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Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

make your music sound great

It’s a kind of magic
- Or: It’s not about the f****** format !

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needle_groove


OK, enough is enough.

I’ve made various videos over the last few years comparing vinyl and digital releases of different albums – because sometimes vinyl is mastered with more dynamics than the digital formats, which is something I care about.

But I always try to avoid passing comment on the actual formats themselves – CD versus vinyl, analogue versus digital – because I feel these discussions are actually red herrings. They’re distractions from the real issues of what makes our music sound great.

But inevitably in the comments of these posts and videos, someone will eventually jump in with the timeless old chestnut:

‘Digital can never sound as good as analogue’

Now this is a popular belief these days, but the fact is there’s no theoretical reason to believe it’s true – correctly implemented digital audio can exactly reproduce any analogue audio signal with complete accuracy.

But when say that, there’s always someone who says something like “people who listen to CD are missing out on the emotional experience. I don’t expect you to understand, but I know it’s true”.

To which my response is – how dare you ?!

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

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spoons

UPDATE – Disclaimer / Rant: When I say “EDM” in this post, I mean in the “old-school” way of – what, a whole couple of years ago ? Back when EDM was a broad term meaning pretty much any kind of dance music – trance, techno, dubstep, house, electro, electronica (whatever that is) etc etc etc.

Since posting this yesterday I’ve taken all kinds of criticism from people either offended that I’m lumping their favourite underground sub-genre of dance in with ‘trashy, commercial, mainstream pap’ – or sniggering because I they think I don’t know what EDM really means or that I can’t really like dance music if I think those songs are EDM.

Well, I have news for the critics – it doesn’t matter.

The comments in this post apply equally to any genre of dance, regardless of your opinion of it’s artistic merit, or whether it was released after 2012 or not.

Is the current “mainstream pop” version of EDM typically far more crushed than the all-time classics ? Yes. Does that mean it “needs” to sound that way ? No. Don’t believe me ? Read on.

Oh – and for all the people saying ‘you don’t understand, it HAS to be loud for the clubs’… keep an eye out for the follow-up to this post.

Now, where was I ? Oh yes…


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Daft Punk win 2014 Grammy for Great Sound

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Daft Punk won no less than five Grammy Awards last night, including Record Of The Year for “Get Lucky”) and Album Of The Year for “Random Access Memories”.

One of these five awards was for Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) – and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I think this factor was a crucial part of the mix. [Boom, tish!]

It’s easy to think that the sound of a record is almost irrelevant to it’s success – after all, it’s the song, performance and artist that sells records. Most people listen to music on laptop speakers, mobile phones and iPod earbuds, these days – no-one can hear sound quality on those, right ?

Looking at it another way, one of the most obvious ways to judge “quality” in the 21st Century is “loudness”, and since research shows that loudness has no effect on sales, one way the other, it stands to reason that other more subtle factors in the sound make even less difference, right ?

Well, maybe – but maybe not.
 
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UK Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves – Dynamically !

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Bob Katz recently announced that the Loudness War has been won. But is he right ?

Well, based on recent releases by a slew of UK female artists – maybe !

The YouTube video above of Lily Allen’s new single “Hard Out Here” sounds great and measures a respectable DR9 on the TT Meter, following the same trend as two of the year’s biggest hits, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky“.

(Plus the satisfyingly rude and on-point video and lyrics for “Hard Out Here” are especially pleasing if you share my reservations about “Blurred Lines”…)

And Lily’s not alone.

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Abandon normal instruments: How to start making music from NOTHING – Today

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There’s a recurring theme on this site:

It ain’t what you use, its the way that you use it.

Watch the video above, and then tell me you don’t agree – I dare you.

We spend so much of our time lusting after bits of gear, the next new “must-have” plugin, a new guitar or a better amp… and it’s all nonsense.

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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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