Archive for the ‘Loudness War’ Category

(there are reference hyperlinks throughout this article.  I highly suggest you follow them because they are reference and very relevant)

I’m sure many of you will be surprised to learn that I listened to Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” for this first time yesterday. Honestly I never really WANTED to listen to it for two reasons.  First, Metallica hasn’t really written good songs in a while, and second, if FANS (not engineers) are complaining about the quality of the record….that’s proof enough for me.  I don’t need to listen to it.

But yesterday I thought I’d give it a try….




It was worse that I ever could have imagined.  Worse as in, “who in their right mind would EVER put out a record that sounds this bad”.  It’s compounded by the fact that they have the money to make a great sounding record AND they should know what a good sounding record sounds like after all this time!

Well, maybe not necessarily the last comment.  I mean Metallica records  have never really sounded GOOD per se. (St. Anger anyone?)

So, what’s so bad about it you might ask?  The real question should be, “what ISN’T bad about it?”

Basically take every word you can think of that describes a bad audio recording and Death Magnetic fits that description.
It is all of the below and probably a bunch more words that I can’t think of right now….


It’s just plain hard to listen to. I honestly didn’t pay any attention to the quality of the songs themselves because I was so distracted by the crappy sound.  I can describe the quality of the record to you all day, but you really have to experience how bad it is and make “that face” while you are listening before you can fully comprehend its horrendousness.  WHY WOULD YOU PUT OUT A RECORD THAT SOUNDS LIKE THIS?!??!?!?!

The best part about the whole situation is Lars Ulrich going on record saying that they LIKE the sound of it, it was meant to be that way and fans are wining to much!  I think someone is in denial.  He even dismissed a petition with 13,000 signatures (that has now reached 22,000) asking to remix/remaster the record!

The ONE saving grace of this record is that it really opened a lot of fans’ eyes to the loudness war. MP3 compression is one thing.  I can understand people not being able to tell the difference.  But you can’t dismiss flat out distortion.  People hear that and realize it’s NOT pleasant and they don’t want to listen to it because it’s fatiguing.  Fans heard the UNmastered version in the game Guitar Hero and realized how much BETTER it sounded!

This whole thing made me think. Remember that feeling you get when you first put in a cd and you start to crank that volume knob way up so that you can rock out? Or when you’re watching a movie and the character reaches over with a swift and determined motion to crank it up?

That simply doesn’t happen anymore.  In fact, most of the time I end up turning my stereo DOWN to listen to music because it’s already loud!!!  That’s psychologically bass ackwards!

Well, I for one still like to crank up the volume knob.  Who’s with me?

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I think I found a nice way to hopefully change people’s perspective on this whole “Loudness War” BS.  And when I say “people” I mean the average listener/consumer of music…NOT the engineer.  At this point in time, if you are an engineer and are still crushing the life out of mixes, I think you fall in 1 of 2 camps.  1. You’re being forced to by the band/label, 2. You have a misconception of what competitive is and just don’t care.  I think and HOPE that most engineers fall into camp 1.

SO…..I was listening to an 80’s Pandora station today with my daughter (via my Tivo Premier….great feature!).  We were dancing around and playing and I had the music at a moderately loud volume (around 70db SPL).  As all the music is from the same decade ,the level was fairly consistent song to song and I had my receiver up a little louder than it usually is because music was quieter back then.

All of a sudden “Flagpole Sitta” from Harvey Danger comes on.  Oh….My…..God.  My daughter was freaked out because this song was RIDICULOUSLY louder than everything else before it.  Not to mention a Smiths song preceded it which are usually pretty soft compared to other artists.  First off, what the hell is a song from 1998 doing in the 80’s lineup (and one that TOTALLY doesn’t match the “style” at that)?  I also realized  that even for the late 90’s “Flagpole Sitta” is LOUD!

This brings me to a great way of convincing the consumer/listener that new LOUDER music is the inconvenience, NOT the other way around.  When you are listening to older/quieter music and a loud song comes on, it is jolting and could potentially damage your hearing.  When you are listening  to modern/louder music and a quieter song comes on, all you have to do it turn it up for a bit.  Not a big deal.

So, when you are trying to educate others on WHY louder isn’t always better, this is a great experiment to have them try.