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Monday, November 5, 2012

If it's too loud, you're too old

Made by Dr. Lex
I read a really well-done article by Dr. Lex describing a trend of reduced dynamic range in music recordings for the sake of perceived loudness. The graph here is from his web site, and shows this trend starting about 1990, and getting increasingly more apparent over the next 20 years.

I started paying attention to music seriously in the '70s which was a relatively stable period for dynamic range--it was present in recordings. The vinyl albums I was listening to had a lower possible dynamic range than CDs have, but still it was used to effect--there were quiet parts and drastically different loud parts. The first album that I remember being extra loud was Alice Cooper's "Killer" in 1971. At the time I didn't understand why or how this could be, but it fit with the nature of the album and was cool. I wasn't alone, my friends noticed it too. But this may have been one of the first shots fired in what Dr. Lex calls the "volume wars."

I think the ear training that I received in the '70s colors the way I hear contemporary mixes--they're less interesting. Younger people are growing up with this reduced dynamic range which will be their ear training that they will take forward with them. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

It's ironic that modern media has the ability to reproduce a greater dynamic range than was available in the '70s, but it isn't being used due to the nature of how the data is delivered and consumed--MP3s, earbuds, etc.

In the meantime, I must be too old, because it's too loud. I miss dynamic range.

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