Another sane voice against sheer loudness

I came across Jerry Tubb’s website TerraNovaMastering.com, which not only lists an impressive number of 5.1 surround credits, but also an encouraging statement against the Loudness Wars, quoting the full text of  Joe Gross’s Everything Louder than Everything Else.

Here’s the excerpt that explains the phenomenon (for those not yet familiar with the term):

Loud records? Can’t you just turn it down? Well, yes and no.

Let’s say you go to the store to buy a CD, a brand-new CD of a popular rock band. The group is your favorite, you’ve been looking forward to this CD for some time. You have the band’s other recordings, you’ve seen them live, perhaps you’ve even heard the new songs once or twice at a show.

You buy the CD. You take it home and throw it in the CD player. You couldn’t be more excited as it starts to play.

But something weird happens as you listen to it. You like the songs, but you don’t really want to listen to it for very long and you’re not entirely sure why. You take it off. A few minutes, later you put it back on. Same thing happens: You like the music, but you still want to take the CD off. It’s more than a little weird.

Condolences. You are officially a casualty of the loudness wars, the ongoing competition among bands, labels and A&R folks to make ever-louder albums.

It makes me happy to see more and more mastering engineers raising their hands and saying “enough!” to the ridiculous notion that perceived volume is the only thing that matters in recorded music today.  We have learned of the terrible consequences of letting the food industry over-salt, over-sweeten, over-fatten, and over-preserve virtually everything they package for the consumer.  The use of loudness as a sales “weapon” has merely made the public war-weary of music and exhausted.  Our role in producing music should be to engage, not terrorize, to treat the listener as welcome friends, not enemies.

I am optimistic that one of the positive outcomes of an increasingly digital media market is the ability to deliver multiple masters of the same works, so that one can have a great experience in a variety of listening situations, rather than a miserable one in most.

Keep up the great work, Jerry!

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