The Loudness War: Why Your CD's Sound Quality Sucks

I stopped buying CDs because, besides them being outrageously expensive, I found they sounded flatter than ever - I thought it was my hearing (which may still be) but it turns out there's an alternative explanation.

If you ever wonder why your CD sound quality has progressively gotten worse, you can probably blame the music industry's penchant for loudness.

In a term dubbed the "loudness war," artists and producers have been recording CDs and DVDs at louder and louder settings (in effort to sound louder than competing artists or record labels). This is done at the expense of the dynamic range, which makes soft sound just as loud as loud sounds.

Link [wikipedia] - via Ladyfingers Hates

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Dire Straits fan,

(I like them too, BTW). I am a big audiophile, and I own several pairs of $200+ headphones. The loudness war has driven me insane. There are a few fixes I know of, neither of which is cost effective or easy:

1. Buy older, un-re-mastered versions of your favorite CDs. Like you, I also own "Brothers in Arms," but mine is the non-re-mastered version. It might have some tape hiss in it (or other studio-induced limitations), but at least it doesn't sound terrible when things get loud.

2. Go vinyl. This is pricey, but a decent turntable is surprisingly cheap - about $100 or so. People are starting to go back to vinyl these days for two reasons: the artwork, and/or to avoid the loudness war. The turntable technology has come a long way since I was a kid in the 70s - I never hear scratching anymore (plus I take care of my records). Many turntables, like those from Sony, come with built-in rippers to transform your vinyls to lossless or lossy computer files.

If anybody else knows of any way around this, please post it!
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JamesM is right, but I would like to add to it.. along with the whole remastering thing-- not only are they compressing the audio, but when you remaster something, you do not have the original tracks that layered into the mix, so you can't adjust their individual volume. as a producer myself, the most important part of my job is to make all the levels mix well, so no one is higher than the other. this is especially important when putting together commercials and promos. but music is the same thing, only you're TRYING to emphasize certain levels to get the dynamics of the music and the sound of the band itself. when you remaster it, you take away the dynamics in the sound and make everything a little more flat. that's why older music on vinyl was so much better, because they didn't do individual track processing. now they DO individual track processing, making the sound a little more diluted because it all runs together. that's the fall the music industry has taken as technology has swept our culture. it's true in all industries, though. once you saturate a market with technology, stores, and/or resources, you're giving people too many options, thus making it more difficult to get something simple and genuine. that's what we get, i guess.
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