Monday, June 04, 2007

One thing remains perfectly clear/ it's the buzz buzz buzz in the drum of the ear

Music engineers are starting a campaign against peak limiting, the practice where music is mastered so that the quiet bits are effectively pumped out, resulting in tracks sounding either "punchy" or "flat, loud, distorted and rubbish", depending on your point of view.

I say "launching a campaign", it seems to be more grumbling about it to The Times, but every campaign starts somewhere.

Peter Mew, senior mastering engineer at Abbey Road studios, said: “Record companies are competing in an arms race to make their album sound the ‘loudest’. The quieter parts are becoming louder and the loudest parts are just becoming a buzz.”
[...]
“The brain is not geared to accept buzzing. The CDs induce a sense of fatigue in the listeners. It becomes psychologically tiring and almost impossible to listen to. This could be the reason why CD sales are in a slump.”

The record companies? Surprisingly, they don't see a problem, some cheerfully admitting they release records with sound mangled so that it that it can be heard above background chatter in pubs or above car engines:
Domino, Arctic Monkeys’ record company, defended its band’s use of compression on their chart-topping albums, as a way of making their music sound “impactful”.

Because Alex's word play and the band's skills as musicians, presumably, fall short?

Bob Dylan has also said something about this - or "joined the campaign", apparently:
Bob Dylan has joined the campaign for a return to musical dynamics. He told Rolling Stone magazine: “You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like – static.”

Although with the way his voice sounds these days, you'd think he'd welcome this development.


6 comments:

juan said...

Live, Bob Dylan's voice is generally terrible. On record, his voice is fantastic.

One record that suffers coz of this mastering practice is The Go-Betweens 'Oceans Apart'. Distorted in parts where there shouldn't be no distortion.I don't think the GBs were intentionally going for the shopping mall crowd.

James said...

This is what TV advertisers claim they're doing too; Compressing the sound so that it creates an impact. It's the explanation wheeled out when people complain that adverts seem louder than the programmes. I never thought I'd see the day when it became a valid pop-music production technique, mind. The 1960s had Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. The 2000s have Martin Kemp's Three-Piece-Suite of Noise...

Has anyone checked the sleevenotes of the new Artic Monkeys album to see if their list of thank-yous includes Barry Scott?

damiank said...

Is this the same thing they did to "The Woods" too? Much as I love(d) Sleater-Kinney I find this album virtually unlistenable, especially on headphones...

Anonymous said...

The Times is as up to the minute as its sister paper. Dylan said that some time last year:

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/netmusic/story/0,,1860424,00.html

Chris Brown said...

I've got a remastered version of the Go-Betweens album, which is slightly improved. But anyway, I don't think compression's to blame in that case.

Anonymous said...

Derby-based wannabe corporate fukc-puppets LostAlone were so concerned by the mastering of their new album that they demanded an unmastered copy from the engineer. He refused to provide it. Presumably in case they insisted on it being remastered to be less "punchy" and he got in the record company's bad books

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