Hijacking the volume knob

If you give any thought at all to how music sounds, you should read this terrific treatise on mastering and the tyranny of ‘loudness’ by the Chicago Mastering Service.

Now frankly, I think that general audiophile snobbery (“How can you stand to listen to that 192 MP3?!?!?!”) is the quickest way to come off as a complete douche. But, I’m fascinated by the evolution of how we present information and the mixing of format and function.

The short of it is that music has gotten a lot louder, but this quest for loudness comes at a price.

For example, this is a waveform from a Stooges song from a 1990 CD release:

This is the same Stooges track after it was “mastered” by Sony for a 1997 release:

To quote Jason Ward:

“THIS BOX IS FULL!!!!!!!!!! There is a difference of less than 3 decibels between the loudest average part of this track and the loudest digital word that can be represented as sound. This is what we call a true sausage. This record is shockingly loud, but also just shocking. The volume in this case has been achieved with almost constant clipping of the original waveforms.”

It’s defintely worth reading the whole article. Check it, yo!