Thursday, December 15, 2005


Reference this

This topic has been bothering me for a while, and is of great interest to me due to my desire to be a mastering engineer. The article is an interview with top mastering engineers about the lack of dynamic range in today's music. Particulary in today's recording environment, there is pressure to make things as loud as possible, pushing the 0dBfs to its limits, resulting in what, when analyzed in a waveform editor, look like square walls of waves. There's a great image in the article comparing a song from 2005 with a Whitney Houston track in 1985. The Houston track has actual dynamics, while the 2005 song looks like 2 stereo bricks.

Recently I mastered my first album, and I sent demo tracks to the band to see how they liked it. The first track I did, I left quite a bit of dynamic range in the master and sent it off to them. Immediately I was requested to make it louder. Someone, I forget who, maybe Bob Katz, had a great suggestion for that once..Turn up the volume knob! (Also had a great idea to force stereo manufacturers to install compressors in their devices and if people wanted brickwall sound, they could just turn on the compressor button and everything gets squashed without compromising the original source in case someone wanted to listen back with dynamics preserved. I thought it was a good idea) But of course there's the pressure to make their recording sound as loud as everyone else's, and a "quieter" album would not be perceived as good quality. So I ended up mastering that album with about 12dB gain on my compressor (with a 0dBfs limiter) so that I could get the loudness they wanted. Of course, the waveforms look like bricks now, I'm embarassed to say. But it's what the client wanted.

So what's the point of this? None, really. It's just that topics like this highlight the increased degredation of musical quality, sacrificed for commercial profit, even by the most indie of bands. It's not just major label artists getting huge radio play that now have this louder is better mentality, it's nearly everyone (See jazz musician mention in article). At some point, you have to wonder if it's worth fighting it, as it seems that the only ones giving a crap are engineers themselves.

Audio Rant of the Night...Complete!



Anonymous said...

someday, when i'm real bored, i'm gonna read this again and count the number of phrases that i absolutely don't understand. it'll be fun.

tina said...

oops, i didn't leave my name on the last comment. my bad!