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Loudness Wars


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For the past couple of years these been a growing tendency of record producers to mix the music LOUDER on CD, because louder is better.

Unfortunatly this has also spread to the world of soundtracks.

Please list the scores you think have been mixed to loud.

Here are my 2 examples:

Lair (John Debney)

Not only is it only (legally) available via iTunes, but those compressed AAC files are mixed far to loud. Even when listening to them on an iPod, they already have massive clipping.

Quantum Of Solace (David Arnold)

A really fine score, but mixed to an inch of it's live so that even the softer parts sound rather loud.

Listening to it at full blast can become a bear wearing, since there is not a lot of eb and flow in the volume.

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Yep, I too find despicable the common practice of mastering everything at a very high volume. It becomes quite annoying in orchestral/symphonic music, because it takes away much of the dynamic range. In a period when people listen to music mainly in compressed audio formats through earphones and/or portable gears, that's the result.

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Quantum Of Solace (David Arnold)

A really fine score, but mixed to an inch of it's live so that even the softer parts sound rather loud.

Listening to it at full blast can become a bear wearing, since there is not a lot of eb and flow in the volume.

Arnold's scores usually get very loud mix, but I don't have that much problem with QoS (except for, perhaps, climaxes of the action cues), but with Casino Royale, where softer parts tend to be almost inaudible while action cues blare.

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Yep, radio and MP3 players are to blame. Everyone is doing it so you can't stay behind. If it says, "newly remastered", it's often better to buy the older version.

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I've noticed the same thing with scores these days Steef. A lot of them mixed too loud where they are actually clipped too. I think it has only happened in the last few years though, at least from 2003 onward.

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On the other side, you've got a lot of older scores, particularly Horner's which are mixed waaay too low. Deep Impact for example - I have to adjust the volume level during some tracks.

But it's true, a lot of music these days has a very loud and manufactured sound, and I've seen that familiar 'block' look in a wav editor where it's completely uniform and within an inch of clipping. The first Doctor Who CD is particularly guilty of this given that the first season was synth - the opening and closing tracks will deafen you if you're not vigilant.

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For the past couple of years these been a growing tendency of record producers to mix the music LOUDER on CD, because louder is better.

Unfortunatly this has also spread to the world of soundtracks.

Please list the scores you think have been mixed to loud.

Here are my 2 examples:

Lair (John Debney)

Not only is it only (legally) available via iTunes, but those compressed AAC files are mixed far to loud. Even when listening to them on an iPod, they already have massive clipping.

Quantum Of Solace (David Arnold)

A really fine score, but mixed to an inch of it's live so that even the softer parts sound rather loud.

Listening to it at full blast can become a bear wearing, since there is not a lot of eb and flow in the volume.

The last 4 Bond scores by Arnold have been mixed too loud.

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Actually I did notice The Phantom Menace Ultimate Edition is really guilty of this too so it's not just limited from 2003 onward as I stated before. Oh and looking at tracks from FSM's Star Trek II in Cool Edit Pro early this morning some cues came dangerously close to this, even clipping but I know that FSM wouldn't let their CD's become way too loud.

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On the other side, you've got a lot of older scores, particularly Horner's which are mixed waaay too low. Deep Impact for example - I have to adjust the volume level during some tracks.

Then it's not mixed too low (otherwise you'd just have to turn up the volume for all tracks) but with too much (for your taste) dynamics.

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Actually I did notice The Phantom Menace Ultimate Edition is really guilty of this too...

It is, but it sounds so crisp and clear, much moreso than Shawn Murphy's mud. The Concord Indy releases are like that too I think, regardless of the pitch problems in Raiders and ToD.

Murray Gold's Doctor Who CDs are mixed very loudly too, as are all the Final Fantasy OSTs I have.

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I don't have a set volume that I use for an entire CD. Most of the time I change it multiple times throughout just one cue. So if CDs are really being mixed too loud, I just turn the volume down and don't notice it.

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I don't have a set volume that I use for an entire CD. Most of the time I change it multiple times throughout just one cue. So if CDs are really being mixed too loud, I just turn the volume down and don't notice it.

That's not what this is about. Ideally, a CD would be mixed as loud as possible without clipping, because that way you loose the least information from the analogue source. But this thread is about CDs which are mixed so loud that the loud bits are clipped. Turning down the volume will not make that sound any better.

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I don't have a set volume that I use for an entire CD. Most of the time I change it multiple times throughout just one cue. So if CDs are really being mixed too loud, I just turn the volume down and don't notice it.

That's not what this is about. Ideally, a CD would be mixed as loud as possible without clipping, because that way you loose the least information from the analogue source. But this thread is about CDs which are mixed so loud that the loud bits are clipped. Turning down the volume will not make that sound any better.

There could be another reason for that. Sometimes CDs are being mastered with their loudest peaks at '0 dB'. Some amplifiers are sensitive to that and so distortion might occur each time such a peak is reached. Therefore it's better to master the CD at '- 0,3 dB'. Of course, this is a little less louder than '0 dB' and might mean that the competition will sound better. After all, louder is better, right?!

Alex

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I have posted this link as News in the Game Developers group on LinkedIn. I hope some of them get the message. They seem to go by their very first impression when accepting assets. They say "too quiet" or "too much range" because they are comparing to other overly compressed stuff. Of course, only listening for a moment.

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Can't you just normalize the CD when you rip it?

This is a different issue altogether. Look at the video and look how the peaks get flattened. The music was already normalized, so this is like normalizing beyond 100 percent, and whatever was at 100 percent is basically obliterated to the same level as 90 percent.

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That being said, I'll reiterate my problems with a lot of Leonard Bernstein's recordings. He falls into the opposite extreme, where the difference between high and low is so vast, you can barely hear the softer passages if you keep the CD at a volume where the peaks won't deafen you. This pisses me off because he really is a sweet conductor.

Then again, maybe I'm just a product of these normalised days.

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I like dynamic recordings. They can be hard to listen to in a non-quiet environment, but music should be recorded for what it is, not for the suboptimal situations in which it is sometimes listened to (i.e., not like so much pop music optimised for the cheapest radio speakers). "ppp" and "fff" were invented for a reason. :)

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I like dynamic recordings. They can be hard to listen to in a non-quiet environment, but music should be recorded for what it is, not for the suboptimal situations in which it is sometimes listened to (i.e., not like so much pop music optimised for the cheapest radio speakers). "ppp" and "fff" were invented for a reason. :)

Well said!!! good hi fi will always be able to cope with anything thrown at it.

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I'm starting to work on redoing my Original Trilogy scores. I opened up "Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner" from the RCA set (since that's all I have along with the Anthology) and I noticed too that score really flirts with being too loud. Actually I think all of the RCA Star Wars scores are like that if memory serves.

The Matrix Revolutions also sounds like it was recorded by an axe murderer.

Everything is so damn sound, even the background instruments.

I noticed that with the official OST release. The Matrix Reloaded is also like that as well, look at the cue "Burly Brawl" in an editing program and look how extremely loud that sucker is.

All though I don't think the complete scores have it that way for either score.

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AOTC is too soft and in general, it just doesn't sound very good. Lots of hiss and the recording/mix makes the LSO sound subdued. I'm no audiophile, but TPM UE completely destroys it as a listening experience.

The UE is probably too loud, but it sounds completely gorgeous. It gets a pass.

ROTS is too loud and I'll also add that the recording/mix is weird like AOTC. The percussion sounds horrible.

Home Alone 2 Deluxe is really loud. The SW SE's are loud. The Indy Collection is too loud. It becomes totally apparent if I'm doing a marathon and shift from 1995 ROTLA to Concord TOD. WAY too friggin' loud.

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AOTC is too soft and in general, it just doesn't sound very good. Lots of hiss and the recording/mix makes the LSO sound subdued. I'm no audiophile, but TPM UE completely destroys it as a listening experience.

Yes the AOTC CD definitely has a soft mix like the TPM OST. I too have noticed the hissing for it, strangely enough though a lot of the OST material that has appeared in Battlefront 2 and a few other games doesn't seem to have the hiss problem. There's been speculation on this board that the hiss was added for some sort of copy right protection or some stupid shit like that.

The UE is probably too loud, but it sounds completely gorgeous. It gets a pass.

It almost is too loud, but as you said the sound quality is great and it's a slider.

ROTS is too loud and I'll also add that the recording/mix is weird like AOTC. The percussion sounds horrible.

I don't think the ROTS album is that loud....however the percussion does indeed suck. The film version mixes that appear through the games though sound better than the OST in my opinion.

Home Alone 2 Deluxe is really loud. The SW SE's are loud. The Indy Collection is too loud. It becomes totally apparent if I'm doing a marathon and shift from 1995 ROTLA to Concord TOD. WAY too friggin' loud.

Definitely agree with you there especially the Indiana Jones collection. I also noticed distortion in quite a few of the cues for that set when listening to it.

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Don't forget, except for The Crystal Skull, The Indy Collection also sounds way too bright. It's one of the worst remaster jobs that I know of. Good remastering sounds subtle (to the point that you don't notice it) and has respect for the original recording/master. This is clearly not the case here.

Alex

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Don't forget, except for The Crystal Skull, The Indy Collection also sounds way too bright. It's one of the worst remaster jobs that I know of. Good remastering sounds subtle (to the point that you don't notice it) and has respect for the original recording/master. This is clearly not the case here.

Alex

I didn't notice it so it's fine with me.

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I didn't notice it so it's fine with me.

You hear no difference? Normally, when the engineer exaggerates during the remastering (much louder and much brighter), most people do hear it right away. Usually the first reaction is, "Wow, what a difference, this sounds much better", because "louder" and "brighter" seem very attractive at first. It's only after a while that you realize that the sound has actually been fucked up. The most important rule for good remastering is that when you hear a clear difference between A (the original) and B (the remaster), you're doing something wrong.

Alex

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I didn't notice it so it's fine with me.

You hear no difference? Normally, when the engineer exaggerates during the remastering (much louder and much brighter), most people do hear it right away. Usually the first reaction is, "Wow, what a difference, this sounds much better", because "louder" and "brighter" seem very attractive at first. It's only after a while that you realize that the sound has actually been fucked up. The most important rule for good remastering is that when you hear a clear difference between A (the original) and B (the remaster), you're doing something wrong.

Alex

No, no difference. I hear differences in the mix, but that's about it. Of course, I haven't relentlessly compared it through sinewaves with the original albums, and I don't have a frame of reference outside the compressed film soundtrack for the unreleased sections, but it sounds great to me.

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No, no difference. I hear differences in the mix, but that's about it. Of course, I haven't relentlessly compared it through sinewaves with the original albums, and I don't have a frame of reference outside the compressed film soundtrack for the unreleased sections, but it sounds great to me.

Well, then you must be the only one who doesn't hear a difference. Everybody else is raving about the difference in quality. Why are so many people raving about it? Because they fucked it up. Louder and brighter are not better but they do make it sound different.

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No, no difference. I hear differences in the mix, but that's about it. Of course, I haven't relentlessly compared it through sinewaves with the original albums, and I don't have a frame of reference outside the compressed film soundtrack for the unreleased sections, but it sounds great to me.

Well, then you must be the only one who doesn't hear a difference. Everybody else is raving about the difference in quality. Why are so many people raving about it? Because they fucked it up. Louder and brighter are not better but they do make it sound different.

Everybody else? What, three people? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember everyone crowing at the remastering when the set came out. In any case, I don't hear it. I'm not saying it's not there, but it's not a problem for me.

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Everybody else? What, three people? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember everyone crowing at the remastering when the set came out. In any case, I don't hear it. I'm not saying it's not there, but it's not a problem for me.

No, not just three people, everybody, plus all the reviews. Everybody got turned on about the vast sound 'improvement'.

Alex

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Don't forget, except for The Crystal Skull, The Indy Collection also sounds way too bright. It's one of the worst remaster jobs that I know of. Good remastering sounds subtle (to the point that you don't notice it) and has respect for the original recording/master. This is clearly not the case here.

Alex

That's very true, I almost forgot about that.

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For anyone who thinks the remastering of Raiders sounds remotely natural, just listen to the snare drums at the end of "Washington Ending & The Raiders March." However, I didn't notice this problem with Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. The mixes sound very similar to the original album versions. And to be clear, this problem doesn't pervade every track from Raiders. It's only those that weren't sourced from the original album masters. Anything that came from the complete score tapes sounds awful. My guess is that the tapes had become badly degraded, so Concord applied some very clumsy EQing to give the illusion of clarity and brightness.

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One thing I noticed while working on redoing my Star Wars Original Trilogy scores, they really amped up the cues big time almost to the point of clipping. I have been able to match the levels of the RCA material with the Anthology since that always seemed for the most part to be perfect. All though for a few cues on that I had to amp up because they were too low.

Oh and I noticed too that upon the crappy mixing job they did for the score they artificially made the score sound brighter. I was able to undo that and match very closely to the Anthology material, which is I would say 98% close. It's close enough for me.

I also wish Risner would NOT have remixed some stuff for Empire. His mixing has thrown a lot of crap off when trying to join it with the Anthology material. With some tinkering I was able get a close approximation from the RCA material to the Anthology material.

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There's also the matter of 'noise'. One of the most terrible side effects of 'brickwall limiting' is 'noise'. By decreasing the dynamics, you are pushing up the lowest volumes, which means you're also boosting up the noise level . Because of the noise, the loss of dynamics and unnatural tone balance, I find it virtually impossible to listen to the Indy Collection.

Alex

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You are probably referring to the click track, which is a tool that film conductors use to help synchronize the music to the picture. Given how complex that scene was in terms of sync points, I am not surprised that it is there.

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I like dynamic recordings. They can be hard to listen to in a non-quiet environment, but music should be recorded for what it is, not for the suboptimal situations in which it is sometimes listened to (i.e., not like so much pop music optimised for the cheapest radio speakers). "ppp" and "fff" were invented for a reason. :blink:

Maybe it's just me, but I'm listening to his West Side Story recording and I do think it falls to an extreme. The loud parts are annoyingly loud, but if you turn the volume down, you won't hear the softer ones.

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I'm not sure about those Bernstein recordings. Most natural performances of music, even with ppp and fff dynamics, don't vary so wildly. I believe it has to do with the recording space. Only a massive hall, with all its reverberation, and distant miking, could do that to a recording.

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You are probably referring to the click track, which is a tool that film conductors use to help synchronize the music to the picture. Given how complex that scene was in terms of sync points, I am not surprised that it is there.

That's all very well, but it doesn't explain the tapping on the Main Title of "The Towering Inferno"...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Spic and span no doubt, and completely soulless.

If that's true, the normal CDs will become very sought-after. OTOH, the new ones will probably be louder and therefore deemed better.

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