It’s almost time for Dynamic Range Day again, and as usual I’m getting some questions.
One of the most common is – “So you say you’re against the Loudness Wars, but you give an award to albums that measure only DR8 – why don’t you ask for more dynamics than that ?”
In other words, shouldn’t we be campaigning for far more dynamic range, for higher DR values – DR14, say, like the Pleasurize Music campaign ?
I wrote an answer to this a while ago in a post called It’s not about the numbers, but here I want to take a different approach, using… more numbers.
The limitations of the TT Meter
The image above shows the loudness values of Steven Wilson’s awesome new album “The Raven That Refused To Sing“. As you can see, it’s very dynamic – the loud sections are “loud”, with a crest factor of only 8dB or so, but there’s still plenty of variety and contrast throughout.
But it only measures as DR9. That’s only one dB off the DR8 minimum we recommend. So how can the album be as great dynamically as I say it is ?
The answer lies in the limitations of the “DR” value as calculated by the Offline TT Meter.
Remember this sequence from the Matrix ? “There is no spoon”.
Well recently I’m hearing people talk more and more about “resolution” in digital audio, and I’m here to tell you -
There is no resolution.
It’s a red herring – an idea-virus left over from the earliest days of digital audio, perpetuated by gear manufacturers to try and sell us more kit we don’t need. Here’s why.
It all starts with the myth:
“Digital can never sound as good as analogue”
This statement simply isn’t true, but it doesn’t stop people repeating it like some kind of mantra. The reasons they give usually hang on the fact that digital audio samples the audio – “freezing” it at regular moments in time – and claiming that it can therefore never sound as smooth and continuous as the original analogue signal.
You can see it for yourself, they say. Zoom in far enough on a digital waveform and eventually you can see the blocky, grainy, digital “stair-steps” – so it stands to reason that you can hear them, if your hearing and equipment is good enough, right ?
There are now so many ways to measure your music these days, it’s not surprising that one of the most common questions I get asked these days is
What do all these acronyms mean ?
In particular, people want to know about the new “ITU-based” loudness meters, which use mysterious new “Loudness Units” – LU for short, or LUFS to be more technical. Especially as mainstream software like Cubase 7 and Ozone Insight begin adding support for them.
You know they’re important, you know that meters using the new system are appearing in more and more places – but how do you know what they mean ?
Well the good news is, it’s not as complicated as it seems. There’s a pretty simple relationship between the new LUFS measurements and the loudness measurements we’re used to, like the TT Dynamic Range Meter’s DR value, or good old RMS average levels.
I first came across him way back in the early days of the Mastering Engineer’s Webboard(*) where he sparked a minor controversy by refusing to give his real name and credentials – in fact I remember things got pretty heated when he got into an argument about whether it was possible to get “big” sounding mixes using a DAW called Alsihad. (Never heard of Alsihad ? You need to find out about Mixerman – read on !)
(*) I was about to type ‘RIP’ because last time I checked the Webboard was offline, but it seems that it’s back ! That’s great news, there’s masses of information there, check it out.