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SubNormal J3

The Loudness War

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Wow, did you really just post that? Mirrorthrone has made it big since Brutal Legend I guess. It's one guy recording in his bedroom.

Of the three songs on that?

1. Mirrothrone

2. Liquid Tension Experiment

3. Painkiller

It's not because of how loud they're mastered. That makes no difference whatsoever in what song I choose to listen to. Honestly, I never would have guessed about the db limits on those songs. I don't know about you people, but when I listen to metal, I adjust the volume accordingly -- up to 11. When you're hitting max volume with your stereo, you don't notice a few db difference.

I spoke to the Mirrorthrone guy once. He compresses his tracks, he doesn't believe in limiting individual tracks. He does limit his master though, which most people probably do. His instruments have great presence and clarity. Anyone getting into recording extreme metal, I'd list Mirrorthrone as a prime example of what to shoot for as far as production goes.

Check this out:

rainwoundpeak.png

This is

(my band)

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The volume wars should definitely be decided by people who make decisions using their eyes AND their ears.

Fixed.

This is derailing into an argument about how we listen to music. Needless to say, there is nothing inherently wrong with the way those three songs in the picture are recorded and mastered. They are all very clear recordings with no clipping or distortion. HOWEVER,

the Mirrorthrone and Liquid Tension recordings do not allow a wide range of dynamics, which, in my opinion is not as enjoyable as something with a bit more dynamic range. Obviously there are those that prefer less dynamics, and I respect that (though I have hard time understanding it).

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But clipping isn't the only issue that you have to deal with when the loudness is pushed up. There's a kind'a squashed sound you can notice with some music, a wall of sound resulting from different frequency bands each being compressed a little too much. Lows are especially susceptible to this, I've noticed.

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I'll add only that we're getting to the point that its getting so loud and compressed that its just sounding like pink noise. For instance, listen to BT's Suddenly off of his new album; as soon as the chorus comes in, theres a feeling that you're just being blasted by noise, sure, once you listen closer you can hear everything in great detail, but it doesn't stop it from sounding inherently noise-y.

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I'll add only that we're getting to the point that its getting so loud and compressed that its just sounding like pink noise. For instance, listen to BT's Suddenly off of his new album; as soon as the chorus comes in, theres a feeling that you're just being blasted by noise, sure, once you listen closer you can hear everything in great detail, but it doesn't stop it from sounding inherently noise-y.

Yeah, that song is a little loud, but I think it's more because of the guitars which inherently produce a TON of noise. The track after that (I forget the name, "your I love you") is also loud but absolutely awesome.

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Fixed.

This is derailing into an argument about how we listen to music. Needless to say, there is nothing inherently wrong with the way those three songs in the picture are recorded and mastered. They are all very clear recordings with no clipping or distortion. HOWEVER,

the Mirrorthrone and Liquid Tension recordings do not allow a wide range of dynamics, which, in my opinion is not as enjoyable as something with a bit more dynamic range. Obviously there are those that prefer less dynamics, and I respect that (though I have hard time understanding it).

Can you even define these dynamics you guys keep talking about? What exactly are you referring to? It's not like mastering is a process of limiting a song to its most inner sounds that you can't work with and are doomed to just sound like a muffled low-end fart. Most of the time when I hear individual instruments compressed hard, it usually does bring out the body of the instrument and make it much more audible, but it doesn't remove the crisp of the instrument. You may need to EQ to compensate for the higher amount of body to get consistent highs, but you are not left with no dynamics for your track when you do this. >_>

I've mastered songs and limited them with quite a boost and still feel a fair deal of headroom in the song. The higher bass guitar and vintage comp on it, that blends it into the kick, was always a conscious choice of mine for my love of the audible bass guitar. And I'm not such a big fan of cymbals or high-end in general. Ironic, isn't it, that a person who makes extreme metal is not a fan of "noise". ;-)

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As I have developed my ear over the last year, I have found dynamic range ratings to be quite misleading. This is because average digital peak measurements are based on a linear spectrum.

So although a track may have an average peak of -9db, it may still sound squashed because the lows might average at -3db, the mids at -4db, and the highs at -15db.

I guess it would be nice if a dynamic range meter out there measured on a weighted scale (based on what frequencies sound louder to humans) similar to how there was the dbA scale in the analog days.

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this whole thing is kinda depressing, at least to me. i totally agree that getting consistent volume levels across a song and a CD is important, but beyond that, i think some restraint should be exercised. the metallica - death magnetic example is a great one that gets used a lot, but to be honest, i hear modern pop music that's legitimately clipping all the time.

i don't think loud mixes/limiting for volume is inherently bad. bt's "emergency" (the song zircon referenced earlier) sounds fucking great (and is wayyy louder and cleaner than anything i could ever hope to produce). but what sucks, at least to me, is that the industry has created an environment where it's acceptable to put out and sell songs that are actually clipping. sure, there was a big internet outrage over the death magnetic thing, but they still sold a few million copies of it and nobody at their record label or management team or whatever did anything about it, really. it still made it to store shelves at that volume level in the first place. same goes for tons of other music released every day, which is disheartening, because it implies that volume is more important than sound quality.

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:-D

As for me, I love dynamics in music. Listening to songs from the '70s and '80s is a whole different experience than listening to music that came out after the '90s. The dynamics are just... well, noticeably lessened these days. Even the quiet sections sound like they're in your face half the time, and that rather wrecks the intention of that section being there in my opinion.

When I write a very quiet section, I allow it to be quiet. When I write a loud section with everything going, I let it be loud without clipping. Granted, I don't have an issue with doing a little evening out, especially if there's a big spike that's resulting in having to hold the rest of the song down too much (which zircon touched on), but as I said... when I write a quiet section, I want it quiet. I like seeing that the wave form is changing, conveying the idea I was after with the flow of the song. And now that I have more experience with mixing and such, it's even more important to me. As such, I fight for all it's worth to not have anything I do these days look brick walled.

Oh, and yeah. Volume consistency on an album? That's good stuff, as long as they don't kill dynamics to achieve it for the sake of making it all louder.

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You know, I was actually discussing this subject yesterday and even made mention of it in my latest work-in-progress remix thread for Shinobi.

I love me some compression and volume.....but holy shit. When I have my speakers at 30% volume and it blasts me off the chair and through the wall, the music is just too loud.

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:-D

Holy crap that's hilarious.

Lately I've been writing with my limiters/compressors/etc turned off. Not that I hate them, and not that I don't use them eventually (to fill out the peaks, not to clip them), but they really hinder one's growth if it is the crutch used to increase volume to desired level. Does some music call for some heavy brickwalling? Yes, and it'd be foolish to pretend otherwise. It's better to learn how to write without it, though, before you start actively exploring the effect limiters and compressors can have on one's music.

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As for me, I love dynamics in music. Listening to songs from the '70s and '80s is a whole different experience than listening to music that came out after the '90s. The dynamics are just... well, noticeably lessened these days. Even the quiet sections sound like they're in your face half the time, and that rather wrecks the intention of that section being there in my opinion.

When I write a very quiet section, I allow it to be quiet. When I write a loud section with everything going, I let it be loud without clipping. Granted, I don't have an issue with doing a little evening out, especially if there's a big spike that's resulting in having to hold the rest of the song down too much (which zircon touched on), but as I said... when I write a quiet section, I want it quiet. I like seeing that the wave form is changing, conveying the idea I was after with the flow of the song. And now that I have more experience with mixing and such, it's even more important to me. As such, I fight for all it's worth to not have anything I do these days look brick walled.

Oh, and yeah. Volume consistency on an album? That's good stuff, as long as they don't kill dynamics to achieve it for the sake of making it all louder.

The more I listen to music, the more that statement makes sense to me. My biggest concern with less dynamics is that my ears get fatigued when listening at higher volumes. I like being able to feel the punch of a mix instead of it getting mushed together after each kick drum. Sometimes I wonder what music would be like now days if it had a certification system like THX does for movies. I believe movies have to average at -20dbFS or thereabouts to get THX certified.

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I'd like to revive this thread by saying that I too do not think louder and more compressed is better, especially if it results in audible clipping and ear fatigue. Hell, there's even a few songs here in this very site that has more than a little too much clipping and compression, to go along with the songs that sound fine and the few that sound amazing.

I kinda hope the trend's somewhat reversing...there's this site called hdtracks.com that has some albums that sounded like crap on CD suddenly having a lot of dynamics on hi-res FLAC (ex: Megadeth's Th1rt33n, Dream Theater's A Dramatic Turn of Events, Skillet's Awake). At least I hope so.

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Depending on the song, louder is better.

Metal is always better when it is taken as loud as possible without clipping. When it clips it's just poop. If ANYTHING clips it is poop. But if you get the volume while not clipping, it's perfect. I don't BELIEVE in so-called "dynamics". If I am recording something and I choose to compress it hard, I'm doing it for a REASON. Either the so-called "dynamics" are not good in my eyes, or the sound is BETTER compressed.

SO THERE

I WILL WIN THE LOUDNESS WAR

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Not to change the course of the discussion, but since zircon brought it up-- anyone have any recommendations for how much compression to add to a solo classical/jazz recording to preserve the dynamic integrity without having it be way too soft? Or perhaps any good plugins for this? I'd like to revamp the audio to a lot of the things I've recorded lately, but I don't want to ruin anything I've done

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Not to change the course of the discussion, but since zircon brought it up-- anyone have any recommendations for how much compression to add to a solo classical/jazz recording to preserve the dynamic integrity without having it be way too soft? Or perhaps any good plugins for this? I'd like to revamp the audio to a lot of the things I've recorded lately, but I don't want to ruin anything I've done

Are you compressing an audio file or compressing a multi-track session? Might not have a ton of options if you're just compressing a wav yo

My only advice is to listen to it and get it to sound the way you want. Use a multi-band limiter

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Well, you're really just using a compressor + limiter as normal. You just have to do so delicately. My approach would be as follows:

1. Normalize the audio to 0.0 dB.

2. Using headphones, turn up the volume and listen to the quietest sections. Is there noise? Turn your headphones down to a normal listening level, and check again. Is there still noise? Is it problematic? If so, consider a plugin like iZotope RX to lower the noise floor.

3. Add a transparent limiter to the end of the FX chain. I like TLs Pocket Limiter, which is free.

4. Add a parametric EQ and transparent compressor (like The Glue), in that order, before the limiter.

5. Take out <30hz frequencies and perform any other necessary frequency balance changes with the EQ.

6. Use a gentle compression setting, like 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, 10-15ms attack, 300-500ms release. Try parallel compression (wet/dry mix) if available. Try a threshold of about -10 dB (that's 10 dB quieter than the loudest point in the song). Now, go to the louder sections (those above -10 dB) and listen to hear if the compression is creating undesirable artifacts. If not, then you're in good shape. Increase the compressor gain a bit which will bump up the overall volume of the track (quiet parts included). Tweak threshold + gain until you are at the point where your overall volume has gone up, and the louder parts are being compressed, but not unpleasantly.

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Depending on the song, louder is better.

Metal is always better when it is taken as loud as possible without clipping. When it clips it's just poop. If ANYTHING clips it is poop. But if you get the volume while not clipping, it's perfect. I don't BELIEVE in so-called "dynamics". If I am recording something and I choose to compress it hard, I'm doing it for a REASON. Either the so-called "dynamics" are not good in my eyes, or the sound is BETTER compressed.

SO THERE

I WILL WIN THE LOUDNESS WAR

I can't really listen through metal records these days without getting ear fatigue rather quickly, and that's usually with the volume set pretty low. If you had an un-squashed version of a modern metal song where you'd actually take the time to adjust the volume knob to have equal overall loudness as the compressed version, it would sound infinitely better and be oh-so-much more pleasing to the ears. Metal is a genre that should invite the listener to play it louder, not the other way around.

If you want a good fairly modern example of just how much dynamics can add, listen to Infected Mushroom's Converting Vegetarians album loudly through a good sound system.

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I can't really listen through metal records these days without getting ear fatigue rather quickly, and that's usually with the volume set pretty low. If you had an un-squashed version of a modern metal song where you'd actually take the time to adjust the volume knob to have equal overall loudness as the compressed version, it would sound infinitely better and be oh-so-much more pleasing to the ears. Metal is a genre that should invite the listener to play it louder, not the other way around.

If you want a good fairly modern example of just how much dynamics can add, listen to Infected Mushroom's Converting Vegetarians album loudly through a good sound system.

You can get ear fatigue from pretty much any genre of music that you aren't familiar with, loudness probably plays a very very small role in this

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You can get ear fatigue from pretty much any genre of music that you aren't familiar with, loudness probably plays a very very small role in this

Familiarity has little, to nothing, to do with ear fatigue. Whether you know the music or not has no bearing on how it was produced/mastered, or how loud you'll have the volume for an entire album.

Music that's been produced at brick walling levels causes ear fatigue considerably faster, because everything is constantly at maximum loudness through each song. It's a wall of sound assaulting your ears, with little in the way of time for your ears to get a rest during each song (rest that's naturally provided in many songs with "normal" dynamics). Even when you turn the volume down on a brick walled track, there's no "quiet" in the music anymore... just "loud" with everything being compressed, limited, gated, and otherwise squashed into a near solid waveform bar that looks more like a health bar from a video game, rather than an actual waveform representation.

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Music is a subjective phenomenon. I don't understand why we continuously have these silly arguments that never lead anywhere. These arguments tend to turn "music" into an absolute which totally ruins what "it" "is".

My concern comes from how certain forms of music shapes our behavior or our feelings and thoughts...

/My two cents for what it's worth

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Music is a subjective phenomenon. I don't understand why we continuously have these silly arguments that never lead anywhere. These arguments tend to turn "music" into an absolute which totally ruins what "it" "is".

My concern comes from how certain forms of music shapes our behavior or our feelings and thoughts...

/My two cents for what it's worth

It's not silly at all (IMHO of course). If you don't talk about music, you don't learn how other people see it, and you stay within your own mental bubble (kind of like elected Republicans). To me, it's always good to hear other peoples' thoughts about the subject, as it helps you see music from their perspective a little better, and get more of an appreciation of why this or that style/mixing technique/recording technique/etc. appeals to them for their music, or the music they listen to. Sure, it might lead to bickering from time to time, but art's like that no matter which medium you discuss.

And really, I don't think this is a discussion about what music is, but rather, how each of us prefers to mix/master their music (and hear it mixed/mastered). And even if you don't agree with their reasonings or techniques, it's still nice to hear about how others approach their music.

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