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Dynamic Range Day heralds new movement against loudness

A day of online activity on 25 March will seek to make people more aware of over-compression during the mixing and mastering of music.

A day of online activity on 25 March will seek to make people more aware of over-compression at the mixing and mastering stage and the effect that it is having on the sound of recorded music.

Through a combination of blog posts and activity on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Dynamic Range Day 2011 (DRD11) organiser Ian Shepherd is hoping to offer fresh illumination on the much-discussed ‘loudness wars’ – in other words, the tendency for music to be mixed and mastered with higher real and perceived levels of loudness.

Alan Parsons, Geoff Emerick and Bob Dylan are among the many prominent figures to have criticised the effect that the ensuing reduction of dynamic range is having on the sound of music.

“We want to encourage people to make their music more dynamic – and by ‘dynamic’ I only mean an overall dynamic range of 8dB or more – or ‘DR8’ as measured by the offline TT Loudness Meter,” explains Shepherd, who is the owner of UK mastering, mixing, production and authoring company Mastering Media Ltd. “Most albums released these days are only DR6 or even less. A 2dB difference doesn’t sound like much, but at these levels it can make all the difference in the world.”

While Shepherd alludes to research and anecdotal evidence suggesting that increased loudness has no effect on the sales of recorded music, he insists that he doesn’t want to be too prescriptive. “People are always free to crush the life out of their music if they choose!” he laughs. “But I genuinely believe the Loudness Wars have become a modern-day fairy story, with artists and labels too scared to release dynamic material – but without any good reason. Radio squashes everything anyway and the use of ReplayGain and similar technologies for mp3 players, jukeboxes and online players is ultimately going to make loudness completely irrelevant.”

Specific plans for 25 March are still being finalised, and Shepherd intends to post details on his Production Advice website in the coming days. But he can reveal that there will be an award for the best-sounding dynamic mix of 2010/11, to be judged by a panel of respected engineers. “SSL has contributed an X-Desk as the prize in a ‘spot the most dynamic mix competition’, which anyone can enter,” he says. “Other prizes include Bowers & Wilkins speakers and a free mastering session at Fluid Mastering.”

Shepherd hopes to build on the success of the 2010 Dynamic Range Day, which resulted in over 3,000 people signing up to the Facebook event and more than 30 blog posts and articles.

Keep an eye on the PSNE website for more details of DRD11 as they emerge.