Loudness War

It feels great when the blog is back to normal. Sorry for the delay on various issues. Things should be catch up from now on.

We had a very successful first “Professional & HiFi Audio Course”. Thank you for all attendants, and sponsorships. We look forward to setup the second one focusing on “Computer Audio” next round.

During the course, the “loudness war” section draws large attention from everyone.

In general digital recording theory, the highest peak level is 0dBFS. Digital “OVER” can cause high distortion. During early 90’s, digital limiters are introduced to the market. These powerful digital limiters can prevents recording going over 0dBFS with its very high ratio (1000:1) dynamic control. Without the worry of digital over, engineer can bring up the recording loudness and make fully usage of digital storage. This is important for 16bit CD because if your recording is peak at -6dBFS, you are using only 15bit resolution. That was the time when digital limiters called “Maximizer”.

Later on people start notify that once you have the digital limiter in the end of the chain, you can push up the recording loudness without fear of over. The peak level will be pushed down and you lose some transients and dynamic range. The loudness war is started. Music are squeezed badly in return of loudness, but all records A&R, producers, artists and records company bosses want their ablum to sound louder. This hurts the whole industry because the squeezed dynamic are nearly impossible to recover. Plus the digital limiter artifacts are added on the recording. Further more, the change of listening habit from home stereo to iPod and Car Audio even push this loudness war to madness. Less and less people spent their quiet time listening music at home with good stereo system, audio quality becomes an non-issue. Highly squeezed music are not for long term listening because the lack of dynamic range, you will easily get bored.

The recent cases are many engineers found digital limiters produce bad artifacts when you push the level too much. They found just plainly push the level without digital limiter to let level goes digital over, reproduce better sound quality. You can easily see how bad status we are.

Metallica’s 2008 latest album Death Magnetic case was reported by Time magazine. The album was highly compressed without any kind of dynamic. It is heavily distorted and digitally clipped. However ,the original pre-limited content are used on Sony Playstation 3 game “Guitar Hero”. Metallica fans love PS3 version much more and draw hugh attention about loudness war.

More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war


  1. Hercules

    16 March

    Computer Audio, I think too much Myst above setting, power, cabling, I think we should find out the key area to be taking care to have right treatment (digital or analog? choice of transmission interface), and convince everyone by demonstration and testing.

    And after Hi-Rez AJP3, do you plan ahead for next project? will you goes analog with vinyl? or multi-channel blu-ray?

  2. admin

    18 March

    Hercules, I agree with you entirely. People use too much audiophile myth concept to treat computer audio. Therefore more proper demonstrations will be useful because people will be convinced by the listening. My studio is under almost done from renovation. My next course should be focusing on computer audio playback, and hopefully I can break attendants in groups and happen in my studio. From there I have better demo equipment.

    AJP-III earns great comments from all over the world. We have done our first step correctly. Now we will need to have better distribution network in major countries like US / Japan / UK / Taiwan / Europe etc. This will help us from now on with new titles. AJP-III vinyl looks like a fun project. Depends on the market size, I guess again the distribution network is more important. The highest request is AJP Part 01 & 02 remastering and provide high resolution master files.

    Our next step is HiFitrack.com will start providing download sales service.
    AJP-IV has been brought up……target HiFi Show 2009 in August.

  3. Hercules

    21 March

    Great to hear AJP-IV in on the right track, and hope to hear your works in every booths, maybe you can sponsor a track in AV Show SACD/LPCD 2009!

  4. Hercules

    24 March

    And I would like to have comparison between PC based audio source and Audiophile Memory Player (Linn/Naim/PS Audio and more), I hope you can arrange in next meeting!

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