Why New Music Doesn't Sound As Good As It Did Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:17PM EDT
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Never mind that today's factory-produced starlets and mini-clones just don't have the practiced chops of the supergroups of yesteryear, pop in a new CD and you might notice that the quality of the music itself—maybe something as simple as a snare drum hit—just doesn't sound as crisp and as clear as you're used to. Why is that?
It's part of the music industry's quest to make music louder and louder, and it's been going on for decades, at least since the birth of the compact disc. Click the link for a nice little video, a mere 2 minutes long, which explains it in detail, with audio cues that you'll be able to hear in crisp detail.
The key to the problem is that, in making the soft parts of a track louder (in the process making the entire track loud), you lose detail in the song: The difference between what's supposed to be loud and what's supposed to be soft becomes less and less. The result is that, sure, the soft parts of a song are nice and loud, but big noises like drum beats become muffled and fuzzy. But consumers often subconsciously equate loudness with quality, and thus, record producers pump up the volume. Anything to make a buck.
The bigger problem is that this is all unnecessary. Stereo equipment is more powerful today than ever, and last time I checked, every piece of music hardware had a volume knob.
Don't take my word for it: Pop in the first CD you bought and play it at the same volume level as the most recent one you bought. You might be shocked by what you hear.
Anyone still wondering why the music business is suffering?
CDs just don't sound as good as vinyl, although they're certainly more convenient and don't have the pops, etc. I'm surprised about the raised volume levels on CDs - I thought one of their big strengths was improved dynamics, which seems to have helped in a resurgence of the popularity of classical music. Even with old music, most of the CDs I've bought in recent years have been remixed, and seem to have lower sound quality. In particular, the volume levels of the vocalists seem to almost drown out the instruments.
Maybe I'm old but I still prefer the sound of my vinyl records to most cds. I own a Super Audio/DVD Audio player and I must say some recordings in both formats rival the sound of vinyl. The transient response and detail on "The Dark Side Of The Moon" SACD is better than the record and there are 3.5 more channels of it. Contemporary music sucks at any volume.
Actually you are close but a little off track. The record companies actually know what they are doing. They aren't doing it to make them seem to sound better, they are actually over-driving the tracks to make encoded/ripped mp3 copies of the CD-tracks sound like totally over-driven crap. I've been looking for someone to post an inquiry into this for years now and this is the first I have seen it brought up. I have asked the question many times on different forums if anyone has figured out a fool-proof way to keep the encoded versions from sounding over-driven with not much luck other than utilizing an encoder that enables normalization factors which works most of the time but not all. There are still a few niche record companies like Telarc that use the latest techniques and technologies to produce as close to perfect sounding CD's, SACD's etc. for the audiophiles that appreciate the quality even more so than the subject. I would much rather listen to a high-quality SACD of
a not-so-favorite genre or artist than listen to a bad recording of a favored artist. I'm actually listening to a hybrid-SACD of Rachmaninoff Symp. #2 by Telarc 2007 while I am writing this and it sounds great.
Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.