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The Loudness Dilemma

Friday, August 15th, 2008

For some time now there has been a debate about how modern audio mastering techniques have created music that is louder than it usually would be at the expense of the normal dynamics of the music.
Andrew Dubber blogged about it here with a video that demonstrates the issue:

The process of making tracks louder than they usually would be without them distorting is called ‘Limiting‘.

This is something, as an audio engineer that also does mastering, that I have wrestled with for many years. I like music loud, and it bothers me when something sounds too quiet when listened to with other music. But as a producer and sound mixer, I also love dynamics in music. When others have mastered songs I’ve mixed using standard ompression, it has really ruined the song. But you don’t want the music to seem quiet compared to other music, and you want it to sound good on the lousy stereo systems most people listen to music on! Hence the Dilemma.

I think that in many ways, Dubbers argument may be pointless really. The majority of people in the world wouldn’t know good sound if their life depended on it! Even many of the talented artists I work with for whom music is their life struggle with this, and my production students certainly do as well.

I blogged more about this major issue of the poor quality audio so prevalent in the world here.

Alan Wilder of Recoil and formerly Depeche Mode wrote an excellent article about it and about other industry changes as well here

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