DRD goes global for latest skirmish in the loudness war

This year’s Dynamic Range Day promises a further 24 hours of online activity designed to raise awareness of excessive loudness and the impact that it is having on the sound of recorded music, writes David Davies.
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After a highly successful 2011 edition, this year’s Dynamic Range Day promises a further 24 hours of online activity designed to raise awareness of excessive loudness and the impact that it is having on the sound of recorded music. DRD – now in its third year – is the brainchild of Ian Shepherd (pictured) from Cambridgeshire-based Blu-ray/DVD authoring and audio services company Mastering Media. Once again, DRD will combine extensive commentary on social media with the presentation of an award for Best Sounding Dynamic Mix. Last year’s gong went to Elbow in recognition of the “light and shade, drama and build” evident throughout the Bury band’s fifth studio album, Build A Rocket Boys! The 2012 vote is open to all via the DRD Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/DRD12-best-album. Shepherd is also bringing a more international flavour to this year’s DRD, with details of a series of local ‘MeetUp’ events available here (http://www.meetup.com/Dynamic-Range-Day-Global/). Colleges including the San Diego Art Institute of California and the UK’s SSR are holding DDR-themed events for their students, while other MeetUps are more informal – simply providing opportunities, says Shepherd, for “friends meeting for beers to listen to great-sounding, dynamic music.” In light of the overwhelmingly positive reaction to previous DRDs, and the release of some strikingly dynamic-sounding albums during the last 12 months (Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow and PJ Harvey’s MPG Award-winning Let England Shake being salient examples), PSNE wonders if the loudness war could be approaching its final stages. “I think the end is in sight,” agrees Shepherd, “partly because we’re seeing many more dynamic releases coming through, but mainly because of new legislation that has been introduced recently.” In particular, he expects EBU R128 and ensuing national reforms to trickle down to software and hardware manufacturing – “and at that point, the war is over. All music will be played at a similar volume, and so making super-squashed ‘loudness war’ masters will actually stop music from standing out.” More immediately, there are still “plenty of casualties” to contend with – some of whom have enlisted Shepherd’s assistance on the back of the DRD project. “I had one band whose single had been mastered online at one of the biggest studios in the world saying ‘this doesn’t sound right to me, what do you think?’ It was terrible – really crushed, thick and distorted. I said I thought it would sound better with a lower average level, more space and dynamics, and did them a demo. They loved it, and I ended up remastering it for them. It’s things like that which give me hope!” To read the DRD/TurnMeUp.org ‘open letter to the music industry’, click here (http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/loudness-war-open-letter/). For full background on DRD – including details of prize giveaways involving an SSL Bus Compressor, a pair of Bowers & Wilkins CM-1 speakers, and a copy of the TC Electronic LM-6 Loudness Meter – visit the homepage at http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/.



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