Consider this a public service announcement to all of our readers. You visit this site since you love music and you inevitably need your ears to enjoy the fruits that music can offer. Protecting your ears is serious business. Whether you’re in a venue that is still tweaking their sound or a tacky afterhours with a bad audio install or even using in-ear buds with your phone, listening to music louder doesn't translate to it sounding better.
This basic concept of loudness equals better even translates to the music you’re purchasing as consumers. Since the 1940s, there have been reports of mastering practices that increased the loudness of records. Once the compact disc hit the market, music began to be encoded to a digital format which had a clearly defined peak in its loudness (amplitude). Through further processing, engineers have been applying “compression” to a recording which results in the song’s loudness peaking at more frequent intervals. When applying these practices to the audio, the sound quality ultimately diminishes under the added boost in loudness. For years this has been regarded as the “Loudness War”, a trend of increasing the amplitude levels on CDs and digital audio files that end up diminishing the overall acoustic and tonal quality of the recording in the final product.
To raise awareness, the website Dynamic Range Day made an informative infographic outlining this trend. They charted some of the loudest albums to ever be produced and surprisingly enough Taylor Swift’s album '1989' is actually louder than Radiohead’s 'OK Computer', Metallica’s 'Black Album', The Sex Pistols’ 'Never Mind The Bollocks', and AC/DC’s 'Back In Black'… really? Among the list are notables Daft Punk with their most recent album 'Random Access Memories' and near the top of the list, Skrillex’s 'Recess' (surprise).
It’s interesting to see the variety of research that shows that louder records are actually fatiguing and more difficult to listen to. Check out this video explaining this phenomenon in the simplest way possible using Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as an example.
It’s a bit difficult to refute what the ears hear although everyone’s sense of hearing is a little bit different. There are a lot of articles and papers on the debate but in the end it really is a matter of what style of music you’re listening to and of course if you like what you’re hearing or not.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think 'Thriller' sounds better in its original form or do you enjoy the remaster of 2008 better? Overall, do you think this has a positive impact on the music you listen to?