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How iTunes Radio Is Single-Handedly Ending the ‘Loudness Wars’

maxingout

The ‘Loudness Wars’ in music are sort of like global warming.  The problem keeps getting worse every year, but very few people have any real power to change it.  But what if GM stopped selling gasoline-powered cars tomorrow, or the entire city of Los Angeles banned the sale of plastics next week?

That’s sort of what’s happening over at iTunes Radio, thanks to an incredible loudness-regulating decision by Apple.   “The debilitating loudness war has finally been won,” mastering engineer Bob Katz boldly declared at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention in New York last week after extensive testing.

“The last battle will be over by mid-2014.”

As a quick primer, the ‘Loudness Wars’ refers to the gradual erosion of dynamic soft and loud contrasts in recorded music over the years, thanks to a concerted effort to collapse dynamic ranges and maximize volume impact.  The approach affects (and is motivated by) all forms of radio, downloads, on-demand streams, and often tinny outputs like televisions.  The result is less range, but far greater ‘loudness’ across every minute of the music, a trend that supposedly keeps listeners more engaged but also leads to much crappiness.

According to Katz, the game-changer from Apple is something called the ‘Sound Check’ algorithm, which purposely limits the all-max, all-the-time approach.  Instead, iTunes Radio wants to create more normalized and predictable volume output levels.  Most importantly, Sound Check cannot be turned off.

Crescendo

Katz specifically measured the output levels of several stations, and concluded that each station’s loudness averaged -16.5 LUFS, usually within plus or minus 1.5 dB.  “I have just completed loudness measurements of iTunes Radio using iTunes version 11.1.1,” Katz relayed.  “iTunes Radio’s audio levels are fully-regulated, using Apple’s Sound Check algorithm.”

But isn’t the music played by Apple already recorded and mastered?  Not exactly: in order to tame the beast of loudness-maxing, Apple is actually taking steps at the point of playback from iTunes Radio.  “The way to turn the loudness race around right now, is for every producer and mastering engineer to ask their clients if they have heard iTunes Radio,” Katz continued.  “When they respond in the affirmative, the engineer/producer tells them they need to turn down the level of their songs to the standard level or iTunes Radio will do it for them—and not always in a pleasing way.”

“iTunes radio will not just ‘turn down the volume,’ but may peak-limit the important transient peaks of the material and make the song sound ‘smaller’ and less clear than its competition.”

Pandora isn’t doing this, but then again, iTunes Radio is already one-third the size of Pandora.  According to announcements last week from Apple, iTunes Radio now boasts 20 million users, with more than one billion songs streamed after just one month. By next year, iTunes Radio could easily be the bigger fish.

Which means, it gets a dramatic seat at the table and the ability to control loudness across the land.

“There will be still some skirmishes, but the main battle has just been won. Producers, engineers and musicians will ultimately discover this news themselves, but journalists and producers can hasten the close of the war, starting right now.”

More as it develops.

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Comments (105)
  1. Anonymous

    Does iTunes really have the rights to essentially remaster a partner-provided sound recording before broadcasting it?


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “Does iTunes really have the rights to essentially remaster a partner-provided sound recording before broadcasting it?”

      That’s the only relevant question here!

      Fair should be fair though, and it’s important to remember that the dynamics won’t be modified, just the levels.

      Then again, it goes without saying that setting the levels — especially on albums, where many artists and engineers may wish to make the signal slightly hotter towards the end for dramatic purposes — is an absolutely crucial element in the mastering process.

      And yes, ‘radio mastering’/limiting has always been a problem, but Apple should be better than that and not mess with artistic decisions. You could in fact also argue that ordinary radio limiting rarely destroys music, while lowering the levels of a really hot band that’s on the edge of clipping will come across as tame and wimpy.

      If a handful of retired of engineers wish to go back to the low levels and dull sounds of their youth, they’re welcome to go out and buy a bunch of vinyl.

      But please don’t destroy the contemporary sound.


      Reply
      1. GGG

        Oh, of course you’re a fan of terrible dynamics….


        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          No, but I’m a fan of the artist’s right to freely choose the exact sound that suits her/his music.

          And the concept of and reasons for the ‘loudness war’ are deeply misunderstood by most people.

          Yes, quite a few engineers just squash the thing in order to compete, but a lot of people actually like what happens to the sound at at verge of clipping. So it’s an artistic decision. And when you automatically reduce the volume to a one-size-fits-all level for that type of music, it loses energy.

          It’s today’s sound and the very idea to censor it is sick.


          Reply
          1. GGG

            Volume and dynamic range aren’t the same thing, though. Listen to Nine Inch Nails or Pearl Jam (at least earlier records) and then Arctic Monkeys, for example. The former can be loud and in your face as fuck, sometimes even moreso than the latter, but sound so much better because there’s depth. I love the AMs, but they could sound so much better. And also not make your brain hurt after 20 minutes of listening to them on headphones.


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              “Volume and dynamic range aren’t the same thing, though”

              …which happens to be the exact point I’ve been trying to explain in a number of posts in this thread.

              The problem with Apple’s approach is, as mentioned, not that it compresses the dynamic range — which it doesn’t — but that it turns entire songs up or down, regardless of the levels these songs are meant to be played at.

              And yes, many artists like consistent levels throughout their albums so they won’t have a problem with this. But others like, for instance, to let individual songs follow a Bolero-curve, level wise.

              And Apple prevents that now — IF Paul and Katz are correct that the function can’t be turned off…


              Reply
              1. Student

                I suppose most people on iTunes Radio aren’t the kind that buy full albums. I mean, I haven’t used it, so I suppose that it doesn’t play full albums, but like Pandora it plays only songs you like and related recommended ones? Or is it more like Spotify, where you can play anything you like? As you stated below though, other source says the feature can be turned off – which I suppose would be far more logical (even though I’d like the feature).


                Reply
                1. Anonymous

                  “other source says the feature can be turned off – which I suppose would be far more logical”

                  Indeed. If you can turn it off, then everything’s cool.


                  Reply
              2. nahbroyoudontgetit

                Peak-limiting (read the article, I’m not over explaining myself) is a harsh compression, they will compress inputs that are too loud at their peak (most likely the “hit” or attack) at a equal to or greater than 10:1 ratio. This is an industry standard ratio to note the difference between compression and limiting. It is also an industry standard to compress on output in radio, imagine some Metallica song then a very soft ballad next in cue, they need to level it out so you, the end user, doesn’t have to fiddle with the volume knob every three minutes. That is what limiting is, it’s everywhere, it happens to just about any recording that reaches your ears, it is compression at a high ratio. What I as an engineer understand when listening to music for pleasure is that it is an industry standard *compromise* to kill the dynamic range so that the end user can create playlists and not have to twist their volume control every three minutes. I have my choice taken away to listen to things with *reasonable* compression so fuck the “artists right to choose” the moron producer is the one at fault and fuck his right to choose, because he chose science over art. The science being our natural excitement due to big peaks (it’s a survival instinct, duh) and the art being the dynamics of the music


                Reply
          2. Student

            Lots of things are censored already. Why not censor sounds so loud that are increasing hearing problems in my generation? (I am 23). I mean, noise pollution does exist, and this is a form of it I suppose. It’s not a dramatic change anyways, I suppose only hardcore audiophiles will notice much difference (as stated by someone else’s comment below). Also, volume and dynamics are way different animals; and since this measure only affects volume, those who make records full of dynamics shouldn’t worry. At any rate, you can still have all that delicious, ear-candy, deafening levels by just turning up the volume dial (unless we have become that damn lazy to do that, heh). Either way, I don’t know if it will be a successful measure, because iTunes Radio is barely heard of when compared to other streaming services.


            Reply
          3. hippydog

            Quote “but a lot of people actually like what happens to the sound at at verge of clipping. So it’s an artistic decision.”

            bullsh*t.. :-)
            show me ONE engineer or artist who decided to do this as an artistic decision..


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              That would be a long list — everybody who’s pushing it into the red in order to get that urgency.

              It’s just a tool in the box, a part of the vocabulary; it has lots of artistic purposes and people would’ve done it fifty years ago they could.


              Reply
              1. chris

                I have listened to a lot of music and I have worked in the music industry professionally for 6 years. i have NEVER heard anyone use digital clipping creatively on purpose. you must be confused with the terminology. this is not the same as EDM’s use of square waves or triangle/ sawtooth waves. People like the sound of distortion in certain systems, like in Tube amplifiers for example. but those create a very specific harmonic distortion that is pleasing. You can look at what people prefer and look at things like even order harmonics or odd order harmonics and you can see a pattern. this is not the same thing at all as to digital clipping. Even in peak limiters they don’t over load the bit depth, the algorithms are designed to be pleasing and usually designed to model the sound of analog limiters or compressors like the UA 1176 for example. All mastering engineers will usually use peak limiters. These are not the same thing at all to clipping a signal in the digital domain though. and I have yet to hear any music that has done it.


                Reply
                1. raqmon

                  OH they clip . its called a Drop out. there you hear it , boom now you don’t for a second. digital clipping not pleasing to the ear at all. More like absent.


                  Reply
            2. Dan Paralanguage

              merzbow, venetian snares, boyd rice, oneothrix point never and on and on. all harsh noise acts for example, like things as loud as it can get. oh and ever check out the sound enhancer funtion on itunes? what do you think that stupid thing does? it alters the sound in an unflattering way to make it sound better on smaller speakers. its kind of hypocritical for apple to have that on as a default setting in itunes and now do this crap like they cared about the loudness wars all along.


              Reply
              1. hippydog

                Quote “everybody who’s pushing it into the red in order to get that urgency.”
                Quote “merzbow, venetian snares, boyd rice, oneothrix point never and on and on. all harsh noise acts for example, like things as loud as it can get” Which songs???

                for one.. there is a pretty big difference between analog distortion, and digital clipping..
                What the “loudness wars” are about is the tendency to take songs and heavily compress then raise the levels as close to 99% all the way thru the song..

                I was only able to check out “merzbow” on soundcloud, but the stuff I was able to check, is not the example you want to use (in reference to this subject).. As his stuff might use “distortion” but its not done post production, and from the few samples I listened to, they actually have lots of dynamic range ..

                So again..
                we are talking about DIGITAL clipping, and compressing songs to the point they have little dynamic range, if you have someone who actually made a choice to do this (as an artistic expression) and the song it was done on, i would love to hear it about it..


                Reply
                1. Anonymous

                  “we are talking about DIGITAL clipping, and compressing songs to the point they have little dynamic range, if you have someone who actually made a choice to do this (as an artistic expression) and the song it was done on, i would love to hear it about it”

                  You don’t make sense. The various and constantly evolving flavours of contemporary compression are as important to today’s sound as autotune & c800’s, and have little or nothing to do with loudness.

                  When you push the signal that last 0.5 dB into the red, you don’t get a perceivably louder sound. You get a different sound. And that’s what you go for.

                  It’s beyond me that we have tell Apple this. They make half the tools we use to produce the sound they now wish to destroy…


                  Reply
                  1. hippydog

                    you dont make sense..
                    sorry, but I am not going to argue with an “anonymous” who clearly doesn’t read what the subject matter is about, and does not understand the difference between analog and digital clipping..
                    When someone teaches you how to log in, then we can have a conversation..


                    Reply
                  2. chris

                    you seam very confused as to what digital clipping is. people use distortion all the time creatively and use clipping, but never in 6 years working professionally in the music business have i heard someone purposefully use digitally clipping their signal because they wanted to. You see people like certain kinds of distortion and if you look at the harmonics they generate there is a pattern it is not random. Just like with music theory you can actually dissect the distortion and see what people like about certain types of distortion, like even order vs odd order harmonics for example. clipping the input of an AD converter on the other hand is something I have never seen used creatively or clipping the registers in which the bits are stored.


                    Reply
                  3. Anonymous

                    Yes, you’ll get a really shitty boring lifeless sound…


                    Reply
              2. chris

                you are confused. there are lots of harsh noise acts. that is not the same as digital clipping. I have listend to all sorts of music that uses harsh noises but this is designed specifically to sound a certain way. for example in electronic music they use specific inputs like square waves or saw tooth waves. this is not the same as digital clipping. digital clipping sounds terrible and i have NEVER heard it used artistically. I have even listened to music from the “noise” genre. that is an actual genre of music. What people do like is usually analog distortion that then gets modeled digitally. Since Jimmy Hendrix people have used distortion creativley, but this is not the same thing as digital clipping. people are confusing their terminology here.


                Reply
        2. mdti

          you CANNOT recover dynamics from an over-compressed (dynamic compression) material.

          This will simply make tracks worse, that is to say, intros will be loud, while main tune will be lower…

          It will be worst


          Reply
        3. Therion

          Agree…


          Reply
      2. hippydog

        Quote ” but Apple should be better than that and not mess with artistic decisions.”
        The “loudness wars” is a real thing, and has very little to do with “artistic decisions” by either the artist or sound engineer.. its usually done post process, and its done because everyone else is doing it..

        The heavy handed compression , then maximise (IE: “loudness war”) is what has removed the ability for an artist to have a crescendo and peaks..

        I for one whole heartedly support this!


        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          “The heavy handed compression , then maximise (IE: “loudness war”) is what has removed the ability for an artist to have a crescendo and peaks.. “

          On the contrary, limiting didn’t remove anything; it gave artist lots of great possibilities.

          Apple’s initiative, on the other hand, prevents artists from building to a crescendo throughout an album, while it forces you to listen to romantic ballads at levels that would be appropriate for death metal.

          This is a mistake, and Apple has to fix it. Again, provided that Paul & Katz are right that it can’t be turned off…


          Reply
          1. Bob

            What do you think Limiter is anyway. It’s a compressor. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Limiting does compress.


            Reply
            1. Anonymous

              “What do you think Limiter is anyway. It’s a compressor. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Limiting does compress.”

              Geez man, you’re vilifying a signal processor:)


              Reply
      3. mike payne

        There are some definition deficiencies here. I have been in a band, worked behind the scenes, and have kids that have their own bands, as well as my brother. The real issue is “over compression”. Using this technique leaves zero room for the music to be as intended. (my youngest son and I have had this argument many times)
        The waveform is a solid block of whatever when smashed tight. Over driving does even more damage. If recorded properly, you should be able to hear every note, every side tone, and the pick hitting the pickups. It has nothing to do with stifling a artist, but making what they create stand out as being perfect. Those who take care in the studio will reap the rewards when it hits the market place, no matter the genre.


        Reply
      4. Anonymous

        “But please don’t destroy the contemporary sound.” You’re just one idiot of millions in music industry who making music 95% of worktime with normal levels and normal dynamic to not tire your ear, and after that make it “hotter” with “mastering” which will be an unlistenable shit compared to original mix.


        Reply
      5. Anonymous

        “lowering the levels of a really hot band that’s on the edge of clipping will come across as tame and wimpy.” Yes, but just because in reality they where never hot. They’re just boring and lifeless comparing to for eg. a normal dynamic range high quality 80’s music from original 80’s CD, not “remastered” but in reality just compressed and amplified bullshitt version what. Nowadays music industry want to show older musics as if were never good sounding and dynamic music in the world, but the quality is night and day.


        Reply
    2. Anonymous

      Roflamo. Normalizing volume is not “remastering” it.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        The purpose of the entire exercise is to force labels to do just that; remaster existing material and master new songs to Apple’s taste.

        Just like they force publishers and writers to censor innocent literary works again and again (Ulysses and Kama Sutra, anyone?).


        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Idiot! They just set the levels. Your shitty low dynamic taste music remains the same. So don’t worry!


          Reply
        2. Anonymous

          They attenuate constantly the whole song to fit the average volume level. Dynamics remain unchanged.


          Reply
        3. Therion

          You can still use your volume control, as listeners do when they come to your “hot” music, and turn down the volume. This will be automated with iTunes radio. It’s just volume control.


          Reply
    3. chris

      You are confused. they re not remastering. they are adding processing to the dynamic range. This is no more like remastering than stereos have been doing for decades. Every system is going to have it’s own frequency response, and since it is in data format, it has lready had the data compressed, and the way your device does the digital to analog conversion will also have an effect on frequency response. Every readio station already has some sort of processing on the signal in order to broadcast it. They compress it and limit it. Amplifiers them selves will have peak limiters and compression algorithms built in already as well as filters that change the frequency response. Every play back system will change the frequency response and dynamics of recorded material. it is not mastering at all. they are not changing the product that is being distributed by the record company. They are changing the way they play back the song, just like every radio station ever. What they are doing now, is basically making it standard on their radio, which is getting big enough to where people need to realize they need to make sure their music sounds good on that medium. And THAT is what mastering is. that is what a mastering engineering job is, making it sound as good as they can on any medium.


      Reply
      1. HiPoweredMedia

        that’s the best explanation I’ve heard yet. Engineers have always tried to master their product to sound good on most play back systems and environments. Really that’s what mastering is all about. Doing that while trying to preserve or highlight dynamics of a track.


        Reply
    4. Anonymous

      Not remaster it, just determine a constant attenuation for the whole song / album … Hence dynamics unchanged. What have I sad “dynamics” ? Where are dynamics today ??? Think before write !


      Reply
  2. Bryan Sanders

    Thankful for this..the Rhianna, Katy Perry louder for radio is a hit thing is too much, man. Too much.
    Once the volume comes down, so will some careers, sadly.


    Reply
  3. Myth Busters

    “iTunes Radio is already one-third the size of Pandora”- – – no it’s not. iTunes Radio is about 5% of the size of Pandora. You claim iTunes Radio streamed 1 billion songs last month. Good start, but Pandora streamed (and paid for) 20.4 billion songs in September.

    Another fun fact, YouTube is NOT the biggest streaming music service in the U.S.; Pandora is. YouTube streamed 1.27 billion hours of videos in September (that’s all videos, not just videos containing music), Pandora streamed 1.36 billion hours of music. Google it.


    Reply
      1. GGG

        Probably because 5.9B of that was cat videos.


        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          For once I’m with you (I’m that other annoying Anonymous) — though blah-blah-blah’s latest study does show that no less than 87.9% of all cat videos have unauthorized music in them.

          Not that it’s even remotely relevant for this thread.


          Reply
          1. GGG

            Well, it’s relevant for this specific string of comments, so you’re ok haha. It’s an interesting grey zone. For example the video of that woman quitting her job, putting the Kanye song back on the Hot 100. Granted, sales did go up from people buying it, but a lot of that was the new metrics, and I’m sure Kanye’s people claimed it. However, nobody looking to listen to that song went to that video (I hope).


            Reply
      2. Myth Busters

        Yes. Really. In the U.S., Pandora streams more content per month than all of Google, including YouTube. That has been true every month for the past five years, with the exception of June, July and August of this year. The Google numbers are from comScore, which measures video plays for the whole industry. Pandora’s numbers are from SEC filings.


        Reply
  4. Anonymous

    “or iTunes Radio will do it for them—and not always in a pleasing way”

    Well, that’s completely unacceptable.

    It won’t satisfy anybody but Mr. Katz, while it obviously will upset just about every mastering engineer (not to mention a lot of artists) on the planet.


    Reply
    1. David Gravereaux

      Sounds good to me.. They deserve to be upset. Maybe this big punch in face will get levels down and restore the sanity


      Reply
    2. One Russian sound an.

      Well, let me see even two or three persons who are satisfied hearing permanent clipped and distorted kinda-music? It’s probably a bit “freedom limiting decision ” so show us another way to solve the problem of dirty sounds flooding our (and my own to be exact) ears.


      Reply
    3. One Russian sound man.

      And by the way, mastering engineer who are producing that kind of “sound product” (I can’t name this music) have to be upset.


      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Apple is fucking gay.


    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    it’s similar to broadcast compression, it will destroy a track if the level is too hot


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      No, it’s actually quite the opposite.

      But that doesn’t make it any better.


      Reply
  7. kirkmc

    So I just put on iTunes Radio to listen for a while. There are noticable volume differences, in just listening to a half-dozen songs. It doesn’t sound to me like they’re using Sound Check at all.


    Reply
  8. Danwriter

    Apple has been addressing the issue of loudness for over a year, at the mastering stage, with a process called Mastered For iTunes. Here’s a link to info from one of the leading mastering facilites in the world, Sterling Sound, with some info: http://sterling-sound.com/itunes/

    … but there’s plenty more about it up there in the ether. This is an extension of the process to Apple’s streaming proposition. And yes, it is analogous — though not exactly the same — to what broadcast compression does to music on terrestrial radio.

    Loudness has been an issue for decades — Berry Gordy famously had his engineers analyze the volume of the top ten records each week and compare them to Motown’s levels. You could look at it as a technical strategy for gaming the system. The problem is once everyone does it, the baseline is gone and it all starts to look – and sound — like that waveform above.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “And yes, it is analogous — though not exactly the same — to what broadcast compression does to music on terrestrial radio.”

      To be precise, it does the exact opposite of what broadcast compression does, according to cnet:

      Sound Check doesn’t compress dynamics, it automatically adjusts the volume level from one song to the next.

      Which means that it doesn’t turn loud parts down in order to turn soft parts up — it turns everything up or down, thus changing the overall artistic idea when you for instance wish to build in volume throughout an album.

      cnet also says, however, that you can turn off Sound Check:

      Sound Check

      So this is in fact a bit confusing…


      Reply
  9. R.P.

    Apple will recognize that this is a faulty ideology and give it up in a few months.

    Mix engineers could care less what records sound like on Apple Radio, specifically when the argument still exists on whether or not streaming services are cannibalizing sales altogether. But good try you cheeky idealists.


    Reply
    1. Nathaneadam

      This is being touted amongst all the big nashville engineers as the best thing to happen since vinyl. “The end of the loudness wars!” came the email to me and others from one of Nashvilles biggest mixers.


      Reply
  10. Carlton Lynn

    Even though it’s slightly draconian that Apple is implementing their algorithm on iTunes Radio, it’s probably the only way the irritating and ear-fatiguing loudness wars will ever abate. All of the professional articles calling on labels, artists, producers and engineers to chill out on hyper compression and limiting have fallen on deaf ears. An aggregate push by Apple will hopefully introduce young customers to a new listening experience, i.e., music that breathes. As an engineer/mixer I am guilty of pushing the envelope of average levels, but I look forward to listening to a whole album without having to turn the volume down down as a result of ear fatigue.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “Even though it’s slightly draconian that Apple is implementing their algorithm on iTunes Radio, it’s probably the only way the irritating and ear-fatiguing loudness wars will ever abate”

      Disagree.

      In the 60’s, they found a much more reliable way to stop that terrible new sound:

      Burning Beatles Records


      Reply
  11. Clintone

    YAY!!!! Finally…………..
    Head mastering engineer at Superdups / New England CD from 1998 – 2009.
    Current and past clients include:
    Peter Frampton (2004 Tour | Instant Live), George Clinton (2004 Tour | Instant Live), P-Funk, Danny Bedrosian, Secrete Army, Nick Groff, Natalie Scott, The Funky LSD, John Deming, Still Breathin, Tantric, State Of The Art, Locomotive Records, ST Anselm College, Swamp Dog, The Slows, Lude Boy Records, Demons Alley, Audio Vandyl, The Ript, Hurricane Eye, The USA Songwriting Competition, Loops On Demand, Screaming Ferret Wreckords, Metro City Records, Clear Channel Communications, Superdups, New England Compact Disc, Vegas Temper, Eljer P. Sloan, Bloodshed Unreal Plus Hundreds More!
    clintone.com


    Reply
  12. mdti

    You CANNOT recover dynamics….
    so at the end, may be volume will be lower, but quality will be worse.
    it seems that it is still not the solution, but another problem to deal at the mastering facility.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “You CANNOT recover dynamics….
      so at the end, may be volume will be lower, but quality will be worse.”

      Extremely good point!


      Reply
  13. mdti

    itune seems to want to go back to bad quality FM radio compression :-o


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Just set’s the levels automatically like replaygain. Be more precise, read the article, AND UNDERSTAND before write something. Dynamics will be the some. A condstant attenuation will be applied for the whole song, and irt’s clearly not compression.


      Reply
  14. Bandit

    There should be an auto tune war.

    I am pretty sure that a clever engineer and software designer can create a program that can pick out the pop songs that use auto tune on the vocals.

    Then apple could purposely bend the vocals back out of tune. Not that would be interesting.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “Then apple could purposely bend the vocals back out of tune.”

      lol, yeah that’s probably their next step.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        … oh, and the next step again could be applying autotune to pitchy singers!

        Would probably be helpful to the dude in that other thread who didn’t think Lou Reed could sing in tune. :)


        Reply
  15. iknowthishit

    Apple is right. you don’t want to master to high to hit their intake limiter. Easy solution- turn your master level DOWN- and presto!- mastered for iTunes. And it sounds MUCH better too. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deaf.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “Easy solution- turn your master level DOWN- and presto!- mastered for iTunes. And it sounds MUCH better too”

      Yes, it sounds better — if you like that type of sound. If you don’t, it doesn’t.

      Bottom line:

      Apple wants to dictate how we should produce our music, and that’s not acceptable. (This comes from a huge Apple fan.)


      Reply
    2. Pat

      Yeah that’s BS, because sometimes clipping is the desired sound producers go for.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Exactly!


        Reply
  16. annonymous

    So you’re playing Katy Perry’s “Roar” on your iPod or whatever and you have the volume at ‘5’. Then you play “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones with the volume at ‘8’. Both songs will sound the same in overall volume, relatively speaking. Isn’t this pretty much what Apple is doing for you? What’s the big deal? Oh, and why are you listening to Katy Perry?


    Reply
    1. third world mix-squascher student

      In fact, but somehow some people here thinks that they had a magical remote control over people’s volume settings. Now you will still not have it, but at least you have predictable output, assuming you know the standard indications and you do your metering right. It’s just a little shame that this over-preached standard will have a business company father, but hope they’re getting farsighted help from sound people, looks again lika apple is the only one can get things done.


      Reply
  17. Scott

    This is a long overdue development. I have been so tired of buying new music or “remastered” albums, only to find out how painfully loud they are. All of the punch has been removed in favor of distortion and other negative artifacts. It’s easier to tell the difference on old music because there are dynamic versions that had previously been available. But with new music, you can just feel the pain in your head of squashed and compressed music, while only imagining how great it would sound without it being like a scream. If this begins yet another reissue campaign for the “Dynamic Edition”, I will once again buy these albums to hear them the proper way. The only releases that have avoided the Loudness War are those in which the artist understands the negative impacts and insists their music remain dynamic. I applaud those few. Now, hopefully, the others will have no choice, just like we’ve had not choice in purchasing squashed music with no other option available.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “But with new music, you can just feel the pain in your head”

      That’s what people said about Beatles.

      Fortunately, Apple wasn’t around then.


      Reply
      1. Byrkan

        Ahh actually the Beatles were on the Apple ( Label ) :) I know it wasn’t iTunes Apple….or was it?


        Reply
  18. mdti

    I Now hesitate, should release my album in 2 versions:
    1// studio matsre,
    and 2// the director’s cut master ??? ie, less compressed, and the way i want it to be.

    How do you sell/promote that
    How to avoid confusionb from purchasers ?

    I’ve been wondering since i sent my tracks to the mastering studio.
    It sure sounds good, some areas really profit from this, but generally speaking the titles are much less lively.

    And If i release and sell thos 2 versions (or even more), how will the itune program deal with that and destroy the subtle touches in one or another version….

    Doesn’t anyone feels like it is the right way for itune loose customers ?


    Reply
    1. mdti

      sorry for very bad spelling.

      + re-read: Doesn’t anyone feel like it is the right way for Itune to loose customers because all they are going to buy is “crap”?


      Reply
  19. Pat

    Um.. ok. How can iTunes Radio tell mastering engineers and people mixing the tracks how to compress their sound? Pumping 4 on the floor dance music is meant to be compressed and “loud” the whole time. Let’s get this clear, the loudness of a track is going to be relatively the same at peak levels, the dynamics depend upon the production. Again, dance music is pretty much the same the whole way through, whereas a jazz song would have more dynamics, aka quieter parts to showcase the expression on an instrument solo. It’s a creative tool that can be used whichever way the producer and artist wants to use it. It’s rather silly to try and say the loudness war has been won, when it’s not the distributor’s choice. It’s a joke. Whether you like heavily compressed music or more dynamic music, you can’t limit (no pun intended here for producers, wink wink) creativity like this.


    Reply
    1. hippydog

      I would have to believe that it will only be used on obvious abuses.. There is a difference between removing useless peaks and compressing a song so hard there is zero dynamics left..

      I will agree that EDM lends itself a lot more to being compressed , but there is a line that can be crossed making it TOO flat..

      I wasnt able to find out yet what the EXACT criteria would be.. if its a simple percentage of the total song, then ya.. People who mix dance music will have to be a lot more careful..


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        “There is a difference between removing useless peaks and compressing a song so hard there is zero dynamics left”

        And it’s obviously none of your business if it ain’t your song.

        Don’t like the tune? Don’t listen to it.


        Reply
        1. hippydog

          its my opinion.. which i’m allowed to have..
          same as an artist, who if they dont like Itunes direction, can release their music on an LP..

          and If they understood mastering (or at least had a basic knowledge) would probably laugh at the irony of that..


          Reply
  20. Anonymous

    T


    Reply
  21. Appledystopia

    Hmmm… I have been listening to a lot of iTunes Radio on my Apple TV. I don’t have Sound Check turned on. I notice that the tracks do indeed have different levels. This is very noticeable with metal (I created a “Meshuggah” radio station). I need to constantly fiddle with the volume — it is not constant. Not even close.

    I’m working on an article with tips for iTunes Radio for Apple TV, so I’ll be evaluating Sound Check and if it works or not. But it’s clearly not on by default, and researching this, Apple seems to indicate that you do have the option to toggle Sound Check.


    Reply
  22. Appledystopia

    By evaluating it — I do have an SPL meter and software. I’m not going to be earballing it. But just by earballing it, I notice fluctations in level. Of course, the article contends that those who squash music with program compression will be “punished” with weaker sounding music from Sound Check. Really? That’s not what Sound Check is supposed to do. Maybe the marketing people got that wrong, and it’s what it does. But the point of Sound Check is that you’re not supposed to fiddle with your volume controls. The point of Sound Check is that if you play music, like at a party, you can enjoy yourself instead of fiddling with a remote all night… I know people who have hooked up their RNC (Really Nice Compressor) to their stereo, to do exactly what Sound Check is supposed to do.

    And the commercials? Loud!!! They need to take a note from Hulu Plus on that — commercials should not be louder than the music. The commercials could potentially blow out one’s speakers. Not cool. They also take a long time to load, because on Apple TV, they’re HD video commercials.

    This is a new service. Hopefully, in time, it will get better. It’s pretty amazing as it stands now…


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “the point of Sound Check is that you’re not supposed to fiddle with your volume controls”

      Yes, and that’s perfectly alright — as long as it’s VOLUNTARILY.

      I know people who have hooked up their RNC (Really Nice Compressor) to their stereo, to do exactly what Sound Check is supposed to do

      No, a compressor does the opposite: It turns loud parts down so you can turn the soft ones up.

      What Apple does is to turn entire Death Metal tunes down and Chamber music up to the same one-size-fits-Apple level.


      Reply
  23. Blahblahblah

    I’m half awake right now reading this but it sounds like a wacky idea to me. I agree that a lot of music is mastered in this shitty fashiint for several years already but what would happen to all of that? Will it all have to be remastered just so it doesn’t sound even shittier on iTunes Radio?


    Reply
    1. blahblahblah

      shitty “fashion”


      Reply
  24. KnobTwiddler

    Getting everyone to ‘turn on SoundCheck’? Good luck with that.

    ….and who listens on iTunes anymore anyway?

    Bob Katz is, on his best day, a fringe mastering engineer from Orlando Florida. Bob wrote a book about mastering, we all know what they say about the difference between doing and teaching right?


    Reply
    1. brandon

      so i see you didn’t get past the first sentence of his wiki page. “Katz has mastered three Grammy Award-winning albums and one nominated album. He has received acclaim from audiophiles and his book on mastering has received acclaim, with some considering it the “definitive work on mastering”. He has developed proprietary systems K-Stereo and K-Surround. These processes are designed to “recover lost or amplify hidden ambience, space and imaging, and generate stereo from mono signals without adding artificial reverberation.”


      Reply
  25. Anonymous

    ya done good itunes!

    people can bitch about fair this and not altering other peoples work that, but the fact remains that music has become increasingly loud at the cost of dynamic range. forcing engineers be gentler on their dynamics can only be a good thing for listeners, whether they know it or not……


    Reply
  26. Austin Jones

    This is great news! Thanks!


    Reply
  27. ChuckNorrisChol

    Wow this fantastic news!!!!!!!!!!! Bring back good sounding music PLEASE!!!!!


    Reply
  28. Wilton

    I don’t understand the problem. I use sound check all the time while playing songs off my iTunes. I think it’s great. While it does diminish the volume differences between songs, (really loud songs are lowered in volume, really quiet songs are brought up in volume, and some stuff isn’t touched) the dynamics within the songs are not touched. I do have a few songs which are really loud, (Mars Volta, Metallica), and they are simply lower in volume with sound check on.

    All that clipping and distortion that some people are thinking will be removed from a recording via sound check, will not be removed. If it’s part of the recording, it will still be there, just at a lower volume.

    The only problem with sound check is if you’re listening to an album with connecting songs such as Dark Side of the Moon or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. If the end of one song gets quieter and leads into a quiet part of the next song, sound check causes the 2nd song to start louder then the ending of the 1st song.


    Reply
  29. Anonymous

    There is NO way to make a MP3 sound better through any method. It’s like trying to turn chicken McNuggets back into chicken breasts Hey thanks for AGC on the POS MP3. A non issue for me. 16 @ 44.1 is the minimum I listen to. If it’s not available I won’t be listening to it.


    Reply
  30. SuperDave

    There is nothing musical about a wave that is taken beyond the threshold, period. With the advent of compression, many sound engineers think that it is their job to make it clip and then cut off the wave. I have received many songs that just do that very thing and it sounds like crap. If you want distortion, the time to put it in is when you record the instrument, not when you master the song.


    Reply
  31. Emil Trotman

    Experts are the dumbest folks on earth. Constantly making senseless assumptions and unrealistic predictions. Understanding Apple, even a little kid might know that Apple will not make cheap! Yet these fellows create artificial increases and downgrades, only earning money somewhere I think!


    Reply
  32. Johnson Charles

    :-)


    Reply
  33. TraceTheAce

    LISTENING TO TODAY’S MUSIC IS LIKE READING THIS. IT’S ALL LOUD. THERE IS NO DYNAMIC RANGE.

    Music is easier to listen to if you keep the dynamic range in it. I prefer my vinyl with its dynamic range and “breath” that is destroyed by “remastering” for digital CDs. Wouldn’t it be annoying to hear someone whisper as loud as they yell?


    Reply
  34. Neo

    ..not that is really matters – i regret buying from itunes – In 2013 id still like to be offered at least a 320k version and we are still paying more here in Australia than our US brothers. (Apple iTunes store in the US sells most albums between $9.99 and $12.99, while in Australia albums are frequently sold for $16.99 and higher.)


    Reply
  35. Amac

    Someone posted on the article’s thread (clearly a lawyer of some kind for the big boxes) : “Does iTunes really have the rights to essentially remaster a partner-provided sound recording before broadcasting it???”

    Nice try, whoever that was. But that’s not what the potential stopping of the loudness war is about. Its about hours & hours & hours of hard work by artists such as Katy Perry or even our friend GCJ (just trying to be inclusive here) having their music turned into a sonic wave of poo poo regardless of style, substance, or intent.


    Reply
  36. sac louis vuitton

    conc


    Reply
  37. Ken

    Now that we’re all a bit more calm here: if you’re interested in what’s really at play – have a read of this…

    particularly investigate LUFS [Loudness Units at Full Scale], K-weighting and see if you can understand how these new methods for mediating listening levels might not be the nasties that you might think they are. Metadata is important in these new methods of managed audio playback.

    It gets complex, but what’s at the core of these new standards and methods for measuring [and then managing] apparent loudness is the way that we humans perceive what we call “loudness”. We are much more sensitive to prolonged high peak dynamics in music than we are to occassional short bursts of loud sound. Traditional methods of measurement of loudness looked to loudest peaks in program and thus management of output might make a movie soundtrack with soft music and foley but one single loud gunshot in 15 mins be measured as loud as an EDM track with constant peaks.

    This stuff is still being evolved but it’s potentially awesome IMHO as we incorporate these standards and refine the methods with experience.

    http://auphonic.com/blog/2012/08/02/loudness-measurement-and-normalization-ebu-r128-calm-act/


    Reply
  38. Ken

    Now that we’re all a bit more calm here: if you’re interested in what’s really at play – have a read of this…

    Now that we’re all a bit more calm here: if you’re interested in what’s really at play – have a read of this…

    particularly investigate LUFS [Loudness Units at Full Scale], K-weighting and see if you can understand how these new methods for mediating listening levels might not be the nasties that you might think they are. Metadata is important in these new methods of managed audio playback.

    It gets complex, but what’s at the core of these new standards and methods for measuring [and then managing] apparent loudness is the way that we humans perceive what we call “loudness”. We are much more sensitive to prolonged high peak dynamics in music than we are to occassional short bursts of loud sound. Traditional methods of measurement of loudness looked to loudest peaks in program and thus management of output might make a movie soundtrack with soft music and foley but one single loud gunshot in 15 mins be measured as loud as an EDM track with constant peaks.

    This stuff is still being evolved but it’s potentially awesome IMHO as we incorporate these standards and refine the methods with experience.

    http://auphonic.com/blog/2012/08/02/loudness-measurement-and-normalization-ebu-r128-calm-act/

    particularly investigate LUFS [Loudness Units at Full Scale], K-weighting and see if you can understand how these new methods for mediating listening levels might not be the nasties that you might think they are. Metadata is important in these new methods of managed audio playback.

    It gets complex, but what’s at the core of these new standards and methods for measuring [and then managing] apparent loudness is the way that we humans perceive what we call “loudness”. We are much more sensitive to prolonged high peak dynamics in music than we are to occassional short bursts of loud sound. Traditional methods of measurement of loudness looked to loudest peaks in program and thus management of output might make a movie soundtrack with soft music and foley but one single loud gunshot in 15 mins be measured as loud as an EDM track with constant peaks.

    This stuff is still being evolved but it’s potentially awesome IMHO as we incorporate these standards and refine the methods with experience.


    Reply
  39. Ken

    sorry for the duplicate mess. a couple of clicks and sluggish web connection and there it was! apologies


    Reply

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