Music Composers Unite!
Quote from Ken Scott, renowned engineer, at Gearslutz.com:
The loudness wars are bull crap. We have the ability today to have greater dynamic range than ever and suddenly EVERYTHING has to be pinned. Utter bull crap.
I have complete and utter faith that talent and art will win out in the end. As we have seen in the past it will take one artist, one great record to rise above the mediocrity and suddenly everything will start to change. It will be that type of scenario that will bring sanity back, not organisations such as the APRS or NARAS. IMHO.
I think the only thing that makes me use compression or audio energizing to make my mix louder is the fact that I like to listen to my music on the train or in the car on journeys. I simply can't enjoy classical music, which is usually almost totally uncompressed, in a car or train environment. The quiet bits are just too quiet. I guess I put up with destroying my music a bit for the convenience of being able to listen to it in noisier environments.
But I do wrestle with the issue. Some CDs I have in my collection have gone too far and I don't go that far. We're talking audio files which are almost 100% covered in sound! Really horrible sounding.
Bob Katz, the famous author and mastering engineer has covered this topic a lot. I recently saw an illustration of waveforms before and after compression for radio broadcast, in his book about mastering. I had no idea that radio stations use a compression device that DRASTICALLY compresses the music from a CD as it is broadcast. Now that CD's are hyper-compressed already, the result is increased distortion, and not just increased loudness. As I work on my current material for my new album, I'll probably end up producing a number of different mixes with various amounts of compression- maybe three versions that I'll take to the final mastering. From what I have read, mastering engineers prefer less-compressed final mixes before they squash it. But where do we draw the line? As I do my mixes, I see 'levels' this way: There is the meter pinned level, for the important foreground tracks, like lead vocal or sax solo. Next there are the tracks that are slightly lower in level, which are supporting elements, or sections that are purposely more 'mellow'. Then there is the third level which is 'subtle' background elements that enhance the mood, like a synth pad, etc. So I look at a mix as having three basic volume levels. If everything is loud, the drama in the music is killed. I picture those 3 tiered levels, as I work out the arrangements and record each track.