Today is very important for anyone who believes that high-fidelity music is something that everyone should care about. It’s called Dynamic Range Day, the day when music fans stand up and scream about the horrible way songs and albums are being mastered in what has been dubbed the Loudness Wars.
Starting in the 1990s, record labels began insisting that albums be mastered—the way they are transferred to CD or to iTunes—to sound as loud as possible. To do that, mastering engineers added all kinds of compression, electronic squishing of the music so our ears perceive it to be louder. With every passing year, more and more compression has been added to make CDs and music files louder than the next. This video explains everything. If you love good sound, it’s important that you watch this.
Well, so what? This destroys any dynamic range in the performance; the quiet bits and the loud bits all seem to be the same. This introduces distortion and causes all kinds of listener fatigue. Any Red Hot Chili Peppers album released since 1995 are the worst (here’s an example). Metallica’s St. Anger album is an unmitigated disaster. I have CDs from the 1980s that sound fuller and richer than a reissue of the same album put out last year.
Here’s another example of insidiously awful the Loudness Wars are.
Let’s talk another look at “Teen Spirit.”
The point of Dynamic Range Day is for music lovers to say enough is enough. Let the music breathe, goddammit!