The record labels want their music to stand out, i.e be louder than others. They do it by compressing the dynamics of the music. It is called “The Loudness War”.
I stumbled upon BBC Sound of 2009 winner Little Boots on the BBC web site some month ago. I downloaded two BBC videos (MPEG4 and AAC 128 Kbit soundtrack) with live performance of “Meddle” and “Stuck on repeat”. Very good and interesting music!
I took the soundtracks from the videos and listen to them a lot. The sound quality was surprisingly good, the BBC has people who knows what they are doing. I was looking forward to Little Boots first album.
A couple of weeks ago I bought the album “Hands” and it’s quite good but I’m sorry to say that it sounds like crap. “Meddle” and “Stuck on repeat” are on the album but sounds nothing like the nice BBC recordings.
The most frustrating is that I’m sure the masters for the album sounds really good. It’s later in the production process that the music get compressed in to noise. So there are good sounding versions of all her songs out there but I can not buy them!
The record labels believe piracy is the reason for falling music sales. I believe a big part is that the Loudness War makes music in to noise.
Take a look at the images here. The first show the BBC version of “Meddle” and the second the version from the album “Hands”.
The BBC version has a lot of dynamics, it sounds like music. The other version has very little dynamics, everything sounds equally loud, the whole time. All the songs on the album looks like this.
And what is music, if not light and shade? Music without dynamic contrast is merely noise, something to be endured as background, not sought out as a destination activity. – John Atkinson Stereophile
Could not agree more! Newly released music is increasingly anti Hi-Fi. Instead of wanting to listen to a new album again and again I turn it off after a few songs, my ears are exhausted.
I had a similar experience with Duffys album “Rockaferry”. Nice music, crappy sound.
Turn Me Up! is a campaign site for “Bringing Dynamics Back To Music”.
Here follow some other good articles about this problem:
- YouTube - Curmudgeon by Nirvana (1992 vs. 2004) - The Loudness War
- Over the Limit
- Loudness War - Louder is better? Why CDs are reduced in dynamics
- Stereophile: Overcooked Floyd
- Stereophile: Dynamics & Dynamic Range
Updated: 20 July 2012
Created: 20 June 2009