Two interesting bits I saw online, posted for your enjoyment:
1. The Dark Art of Mastering Music, a neat article on the subtle art of mastering an album, and, linked from that article, you’ll find:
2. Sequential alternating of a song from Metallica’s Death Magnetic track, “That Was Just Your Life,” as released on CD and from elements released for Guitar Hero. To my mind, this comparison actually makes the CD version sound less out of control (and relatively less bad), by not levels matching the vocals against each other. But even this way, you can see how the Loudness War mastering makes everything kind of horrible once you get past the instinctive “loudness is better” first impression.
I mean seriously, look at this. DYNAMIC RANGE WHAT IS DYNAMIC RANGE?
Honestly, what a mess. The CD version of the waveform looks like a sausage. I’ve told the mastering engineers I’ve worked with: don’t do this, I don’t want it. And while I do tend to mix loud (particularly on ragier tracks like Pee Police) I simply do not play this game.
I’m hoping the slow decline of the earbud (and the rise of over-the-ear bluetooth headsets) will bring this – the Loudness War – to an end.
It may only mean something to the music wonks reading, but I don’t even run a compressor on the master bus. I do run a look-ahead limiter, to prevent the occasional spikes – which can result from my lack of over-reliance on compression – from clipping, but that’s a completely different animal. If it’s kicking in enough to notice it doing so, I consider myself to have screwed up the mix and go back and fix it.
But what do I know, they’re the ones actually making a living at this – somehow – while I’m all here with my day job. XD