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The loudness war

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, records are getting louder. Play a few tracks from twenty five years ago and a few tracks from the last year without adjusting your volume control and you’ll hear it. Newer is louder, as a fantastic poster from an NPR article shows. This phenomenon, and it’s not a new one, has been termed ‘The Loudness War’.

It seems as though the record labels have been engaged in a loudness ‘arms race’ for years now, but with the creation of your mp3 player’s ‘random’ function, things are getting worse, as everyone wants their songs to stand out from the crowd and sound more impressive. All tracks will have a ‘peak’ level that is about the same, but the average, or RMS, levels have been steadily creeping up, driven by more aggressive use of heavy compression and limiting during mixing and mastering. While the loudness has crept up, so has the likelihood of a fatiguing listening experience.

Now, increased loudness has its place. Try listening to some lovingly recorded and mastered classical music on your headphones on the train, on the street, or somewhere with a lot of background noise. Get the volume right for those loud sections and the quiet parts will disappear; but why not just put a compressor/limiter in your iPod, and allow the records to be produced with some dynamics?

So, what does all this mean for your tracks? Do you want to keep pace with the herd, or create an engaging musical experience, full of dynamics and emotional valleys and peaks? Well, that’s just between you, your style of music, where you expect it to be played, your label, your mastering engineer, and your conscience…

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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