Itís not just the iPod contributing to the hearing loss of our generation. Hereís a task for you. Find a CD from the 80s, for example, AC/DCís Back in Black. Listen to it in full. Take it out of the CD player, and then pop in a CD from the last year or so, perhaps Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers, but DONíT adjust the volume. Notice the difference?
Digital mastering of modern times is making our music louder. Producers are driving for more loud parts to a song, therefore, sections of a song which appear to be quieter in the studio, due to their digital compressions, end up being made unbearably loud in mastering, sometimes even distorting on some perfectly good devices.
I was first made aware of this instance on an online forum a few months back. I had noticed my new Red Hot Chili Peppers album becoming slightly distorted and much louder than even the previous album released not five years ago. I then played a comparison with the albums Motherís Milk (1989) and Freaky Styley (1985). Needless to say, the difference was obvious.
Of course, the obvious major concern with louder music is damage and pain. Many experts are saying that making these records sound better through the art of loudness is causing some listeners pain, even though their oblivious to it due to the adapting nature of sounds going through their ears; even provoking senses of fatigue in listeners.
The worst thing about this compression and loud music, is that the music loses its mood. Iíd dare say most things are written to have certain dynamic shifts in volume to invoke different moods and feelings upon the listener. There is one saviour: the somewhat defunct vinyl LP.
Comparisons between the CD version of the track Stadium Arcadium off the Red Hot Chili Peppersí 2006 album of the same name with its vinyl counterpart draw an interesting story.
The top wave length is from the vinyl LP, the bottom from the CD. That just goes to show you! Look at all the dynamics in the vinyl recording, fluctuating volumes and troughs and peaks. Compare it to the CD recording at the bottom. Itís almost the same level the whole way through, with the only changes being short, sharp and probably somewhat unnoticeable.
Iím not telling you to boycott CDs; the purpose of this article is to make you aware of what is happening in the digital age. You can make your own decisions based upon it. Just know that all this MP3 and dot com stuff is absolutely butchering the music you love, without you even knowing it. When will the day return when we can hear the songs the way they were intended to be heard? Will the day return at all? Time will tellÖ
References: One Hot Globe - Red Hot Chili Peppers online community
"Music Really is Louder Today" - thisislondon.co.uk