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Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

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YouTube loudness normalisation – The Good, The Questions and The Problem

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youtube loudness
 
So, yesterday was the big headline:

YouTube just put the final nail in the Loudness War’s coffin

And the news has had a fantastic, positive response from almost everyone.

But there’s a problem, as I mentioned.

And I’ll get to that in a minute.
 

Before we start

First, I should be clear that everything here is based on research and speculation. As far as I know, there has been no official word from YouTube about normalisation at all. Which means…
 

This is a moving (dynamic ?) target

Some of what I say here will probably be wrong, or go out of date really fast. But for now, here’s what (I think) we know.

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YouTube just put the final nail in the Loudness War’s coffin

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youtube-loudness
 
This is HUGE.

It may not look like much, but if you’re involved in music production, recording, mixing or mastering, this image could be the most important thing you’ll see all year.
 

What is it ?

It’s the loudness output of a YouTube playlist, as measured by the MeterPlugs LCast loudness meter.
 

So what ?

First – it’s quiet. The loudness levels are all quite low, especially by modern “loudness war” standards.

Second – it’s very consistent. More importantly than the low loudness, they’re almost all playing at the same loudness.
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Even Skrillex sounds better with more dynamics ! (And even on mobile phones)

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I got into trouble with a few people a while back for this post:

Why your EDM will sound better with more dynamics – and 6 places to find them

They said:

  1. I didn’t know what EDM was, and
  2. I was wrong – EDM needs that crushed, “loudness war sound” – that’s it’s an essential part of the genre

So, here are my replies to those criticisms.

  1. Bite me
  2. Watch the video above – unless you think Skrillex isn’t EDM, that is…

And then bite me.

Any questions ?


(By the way, the most excellent Matthew Weiss from the Pro Audio Files has just released a new video pack, called Mixing EDM – to find out more, click here.)

Update

This video has been getting a great reaction, but people have also raised a couple of valid points.

First – the sound effects make it hard to hear exactly what’s going on, and might contribute to the more spacious sound of the video

Second – several people think the iTunes version actually sounds better on the small speakers of smartphones, iPads etc !

So, I made another video, to address those points head on.

And here it is.





Short version – translation to mobile devices is NOT a valid reason for “loudness war crush”.

Nothing is.

Discover the dangerous, destructive, delicate delights of distortion

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I love distortion.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

Now that might surprise you, coming from the founder of Dynamic Range Day, but it’s true. Some of my favourite songs simply wouldn’t exist without it – like the sublime example in the video above, for example !

Distortion has been an integral part of the sound of recorded popular music since the very beginning, and it always will be.

And I love it.

So how can this be true ?

How can someone who bitches almost daily about the squashed-flat, distorted sounds of most modern releases, someone who has developed a plugin specifically to make sure people can hear exactly how much damage the Loudness War Sound is doing to their music – how can I claim to love distortion ?

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Did they REALLY just auto-tune Aretha ? SERIOUSLY ?

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OK, before we start, I need to get something straight.

Aretha Franklin is a legend, one of the greatest singers of all time, and if she chooses to sing through a kazoo whilst breathing helium, that’s fine with me.

Seriously, you just don’t argue with talent like that.

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Ian Shepherd


BBC Radio 4 Interview

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Ian Shepherd from Production Advice discusses the Loudness Wars

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