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Pro Audio Magazine, Tape Op, Weighs in on the Loudness Wars

Pro Audio Magazine, Tape Op, Weighs in on the Loudness Wars

The discussion of the Loudness Wars has finally reached a few ears in the pro audio community.  We are grateful to Tape Op for presenting this article written by Aaron Mullan.

There are several steps between recording music and delivery to customer that take place that have an effect on the sound of a recording.  One of those steps, mastering, is where an output level is determined.  Mastering for vinyl, CD, mp3 or high resolution audio often becomes the signature of a mastering engineer... much of it depending on taste and what they are being asked to do by the producer.

When CDs began to take over the recorded music industry during the 90's, "loud" wasn't a sought after quality of recording.  As decades passed you can hear a gradual gain increase overall to the music.  Listening to a recording mastered for CD in 2018 and one mastered in 1992 will probably require you bring up the volume of your listening device.  There are several theories why this happened.  You can read about them in the article. 

What also happened was a mini revolution back to vinyl.  There's a good chance that the "quality" people seek from vinyl is really that there is more dynamics.  A vinyl master cut too loud is problematic for consumer playback.  Reality is that much of the vinyl masters are cut from the same mixes as the CD is mastered in today's world.  

In the last 10 years we've seen websites devoted to the "Loudness Wars" where music is graded on the volume level and graphs are used to see the "flat topping" from overcompressed files. Most mastering engineers are opposed to over compressed "Loud" masters but are urged by labels and producers who are competing next to other "loud" recordings.  Professional audio engineers have taken less a stand on this than audiophiles.. maybe because their jobs are at stake if their playback volume is less than the previous music just heard.

We're glad to see Tape Op taking a stand on this issue and seeing the message gradually spread to the consumer.  Here's the article.

Modern Loudness