your mix does not work there, you lost.

thats why people mix on auratones. i even check on my samsung cell phone nowadays, as a lottt of people go on youtube to listen to music with these tiny crappy speakers... its really sad. but its never been different i guess.
there is a few audiophiles out there with cool 10K systems. but its a minority.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 05:22 AM   #6 (permalink)
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My general thoughts are whilst as a music lover I think it's ruined certain albums, I can see why it's got to this point. In the age of MTV and youtube etc, record companies need to ensure that their product is heard. So by increasing volume and accentuating certain frequencies they are increasing the chances of their product standing out from the crowd.
You have to remember that whilst you may consider your band or your favourite band to be the greatest emotive experience of your life, to the record company, it is simply a product to make them money. That is why advert are so loud, to get your attention and not get lost in life's background noise.
Do I do it? Hell yeah. Most bands want to sound as loud and in your face as their peers so they demand it. Whilst I think certain releases have taken the piss, it's something I think can be acceptable if done well.
On the other hand, Movies tend to be going the other way, with a Dynamic War. Who know's, a few years from now a band will release and album with crazy dynamics and everyone will follow suit and we'll be discussing that.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 05:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm not a fan of big presence boosting during mastering. It's one of the reasons my ears took so well to the TRON: Legacy OST mix. The whole thing is so subdued, warm and analogue sounding - and there's actual headroom for the dynamics within the songs to develop. This is something that's becoming virtually non-existent in rock and metal records.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 09:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
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How about multiple releases? Like, one that's supposed to be listened to loud, is not killed by mastering and so on, and one that's compressed the fuck out of for commercial purposes, would that work?

Also, the points about record companies wanting stuff to be louder are pretty vague, because LOUDNESS DOESN'T SELL AND PEOPLE SEEM TO LIKE MORE DYNAMIC MUSIC EITHER WAY. I read this in an article somewhere and it makes perfect sense, can't be bothered to search for it now. Also, if a band comes to me and starts bitching how they don't sound as loud and br00tal as (insert their inspiration band here) I will put their track to the loudest possible volume and shove them some earbuds til they bleed!

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Old February 20th, 2012, 10:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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And they'll go somewhere else. This has been thrashed out before, if the band and/or record company wants it a certain way then you'll be fighting an uphill battle to argue that it's sounds better with the dynamic range increased and they'll take you off the project and won't use you again. It's a money making product to them, they want it how they want it. I do like the idea of the "audiophile" release.
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Old February 22nd, 2012, 08:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I have something to say about this because I have strong feelings about it.

I've listened to a lot of stuff. There are some recordings that are excellent... I can crank the volume on whatever I'm plugged into ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP and enjoy the deep lows and smooth highs and the whole mix pouring into my ears like soothing liquid. Seriously loud and it's comfortable to listen to.

Then there is almost every recording in existence that I have to listen to at a moderate or quiet level because it slashes my ears like razor blades. The loud mastering and the extreme "excitement" boosts make me sick.

This spills into electronic music as well, but I have noticed that mega successful electronic artists, the top 4 or 5 in popularity, know what they're doing when it comes to that.

All I want is the freedom to listen to loud music without pain.
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Old February 22nd, 2012, 09:19 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Igor Samurovic View Post
How about multiple releases? Like, one that's supposed to be listened to loud, is not killed by mastering and so on, and one that's compressed the fuck out of for commercial purposes, would that work?

Also, the points about record companies wanting stuff to be louder are pretty vague, because LOUDNESS DOESN'T SELL AND PEOPLE SEEM TO LIKE MORE DYNAMIC MUSIC EITHER WAY. I read this in an article somewhere and it makes perfect sense, can't be bothered to search for it now. Also, if a band comes to me and starts bitching how they don't sound as loud and br00tal as (insert their inspiration band here) I will put their track to the loudest possible volume and shove them some earbuds til they bleed!
A few bands I've worked with have put out vinyl and thus we do a digital brick shithouse master and something more subdued for vinyl. The actually also provide the vinyl master when you purchase the digital download so you can choose to listen to it with a little more dynamic if you wish. I feel this is a pretty cool compromise.
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Old February 23rd, 2012, 04:49 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I've been considering that approach for my band's next album. One iTunes master which we would also send out to radio stations etc. which is as loud as a normal release. But if people buy our CD I want them to be able to experience as good sound quality as possible on a CD.
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Old February 23rd, 2012, 01:23 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Just know that if you produce loud music for the sake of being loud, 20 years from now your music will sound as awful as some of that 1980s pop songs' synth crap does now.
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Old February 23rd, 2012, 05:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Found some interesting videos about loudness war by Friedeman Tischmeyer. All of his tutorial┤s and stuff are awesome:


http://dynamicrange.de/

I recommend you to watch the full video below. It┤s worth it!!!

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Old February 24th, 2012, 12:39 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Could you guys list a few metal albums that work as references for audiophile level loudness, dynamic range, and/or great listenability? Or else some estimates on DR and RMS ranges to shoot for when making an anti-loudness-war album?
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Old February 24th, 2012, 05:07 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Could you guys list a few metal albums that work as references for audiophile level loudness, dynamic range, and/or great listenability? Or else some estimates on DR and RMS ranges to shoot for when making an anti-loudness-war album?
Stuff off the top of my head - RATM - self titled, Slayer - South of heaven, Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream, Downset - 1st album (self titled I think). All stunning sounding albums (imo).
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Old February 24th, 2012, 06:37 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Could you guys list a few metal albums that work as references for audiophile level loudness, dynamic range, and/or great listenability? Or else some estimates on DR and RMS ranges to shoot for when making an anti-loudness-war album?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-system
Download Voxengo SPAN it has a K-meter included. Choose it and make sure that your loudest audio signal floats around the 0.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 10:23 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Gojira - Terra Incognita is also pretty subdued (also, scooped the hell out of), but still very powerful sounding! Hard to find, unless they have re-released it.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 04:58 PM   #19 (permalink)
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While everything that Friedeman Tischmeyer says is spot on, his videos are almost unwatchable to me because of his horribly slow way of speaking. If your English is at a level like this, please speak in your native language at a normal speed and subtitle it.
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Old February 24th, 2012, 05:50 PM   #20 (permalink)
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^LOL! It isn┤t any better in german
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Old February 24th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #21 (permalink)
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-system
Download Voxengo SPAN it has a K-meter included. Choose it and make sure that your loudest audio signal floats around the 0.
Thanks! Found another good article on the Bob Katz K-system: http://www.digido.com/level-practice...-k-system.html

So the K-20 mode should always be used for mixing. But which mode to use for mastering metal? According to the article,

Quote:
If engineers find themselves using the red zone all the time, then either the monitor gain is not properly calibrated, the music is extremely unusual (e.g. "heavy metal"), or the engineer needs more monitor gain to correlate with his or her personal sensitivities.
Since metal is a "freak" genre, should one therefore use K-12 instead of the usual K-14?
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Old February 25th, 2012, 04:08 PM   #22 (permalink)
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So the K-20 mode should always be used for mixing. But which mode to use for mastering metal?
Use the K-brickwall
Personally I think there is no need for visual metering systems. Its ok to have a quick look if your current master isn't too odd, but mostly it isn't when it sounds alright.
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