Author Archives: Jasper

Research paper presented at ICA 2013

A research paper I co-authored was presented at the International Congress on Acoustics (ICA) 2013 in Montreal, Canada:

Stefan Klockgether, Jasper Van Dorp Schuitman, and Steven Van de Par (2013). “Perceptual limits for detecting interaural-cue manipulations measured in reverberant settings”, Proceedings of the International Congress on Acoustics (ICA 2013), Montreal, Canada

Click here for the full text

The Loudness War: Dynamic Range over the years

The mean dynamic range (Album DR value) per year.

The mean dynamic range (Album DR value) per year. The error bars represent the standard error.

A lot has been said about the Loudness War. According to Wikipedia it is a “pejorative term for the apparent competition to master and release recordings with increasing loudness“. Sure, loud music should be loud, but the believe among engineers that “louder sounds better” has resulted in numerous loudness war victims. In order to make the albums as loud as possible, lots of compression and limiting has to be applied to the signal, decreasing the dynamic range of the record and in the worst case introducing digital clipping. The most famous example is Death Magnetic by Metallica. This video on Youtube clearly shows the difference between the CD master (which sounds awful) and the version from the Guitar Hero game, which has a much higher dynamic range. The latter sounds much more powerful and less distorted.

There’s much more to say about this, but for further reading you could go to Ian Shephard’s website (who also initiated Dynamic Range Day), read the wise words of Bob Katz or watch this AES talk by Bob Ludwig.

There are various ways to measure loudness of songs. Currently, EBU R128 is becoming a standard. Another interesting parameter is the DR-value, which expresses the perceived Dynamic Range of a song in dB’s. The Pleasurize Music foundation offers the DR-meter, which measures these values.

In order to see how the dynamic range of albums changed over the years, I analyzed all DR-values in the DR Database. I’ve chosen to focus on the period 1985-2012. The figure above shows the mean DR-value per year. It is clear that, overall, the Dynamic Range of albums has decreased in this period from approximately 13 dB to the 8-9 dB range. It is also interesting to see that the minimum mean value is reached in 2008, the year that Death Magnetic was released. In 2009, we see an increase of +/- 0.5 dB (a double-sided t-test shows that this difference is statistically significant at the 0.01 level). Maybe this has to do with the awareness created by this album with respect to the Loudness War?

Furthermore, it seems that the Dynamic Range does not further decrease over the last four years. Has the Loudness War come to an end?

Finally, the figure below shows the number of albums per year that were analyzed. In total, 14,680 albums were included in the analysis.

The number of albums analyzed per year.

The number of albums analyzed per year.

My album top 30 of 2011

Here’s my album top 30 of 2011.

1. Wilco – The whole love

2. Feist – Metals

3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

4. Ryan Adams – Ashes & fire
5. Laura Marling – A creature I don’t know
6. dEUS – Keep you close
7. PJ Harvey – Let England shake
8. Bright Eyes – The people’s key
9. Nils Frahm – Felt
10. R.E.M. – Collapse into now
11. Radiohead – The king of limbs
12. Ólafur Arnalds – Living room songs
13. Elbow – Build a rocket boys!
14. Spinvis – Tot ziens, Justine Keller
15. Nils Frahm & Anne Müller – 7fingers
17. Tim Knol – Days
18. Me & Stupid – In a cabin with
19. Eefje de Visser – De Koek
20. Seeljocht – Seeljocht
21. Okkervil River – I am very far
22. Tori Amos – The night of hunters
23. Zita Swoon Group – Dancing with the sound hobbyist
24. IJzeren Vogel – IJzeren Vogel
25. Puzzle Muteson – En garde
26. Theo Sieben – Until grass
27. Marketa Irglova – Anar
28. Pien Feith – Dance on time
29. Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
30. Timber Timbre – Creep on creepin’ on

There’s also a lot of albums from 2011 I still have to listen to. So goodbye for now.