Loudness from the Audiophile point of view

Bob Katz Leave a Comment

From: smonster

Hi Bob,
I’m on a mailing list of Sonic Solution’s
receptionist Ann Peters’ and read your missive on the perils of compression.
I’m the chief engineer for a high-fidelity reissue label. I wish I had a
nickel for every time I get a phone call from an uneducated (dynamically
challenged?) customer complaining that our discs seem “quieter” than other
cd’s in their changer. I explain that we don’t use compression or limiting
in our transfers, and the concept of dynamic range. Most people seem to get
the picture, and vow to listen at home to see if music is more engaging when
there’s real dynamics involved.

BTW, I agree that most transports (especially
in the car) should have a compressor button for noisy environments.

I would, however, like to point out that
sometimes-on certain rock recordings-the “crunch” of a buss compressor can
add a certain tonality.

For the most part, though, especially the
“greatest hits” packages are so compressed that there is no front-to-back
depth left whatsoever. Audiophiles recognize how much more “open” our mixes
are, and can perceive detail and dimensionality around the instrumentation.

My 2nd engineer/product development guy and
I just burned some 96kHz/24 bit DVD-R’s to bring to the CES show, and they
were most enthusiatically received. I still have some issues about replication
before we release these as an actual product, though.

Sure would like to meet you some time; I
respect your work, and the website is an invaluable source of info. Thanks
for fighting the good fight.

Shawnster the Monster

Many thanks for your fine comments. We mastering engineers wrestle with this compromise (if it is one) all the time. CD changers are a real drag. People are getting lazy with their volume controls. When a project comes in where sound quality is very important,
I tend to master it “less hot” than something that will be placed with more
“pop” material. I’ve mastered several CDs for a producer. The last project
was an 8 piece jazz band that was recorded with superb 24-bit equipment.
The previous project was a pop- singer, 16-bit, and the quality was good,
but not even close to the transparency of the jazz band. I was not able to
preserve the sound quality of the jazz band and give the producer the same
loudness level as the solo singer’s project. I had to reduce the loudness
about 3 dB. The producer was astounded at the quality reduction when I raised
the loudness of the jazz band material.

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