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The Loudness Wars May Be Ending

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.

Music 294

Hugh Pickens writes "Mike Barthel reports on a technique called brick-wall limiting, where songs are engineered to seem louder by bringing the quiet parts to the same level as the loud parts and pushing the volume level of the entire song to the highest point possible. 'Because of the need to stand out on radio and other platforms, there's a strategic advantage to having a new song sound just a little louder than every other song. As a result, for a period, each new release came out a little louder than the last, and the average level of loudness on CDs crept up (YouTube) to such a degree that albums actually sounded distorted, as if they were being played through broken speakers.' But the loudness wars may be coming to an end. Taking advantage of the trend towards listening to music online — via services like Pandora, Spotify, and Apple's forthcoming iCloud — a proposal by audio engineer Thomas Lund, already adopted as a universal standard (PDF) by the International Telecommunications Union, would institute a volume limit on any songs downloaded from the cloud, effectively removing the strategic advantage of loudness. Lund's proposal would do the same thing for any music you could buy. 'Once a piece of music is ingested into this system, there is no longer any value in trying to make a recording louder just to stand out,' says legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who has been working with Lund. 'There will be nothing to gain from a musical point of view. Louder will no longer be better!'"

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Yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850396)

Aggregative normalization.

Now if they could just do this for Netflix, arg!

Would a standard for loudness help? (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850410)

I thought that the overall issue is that the dynamic range of the highs & lows is being compressed. So even with a volume limit on the max loudness, would the engineers engineer the song any differently?

A second issue is that the listening environment is changing - music is being played on portable devices in noisy environments - this isn't a fine listening room. As a result, this may be a case where too much dynamic range is lost on the listening audience, as the listener just wants to be able to hear everything without having to fiddle with the volume every few seconds.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (3, Insightful)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850642)

I haven't read the proposed standard (mostly because, not being a sound engineer, I suspect I wouldn't understand a thing), but wouldn't the problem be solved by limiting not the maximum, but the average instead? us Classical fans get our cannon shots just as Tchaikovsky intended, while mainstream Rock music stops sounding like someone fucking your ear with an ice pick, it's win/win. And as a bonus, anyone wanting to have their music louder would have to have more quiet parts to compensate, meaning they'd be encouraged to utilize the full dynamic range instead of pushing everything to the maximum.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850758)

This problem is already solved by ReplayGain [wikipedia.org] . No need to invent any additional convoluted rules.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (4, Informative)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850854)

that's one aspect (the static part).

you miss the compression (active) that they do in order to 'fit' the envelope 'up higher'.

changing the 'higher' point helps but there are other things going on, too.

its a shame, too. cd has about 90db of dyn range (and modern amps and preamps and easily do that, too) and yet they use a fraction of that. you have a spectrum of 'bit space' to use and you use very little. how sad! how wasteful.

shifting volume (replay gain) is doable. undoing compression is not and that is the real issue.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (3, Informative)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851254)

ReplayGain fixes average differences in volume between different tracks. It doesn't help when a single track was compressed/normalized so that is has no dynamic range. There's really no post-processing that can fix that.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850834)

mainstream Rock music...like someone fucking your ear with an ice pick

I love rock music from 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Not much from the last 10 years though. That quote made me feel warm and squishy inside.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850864)

I know this is offtopic, but I thought I'd mention... I tend to pay closer attention to what someone writes when they acknowledge up front that the topic is likely a bit over their heads.

Here on /. everyone acts like they're an expert on everything. I prefer to hear from people who have an intelligent, passing knowledge of many things, but can freely admit that they're not experts without all the bullshit posturing.

Good on ya. And my apologies for the tangent... that was all.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (3, Informative)

Zcar (756484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851156)

Effectively the maximum level is set by the format and is generally define as 0 dB. A format also has a dynamic range, which measures how much quieter a sound the format can capture compared to the maximum. For audio CDs this is -96 dB. The loudness wars refer to taking advantage of the fact the volume the human ear perceives is proportional to the mean level and that music would be recorded with the same maximum level but lower levels mapped higher (e.g. a -40 dB sound is compressed to -20 dB) will sound louder.

This proposal, presumably, addresses this by measuring the volume of a track by measuring the something similar to the mean level. It a little more complicated than that, but I think that's the thumbnail.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850648)

If normalization is forced on all tracks, it won't improve existing tracks, but it'll remove the incentive to record louder tracks.

Regarding the second issue - if all your tracks are normalized across each other, you won't have to "fiddle with the volume every few seconds". This is exactly what normalization is used for in the first place.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850710)

I thought that the overall issue is that the dynamic range of the highs & lows is being compressed. So even with a volume limit on the max loudness, would the engineers engineer the song any differently?

A second issue is that the listening environment is changing - music is being played on portable devices in noisy environments - this isn't a fine listening room. As a result, this may be a case where too much dynamic range is lost on the listening audience, as the listener just wants to be able to hear everything without having to fiddle with the volume every few seconds.

Exactly, and this applies even more to watching DVDs in cars without headphones*. My wife is constantly saying "turn it down!" during the loud parts and I have to turn it back up on the quiet parts. Rinse, repeat. *There are countless kids movies I have heard but never seen. Some are surprisingly enjoyable like that.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850712)

As a result, this may be a case where too much dynamic range is lost on the listening audience, as the listener just wants to be able to hear everything without having to fiddle with the volume every few seconds.

Dolby Digital on DVD has the option to compress the dynamic range if you are in a noisy environment (or watching the movie at night). I don't see why this could not also be applied to music. Just have a setting on the player to turn on the compression (or even better - adjust how much compression to use).

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (1)

mekkab (133181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850746)

YES. Fine, if these "amps no longer go to 12", then they go to 8. On all noises at all times.

You will then turn up your volume knob to compensate for your listening environment (think: car) and the mid-range noise will still be fatiguing as ever.

FYI: 12 is the new 11 (4, Funny)

mekkab (133181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850816)

Nigel Tufnel got new amps, you see.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (3, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850808)

Such listeners should just change the dynamics themselves, then: The correct point at which to apply dynamic range compression to compensate for a noisy listening environment is within the playback chain for that particular environment.

It's not so hard. My first portable MP3 player had the ability to apply dynamic compression. My not-so-special Pioneer stereos have this ability as well. So does my Droid. So does even the lowly factory CD player in a 1993 Ford van. And my PC. (I'd go on, but why?)

One can always add more compression/limiting ("loudness"), but once applied it's impossible to take away.

Meanwhile, listening environments haven't changed substantially since the first confluence of the walkman, the portable radio ("boombox"), the home hi-fi, and the car stereo: People still listen variously on headphones, or with barely-adequate portable speakers, or in their home on a properly set-up system, or on ruddy computer speakers (not dissimilar from the discount "rack systems" of yesteryear), or in noisy car, with the same variety of background noise that has always existed when listening to recorded music.

All that has really changed in the past 30 years that it's currently very easy to carry a vast amount of high-quality music in a very portable and readily-retrievable fashion, which was previously impossible. I submit that this improved portability has nothing to do with the dynamic content of that music.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850812)

Any portable device can easily compress out dynamic range on a good recording as needed. However, a crappy pre-compressed recording cannot be re-expanded.

Re:Would a standard for loudness help? (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851468)

I thought that the overall issue is that the dynamic range of the highs & lows is being compressed. So even with a volume limit on the max loudness, would the engineers engineer the song any differently?

A second issue is that the listening environment is changing - music is being played on portable devices in noisy environments - this isn't a fine listening room. As a result, this may be a case where too much dynamic range is lost on the listening audience, as the listener just wants to be able to hear everything without having to fiddle with the volume every few seconds.

Then I propose that portable music players, and car stereos, grow a dynamic range compression algorithm. With digital media, the "compressor" has the ability to "look-ahead", thus being able to avoid the "pumping" effects of compressors that have to work in "real-time". This allows for not only much higher compression ratios; but also much, much "faster" attack and release times, So, with something like that (which really takes much less computing power than say, an EQ), the world could have its dynamic range when good listening conditions were available, and still be able to hear the "quiet parts" when on-the-go.

Of course, just like any other "effect", this would have to be switchable, and maybe even somewhat adjustable.

Eleven (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850430)

Nigel: Exactly. One louder.

Marty: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

Nigel: These go to eleven.

Re:Eleven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850590)

Ahh yes http://xkcd.com/670 [xkcd.com] sounds familiar

Re:Eleven (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850644)

There was a world before xkcd, you know. It was a better world, in my opinion.

Re:Eleven (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850734)

There was a world before xkcd, you know. It was a better world, in my opinion.

Oh I know. I was like, totally reading xkcd before it was popular. Now it's soooo passe.

Re:Eleven (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851276)

Winamp gain goes to +1.

Re:Eleven (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850926)

My presonus has a headphone volume knob that DOES in fact go to 11. And they tell you in the documentation that it's PRETTY FUCKIN' LOUD.

Re:Eleven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851140)

The video player on BBC News volume goes to 11 as well.

Re:Eleven (3, Informative)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851010)

BBC's iPlayer does in fact go up to 11.

normalization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850434)

i suppose i understand why some people might not want to use it.

but client-side overall volume normalization eliminates any 'advantage' from having higher
overall signal strength and reducing the resolution..without depending on standards
enforcement

Moral of the story (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850442)

Music industry finds yet another way to shoot itself in the foot. But yeah, blame the pirates.

Re:Moral of the story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850762)

But yeah, blame the pirates.

The pro-pirating crowd keeps clinging to the theory^H^H^H^H^H^H totally and entirely proven fact that piracy helps the music industry by advertising music to people who otherwise wouldn't buy it.

Pirates don't care what they're pirating. You want a shitty, over-produced, auto-tuned, loudness-war-victim pop singer's album? Sure, maybe you'll only find it on torrents (multiple) with a few thousand seeds each, but they're pirating it.

Ergo, by their own logic, the pirates are advertising this dreck. Empirical evidence (radioplay, increased music industry profits since the days of Napster, etc) suggests this is successful.

So yes. I fully well blame the pirates for the shitty music we're getting. Go torrent yourself some taste.

Re:Moral of the story (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850784)

The pirates have forced producers to compress the dynamic range of most popular music mixed in the last decade?

Re:Moral of the story (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850772)

This has nothing to do with piracy. It has to do with bad engineering decisions made by marketing idiots.

I hope... (4, Interesting)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850450)

I hope this is able to transition to broadcast television broadcasts. I'm sick and tired of commercials being substantially louder than the program they're playing within. Every time a commercial break comes around I have to mute the fucking thing, which seems like the complete opposite of what they're supposed to be trying to accomplish.

Re:I hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850526)

I'm just waiting for my speakers to blow out some day, so I can sue the heck out of the advertiser, the station, and the cable company. As, after all, it's their fault for having and allowing a 20+ db difference between the program and the advertisement. Heck, we could probably sue for hearing loss due to the sudden explosively loud advertisements.

Re:I hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850678)

They do that in order to wake up people dozing in front of the TV.

Re:I hope... (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851298)

I don't know what commercials sound like. My MythTV box skips them automatically. One of the algorithms looks at the volume of the audio to help find and eliminate them :)

Already happens... why is a standard needed? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850452)

iTunes (and Spotify I think) already do this by automatically matching volume levels through the equalizer.

Re:Already happens... why is a standard needed? (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850632)

So that we don't get distorted audio. Even when the amplitude itself isn't causing distortion, the perceived volume change of different pitches is not proportional to their change in amplitude. That is to say, if a song is mixed at high volume and then played at a low volume, the mix won't sound right. For badly mixed music it won't matter, but I'd rather the record labels didn't f*ck with masterpieces mixed by Tom and Chris Lord-Alge, for example.

Re:Already happens... why is a standard needed? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850780)

But considering how readily the record companies abused the standard of their cash cow (CDs) why would they adhere to a standard for the vaguely-defined "cloud" services?

Re:Already happens... why is a standard needed? (3)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850948)

say, if a song is mixed at high volume and then played at a low volume, the mix won't sound right

Then it wasn't mixed right. That's the whole point of using reference monitors and your ears. You are supposed to mix with loud, quiet, and in-between in your mind, and check your mixes at all of those levels.

At least, that's how I do it.

Re:Already happens... why is a standard needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850850)

iTunes (and Spotify I think) already do this by automatically matching volume levels through the equalizer.

ITU-1770 and EBUR-128 define a more sophisticated model of measuring perceived loudness, and averaging it over time

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850464)

Why would you really want to max the gain on everything!? That is just as bad as playing the same exact musical composition through both speakers! Remember when musicians used these techniques to actually create music?

Just what we need (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850466)

Just what we need, people/the government telling us how loud music can be.

bad assumption (3, Insightful)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850470)

Proposed solution: following a standard that limits loudness would remove the strategic advantage of loudness.
What will happen: the standard would be ignored.

Re:bad assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851224)

http://xkcd.com/927/

That sums it up...

Re:bad assumption (1)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851454)

For the lazy, an actual link [xkcd.com]

yaeah (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850484)

This CD goes to eleven!

Great... (1)

mrquagmire (2326560) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850488)

Now apply it to advertising too.

There's A Right And Wrong Way (2)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850596)

I'm a production director of a radio station so I'm constantly working on commercials. Although I don't go so far as to brickwall things, I do use a variety of compressions, limiters, and EQ to balance out the sound of a commercial -- usually to even out a vocal performance or to make it work with music and sound effects better. There's a cookie cutter and hamfisted way to do it and then there is actually using your ears to do it correctly. That said, what was done with the 5.1 remasters of the Genesis catalog were a travesty. Any dynamism was lost because suddenly what was supposed to be a quieter acoustic section was as loud as the full band playing all out. That's not the way it's supposed to sound.

Re:There's A Right And Wrong Way (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850680)

I've only heard The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Foxtrot remasters, and it was, as you say, fucking awful. That is an album that has louder bits and quieter bits, and it's truly amazing to see how modern engineering and production techniques, despite the impressive new technology, can make a record sound worse than the original mix. Probably the most disappointing was Supper's Ready, which was turned into a muddy mess, whereas I have a first generation CD from the 1980s, which was nothing all that great, and it sounds better than the remaster.

I don't even know why there are recording engineers anymore. They've all gone to the Nigel Tuffnell School of 11. I think you could get an eight year old to engineer the last ten years worth of records.

I'm eagerly awaiting the remix of Rush's Vapor Trails, which will apparently back it off quite a bit. At the moment some of the live versions of Earthshine, even from bootlegs, sound better than the one on the album.

Loud Music is painful (1)

AB3A (192265) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850496)

If you don't have soft parts, how can the loud parts surprise you? Isn't that one of the elements of music that we're throwing away? The element of surprise?

Re:Loud Music is painful (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850548)

We're certainly throwing away the idea of subtlety, of creating music that has any kind of dynamic range. Instead it's all got to be blaring and blasting, bass parts sounding like they were done on slowed-down kazoos and the guitars just one big mash of chords, and singers who, if they're voices aren't completely digitally altered to sound like they're singing from a merry-go-round moving at 200RPM, sound pretty much like one of those WWI wireless sets.

Re:Loud Music is painful (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850860)

We're certainly throwing away the idea of subtlety ...

Tenses! Bigger, faster, in this case 'louder' — things of the past already.

The development will end when 'they' listen to a continuous 1000Hz signal at maximum 'undistorted' (10%?) level.

CC.

Re:Loud Music is painful (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851098)

Ah, so you've heard the next Cher album :)

Re:Loud Music is painful (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850586)

That and so much more. Art should never have marketting, because that demands a complete lack of subtlety.

Re:Loud Music is painful (3, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850594)

Isn't that one of the elements of music that we're throwing away? The element of surprise?

Yes, which is why the standard calls for someone to shout "BOO" at 5x the maximum allowed volume at a random point in each song.

Re:Loud Music is painful (2)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850684)

Fright-core metal is so totally in this year

Re:Loud Music is painful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850736)

As musician, I can tell you there's more to it than loud bits being there to 'surprise' you. Although it's common for composers using sudden changes in dynamics as a means of surprise or for comedic or dramatic effect.

Re:Loud Music is painful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850986)

Exactly. Imagine listening to Haydn's "Surprise Symphony" and wondering what the surprise is.

Wait (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850510)

Am I the only one that masters audio as loud as possible without more than .01clipping to take full advantage of the bit depth?

Re:Wait (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850520)

derp, .01%

Re:Wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850606)

That's volume scaling. They are dynamically compressing the loudness into max for the entire duration.

Re:Wait (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850884)

Well, #1 I think it is a delusion that you get more "bits" out of the music if you use all of them. I've never heard music get clearer or richer using that philosophy.

#2, this isn't about peak volume. It's about compressing so that the peaks are leveled out, and all sounds are nearly the same volume. If you overdo compression you start hearing this pumping thing where it sounds like the entire mix is flying into your face and then away again with every bass drum hit. It's very unpleasant if you care about anything but the drum hits (which take those peaks well above what the guitar and bass and vocal and whatever else do).

Music that has no valleys is tiresome on the ears, and eventually people just tune it out.

Re:Wait (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851442)

Well, #1 I think it is a delusion that you get more "bits" out of the music if you use all of them. I've never heard music get clearer or richer using that philosophy.

Umm, what? Play any CD track after truncating it to 8 bits of resolution and tell me that using only 8 bits doesn't make it way less clearer. If you are playing a live concert where you should set your reproduction to give 90dB sound pressure peaks as if you were in the audience, and there's quiet stuff going on where the original sound pressure was around 40dB (quiet conversation), you're listening to it reproduced as if through an 8 bit D/A converter.

1812 Overture (2)

Danathar (267989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850570)

You mean the triangle ISN'T supposed to be as loud as the canon fire? :)

Re:1812 Overture (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850704)

I have the 1812 Overture on DVD Audio, complete with cannons and fireworks. If you ever get the chance... listen to it! It will blow your socks off, so set the volume LOW at first.

Re:1812 Overture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850896)

Hell, if you want to talk about blowing your socks off, I've PLAYED the 1812 overture in a mass band with cannons onstage behind us and fireworks directly in front.

Because the cannon fire in 1812 isn't on beat, unless you know precisely when it comes in, it will surprise you (especially if you are concentrating on the music and the conductor). The two players who were seated on either side of me both jumped nearly a foot when the first blast came, and one had tears in her eyes from the shock.

Re:1812 Overture (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851380)

A blank shotgun shell fired into a 55 gallon steel drum inside of a gymnasium does a nice job too. My ears are still bleeding.

Re:1812 Overture (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851030)

I have had a similar thing between an older CD of Carl Orfs Carmina Burana [wikipedia.org] and a newer one. The older disk was of a 1940's or 1950's recording where as the newer one was a recent recording. Even with the recording artifacts of the original reel to reel or what ever the original medium was the older version is mush better. This is another one where set the volume low since it hits hard. The newer copy is much more uniform but because of it is so much less impressive to listen to.

Re:1812 Overture (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851464)

Also:
Polka and Fugue by Weinberger
The Pines of Rome, last movement - by Resphighi (blew a circuit breaker playing this LOUD)

Also check out some of the old 90's Telarc samplers. Telarc is known for some fantastically clean, high dynamic range recordings. I have the Great Fantasy Adventure Album, with songs from various films along with sound effects, including the famous Jurassic Lunch track that will destroy your speakers if you're not careful - I'm not exaggerating.

Thank god. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850576)

This was just another reason why I stopped buying music. You can't buy a CD and trust that it won't sound like shit, because odds are it will.

I know people will call me an audiophile, but I'm not. I'm merey a fan of music with a decent pair of headphones for my computer. You understand what this loudness war is immediately after listening to something properly mastered in decent headphones. You'll then realize yet another reason as to why buying music is one of the biggest scams going (for you and the artist).

dynamic range is the real issue (5, Insightful)

markjhood2003 (779923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850580)

It doesn't matter to me how loud a song sounds; I can always turn the volume down or use something like ReplayGain to lower the overall level. The real issue is the compression of the dynamic range used to achieve louder sounding music. This proposal doesn't address that: a volume limit isn't going to provide an incentive to expand the dynamic range, since producers are just going to make sure every song bumps right up to the new brick wall.

Dynamic range simply isn't important to most producers and consumers of popular music now.

Re: (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850874)

Mod parent up. Dynamic range (or lack thereof) is a matter of taste, and all this new standard does is give producers a new "brick wall" to run up against. However, since the new wall would be below the level of audio clipping, perhaps it's an improvement in that respect.

Eventually people will get tired of today's over-compressed sound, and will rediscover the joys of music dynamics. As a (very) small-time songwriter, I can appreciate the appeal of chest-thumping, all-11s sound, for a specific effect. But making EVERYTHING sound that way is like throwing away everything your crayon box except Magenta, and coloring everything one color.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851158)

Ha. Brick wall. Brick wall limiters. Haha. Was that intentional?

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851348)

But making EVERYTHING sound that way is like throwing away everything your crayon box except Magenta, and coloring everything one color.

Obviously, throwing away everything but magenta would be silly. Purple, on the other hand... [wikipedia.org]

Mod parent up (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850974)

Simply limiting the volume is going to cause more problems without really solve anything. So you've limited me to 75% volume. I'm just going to put all my music right up at that 75%! But this time it will sound even worse because now I'll only be using 75% of my available dynamic range.

A system like ReplayGain is much better because it preserves all the dynamic range and fidelity of the original track. Instead of limiting the volume, it adjusts post-decode every album/track to have the same average volume. Overhead: a few tens of bytes for the proper ID3 tags.

The problem with the "Loudness Wars" is that it's not actually the loudness that we're complaining about, it's the lack of dynamic range. No volume limit or ReplayGain is going to solve this one. Dynamic range is awesome if you're listening in a quiet environment. You need low-volume parts for the louder ones to mean something. But in a car... not so much. Tracks with high dynamic range (example [youtube.com] ) can easily lose entire parts of a song if the environment is too loud for them to play over.

Perhaps some new tech is needed, similar to MP3Pro -- give a track with full dynamic range, and then some additional low-bandwidth bits that describe how to compress the dynamic range when you want it.

Re:dynamic range is the real issue (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850976)

popular music

There's the problem! ;)

Re:dynamic range is the real issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851092)

Actually, I think it will. Since the standard is being required by streamers and online music stores, the record companies need to follow it to sell product, or the aforementioned customers will apply it post-hoc. That is, they can apply it or get it applied for them. This situation disincentivizes the brick-wall mastering that has been taking place, because, no matter how loud you make it, it will play back the same. As such, the practice has some chance of stopping.

Re:dynamic range is the real issue (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851284)

This. Exactly this. My entire library is ReplayGained, and that makes listening to it much easier on me, but when I choose to listen to my music on a high-quality sound system and turn it up, its because I want to get every detail out of the original composition that I can.

Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons die-hards still think vinyl sounds better -- its not that you have better audio density (you don't; but that's another discussion), its that often when albums are mastered for vinyl, the dynamic range compression is not applied. As a result, vinyls often come out with a more complete copy of the original than the digital copies (CDs, downloads, etc.).

Aikon-

Who will step up and do this, though? (3, Interesting)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850660)

You can make all the recommendations and standards you want, but you can't force the studio engineers to obey them, nor can you change the studio executives who are demanding the loudness and writing the checks to the studios. There is a great deal of the attitude in the music industry that "I make a lot of money doing this, and you don't, so my way is clearly right!" So, this movement will probably involve a lot of independent artists. We need pop artists on board.

If we can somehow start a campaign to get people to enjoy an expanded dynamic range, maybe we can raise awareness of how much better music can sound. Maybe albums/tracks engineered correctly could have another small logo somewhere indicating such a thing - call it something like "HDR Audio" (High Dynamic Range) that makes people think.. "Ooh, HD, this one is better than the one without it" or "HDR is the popular thing in photography, so it's probably good with audio".

I'm all for more artists and engineers preserving the vitality of their music.

Re:Who will step up and do this, though? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850936)

But what if Walmart, Target, iTunes, Amazon, Clear Channel, and others all got behind the standard and said they wouldn't sell/play the recordings if they didn't meet the standard. It probably won't happen, but if it did, I bet the studio engineers and executives would follow suit. However, I think the standard would have to not only include a volume limit, but also limit the ability for the engineers to compress the dynamic range. Not sure how easy it would be to police this as some music is loud throughout the entire song, but I'm something could be down about it. But it won't happen, because most people don't care.

In ter net (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850674)

would institute a volume limit on any songs downloaded from the cloud

Is "the Internet" really so difficult to say or type?

Re:In ter net (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850910)

The cloud is the new cyberspace.

Radio??? (2)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850682)

'Because of the need to stand out on radio and other platforms, there's a strategic advantage to having a new song sound just a little louder than every other song.

Wait, what? If they're all doing this, then how is one still louder than the previous song? And what is this talk of the "radio" platform? You mean the NPR/baseball machine in my car can be used for streaming music? How retro!

One more reason not to listen to shitty pop music.

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850692)

It's not going to change. Because average joes will always hear louder as better. If you A/B the same track lightly compressed vs. heavily compressed, people are always going to think the heavily compressed one sounds better. And if you adopt any standard, everyone will just fight to be as loud as possible under that standard, which I doubt would be all that restrictive in the first place.

Although .. (1)

n5vb (587569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850750)

"loudness" is subjective, and there's a lot of money invested in processing audio signals to not exceed a certain dB level but sound "louder" anyway. Some of this processing is quite sophisticated and dynamic, and high-end processors can have fairly noticeable effects on songs that both average exactly the same on signal meters.

My suspicion is that what will happen as a result of this is simply an arms race between processing gear used by music producers and the de-emphasis and normalization algorithms used by the cloud. There's just too much profit-making incentive at stake for the producers to give up quietly on this.

(and yes, some of the processing some of those cowboys inflict on perfectly good music turns my stomach..)

Volume limit? (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850768)

Pardon my ignorance, but where in Thomas Lund's proposed standard does it introduce a volume limit on "songs downloaded from the cloud", or indeed on any kind of song at all? A cursory glance suggests the document concerns a means of measuring loudness rather than a means of regulating it.

Because of a new Evil: Autotune. (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850786)

Loudness just got replaced by something far worse.

We need to enact some kind of legislation against autotune. Or use the SAP channel for the non-auto-tuned version. I'm sure music is just going through a new synthesizer revolution like in the early 80s, and it'll eventually be used properly, but damn if pop music isn't insufferable right now.

How does this "end" the war? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850818)

This seems to be no different than traditional broadcast which has guidelines on program volume levels, unless you're saying absolute peaks may not exceed a set dBFS and the RMS levels can't exceed a percentage of that. Even then, the paper at a glance seemed to be more concerned with intersample peaks than anything...

Otherwise, even if you say 0 dBVU = -18 dBFS and material will be rejected that exceeds 0 dBVU (can't exceed -18dBFS), the mastering practice will simply be to squash with a multiband limiter to get your RMS as close to your peak as possible, so you're peaking at 0 dBVU but your RMS levels are, say, -1, -0.5 dBVU... thus you're in compliance but the loudness issue continues. As it's been pointed out, the "loudness wars" is more about dynamic range and knowing that on average you've got 144dB to play with and you don't need to stay in the upper 20 dB exclusively.

To fix it NOW, use audacious player windows/linux (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850862)

what the article talks about is Dynamic range compression, where the loudness of the piece is bumped up, losing the less loud bits (generally thinner notes) in the process.

it causes 3 things :

- heavy bass/loud voices.

- lost clarity of the song

- ear tiredom over time by listening to such DRC pieces.

it can be amended by crystallizers, software or hardware to great extent - x-fi x-treme music cards have it in their driver, and it works to great extent. but not everyone may have x-fi. the solution comes in with the below software :

http://audacious-media-player.org/ [audacious-...player.org]

audacious is free. it has linux and windows versions. works great. link to windows version here :

http://boards.audacious-media-player.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=491 [audacious-...player.org]

download this, run it, and turn on crystallizer in the plugins. set it to 5 or 8 depending on your speaker setup. also turn on equalizer, and adjust it accordingly. (bump up middle ranges in between 100-800 hz, the human voice, and keep the 60 hz and down (bass) a bit low. you can bump up higher frequencies a bit more for clarity.

you will see that you were listening to music as if it was 'muddy' before. it makes that much difference.

on top of this, you can acquire srs labs audio sandbox, or hd audio sandbox ( or whatever they were calling it now) from srs labs. it is a postprocessor, and if you choose 'wow hd' in 'stereo' selections and then bump 'definition' slider all the way up, your music will be much much more clearer. dont forget to arrange your speaker size slider accordingly too.

Radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850906)

People actually still listen to the radio?

I was lazy this afternoon, and found myself regretting leaving my iPod in the office, and just listen to the radio while grabbing lunch. Old or New, its all bad. Do yourself a favor and get an MP3 or OGG player and listen to what you want to hear instead of what some drone is paid to convince you to like. DJs/announcers are worse actually than record execs.

The irony... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850958)

is that we buy expensive equalizers to fix this and make it sound good again. It sucks because you could "clean" the music using programs, but then it's not longer the "original". Probably why people still listen to old pink floyd live albums.

It is not the volume level... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36850964)

It is not the volume or maximum level that is doing in contemporary recorded music - it is the assinine misuse of compression. I do a couple of radio shows a week on a local FM station (OTA and Streaming) and see the issue during every show. Most contemporary commercially distributed recorded music is horribly compressed to the point where the level indicators simply do not move while any given selection is played - dynamic range has been sacrificed in marketing interest of sounding louder that the next guy. This problem seems pervasive in all genres except classical and indie music. I've always wondered what the assholes who ruin music with compression would do if they were doing postproduction on something like the full length William Tell Overture which contains soft passages that are almost inaudible.

About f*cking time (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850978)

Stop unconditionally compressing the sh*t out of everything, and record the dynamics the way the musicians meant it to be heard. Some music is just meant to be in-your-face loud, and that's fine if it is the artist's intent. But dynamic range is often a big part of the emotional impact of music, and to strip that out in post-production is no less egregious than arbitrarily lopping off part of the frequency spectrum, or editing out one of the original band members.

Solution? (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#36850990)

I always wondered why they didn't already have an average loudness or max loudness limit on everything in order to preserve optimum fidelity on cd's etc and have an arrangement with radio stations to play new songs a bit louder for a set period, or at least just send the radio stations a louder edit.

Hardware normaliser (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851050)

We get this problem with adverts on TV too.

Amazingly there are no results on ebay for `normaliser`; no one has made a hardware dongle to plug inline of the speakers to fix the problem:

http://www.instructables.com/answers/I-need-a-hardware-volume-levellernormalizer-for-a/ [instructables.com]

Re:Hardware normaliser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851136)

We get this problem with adverts on TV too.

Amazingly there are no results on ebay for `normaliser`; no one has made a hardware dongle to plug inline of the speakers to fix the problem:

That's because you're calling it the wrong thing - you're looking for a COMPRESSOR [wikipedia.org] . Trust me, they make more varieties than you'd believe...

Re:Hardware normaliser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851364)

Normalizing the audio won't affect dynamic range compression. It's not that simple, read up on it if you're interested--it's not actually making the peaks louder, you can only get so loud before the audio starts to clip. What they're doing basically is "compressing" the dynamic range, they take the loudest parts of the music and make them quieter until they're closer to the quiet parts, and then they add as much gain to the whole thing as they can without causing it to clip. Now, there are lots of nuances doing just that would sound pretty terrible, but that's the basic idea.

This reminds me of... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851116)

Metallca's album "Distortion Maximum" (or was it Death Magnetic? I can't remember.) and how absolutely terrible it sounded.

Luckily, somebody at Guitar Hero managed to get a non-distorted version of the album for GH:Metallica, which was promptly ripped and released online.

Great example of when a "pirated" version ends up being far superior to the retail release.

This blog post [blogspot.com] has a nice graphic showing the difference in dynamic range between the retail album and the GH version.

WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851198)

What effect will this have for music played amplifiers that go up to 11?

some people think this is great... (1)

phooka.de (302970) | more than 3 years ago | (#36851266)

..they don't know what they're missing.

I recently listened to MP3s of a coworker, ripped at 320bit/sec but with the volume cranked up. With my 3-way-in-ears, I could hear accustic artifacts I couldn't explain given the nitrate. So I compared to the 30 second sample in iTunes... which was not as loud but had more detail and no artifacts.

Whoever did this *wanted* it that way, probably had lousy speakers and didn't know his MP3-player has a volume setting... *shudder* I like my music with lots of dynamic range. And yes, excellent earphones (I'm all for ultimate ears tipple.fi) tend to push you to old Pink Floyd recordings. ;-)

Studio Process Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36851300)

Compression is an old production trick. The new thing is to add more cowbell.

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