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A Modest Proposal for Ending the Loudness War
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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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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post Jun 25 2008, 22:37
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Most people under the age of 30 don't understand how lots of DRC ruins the music. They pretty much grew up with loud, compressed music, and haven't experienced the difference.

A lot of these 20-somethings listen to urban hip-hop music and care more that their music is loud enough to rattle windows and justify those big subwoofers they installed in their cars. They'll have major, major, hearing loss by the age of 40.

All these know is that the music sounds great on the radio, in their cars, and on their iPods. Very few of them actually listen to music on Hi-Fi equipment.

Giving them charts and graphs, some document that looks like it was made for a master's thesis, and lecturing them will only cause their eyes to glaze over and everything you tell them will quite literally go in one ear and out the other. They'll nod yes and then forget what was said 10 minutes later.

So, to help end the loudness war, one needs to show them, via audio and listening examples, how today's music is being mastered in such a way that it often turns into an incomprehensible mush.

If possible, get a nice album that has been mastered to audiophile standards, so that there is very little to no DRC applied. Then when you apply RG and peak computation via fb2k, it will come back as an excellent set of numbers like 0.5 RG and peak of about 0.75

Now, take that same music and make copies that have been processed like most CDs mastered today, with DRC up the wazoo, so that now the RG is around -10.0 and peak about 1.2

Have these people listen to the original "audiophile"-quality track and then listen to the "modern 200x" mastered version. They should be able to easily understand how all this DRC is ruining music, if they haven't already damaged their hearing to the point of futility.

As they hear the same track, both in original audiophile format and the modern 200x version, show them the equivalent Audacity (or whatever) analysis so that they can see the wall of sound in the overly processed DRC version as it's playing.

Once they understand how all this DRC is ruining their precious music that they spent money on (in some form or the other), they can then start demanding that the music industry actually produce better quality mastered recordings without all the DRC and hopefully refuse to "buy" any music that is ruined this way.
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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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