Loudness War: Nobody will win the race

Are you wondering why you can’t listen to a new album ten times without getting tired of it? Let me tell you a little story.

Radio Loudness War

In order to respect FM regulation, radios have to process their sound using broadcast processing. So we are already over-processing our sound, but that’s not the problem, we have to.

Where does the loudness war come from then? Well, competition between radios. When you are changing stations on your tuner, you can clearly hear the difference between radios. And radios stations think, “This is louder, when they will hear our sound, they will stay!”. Well, not for long. There’s a drawback. Even though they choose your station, they won’t stay longer. You can easily drive your audience away by causing listener fatigue.

But they don’t care. And it doesn’t really matter. Little by little, there are less and less listeners thanks to the “iPod” revolution. Let’s move on to the next point… the CD Loudness War.

CD Loudness War

This is interesting. What’s the point? Well, they are just following the path of the radio loudness war, making things louder to be heard. That’s exactly what the record labels are trying to do, they want to be the louder album on your iPod. They think because it’s louder, they will have more sales. That’s just plain wrong. Earl Vickers presented some facts at the AES Convention, his conclusion? Loudness doesn’t equals to sales, loudness has no effect on listener’s preferences. Listeners don’t like the over-processed songs.

For example, listen to the new Metallica, it’s just unlistenable. Apparently, the record was already a mess after the mixing. All you can hear is just garbage, the sound is clipping everywhere.

So why do they keep processing CDs this way? Let me rephrase it… why do they keep processing digital audio this way? Nowadays, most of the sales are done by digital distribution. One of the problems of this kind of distribution systems are lossy audio compression, not loudness at all. In fact, loudness tends to bring more audio artifacts.

I’m guessing one day an album will come out so badly mastered that the listeners will all say it sounds like shit. And maybe they will start thinking: “Oh, we really should process our songs differently!”

Yeah. I’m waiting for this moment.

Declipper?

This is funny now. SeeDeeClip was one of the first solution available on the market to “declip” your audio. There are now a lot of solutions to clean up your audio, even one integrates into a broadcast processor!

What are we doing with a declipper? Simple, we restore spikes that mastering engineers might have ate. Some dynamics are restored but this is not a real answer to the loudness war, we can’t totally repair the sound. Still, it IS awesome, I can now hear the snare drum on the American Idiot record.

I’m currently using the Perfect Declipper myself, it really gives a second life to your music library. You should give it a try.

Update: You should try the beta version of Perfect Declipper available here. Natural Dynamics is included in this version.

Stop processing with your money, use your ears instead

The solution is simple, use your ears to process your sound. Stop thinking about the money first, loudness is not the answer.

In fact, by processing your music more carefully, by making your sound more dynamic, you will certainly have more money on the long-term.

Published on 21 Feb 2014