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A Modest Proposal for Ending the Loudness War
Axon
post Jun 25 2008, 20:33
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It's fairly well known in these parts (but less known everywhere else) that loudness equalization mostly solves the loudness war, in that attempts at increasing program loudness are immediately compensated on playback.

iTunes and the iPod, which arguably control a majority of the music playback market right now, have SoundCheck, which is imperfect, but works. Everybody else has ReplayGain, which rocks (Thanks David!). Beyond Apple, only a couple other music providers dominate the market. I'd put MySpace and Bleep on those lists.

If only two or three of the biggest music playback providers made loudness equalization required - ie, it can't be turned off except by advanced means - the loudness war would probably end fairly quickly. Instead of trying to argue from the standpoint of increased fidelity, one would be able to argue that hypercompression/limiting would do nothing to increase loudness, and would only reduce fidelity. Once producers realize this, the loudness war would probably be stopped dead in its tracks.

The problems with this scheme are as follows:
  • Convincing Apply/MySpace to do anything is kind of hard.
  • Like I said, SoundCheck kind of sucks, notably because of a lack of album gain.
  • Playback gain would need to be adjusted substantially. Volume levels on the iPod are sometimes considered (by crazies IMHO) to be quiet as they are.
  • Very few people actually understand what SoundCheck does. Apparantly, some audio engineers seriously believe it's a dynamic range compressor.
  • I'm not sure it is possible to read off RG tags from Flash, so MySpace might need Adobe's help to implement it.
Nevertheless I think this is far more feasible than the other usual alternatives proposed, which include: getting hardware manufacturers to add DRC to all their devices; informing the music listening and production public of higher fidelity mastering; moving to some intrinsically loudness-agnostic format such as vinyl or SACD; etc. No additional hardware is required, and it only takes convincing a few organizations to do something cheap for everybody else to likely follow suit.

So, opinions? Is this worth getting out my petition-writing paper?
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Lyx
post Jun 25 2008, 21:56
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Sheep dont want to have a voice and therefore shouldn't have a voice. If the majority doesn't care, then others should determine what happens. The problem is that with the music industry's growth in power going unnoticed for a long time(perhaps because of too many "didn't care"), it has a much larger influence than sensible audio enthusiasts and sensible music creators. Well, at least thats how it has been up until now. There are new players on the playfield now which have a rather high degree of influence, compared to their age.

So yes, i agree... it is naive to expect that large manufacturers of hifi-gear or major labels, etc will support this. But targeting players which focus on the portable and online market may be more efficient... it will still be difficult, but chances are much better than with the old "dinosaurs". And they are capable of provoking a change of mindset regarding loudness.

However, you will NOT convince them to support this, by telling them that it is "more correct" and that those "restrictions" are good for some idealistic reason. Even if they listen more closely to enthusiasts, they are still senseless and greedy short-term-profit machines. That means that to convince them, you will need to explain to them why RG would ADD value to their products - why it makes their products more attractive - that implementing it is cheap and giving them a finished solution to make this tech easily usable for joe average. Remember, greed-machines - if you can give them almost everything for free and convince them that it benefits their products value/attractivity - so, an "you can increase the value of your products for free" case - then they will start listening.

This post has been edited by Lyx: Jun 25 2008, 21:57
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Axon
post Jun 25 2008, 22:57
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QUOTE (Lyx @ Jun 25 2008, 15:56) *
So yes, i agree... it is naive to expect that large manufacturers of hifi-gear or major labels, etc will support this. But targeting players which focus on the portable and online market may be more efficient... it will still be difficult, but chances are much better than with the old "dinosaurs". And they are capable of provoking a change of mindset regarding loudness.
Maybe I wasn't quite clear in what I was targetting with my proposal. I propose changing the behavior of the iPod, and of iTunes, and of the MySpace player. That's it.

QUOTE
However, you will NOT convince them to support this, by telling them that it is "more correct" and that those "restrictions" are good for some idealistic reason. Even if they listen more closely to enthusiasts, they are still senseless and greedy short-term-profit machines. That means that to convince them, you will need to explain to them why RG would ADD value to their products - why it makes their products more attractive - that implementing it is cheap and giving them a finished solution to make this tech easily usable for joe average. Remember, greed-machines - if you can give them almost everything for free and convince them that it benefits their products value/attractivity - so, an "you can increase the value of your products for free" case - then they will start listening.
Quite true. I'm hoping that the lower the required cost, the less important the reasoning has to be, although it still needs to be ironclad.

Remember, the goal here isn't merely to get RG installed everywhere, it's to REQUIRE its use in music listening.

MySpace has a really good reason to do this already: amateur musicians. Getting the most loudness out of a song while preserving some sense of fidelity requires a lot of production/mastering experience. Amateur/indie musicians are at a disadvantage here. Loudness equalization will eliminate that and will lower the barrier for entry for new musicians to make a dynamic, competitive song.

Apple has much less of a justification to do anything like this except out of idealism. They already have SoundCheck, and everybody who wants it is already using it or using ReplayGain, so why would they want to remove the ability to run without it? One could argue that it would add some goodwill with certain regulators in that modern mastering would no longer be implicated in hearing loss issues. And that by taking a stand like this, Apple stands to give its users a higher quality listening experience, by recommending that records be produced with a higher dynamic range, or to go all Mudcrutch on everybody and release two versions of the same record.

Still, I think the biggest problem for Apple doing this is that iPods and computers are already stretched for SNR as they are - I'm sure most iTunes listeners are using crappy computer speakers that hiss like a mofo, most iPod listeners listen to them in low-dynamic-range environments or with low-sensitivity headphones, etc. Compelling Apple to compromise their listening volumes or noise levels is going to be a stretch.
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Posts in this topic
- Axon   A Modest Proposal for Ending the Loudness War   Jun 25 2008, 20:33
- - slks   My guess is that 70% of people don't care, 29%...   Jun 25 2008, 21:21
- - Axon   That's a major supporting argument for this pr...   Jun 25 2008, 21:37
- - Lyx   Sheep dont want to have a voice and therefore shou...   Jun 25 2008, 21:56
|- - sshd   QUOTE (Lyx @ Jun 25 2008, 22:56) Sheep do...   Jun 25 2008, 22:36
|- - WonderSlug   Most people under the age of 30 don't understa...   Jun 25 2008, 22:37
|- - Axon   QUOTE (Lyx @ Jun 25 2008, 15:56) So yes, ...   Jun 25 2008, 22:57
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (Axon @ Jun 25 2008, 23:57) Still, ...   Jun 25 2008, 23:33
|- - Canar   QUOTE (Lyx @ Jun 25 2008, 15:33) I cannot...   Jun 26 2008, 17:01
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (Canar @ Jun 26 2008, 18:01) In eve...   Jun 26 2008, 18:49
- - sshd   If you don't like the product, don't buy i...   Jun 25 2008, 22:28
|- - Lyx   QUOTE (sshd @ Jun 25 2008, 23:28) The stu...   Jun 25 2008, 22:31
|- - krabapple   QUOTE (sshd @ Jun 25 2008, 17:28) If you ...   Jun 26 2008, 18:01
- - Axon   Moreover, if you follow the idea that reduced fide...   Jun 25 2008, 22:37
|- - sshd   QUOTE (Axon @ Jun 25 2008, 23:37) Moreove...   Jun 25 2008, 22:59
|- - Axon   QUOTE (sshd @ Jun 25 2008, 16:59) They ca...   Jun 25 2008, 23:20
|- - Soap   QUOTE (sshd @ Jun 25 2008, 17:59) QUOTE (...   Jun 26 2008, 16:31
- - carpman   It's interesting that no one seems to think it...   Jun 25 2008, 23:31
- - Canar   The problem I see with your proposal though Lyx is...   Jun 26 2008, 19:03
- - Lyx   Good point, and artists and labels wont do that la...   Jun 26 2008, 19:22
- - Canar   Personally, I think "almost as loud" sho...   Jun 26 2008, 19:32
- - Axon   I agree that Lyx's approach is the technically...   Jun 26 2008, 19:44
- - Chromatix   If I may weigh in on this subject... The point of...   Jun 26 2008, 20:41


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