loudness wars – episode IV

Yes, a new hope. While some of the recently established  metering systems did not successfully managed the loudness race problems in general there seems to be a new hope concerning those issues and this comes from the broadcasters standardization efforts. Started in 2006 the ITU recommendation BS.1770­‐1 defined already some replacement for the common QPPM metering and instead was oriented towards loudness metering.

“Briefly, ITU-­‐R BS.1770-­1 provides a simple and practical solution for the task of finding an objective measurement of what is essentially a subjective impression (loudness). Such a measure can naturally never be perfect, as the perception of loudness depends on many parameters, such as preference, age, mood, frequency, replay level etc. Nevertheless, BS.1770 proved to be a robust standard with the added value of simple implementation.” [1]

Afterwards, this was the basis for the EBU working group named “P/LOUD” which is going to extend the 1770-1 to the forthcoming EBU recommendation R128 ‘Loudness normalisation and permitted maximum level of audio signals’. The outcome will be basically a set of some newly defined norms heading towards

  • Programme Loudness,
  • Loudness Range and
  • True Peak Level.

Most important, a new target level is defined on top of the metering standardization concerning loudness of program material. Funnily, the magic number is (minus) 23. The standard is open, there are no scary fees on using logos or suchlike and since the driving forces behind P/Loud are the most important ones coming from public broadcasters and manufactures, the acceptance is most likely at least in the broadcast area. The hope is then that this is going to spread through the entire music production business but we have to wait and see of course.

To me, this seems the most promising approach on solving the underlying loudness war problems until now and I will try to support this wherever I can. I’ve already implemented ITU-­‐R BS.1770-­1 plus some extensions in my lab here and I’m just awaiting the final R128 spec.

References:

[1] http://www.ibs.org.uk/lineup_docs/122-D_work_report_March_2010_v24_03.pdf

[²] http://webs.uvigo.es/servicios/biblioteca/uit/rec/BS/R-REC-BS.1770-1-200709-I!!PDF-E.pdf

Comments

  1. Nice.🙂 Yep been using my own LU meter here for about a year, and it’s great to see that and 1771 come along. My meter is a variant on the short-term in which it’s actually not only gated like the long-term, but it ungates too if the ungated momentary drops very fast too (my ungated 1770-1 is at 1500ms with gate at 8dB vs momentary, and ungate at 16dB vs momentary). In the 50-some people I have testing it right now, it seems to follow perception much better than 1770-1 which is what the stock LU short-term essentially is. Try it on for size, and you have my email if you have more questions. =)

  2. actually i screwed up that description, late-night blogging is always a good idea.😛

    it’s ungated when the gated 3000ms 1770-1 is 8dB vs the ungated 1500ms 1770-1. that’s the only addition other than the short-term having LU/1771 gating (3 time constants/windows), and the ungated short-term being 1500ms instead of 3000ms.

    i’m also applying the 50ms RMS -72dB “freeze” gate of course.

  3. It nice that new recommendations are proposed, but I don’t actually share optimism. Why anyone would follow those new standards when there’s always possibility to squeeze few db and make a track sound louder than others.
    Imo the only solution will be obligatory perceived loudness metadata tag (replaygain-like) in all music releases. It would make loudness war irrelevant.

    • I’m only that optimistic since the most important broadcasters already joined this efforts and they accept standards (in the EU). This really means something and there is a chance that the whole broadcast business changes transmission according to the new standard.

  4. He`s right. In the end the loudnes war was also a marketing problem wasn`t it? Your Song seemed to be too quiet, cause the audience had to lower the volume for the former overcompressed Song, and thats why your Song is OUT now !

    The good message is: There is a certain Limit. If the Audio signal is only looking like a square, (equal how much you ever zoom in), then all people will say to more natural dynamic material: “I dont know why, but this Song causes less headache and is more pleasant to my ears.” And then begins the big backlash and Waves offers the first overexpensive tool giving the master more natural dynamic than the original mix actualy had before. And if then all Signals are only looking like bar codes, the loudness war starts its great come back.😉

    You know, what my father once said ? He said: “Son, the people want to be deceived!”

    And do you know what “Jever” is ? Its what i drank before writing this! Good Night …

    • It looks like Slate digital beat Waves to it, though it doesn’t seem overpriced (assuming it measures up to the claims).

      http://www.slatedigital.com/fgx.php

      Their FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor appears to be the cure for the wave-squaring brickwalling that’s destroying today’s music – but I’ll reserve judgement until I actually try it, which I may do instead of getting iZotope Ozone 4.

      Tough choice for me, however, because Ozone does so much in one application….

      • Oh god, commercials are realy everywhere these days. Man,”Slate digital” announces his product for over a year now. I gave up waiting for the demos to test. “Coming soon” – Ha ha !
        Ozone may be good sounding, but the atomic styled green is that intensive, i`m shure you get a third eye by looking to long into it. It may fit to the Film Matrix or Homers workstation, but not to an mastering environment. I also don`t understand the current Neon light hype of GUI Developers and the obvious passion for blue tones looking like cough candy. Worst example: Crysonic Spectralive NXT3. Its that cold looking, even if there would run the worlds best Fairchild and Pultec algos, you get freezed anyway. The only Blue tones i can accept come from Nomad Factory and all Pultec emulations out there. And the All-Tech EQ is the best example for vintage green in my eyes.

        Before you stop the loudness war, stop the Atomic and Neon light GUI Hype first ! Thanx!

        • Haha Bob, trust me, I’m not a commercial! I’m just someone who read about the product in Sound on Sound and was intrigued.

          Besides, If I had the money I’d be mastering all analog with Manley and Tube Tech outboard gear! Right now I either master myself with low-cost or free plug ins, or send my files to a professional mastering engineer.

          Speaking of which, did you know that Abbey Road is now doing mastering for the masses? (And that’s not a commercial – just a development that I find interesting!).

          Peace –

          Mike

          P.S. On your GUI comments: I prefer analog style interfaces, or at least things that remind me of the dashboard on a vintage automobile🙂 I love the Ferric TDS GUI, and the Rescue and NastyHF & LF GUIs too. Ozone should have an update with optional skins…

  5. Very interesting but I think the loudness war will still rule the battlefield when it comes to mp3-players and the like to turn them into tools of shutting the rest of the world out and making people not hear that truck blowing it’s horn for them to get out of the way as they are jaywalking over a heavily trafficked intersection. Also, and sadly, lots of young people expect music to be heavily compressed and distorted and actually prefer that sound as they think there is something wrong with clean and dynamic tracks…

    • “lots of young people expect” uhhh… care to back that up with 2+ reputable and repeatable scientific studies?

      and as far as mp3 players encouraging, it has much more to do with the piece of crap headphones/earphones/earbuds they supply with them than the player itself. in fact, some players such as iPods now have ReplayGain or technology closely based on it (like SoundCheck) which makes all tracks the same average loudness no matter what anyways.

      the outcome of that loudness leveling is that the slammed tracks are brought down in loudness, but then lack the enjoyable peaks in the dynamics that MUSIC has, and the recordings then end up sounding WEAK.

      the same thing happens on most radio stations to a varying degree too, where the slammed tracks sound weaker on air, and also can have odd loudness changes that are the reverse of the intended outcome. very few stations have their broadcast processors setup at least good enough to not make the pre-existing problem worse.

  6. There, do you see that ? NastyVCS: 130 comments – loudness war article: 8 comments ! So the interest for the ultimate dynamic squeezing freeware (although its definitely the best ever)is 16,25 times the interest for the article about problems of dynamic squeezing.
    Guys, thats no loudness war. Thats the reign of maximization. You know?: “We are the L2. Resistance is futile.”
    I propose to exact a multiple choice test about loudnes war, that only leads to the download link in case of success. But beware! Maybe they don`t want to use the plugin then anymore.😉

  7. The only reason there has ever been a “loudness war” is marketing. Reviewers, broadcasters and retail personnel have to deal with an overwhelming quantity of new music releases. There aren’t enough hours in a day to listen to everything or even all the way through to the songs they decide that they need to at least check out.

    Every experienced artist manager has sat in a meeting where perfectly good CDs went into the waste basket because they weren’t as loud as the other titles being considered.

    I don’t know how you solve this but the real issue needs to be understood first.

  8. if you mix and record between -18dbfs and – 12dbfs on tracks, if you dont saturate busses, plugs, if you work at 24 bits and you are at -6dbfs on the mix bus before mastering, to resume: stay in green héhé : you discover another world: the smoothness,the colors and the debate analog vs digital maybe end up .

    and to compensate the lose of loundness just increase,level up the volume of your speakers .

    for me it just as simple as that : less is more

    tschuss

    • re… i think that with the mp3 plus the over compression we have the worst sound since at least,100 years.
      emotion, dynamic, colors are life and emotion .
      and all this things are in transients and definition so i think golden ears’s people will be very researched and rare in the future if all the children grow and build their audition ,perception and ears, listening mp3 with no dynamic,no details etc…

      and all these things just exist to improve and compensate the lazyness and confort of people during a listening act.
      its not soo an hard effort to increase and decrease volume héhé

      and i ve read somewhere that the new mp3’s generation prefer it over wav. so for me the process has already began …

  9. Another factor is that music listeners don’t have the sound systems that people once considered important.

    My father couldn’t live without a good stereo system and big speakers. He wasn’t a full-blown audiophile, but over the years he would mix and match components and upgrade speakers so he could enjoy the full richness of his music at any volume.

    I followed in his footsteps and have always assembled my own listening systems, starting with the vinyl turntable to today’s CD and 24bit DVD audio. I have never purchased an all-in-one shelf system for myself. I use Monster Cable for my speakers, too🙂

    Anyhow, aside from the proliferation of mp3 and the other forces driving the loudness war, newer generations generally listen to music on computers and portable players with “ear buds” and are not accustomed to the grand experience of hearing music on a hand-assembled hi-fi system with full range speakers.

    But as many of us know, it’s hard to top sitting in the sweet spot of your living room as a high quality component system pumps your favorite music through magnificent speakers.

    • A lot of the music industry jumped on “portable music” completely missing that it had more to do with providing a fashionable background environment than compelling entertainment for engaged music fans.

      We’re still pretty stuck in this one size fits all concept of popular music which I suspect is one of the major underlying reasons for the industry’s current problems. I think there’s a great big hole in the market that the LP used to occupy.

      • Those are all valid points but wouldn’t an accepted standard at least for the broadcast domain not be a real break-through?

        Your hinting towards an enviroment oriented approach would imply that loudness gets managed in the media player at the consumer and not on the distributors/broadcasters side. Both approaches would not exclude each other, of course. If you distribute in a format that maintains fidelity the consumer or device can still decide which loudness impression is preferred and actually computed (e.g. based on enviromental noise or taste).

        But this also does not solve the “marketing” problem you’ve mentioned since it is not a technical but a human issue. If this assumption is right then only education, business ethics or suchlike can solve it (or not).

        • We already have a broadcast standard of -18 RMS average levels that nobody follows. Meta-data is a possibility although that system has been used in film for a decade and it has failed to solve the problem. Education is beginning to help after a decade that most of us mastering engineers have spent resisting this.

          The thing is that different applications of music really require different mixes and even different approaches to tracking which is most of the real difference between “vintage” and “contemporary” sound. This unfortunately is something few artists have been willing to support financially. On the other hand it’s obviously a real opportunity for somebody.

    • Adding to that is shuffle syndrome: in general it seems fewer people listen to albums in their entirety these days (i’ve only begun to appreciate the experience more myself the last couple of years). But obviously well conceived, arranged, mixed and mastered albums won’t need the listener to constantly adjust the volume from song to song, or even in mid-song, since they were created as a unified, cohesive whole; it’s not so easy in the shuffled playlist age where the term ‘album’ seems to mean more a compilation of mostly unrelated singles that all want to be the loudest thing on our playlists.

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