It’s around this time of year that I start my classes on audio mastering. One of the big issues for me is the abuse of limiting plug-ins, and so it was with some delight that I recently came across this useful little movie on YouTube:
There are places when limiting heavily may be appropriate: mastering tracks for club-bound 12″ vinyl, for example. But most of the time people are being seduced by the most superficial of signifiers—pure volume—when really anyone wanting it louder just has to turn it up for themselves.
This isn’t some esoteric geek issue, either: even The Guardian have written a very good little article about the “loudness wars” here. What’s interesting is that it obviously isn’t the mastering engineers who are doing it—in fact they’re complaining like crazy—but the record companies and, tragically, the artists themselves. Even Paul Simon is at it!!!!
This cult of loudness extends through to the finished product: Thomas Lund at TC Electronics has shown how modern CDs are simply recorded too ‘hot’. His research shows a 2002 Eminem CD generating around 25 instances of “obvious distortion” every 10 seconds! Read the full Distortion To The People paper here.