Blog Discussion Topic – October 21, 2008 – John E. Johnson, Jr. – Where is the dynamic range in modern recordings?

I have been reading reports in several magazines lately about the complaints from recording engineers that they are being forced to turn up the recording volume throughout entire albums because the louder the music, the more it sells.

You have probably noticed this in your latest rock music CDs. Everything is the same volume: loud.

It is easy to do. The recording itself has quiet sections and loud sections, but during the editing process, the engineers simply turn up the quiet sections so they are near 0 dBFS (the FS means Full Scale).

There must be a lot of music fans out there who like it, because they are not ones who seem to be complaining.

So, why should the recording engineers care, as long as the consumers are happy?

Well, the problem is that the recording has no dynamic range, so it does not even come close to sounding like live music.

Secondly, it is affecting recordings other than hard rock music. I listened to a Barbra Streisand album of popular music, and when she sang softly or was really belting it out, the volume was the same. In fact, this was my first experience noticing the lack of dynamic range in modern CDs.

Telarc – bless their hearts – doesn’t seem to have fallen into this deep hole. Their recordings from day one have so much dynamic range, they sometimes have to warn consumers on the cover that there is some really loud stuff on that album so be careful.

None of my SACDs seem to have dynamic range issues either. It is such a specialized market, I guess no one is pressuring the engineers to screw up the recordings by putting all the sound up near 0 dBFS.

So, my question here is, the readers who follow Secrets on a regular basis are probably a little different than those people out there who just put everything on their iPods, and just don’t really care about the sound quality (other than having it loud).

What do you, as Secrets readers, feel about all this? Are you content with the way modern rock CDs are recorded?