EDIT: Thank you, everyone, for the great response and dialog. Please consider sharing the petition link with your friends: https://www.change.org/p/music-streaming-services-bring-peace-to-the-loudness-war

If you're on Facebook, you can join our new public group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/loudnesspetition

We're at the end of the time where all four of us are actively watching and participating, but we'll keep answering new questions occasionally (when possible) over the next few days or so.

My short bio: We are:

We're working to encourage music streaming services to adopt the Audio Engineering Society's loudness standard - kind of like ReplayGain or Sound Check, but more comprehensive. We've posted a petition on change.org which has already gathered nearly 4,000 signatures in a couple weeks: https://www.change.org/p/music-streaming-services-bring-peace-to-the-loudness-war

My Proof:

Comments: 247 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

tungx59 karma

Would you all think I'm crazy if I tell you that I always try to buy the oldest version of a given CD, since the audio isn't squashed to bits?

LoudnessPetitionGrp7 karma

Nope, not crazy at all. :-)

browwnbear40 karma

Sorry if I misunderstood what was said, but, are you suggesting that streaming sites agree on a global LUFS level to normalise at? If so, what would be the optimum level?

PS: Your book helped me with one of my final year assignments for MMU, appreciated!

LoudnessPetitionGrp31 karma

The full AES recommendation document is here - it explains the idea in detail: http://www.aes.org/technical/documents/AESTD1004_1_15_10.pdf

If you're referring to Bob Katz's book, yes, it's great isn't it? He's /u/bobkatz48bit in this thread.

ItsMeJayson20 karma

Why is loudness in music bad? Why do we need people to enforce a standard if it "naturally sounds better"?

LoudnessPetitionGrp50 karma

Loudness is no problem! Crank it.

The issue is about leveling the playing field so that musicians and engineers are no longer pressured to slam every moment (quiet or loud) of their songs to maximum volume using limiting and compression.

Also, by implementing this standard, nobody is being forced to do anything. Everyone will have the freedom to use as much or as little compression/limiting as they want.

nmchmsk20 karma

Have some genres not benefited from the tools of the loudness war? I have a very hard time imagining genres such as dubstep and drum and bass, that rely lots on compression and processing, not being negatively affected by ending the loudness war. I know that a lot of this is done during the mixing stage and not squashed during the mastering stage.

LoudnessPetitionGrp27 karma

Great point. Yes, absolutely - and we're not suggesting that anyone have that choice taken away.

By leveling the playing field, there's a benefit to listeners, in that they can set the volume and not worry about genres being radically different levels. Plus, artists are free to use exactly as much, or as little, compression/limiting as they want - for the sound not for the loudness.

audiosemipro11 karma


What music technology do you wish existed?

How important is mathematics in your day to day mastering (harmonic series, FFT analysis)? Do you pay attention to the ratio of these harmonics within a mix?

What resources should I study to have a better understanding of the harmonic series and FFT anaylsis as it relates to balancing the frequency response of a mix? For example are there certain harmonics I should attenuate or accentuate if I want clarity and definition in a mix?

Thanks for your time, and thanks for all of the great music!

LoudnessPetitionGrp9 karma

Good questions!

Music technology: some way to remove the placebo/nocebo effect from listening tests without having to go to all the trouble of a double-blind ABX test.

Mathematics: I'll let the others speak to mastering, since I (Matt) am not a professional mastering engineer. But, regarding my own musical work I can offer an analogy, stolen partly from Douglas Adams.

Imagine someone tossing a softball to you for you to catch. Behind the scenes, your eyes/brain/muscles do a ton of physics and math calculations to know exactly where to put your hand to catch the ball. The math is intense but it feels natural. In the same way, all those numbers are at work, but the number-crunching is done subconsciously by the ears and brain.

For your last question, I'm pretty confident that the pro MEs will agree that it takes a combination of constant experimentation, comparing against existing professional masters, dedication, and a certain amount of luck. Eventually you get a feel for which frequency ranges sound like what.

audiosemipro5 karma

Thanks for the reply!

yea I kinda assumed the math is subconscious. But I guess, (to continue the softball analogy) wouldn't professionals benefit from learning about the mechanics and science behind 'why' the muscles need to move a certain way or how they work in order to train their subconscious more effectively through an informed practice regimen?

I guess the heart of my question arises because I have a (to say the least) less than perfect mastering environment. It would be helpful if there was a way for me to use my eyes & brain instead of having to rely on my ears and emotion.

LoudnessPetitionGrp7 karma

It sounds like you're looking for a way to compensate for the lack of reliable monitoring. Unfortunately, that's the sort of problem where the time/energy/money involved in working around it, are usually more than the time/energy/money involved in directly solving it head-on.

As a temporary measure, you can try listening to your work on many different systems, referencing to existing material, and getting opinions from others at each "draft" stage. But in the end, the only way to make intelligent decisions about audio is to be able to hear that audio clearly.

I wish I had said this, but it was the student of one of my audio educator colleagues: "We're enginears, not engineyes!"

nmchmsk9 karma

Do you have an example of an album or song were the effects of the loudness war is visible, and would otherwise have sounded a lot better without what was done at the mastering stage? A strong example preferably to help educate the public.

LoudnessPetitionGrp18 karma

Thanks for the question. There have been several examples of this over the years - one famous one a while ago was Metallica's Death Magnetic.

The CD was released with so much limiting and compression that it was very hard to hear any nuances. Some clever people discovered that the tracks included in the Guitar Hero video game (or maybe Rock Band; I forget) were much less aggressively limited, and there was quite a bit of controversy because people preferred to torrent the Guitar Hero mix rather than listen to the CD.

There's also the very quick and simple example in the middle of the petition video, which is taken from the 2006 Loudness war video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

nmchmsk6 karma

Are the musicians you work with as torn as you mastering engineers when it comes to the loudness wars? :)

LoudnessPetitionGrp5 karma

I (Matt) am not a mastering engineer but am a musician, and yes - there's definitely a feeling of anxiety at the thought of being "too quiet." Many of the other musicians I work with feel the same way. By implementing something like these standards, that would take away most of that worry.

nmchmsk6 karma

Have you been able to get the support of some of the infamous mastering engineers who played a big role in the loudness wars?

LoudnessPetitionGrp5 karma

Thanks for the question! There's been growing support in the professional community, as the signatures and comments on the petition show. To be fair, in a lot of the "infamous" projects, the MEs simply had to do what the client asked, despite their warnings to the client about how excessive compression/limiting compromises the sound quality.

myliwG5 karma

How concerned should producers be with the algorithms that will determine future loudness broadcast standards?

Hopefully not irrelevant. What do you think about zero mastering other than having a peak limiter on the master bus? Artists such as Noisia do this and produce some very pleasing material.

P.S. I bought might LRS4329p's in part based on a footnote about monitors in your book Bob, thanks for all your work!

LoudnessPetitionGrp3 karma

I'll let Bob and the others speak to the mastering details, but as far as producers and algorithms, my wish is that they won't worry about them and will just make music that sounds exactly how they want it - and stop worrying about adding any kind of processing purely for volume reasons.

Then, for songs or genres that sound good with lots of compression, they can pile it on as appropriate, and for songs/genres that sound better without it, they can leave it off entirely and not worry about being a casualty of the loudness wars.

LooseStuul4 karma

Hi guys It seems that it would be in the interest of the streaming services, on a business level, to regulate their own broadcast volumes to be more or less equal. I would think that a subscriber would leave a service due to a problem like that. Can you let us know the reason these companies aren't taking care of that themselves?

LoudnessPetitionGrp4 karma

Speaking for myself, I can only guess, since I don't belong to any of the streaming companies' decision-making boards. I'm guessing that they simply haven't thought very much about it, since there hasn't been a large backlash. Also, some streaming services already implement some sort of volume normalization, but many are doing it in ways that have unfortunate side effects. The AES recommendations, we believe, hit the sweet spot between all the competing technical factors.

Also, by asking all services to adopt the same standards, this will encourage consistency between services - which is another important aspect since we don't want a whole new loudness war (streaming service vs. streaming service)!

fossiltooth4 karma

I appreciate and respect your interest and efforts on this issue. With that said, do you recognize the importance of freedom of choice in the aesthetic, technical and economic realms as it pertains to this issue?

Will you agree to commit to relying on voluntary adoption of your proposed standards, and to never seek to use the coercive force of any state legislation to try and have them adopted?

LoudnessPetitionGrp7 karma

I believe freedom of choice is at the very heart of the issue.

By implementing the standards, freedom of choice is ensured and expanded for:

  • Listeners, who will be free to choose a volume setting and have assurance that all songs will play back at that volume (instead of having that choice taken away by unpredictable levels song-to-song)
  • Artists and engineers, who will finally be free to choose exactly how much compression they want for the best sound, instead of weighing a compromise between "competing" in loudness and sounding the way they want

The idea is also to include an option or preference for loudness normalization, with the default being On, but with the user able to turn it off.

There are no legal or governmental lawmaking bodies involved; it's simply a recommendation - there's a technical paper describing it here - and the petition is simply asking for your support to show music streaming services that there's a demand among their customers for this.

jazzyjacck4 karma

How do you feel about lossless FLAC streaming services like Tidal?

LoudnessPetitionGrp16 karma

Lossless streaming is great - it prevents data compression artifacts like swirling, pre-echo, high frequency loss, "glass noise," etc.

However that's a different meaning of the word "compression" compared to the dynamic range compression which is the issue in the Loudness War, so it's a separate issue.

Even though it's a little cheesy and dated (I should know since I created it), this video explains the difference pretty clearly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E5kCRsr4gQ

spencerlyv3 karma

Hello! Thank you for taking time to do an AMA! I am currently studying audio engineering at a university. An assignment I have been working on is a paper about the history of recording technology and how it has affected the industry and the artists. I have been referring back to How Music Works by David Byrne which has been very helpful. However, what is something you guys think is very important for me to write in my paper that people must know?

LoudnessPetitionGrp6 karma

Sure, we're happy to do your homework for you! ;-)

Besides the Loudness War in general and the way it has worked on various platform, you might consider looking into psychoacoustics - the study of how people hear and interpret sound - and the deeper nature of digital audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIQ9IXSUzuM Also, there are a lot of fascinating aspects of how people hear differently in double-blind vs. sighted tests. Good luck!

LoudnessPetitionGrp3 karma

Q: "You guys seem out of date. Haven't the streaming services already implemented loudness normalization?"

A: "No, unfortunately, every streaming service has problems. Some are not normalized by default. Streaming needs to be normalized by default or it's useless. One service uses such a high target it causes artists to overcompress their singles to match that service. Another service adds serious and egregious peak limiting on top of an artists's creation. Another service is not normalized at all. So this is a current and serious problem. We intend to lobby the services to make these changes, and there is already a movement in this direction. Wish us well, please!

TheSmileyCactus2 karma

will you do the same for books?

LoudnessPetitionGrp11 karma


No seriously, do you mean for audio books?

frenando2 karma

What would you think would be the best solution, leaving it to decide to decide in the client side whether you want audio normalization or not or enforce it on every user?

LoudnessPetitionGrp3 karma

Thanks for the question. I think the best approach would be to at least have this be the default setting.

The idea is that, if everyone has a level playing field, then musicians and engineers won't feel pressured to use more compression than is artistically needed.

LoudnessPetitionGrp2 karma

It would be fine if the user has the ability to turn it off if desired, but on should be the default option if the goal is to ensure freedom of choice for artists and engineers, as well as listeners.