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The Loudness Wars May Be Ending 294

Hugh Pickens writes "Mike Barthel reports on a technique called brick-wall limiting, where songs are engineered to seem louder by bringing the quiet parts to the same level as the loud parts and pushing the volume level of the entire song to the highest point possible. 'Because of the need to stand out on radio and other platforms, there's a strategic advantage to having a new song sound just a little louder than every other song. As a result, for a period, each new release came out a little louder than the last, and the average level of loudness on CDs crept up (YouTube) to such a degree that albums actually sounded distorted, as if they were being played through broken speakers.' But the loudness wars may be coming to an end. Taking advantage of the trend towards listening to music online — via services like Pandora, Spotify, and Apple's forthcoming iCloud — a proposal by audio engineer Thomas Lund, already adopted as a universal standard (PDF) by the International Telecommunications Union, would institute a volume limit on any songs downloaded from the cloud, effectively removing the strategic advantage of loudness. Lund's proposal would do the same thing for any music you could buy. 'Once a piece of music is ingested into this system, there is no longer any value in trying to make a recording louder just to stand out,' says legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who has been working with Lund. 'There will be nothing to gain from a musical point of view. Louder will no longer be better!'"

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