The Loudness War

Is music that much louder now? Is dynamic range a thing of the past? Yes!

For those who are not familiar with dynamic range, it is the ratio between the largest and smallest possible values of a changeable quantity in signals like sound and light.

The loudness war is the result of artists trying to make their tracks sound as loud as possible because listeners perceive loud music as better sounding music. This could potentially give the artist an edge over the other guy. As most of DJ’s and Producers know, however, pushing your tracks to be as loud as possible is no longer advantageous, as it has become the status quo. 

So what are the pros and cons of pushing your tracks this loud? Based on my experience as a DJ, louder music definitely sounds more energetic in a nightclub. The main drawback is our ears. YES I said it!!! The human ear can only take so much loudness at a constant level before it becomes fatigued to the point where sounds begin blending into one another, and therefor nothing sounds as good. 

When you listen to a big name DJ’s set, you will notice that most of them start with a big bang when they begin. How do they achieve this? By starting with a piece of music that is noticeably quieter than the rest of their set. When the music drops, the audience experiences a dramatic change in dynamic range. You might also notice that after 10-15 minutes of hard hitting club bangers, the DJ will give the listeners 4-5 minute breaks by playing less energetic music. These artists effectively use dynamic range to create a much more enjoyable experience. 

At the end of the day, most mainstream music will be pushed to its maximum, and display very little dynamic range. If you ask me this is a generational trend in the age of digital music. I’d like to have your input on this topic: what have your experiences been? Whether you are a DJ or just a music fan, let’s continue the conversation on twitter. You can find me at @iampixelthief.