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Creating examples of "Loudness Wars" effect

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Elgrindio, Jul 11, 2017.
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  1. Elgrindio
    I would like to be able to identify this effect more easily. Is there a way for me to simulate this on my computer. That is, can I use an audio editing program to change a good dynamic recording into a "loudness wars" recording, maybe even exaggerating the effect to recognize it? Thanks for any tips!

    Or if there are good and bad examples in mainstream music that you consider are so obvious that I couldn't help but notice, that would be helpful too.

    I use Sennheiser hd 598, Schiit Magni 2, and laptop with standard onboard soundcard. I would assume that this setup would be enough to clearly hear the difference.
  2. Roseval
    Elgrindio likes this.
  3. Don Hills
    I use this as an example of "bad vs good":

    There are quite few such comparisons on Youtube, but most of them don't have the level matched instant switch comparison like this one does.
    TheSonicTruth and Elgrindio like this.
  4. Silvian
    Hi Elgrindio,
    In case you're not aware, this website (http://dr.loudness-war.info/) has quite a lot of CDs with their DR levels. Based on this I went to my local library and borrowed a few in order to test (listen) and learn, and indeed, it is quite easy to hear the differences. Once you know what to look for, you'll pick up easily the good from the bad. Just be careful: you might end up giving up some of the music you would have liked otherwise; it happened to me. Luckily, there is plenty of well recorded music out there. I believe that the CD, as a format, is plenty enough if care is applied when producing.
  5. bigshot
    One thing I don't see mentioned much in discussions of hot mastering is that compression is not necessarily a bad thing. Too broad of a dynamic range can be just as bad as too narrow. I have some classical CDs that are uncomfortable to listen to, because if you set the volume properly for the loud passages, the quiet ones disappear into the room tone of my listening room. "More" isn't "Better". You want just the right amount.
    ZetsuBozu0012 likes this.
  6. Elgrindio
    Thanks for the reference, and the good idea. I'll start investigating based on that music!
  7. pinnahertz
    Just to clarify, "loudness war" processing and compression for the purpose of making wide dynamic range music fit a practical listening situation are two entirely different things related only in that they both involve dynamic gain control.
  8. bigshot
    But I see people comparing charts of dynamic range and assuming that "more is better", which isn't necessarily true. Smashed out peaks is one thing... obviously that is bad. But just because one CD has more dynamic range than another, it doesn't mean that the one with more range is better.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  9. pinnahertz
    Classical is one of the few genres of music the isn't involved in the loudness war. It might be interesting to take a DR reading on some of it but it's not really applicable because it's not in the war. For those genres in the War the DR chart make perfect sense because more DR than the stuff smashed to death is always viewed as an improvement by the DR movement (if that's what it is). And sometimes even that's wrong.

    Yes classical recordings are sometimes compressed a bit, and some deliberately are not, which can lead to a recording that is not listenable in some circumstances. The Telarc 1812 is a good example of a recording so dynamic it can't be effectively broadcast on a classical fm station, even with broadcast processing at work. Canon shots ar 20dB above orchestra. What's anyone supposed to do with that beyond demo your system?
  10. bigshot
    I remember a Karajan opera LP I had (Parsifal?) that had such a broad dynamic range, it was impossible to listen to. That's an accomplishment for an LP.
  11. pinnahertz
    Compression is actually something of a dirty word in classical music recording, but it has been used historically by several labels, London being a well known one of them. Others like Telarc and Philips are notable by their lack of compression or limiting of any kind.
  12. bigshot
    I don't know how you would go about recording vocals without compression unless the microphones are a long way from the singer. The complex balances in opera pretty much demand it.
  13. pinnahertz
    Well, we never close-mic'd the singers, and didn't use a compressor on them either. One of the nice things about recording opera and orchestra is that many times you can get away with a fairly simple mic array and not have to spot-mic all that much. Balance is largely handled by the performers and director. Good performers who know what to do are the trick here. But then it also depends on the purpose of the recording. The opera recordings I've been involved in were of live performances for broadcast. Setups were fairly simple, but we were capturing a performance not creating a hyper-real pseudo event for a record. So no compression there, but there was a tiny bit of intelligent manual gain riding done with eyes on the score, so perhaps that counts.

    There are vocal recordings done without compression depending on the genre again, and intended purpose. I believe the Amanda McBroom recordings on Sheffield Labs (direct to disc) were free of all compression and limiting. Free of tape too. Just one or two examples. But these were special, and intended to be dynamic.

    Otherwise I universally compress vocal tracks at least a little, just not all the same way or with the same device.
  14. Don Hills
    The BBC Proms are coming up. I don't know if it's still the case, but years ago when they were broadcast live over FM an engineer with a copy of the score manually rode the gain...
  15. bigshot
    I have the old Sheffied Lab Amanda McBroom LPs if that's what you mean. They sound good, but her vocals are pretty tame compared to a lot of other singers. I doubt that same approach would work with Roy Orbison or Pavarotti.

    Riding the gain is essentially manual compression. I think straight wire approaches to sound recording are basically wrong headed. You should aim to make the best sounding recording you can, not force dogmatic theories of purity on the recording process.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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