Avoiding the loudness wars

June 29, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

9 comments on “Avoiding the loudness wars”

  1. Hi Paul,
    I like your answer. Simple, but always the purist, which is what all us audiophiles are seeking to attain! Why oh why, would anyone who enjoys what they’re into, settle for the very worst version of their craft! Stick to your guns, or should I say ears!
    I just ordered Audiophile Masters volume 1 at Scott’s recommendation and I cannot wait to hear a truly great recording!! Hoping it doesn’t make me throw away all the lesser recordings I already enjoy!!

    Cheers Paul and PS Audio, keep up the great work and information/ educational vids, love em’!

  2. I would argue that the most important factor in making music sound live on a good system is dynamic linearity, the closer to no compression at any level from mini to macro the better. It isn’t the standard measurement so long as they aren’t bad. Change a seat at a live concert and the frequency response changes and it stil is live: so it isn’t flat response. Some systems like single ended amps have high distortion and they often sound alive so it isn’t primarily harmonic distortion. I could go on.

    I suspect though if you have linear dynamics all the other measurements are pretty good too but you have to get linear dynamics right or what you end up with, if the standard measurements look good, is essentially a wide band radio and it will never allow you to close your eyes and suspend belief and make believe you’re hearing a live performance.

  3. Could it be Paul, that an increasing number of music lovers and sound engineers suffer significant hearing loss due to excessive use of headphones and IEMs at highest volumes thus compression is most mandatory today? And as hearing loss is also correlated with age maybe also some older music lovers like compression instead of permanently increasing or decreasing the volume?

  4. Hi Paul,

    I’d disagree slightly with you on this one. I would argue on the radio you would want the compression, as these are often played in noisy environments (cars, supermarkets, construction sites, kitchens etc). I would personally argue that digital music should be mastered in three ways. Firstly close to full dynamic ‘as if you were there’ feeling. Secondly a copy close to the vinyl version. Thirdly a radio mastering, which has all the characteristics of the modern approach (namely high compression, as is common in main stream studios today). If these are then labelled as such, you would have a better idea what you were purchasing. If a studio didn’t want to produce all three, that is completely down to them, if their material between the different labels are a lot closer than other studios they get a bad rep. In the past I’ve spent a decent amount for FLAC in 196Hz, 24bit which do not appear any better than the CD mastering used by DJs on the radio. I think the only way we can get around this is by the studios having this type of distinct mastered versions for different audiences, rather than packaging the stuff designed for radio in a more expensive box/format but not adding any value just a higher price. It’s very sad that vinyl which is to be fair compared to modern digital hi-res formats is very very poor, can out perform a lot of digital ‘high end’ music, purely because they had to master the vinyl separately so could then address the music lover audience there, showing they have the talent, but didn’t bother doing the same with hi-res digital formats.

    Note I’m not suggesting you need hi-res formats for ‘better’ mastering, but it can’t hurt right?

    Take care, Gary

  5. It reminds me of that saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

    Don’t despair Paul! Keep fighting the good fight. You have at least the support of many of us here. šŸ™‚

  6. Hearing Loss, with age, if its sensorineural, can provide the listener with hypersensitivity to sound. Thus the growth of loudness is not the same as it is in an ear that is free of impairment. When one views the Fletcher-Munson graphs for normal hearers and compare that graphic display with growth of loudness data for the impaired ears the “curves” are very different.

    Simply stated, the loudness experience differs as a function of the status of the persons auditory system. If on adds the presence of tinnitus to impaired hearing the whole adventure takes on a different set of dynamics.

    And that is why fishing is enjoyable-well it is until the dialogue begins between the Penn and the Sumiko peeps!

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