The End of the Loudness Wars?

Band on the RunThis is exciting news for audiophiles. While the general earbudder might not give a shit about audio quality or dynamic range, people who really enjoy listening—and listening hard!—to music are going to be surprised by the following note from Abbey Road’s Allan Rouse regarding Paul McCartney’s remastered reissue of Band on the Run.

As is common with releases using Topspin’s tools, customers have a number of options, including CD only, deluxe CD package, vinyl, MP3 download, etc. This time, you can also purchase a High Resolution (24bit 96kHz) download for $19.99. The really cool thing about this is you get both limited and unlimited versions of the audio. For non-audiophiles, “limited” audio is a little louder, while the “unlimited” version will “sound quieter, but retain the dynamic range of the original master recording.” The fact that they’re giving people both may signal a real turning point in the Loudness Wars. Let’s hope so anyway…

Read Rouse’s full explanation below…

Paul McCartney: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, web.

High Resolution Details

The audio industry has seen many technical innovations since Band on the Run was first released on vinyl in 1973, the most notable being digital recording. However, with the introduction of CD came two advances, “de-noising” and “peak limiting” which have become increasingly unpopular within certain areas of the music industry and amongst audiophiles.

De-noising was introduced to remove the inherent sound, or hiss, associated with analogue tape. The amount of processing used to remove tape noise can be varied, but when used excessively, many believe that it also has a detrimental effect on elements of the musical sound.

Peak limiting is a process that increases the loudness of music. It is achieved by holding the loudest peaks down and raising the overall level of the music. Much depends on the amount of limiting applied, but at its most extreme the result can be a serious reduction in the dynamic range and often audible distortion.

The release of The Beatles’ remasters in 2009 saw a marked change in attitudes towards these issues, where both noise reduction and limiting were used sparingly with the aim of representing the master tapes more accurately. Such is the case with the newly remastered CD of Band on the Run: tape noise reduction has scarcely been used and the degree of limiting is subtle. In addition digital technology has advanced with the ability now to offer recordings in 24 bit/96kHz. The high resolution version is being made available via download and is being offered in two formats: limited, which is comparable in volume to the remastered CD, and un-limited, which in comparison with the limited version will sound quieter, but retain the dynamic range of the original master recording.

Allan Rouse Abbey Road Studios

2 thoughts on “The End of the Loudness Wars?”

  1. Well, if BOTR sounds anything like the Beatels remasters, then that’s great. Just bring an end to everything being so loud you can’t stand to listen…Thank God the Beatles CDs did that; the clarity and range were perfect.

  2. Great post! I remember listening as a kid to WSRZ-FM in Sarasota which boasted that the music was broadcast in high-fidelity stereo. They applied just a bit of peak limiting. After all, FM was crystal clear, why would we want it to sound like AM? In time, though, “compression radio” found its way to FM and now it’s unlistenable. The same has happened with digital — “Oh, won’t this be great! No more need for all this processing to overcome the limitations of tape and vinyl.” Instead, this great technology is used to turn music into jet engine noise… Recent releases from Flaming Lips, Metallica and even James Taylor have sounded like total crap. James Taylor, for crying out loud! The interlude in “Who Are You” gets extremely quiet on my original LP…if it were recorded today, it would sound like a TV commercial. Volume level 11 doesn’t mean volume level 11 all the time. Glad to hear that Band on the Run will be the great album we know and not sound like it was run through a sonic lawn mower.

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