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Loudness War VS Unmastered

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Clark Kent, Feb 28, 2013.

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Which clip sounds better?

  1. They sound very similar.

    1 vote(s)
    3.6%
  2. Z is better.

    11 vote(s)
    39.3%
  3. X is better.

    16 vote(s)
    57.1%
  1. Clark Kent

    Clark Kent Member

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    I'm getting tired of these hipsters telling me how they can't listen to music anymore because of loudness war. It's funny how it's always the uneducated one who seems to be the expert on the matter, since I don't think a 20 something year old has ever listened to unmastered music on an album. Now... I don't mean that I'm well educated on the matter. I just think this loudness war bashing is a sad and lame attempt for people to come across as if they are some kind of wine tasters when infact they don't understand the difference between transients and volume.

    I beg of you to honor a gentleman's code of not loading these files into a DAW or any other measuring program to give you a biased answer. Just listen!! And I don't ask of you to point out which one is mastered and which one is not, but to simply state which sounded better or if the difference was so small you don't care which is which.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19579590/VERSION Z.wav
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19579590/VERSION X.wav

    Thanks for voting!!
     
  2. Nitsuj

    Nitsuj Member

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    Z sounds more pleasing to the ears. X sounds like it has been maximized and I don't really care for the added bright high end.

    Both versions are just as loud and I couldn't wait to turn the volume down.
     
  3. BLUElightCory

    BLUElightCory Member

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    First of all, the loudness war is not about mastered vs. unmastered. Nearly all commercially released music is mastered.

    The loudness war is about using extreme limiting to achieve volume - since it's impossible to make a ~ -8 dB RMS mix on a conventional song without essentially destroying much of the transient content in the song, we smash our mixes with limiters and ultimately make them sound subjectively worse.

    This is a ridiculous concept if you think about it, because we have a volume knob. Level-match the quieter mix to the louder one, and the quieter one nearly always sounds cleaner and punchier.

    A great example:


    Now, the two example mixes you posted were not as night-and-day as other comparisons I've heard but I picked version X after listening back and forth (listening on earbuds). I'm interested to know the methodology used to level-match the two mixes - Is one limited and simply turned down? Is there any bus compression/limiting on the "unmastered" mix? Are they two identical mixes and you're trying to trick us? Do tell.
     
    #3 BLUElightCory, Feb 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2015
  4. Clark Kent

    Clark Kent Member

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    Sure, and mastering is not just about compression/limiting either. One has Slate FG-X on with his tutorial settings and the other doesn't have anything on. The volume of the mastered track was matched with the unmastered RMS. I don't know if the Ballclap Supremus mastered the drum/bass track or if it's raw. If you normalize the track with FG-X it'll be around -8dB RMS which is what people are calling loudness war.

    But sure you can easily destroy a good mix with mastering but IMO it's not the loudness factor that makes them sound like ass but simply bad mixing and mastering.

    EDIT: To make it clear. My point is not to say that loudness war doesn't exist or matter. I'm just tired of note deaf people bashing loud mixes when I'm 100% sure they couldn't even tell a difference. And also those YouTube videos bashing loudness war are quite biased.
     
  5. Ascendant

    Ascendant Member

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    X sounds more harsh in the highs to me but it also sounds more glued, it's not a huge difference, hard to pick one over the other in this case. Was there no 2bus processing (not even compression) on the "unmastered" track?
     
  6. tempe

    tempe Captain Midnight

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    What's more messed up is that -8dB RMS is considered "modest" these days. I'll have a listen to the clips when I'm at the studio in the morning!
     
  7. Clark Kent

    Clark Kent Member

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    This might be the kind of mix that doesn't make it too obvious. Distorted guitars loud ~ zero dynamics.
     
  8. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

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    I hear more drum punch in Z. But I'm only on laptop speakers. -.-
     
  9. egan.

    egan. daylightdies.com

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    Yeah, I was going to mention that but I think the point is made. There is some stuff that's too loud these days and some stuff that's louder than it used to be because technology allows it. One thing I'm not a fan of is the one-size-fits-all rating tools advocated by the anti-loudness crowd.
    [​IMG]
    The problem with these is they measure rms or crest value or some variation there of but what they fail to consider is how dynamic the source is supposed to be. For example if it's a soft verse/heavy chorus thing and it doesn't move that's a much bigger issue than if it's a grindcore track.

    As far as the uninformed public goes, I think that autotune and mastering are the scapegoats du jour for not liking something but many people look for a technical (production or musical) excuse to come up with an objective justification for their subjective opinion. With loudness you have the added bullshit of people rationalizing why they shouldn't have to pay for the things they do like.
     
  10. pikachu69

    pikachu69 mixomatic 2000

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    What about the people that complain about loudness that have good ears and know what they are talking about and know what to listen for?

    The loudness war is a real issue IMHO. Transients and bottom end are an important part af a mix and both have to be sacrificed to achieve loudness.
    I can certainly hear a difference in modern mixes vs mixes from a decade ago (and even less) (when volume matched).
    Trying to compare unmastered mixes with mastered ones is a little pointless because only people working in a studio will be exposed to these kinds of differences as the general public very seldom get to hear an un mastered mix but comparing two styles of mastering, one retaining transients and dynamics and the other limiting for loudness sake is certainly an easy thing to 'spot the difference' with.

    Try to volume match some thing like 'Sad but true' and compare it to a Sturgis mix or something similar and current. If you cant hear the difference in transients and bottom end here then you are in no position to judge because the difference is HUGE!

    For those of you who 'master as you mix' on the master buss, you will have greater trouble hearing these differences because you never really get to hear an un mastered mix to begin with.

    Dynamics are important, Loud only seems loud if it follows something quite. The loudness war removes this from the equation which also removes most if not all of the emotion from the song.

    This will be harder to understand if you only listen to or produce modern metal.
     
  11. JakeAC5253

    JakeAC5253 Frozen Sun Audio

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    Yeah, and gas prices are too high.
     
  12. Clark Kent

    Clark Kent Member

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    Here's the visual difference which will most likely scare people: "There's no dynamics on the other track at all" ... well did you hear that much of a difference? :D

    [​IMG]

    I'm actually surprised that we have a tie on which sounds better but no one thinks they sound similar. :)

    Those are the real wine tasters. Not the kind who can't tell the difference between white and red wine blindfold. (BTW I suggest you try that out, it's surprisingly hard :D ) But those guys are hard to find since in order to be a successful audio engineer you must also be current. CLA is saying that he doesn't like the loudness war anymore and doesn't mix that way anymore... after mastering his mixes are -7dB RMS so what happened? Even he doesn't get to choose.

    I consider myself one who likes natural tones and I enjoy 90s music a whole lot. Still I have a way bigger problem with people over-processing audio tracks. F.ex. surgical EQ. I'd much rather re-record a tone that works without post magic. So yeah I'm on the same boat with you on the low end thing. Still I think it's the place for bass. :)

    But like I said earlier. My noticable agression is against those hipsters that only listen to music by $2 laptop speakers or $20 buds and complain how they can't listen to music anymore. Maybe getting a better sound system would be a place to start. But I bet then they'd have to buy vinyls. :loco:
     
  13. pikachu69

    pikachu69 mixomatic 2000

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    I understand your point that people can ruin dynamics etc with a bad mix but TBH alot (not all) of mix decisions that result in a bad mix tend to be because we have to mix with loudness in mind with our end result rather thank just fidelity.
    If we don't clip and limit our mixes then the mastering engineer will anyway but with often worse results than if we do it stage by stage in mixing.
    Don't get me wrong I am not a fan of this approach which is why I try to avoid mixing metal where I can, I only mix for 2 metal bands atm because they are my friends bands. I prefer to work with reggae, blues, jazz etc where loudness isn't quite so important so I can mix the way I want to hear things and know that mastering won't kill my hard work or force me to mix in a way I am not happy with.

    You could put a positive spin on this if you wanted to.
    Its the complainers of the world that get things done.
    Who knows, if enough people become educated on this subject and complain (weither they can really hear it or not) it may just be what tips the scales and changes the industrys opinion about what is apropriate.
    We can only but dream...
     
  14. JakeAC5253

    JakeAC5253 Frozen Sun Audio

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    I've never met someone of this decription.
     
  15. Arsenu,

    Arsenu, Member

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    I can honestly say most of my recent mixes sounded better right until the moment that limiter hit them at the end... (usually Massey 2007)
    there a very clear difference between a mastered/unmastered track (or at least there should be) since you're also treating the frequencies in the process which makes the mix sound usually cleaner and nicer, but honestly, if i didn't care for my reputation or for "what would people think when they press play and it's not blowing their panties off", i might have dropped the limiter altogether, or at least reduce the threshold by a lot....
     
  16. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Fucking hipsters can't tell that Z isn't limited to fuck and can't discern between compression artifacts. Also, I don't like the sound of x. It's very smeared in the transients, some call it glue, I call it somebody's mix was half assed and both sound like they were made very loud in a hurry.
     
  17. bmcguitar

    bmcguitar BMC Guitar Effects

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    I had to join up to comment but i downloaded these and i gotta say im impressed with Z vs X.

    Z allowed the lack kick in X to come through. I ran it through an EQ matching plugin i had and noticed they both literally had no low end. Yeah most people seem to like that these days but not me. The kick and snare in X had literally no impact whatsoever vs Z even though Z had a little more, i still found it lacking in the "thump" i was expecting

    I had a mess around with the unmastered in Audition (in the middle of mastering my bands CD at the moment). There were some parts which sounded much better in Z than X like in X where the pick scrape section where there the guitars sounded too loud vs when it came in where in Z it sounded much more even to me.

    The other part which stood out was at around 2m 35s where the snare picks up and gets louder (where it crescendo's, snare ). That sounds much clearer and apparent in Z than the X version. The X version tends to pull it back too much and turn a great dynamic sounding cresendo into not much of one at all (X)

    Now this is just another amateurs opinion as this is all subjective to each person so dont get all "internet" on my ass if someone disagrees with me lol.

    My band is completely anti loudness war and our CD is currently at around a DR value of 10 (averaging about -11db RMS) which is very quiet for a metal/rock CD but when we crank it, fuck it sounds good to crank a song and here a song breath (Z in your case)


    PS: Nice playing by the way, tight.
     
  18. xTomx

    xTomx Member

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    Both mixes sound shit?

    You don't have to be an audio engineer to notice when music is pumping and distorted.
     
  19. Behind

    Behind Member

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    Z moves more air than X but both of them are compressed to death before hitting the master bus, so I believe that's why they sound very similar.
     
  20. SoundsLikeFog

    SoundsLikeFog Member

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    Haven't listened to the samples but I think Clark that you're missing one very profound point considering loudness.. And that is the notion of " It's gonna get crushed in the mastering".

    When people start mixing under this assumption, God knows their gonna do some fuck'd up shit to their mix in order for it to survive the brickwalling, clipping and other nonsense the "mastering engineer" (or they themselves in most cases) are 'BOUND' to do. So mix engineers (and I use this term loosely) start smashing, clipping and saturating the shit out of their mixes, cutting of bottom end, cutting of high end, boosting mids, reducing stereo image.. Basically compromising musical aspects.. and for what? For the illusion of apparent loudness. Shitty deal if you ask me.

    You put on Black Sabbath's War Pigs and crank it up. I mean really CRANK IT THE FUCK UP! Considering shear power and weight, it will destroy every contemporary metal release that tries to achieve those things by apparent loudness.

    So how do you get loudness? By turning the goddamn volume up. And if your mix is worth something and the guy who mastered it has actually done his job, your mix will prevail. And it will have punch, depth, warmth, clarity and a bunch of other meaningless adjectives we buy plugins for.. OTOH if you've peeled all the lows and highs, width and dynamics from your mix, in order to make HYPERFUCKINLOUD!!! your mix will sound like the audial equivalent of stiking bambo sticks under your nails.

    And THEN when you compare them, the loud mix will sound honky, brittle, hollow, shallow, (insert your favourite negative mojo audio adjective).. In other words, fucking pathetic.

    But, getting back to this thread, it really doesn't suprise me that there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between two mixes. We're talking 'bout matchEQ'ng, static IR's and 100% drum samples + programming. How much life is there to be lost in the tracks anyway..?
     

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