[ Home | Staff & Contacts | DIY & Tweaks | Listening tests | HiFi Playground | Music & Books ]

January 2009 editorial

Turn me up! (bring dynamics back!)

Writer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy

[Turn me up!]
Turn me up!!!

We have discussed the "loudness war" issue several times already, here on TNT-Audio. For true unstoppable Real Stereo supporters like us it is crucial to have recordings that preserve the real dynamic content of the Music we love. No, we're not referring to the compression generated by mp3 algorhythms, that's another sad story. We are referring to the unbearable dynamic compression of many (most?) modern recordings. In order to make the records sound as "loud" as possible, mastering engineers and Music labels have destroyed dynamics. Fortissimo's and pianissimo's, that normally should stay "dynamically" far one from the other are now forced to live as close as possible. Why? Because Music - as intended by modern artists and sound engineers - should sound good when listened to in the midst of a noisy environment (car, traffic etc.). A recording with a decent dynamic headroom would sound unbearable, otherwise: low levels would be masked by environmental noise and high levels would become too loud.
When listened at home, in a silent environment and via a good stereo system, this kind of recordings sounds shouty, unnatural, harsh and lifeless. As ANY music composer knows very well dynamics play a key role in creating excitement and emotional involvement. Killing dynamics equals to kill Music in itself.

Many artists are starting to feel this attitude is destroying their musical creativeness. We've already reviewed high quality recordings where dynamic compression has been entirely avoided. For example, Work of Art's "Lift" and Waves albums have been recorded this way. And they do sound incredibly natural. They perhaps sound bad in a noisy environment but...who cares? :-)
In our opinion, this is the right way to record Music. And we're not alone. Let me introduce a non-profit organization which is trying to bring dynamics back into modern Music: Turn me up!. Citing an introductory description from their website:

Founded by Grammy-winning engineer/producer Charles Dye, alternative indie artist John Ralston, and recording studio owner/podcaster Allen Wagner, Turn Me Up!™ is a non-profit music industry organization working together with a group of highly respected artists and recording professionals to give artists back the choice to release more dynamic records.
They have created a sort of certification which would allow records meeting their criteria to display the Turn Me Up! Certified label. This would inform the consumer that the record he has bought is simply more dynamic than others and all he needs to do is...Turn it Up!
This sounds an incredibly good idea, this way Music lovers will know which discs have been produced having "Music" in mind and not noise. In 2009, it's a bit sadly anachronistic that we have to struggle to get recordings as good as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Shouldn't progress and technology bring us better quality at lower prices? What we got, thanks to this stupid loudness war, is bad Music at a higher price. And it's depressing to spend thousands of $$$ in excellent HiFi equipment and reproduce a sound that's still lifeless and compressed like the worst compact cassette's of the '70s.

TNT-Audio has decided to support this campaign as we feel it could be a way to wake up customers and artists and bring dynamics back into our favourite Music.

We strongly encourage you to learn more about dynamic compression by watching and listening to this video:

Turn it up, bring the noise! :-)

DO NOT MISS the second part of this article, entirely devoted to the Pleasurize Music project: discover how you can measure the effective dynamic range of your records (via a nice freeware and plugin!) and learn how TNT-Audio is trying to play a key role in defeating this crazy loudness war.

© Copyright 2009 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com

[ Home | Staff & Contacts | DIY & Tweaks | Listening tests | HiFi Playground | Music & Books ]