Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

make your music sound great

The Distortion Of Sound documentary: fair comment, misleading over-simplification – or worse ?

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I’m not sure my feelings could be more mixed.

When people first sent me the trailer for a new documentary called The Distortion Of Sound, I was intrigued. Big names, high production standards, and a topic I care about.

But I immediately thought:

“I hope they don’t muddle up the two different types of compression – lossy (mp3) compression and dynamic (loudness war) compression”

Well, now I’ve seen the full documentary, and – they did.


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Longplayer for Voices – how to write music that lasts for millennia

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So, how long is the longest piece of music you’ve ever written ?

5 minutes ?

7 minutes ?

Maybe, if you’re Partial To A Little Prog like me, a 40-minute concept album ?

Or if you write classical music, you might have written something that takes several hours to perform.

But how would you feel about writing a piece of music that lasts a thousand years ?

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

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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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Building a Home Mastering Studio – Part 1

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It’s probably the thing I get asked about most.

What are the requirements for a mastering studio ? Is it realistic to set one up at home ? What acoustic treatment should you have, what monitors should you use, how to place them, whether to use a sub, what gear you need…

Well right now I’m building my own home studio, and to try and answer some of these questions I thought I’d share the process with you.

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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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Ian Shepherd

BBC Radio 4 Interview

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Ian Shepherd from Production Advice discusses the Loudness Wars