Report From A Loudness War Field General

Behold, the Loudness Wars.  It’s worse than I thought, and I have to make some hard decisions right now.

The top track is Bon Jovi’s brand new release.  The bottom is taken from their original (not a modern remaster) 1987 CD Slippery When Wet.  I had no idea how incredibly dramatic the sound quality difference was until I listened to them A/B on my reference monitors.

I also pulled a FLAC file of Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven”, which I consider probably one of the better-sounding modern pop songs.  Large portions of that song lack even 2-3db of dynamic range.  It is mud.

Here’s the rub.  Initially, louder always sounds better.  TV and stereo salesman used to set their expensive models to turn on a few dbs louder to fool the customer into thinking they could hear a quality difference.

So, I am at a loss as to what to model my mastering efforts to.  I do not think I can, in good conscience follow the current trend… I know you’re probably thinking (the two of you that read this far), that hey, I heard Bon Jovi’s new song, it doesn’t sound bad to me.  And, I understand that, but I wish you could hear the way it could have sounded.

The easiest way for a non-audiophile to hear the difference?  Listen to the snare drum.  It is the “snap” that pops in where you are likely to naturally clap.  Compare that “snap” on modern recordings and ones from 20-30 years ago.  The snare drum has become a weak fizzle where it was once a sonic giant…  It is sad.

I am not an “old fogey”.  I sincerely like and respect modern music.  It is the engineers and producers I am faulting here.

The downside to this is people putting in your CD or cuing up your mp3 and getting over the initial lack-of-perceived volume shock.  It may even limit some market potential.  I am not sure.  But, years from now, I don’t want to listen back to my tracks and hear a blur of indecipherable fuzz.  So, I am going to ask all of you to get over the shock and just crank it up louder till it feels good!  🙂