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The Loudness Wars: Where Are We Now?

A deep dive into the ongoing battle against dynamic compression.








The Occasional Podcast: Now on iTunes!You may have heard the term “loudness wars” more than a few times over the past 20 years or so. The idea of pushing music in a recorded format to perform at a higher average volume by limiting its peaks and valleys has actually been around for much longer. In this episode of The Occasional Podcast, Mastering Engineer Dave McNair once again takes us on a historical journey though the production ether. This time the subject is ongoing battle against dynamic limiting and why the war continues, even with audiophile pleas for a compression-free process.

There has always been a need to standout or create more “sensation” around individual tracks within the confines of the music industry. But where and when do these tactics start to negatively effect the music? And more importantly, will the industry ever heed the call to avoid these convenient pitfalls? Dave’s extensive experience in music production provides some much-needed insights, as does fellow interviewee Grover Neville. The duo provide an interesting duality of analog and digital, Dave being vastly familiar with the former, and Grover having been born straight into a more complete picture of the digital “golden age” of production. For another peek into how Dave’s audio brain works, you should also check out his recent piece on audiophile terminology: HiFi – What Does It Sound Like?

The Loudness Wars show this week with Dave McNair and Grover Neville drives us further into our education series in Season 4. Season three was a memorable one, seeing interviews with such audio legends as Jeff Joseph, Bill Dudleston, Nelson Pass and most recently Rob Watts. We had an amazing response from our last show with Dave exploring all things Mastering and if you haven’t checked out our beginners guide to reel-to-reel playback, it’s definitely worth a listen.

You can stream it all direct from the embed below or subscribe to The Occasional Podcast on your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, AndroidGoogle, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.

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About Brian Hunter (51 Articles)
Brian Hunter is the host of The Occasional Podcast by Part-Time Audiophile and the founder of Audio-Head.com.

2 Comments on The Loudness Wars: Where Are We Now?

  1. The loudness war was a foreseeable and unfortunate effect of going digital. As I worked with Takeaki Anazawa, the genius behind the first PCM digital recorder he noted that the almost eliminated noise floor and increased dynamic range could be used in both ways to not only allow full dynamics but more simply to record louder. As initial exposure to louder often marks preference and suits the desire of many music producers for attention this practice clearly was adopted. It is also true as Anazawa commented that it would take decades to alter the recording practices used to fully deploy and appreciate what digital could do. Now we quickly saw the first, but happily are now seeing the results of learning. I think we will see “loud” remain, but perhaps with more balance to full dynamics

  2. Bob Wilson // July 14, 2020 at 10:15 AM //

    Your columns always effect me deeply.

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