Everything Louder Than Everything Else
Have the loudness wars reached their final battle?
By Joe Gross, Austin360.com
“You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like â€” static.”
â€” Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone magazine
The ranting of a cranky old man? Perhaps.
One man’s opinion? Hardly.
In August, an open letter from a music industry executive on the state of commercial compact disc mastering and manufacturing was sent to an industry tip sheet/e-mail list run by a music pundit named Bob Lefsetz.
The letter was written by Angelo Montrone, a vice president for A&R (the folks who scout and sign music acts) for One Haven Music, a Sony Music company.
“There’s something . . . sinister in audio that is causing our listeners fatigue and even pain while trying to enjoy their favorite music. It has been propagated by A&R departments for the last eight years: The complete abuse of compression in mastering (forced on the mastering engineers against their will and better judgment).”
This compression thing has been a topic of discussion among audiophiles and music fans for nearly a decade. But hearing a music industry executive cop to it was pretty unusual. The letter was almost immediately reprinted online in audio discussion forums.
“The mistaken belief that a ‘super loud’ record will sound better and magically turn a song into a hit has caused most major label releases in the past eight years to be an aural assault on the listener,” Montrone’s letter continued. “Have you ever heard one of those test tones on TV when the station is off the air? Notice how it becomes painfully annoying in a very short time? That’s essentially what you do to a song when you super compress it. You eliminate all dynamics.”
For those already confused, Montrone was essentially saying that there are millions of copies of CDs being released that are physically exhausting listeners, most of whom probably don’t know why their ears and brains are feeling worn out.