Loudness War


Today I had to drive four hours in total and decided to grab some cds that I hadn’t listened to in a while to make the ride more enjoyable.  One of the cds I chose was Red Hot Chili Peppers “Californication” which in my opinion is almost as good as “Blood Sugar Sex Magik“.  While I love the songs on the album, I also find that at sometimes it is physically painful to listen too.  The reason for this is the distortion and clipping that you can hear in some of the songs on the album.  Under “Californication” on wikipedia it is quoted that

“The album received criticism for what Tim Anderson of The Guardian called “excessive compression and distortion” in the process of digital remastering,[28] and was the subject of an online petition which garnered over 1,000 signatures.Stylus Magazine labeled it as one of the victims of the loudness war and commented that it suffered from digital clipping so much that “even non-audiophile consumers complained about it”.

The best way to understand what the loudness war is to hear an example of it.  The following clip on YouTube is the best explanation I’ve seen of it.

Although I did not know exactly what this was referred to until a year or so ago, I knew there was something going on involving the levels that certain CDs were mastered at.  I remember listening to an older album in my car (I believe it was Tom Waits “Rain Dogs“) and having the volume at a comfortable level.  The next cd I put in was a newer album (I’m not entirely sure what it was) and I was shocked in how loud the album was in comparison to Tom Waits “Rain Dogs”.  I noticed that these older albums were “softer” in volume and had more dynamics in terms of differences between softer and louder parts of songs then newer albums.

  This is happening with older songs and albums being remastered as well.  The following is an example of the waveform image for The Beatles “Something” and the years that it was remastered for release.  Notice an increase in the loudness?


It almost seems like record companies are following the creed that “bigger is better” with their own: “louder is better”.


One Response to Loudness War

  1. bananatree says:

    Califonication is terrible for clipping. I actually stopped listening once as I was unsure if the CD was terribly compressed, or if my equipment was broken. I still have the album, but I just listen to the album in my head. It sounds better that way.

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