Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Stop The Loudness Wars - Mastering Media Blog

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Stop The Loudness Wars

This post is partly my attempt to publicise the damage that the so-called "Loudness Wars" are doing to music. In a nutshell, the continuing arms-race for "loudness at all cost" is now dramatically damaging the music we listen to - even in a traditionally loud, distorted genre like rock. As a result we are given squashed, lifeless and often unpleasantly distorted products to listen to. These are less exciting, less involving, less impactful and ultimately fatiguing to listen to.

This post focuses on Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic" as an example, because it's distorted sound has caused an outcry amongst fans of the band this week, and even a petition calling for a remix - but sadly there are many other examples I could have picked from recent years - from any genre - even country, folk and jazz are feeling the collateral damage of the "conflict".

My colleague Simon Murphy is a Metallica fan - in fact, he went to see them at the O2 last night, where he said they were excellent - sound included. Like everyone else though he was appalled by the way the album sounded. This morning he brought his copy of "Death Magnetic" into Studio 1 at SRT and we loaded it up into SADiE to compare with the samples I discussed in my last post - Metallica "Death Magnetic" sounds better in PS3 game Guitar Hero.

The first important thing to say is that although the mp3 example of the CD release sounds different to the actual CD, the overall degree of distortion is the same. Which means that, although it would be better to have an uncompressed example of the "Guitar Hero" version to compare with, we can still draw sensible conclusions from it - namely, the CD release is much more distorted, as fans have been complaining.

So, how loud is the CD version ? We turned it down to a level we might recommend if mastering it at SRT - for this kind of material, on a loud passage like this, an RMS of around -10dB. The difference between the CD and our choice was 6dB. In loudness terms, this is roughly a 25% difference.

Comparing the two versions with this adjustment made, the CD still sounded louder, and in fact we would need to boost the Guitar Hero version by a further 4dB to make them match. Which means the CD release is roughly 10dB louder than the "Guitar Hero" version - almost twice as loud, on average.

Listening with the levels roughly matched, the Guitar Hero version is much cleaner, as we already know. It's still not pristine, though - there is a mild, gritty distortion in the mix overall and the snare still "crunches" to a degree, but it's nothing like the beleagured CD release. There are EQ differences between the two, as well - this is one area where the CD release is better, in our opinion. It sounds fuller, with more weight in the rhythm guitars and bass. However this may well be partly due to differences in the mix, given that Guitar Hero versions are tweaked to some extent for gameplay purposes. I've written more about this here.

Next we tried boosting the level of the Guitar Hero version up to match the CD release. Sure enough, a boost of 11dB or so did the trick. What was immediately obvious though was that even at the same level, the Guitar Hero version still sounded cleaner. This is even though we were simply clipping the signal - in theory, one of the most destructive ways of boosting the level.

This is important for fans who don't like the sound of the CD, because it backs up Ted Jensen's statement that the album came to him sounding the way it does, before mastering. If he had simply boosted the level to the extreme heights the band asked for, it would have sounded cleaner than it does.

Does any of this matter, though ? The album sounds the way the band wanted it - who are we to disagree ? I have no problem with loud masters in themselves, if they still sound good - I've made many myself. Does "Death Magnetic" sound good, by the standards of Metallica themselves ?

The final test we did was to audition two other Metallica albums - "Load" (1996) and "Garage, Inc" (1998). Both of these were a similar level, in the same ballpark that we chose for turning the CD down to. Comparing them with Death Magnetic at a similar volume, we were interested to hear differences other than the distortion - the band were going for ultimate power and impact, presumably, at the expense of a clean result - were the results a success ?

No.

Both "Load" and "Garage Inc." blew "Death Magnetic" away sonically, with the volumes matched, in every respect. They had more bass, more impact, more punch, more depth, more space, more edge, more everything. And no bludgeoning, fatiguing distortion. Even though "Garage Inc.", a collection of covers, was recorded and mixed in only a month. As Simon said - why can't they always do it like that ?!

BUT "Death Magnetic" was louder. Much louder - punishingly so. And, I hear you ask, isn't that the point ? Isn't that what the band want ? Won't this make "Death Magnetic" stand head and shoulders above the crowd ?

Again, no.

The first thing most listeners do when they put on a CD is adjust the volume to their normal preferred listening level. This instantly cancels out any of the effects of boosting the RMS level on the CD. Here's a great video from TurnMeUp.org to illustrate this far better than I can with words:



This is exactly what has happened with "Death Magnetic" - but to such an extent that as well as all the negative effects of puny "loud" sound, that we have ridiculous, splattering distortion, as well.

It's at this point that the three headless horsemen of the Loud Apocalypse tend to get wheeled out - radio play, iPods and jukeboxes. All three are regularly used as examples of why it's desirable to have your album louder than the next.

They're all nonsense.

(Nb. Simon suggested that I should think of another one so there are four horsemen, to match the song... :-)

  • Radio play. Radio stations already use sophisticated processing to ensure the output is consistent - and loud, to improve reception in areas of low signal strength. Which means that everything gets levelled out anyway, and something like Death Magnetic will at best have no extra impact, or at worst be pulverised - obliterated by the Optimods and their ilk.
  • iPods and other portable music players. Consumers are already complaining about the huge differences between CDs recorded in the 80s, 90s and today - listening on shuffle, it's a huge annoyance. Most people either put up with it, or use a plugin to equalise the volumes - again, the volume on the CD becomes irrelevant.
  • CD jukeboxes. Does anyone use these, anymore, or just plug their iPod into a dock ? OK, fair enough - in a casual listening situation like a pub, shop or 'phone on-hold music, having a louder CD will help your product stand out. Is that important enough to wreak the kind of destruction we're hearing on Death Magnetic and other CDs ? Not for me.

Enough.

We need to stop the loudness wars, before every CD we listen to gives us a headache in the first 3 minutes. Please sign the Metallica petition, return the CD if you bought it, email the band, post complaints on their forum, tell your friends - whatever is necessary to stop the pointless massacre of our music. Send out the message - we want our music back.

Louder is Better - but Too Loud is worse.

I will be posting updates on this issue as I recieve interesting information, check back regularly, or subscribe using the link on the right.


48 comments:

Miggity said...

Thank you! It is nice to see someone take the time to really point out what a tragedy this is. I hope this is the catalyst that puts and end to this nonsense.

Eric said...

Great read, thanks!

ianshepherd said...

Thanks - I hope the publicity will make people more aware of this, and make it less likely in future. Well, we can dream, can't we ?!

skyavonee said...

3dB is very nearly a factor of 2, so the logarithmic scale makes 9dB about a factor of 8.
How are you getting that 10dB is a factor of only 2?

troy said...

i allready posted on an older page...but i thaught id chime in on the main page.

im the mastering engineer at spectre mastering here in seattle, thanks Ian for your blog..i think it helps alot of people understand...

please realize everyone ...most bands do not attend the mastering session...and theres no way this is teds fault...ive seen mixes before and after teds gets them, and when hes allowed to do what he likes to do the results are usually stellar.hes one of the best out there..as mastering guys we have all been in his place..and bottom line it sucks...

that said this is not a new argument..the loudness war has been going on for decades...motown in the 60s use to cut louder vinyl and distort the cutting stylus to do this...other labels hated them for it because it didnt sound as good...but it was louder than everyone else and it worked for the time being..and it got thew dj's attention.

i work with a ton of heavy rock and metal bands from underoath..august burns red..bloodjinn..demon hunter ect..bla bla..mixes come in at all different levels and some are just way too loud and theres nothing you can do about it if the mix engineers refuse to change it..theres no undo distortion..you can only add more..its a constant frustration of mine...metal rock records should make you wanna turn up the volume knob...NOT turn it down because they hurt..there is a fine line between agression and pain sonicly...and metallica crossed it with this release in a big way

distortion is a VERY powerful tool...its our friend when used responsibly..(imagine a metallica record with no distortion on gtrs..pretty lame)..and its our enemy when its not..and as you can see..it can backfire in a big way for a band...

the loudness war is over..it cant go louder(unless we change the format we deliver music on to the public) it can only distort as youve heard...the price of being the loudest band on the ipod or the cd changer is ..your the band that everyone turns down when your song comes on because it hurts.....congrats..we have succeeded in making quiet the new loud. how backwards is that.

thanks
troy glessner
spectre mastering

ianshepherd said...

@skyavonee Good question ! Audio meters measure voltage, so the gain G=20 log (V1/V2), ie. 6dB represents a doubling or halving of gain, not 3dB. However the ear determines loudness in response to the RMS value, not the peak (which is why loudness used to be measured using a VU meter as opposed to a peak meter) and this scales by another factor of two.

In FACT, it's not even as simple as that, because the ear/brain responds to loudness non-linearly (Fletcher-Munsen et al) but the practical upshot is that to get something to sound roughly twice as loud, you need to push the fader by closer to 12dB than 6 (or 3).

andrew_t29 said...

The loudness war has bothered me for a while and I think the whole thing in BS. If people actually want it loud, then– most people don't CARE. They most likely will not notice at all. I listened to the CD of Death Magnetic and by the end of the first song, my head was spinning from all the distortion.

I'm going to download the Guitar Hero III rips of the album. If metallica doesn't like piracy, the shit mixing here only drives it up.

The loud mastering/mixing itself is not *that* bad– it's just that quiet parts and loud parts all have the same volume. Most songs now sound extremely bland now. However, Death Magnetic just sounds like garbage. The people who mixed this thing should be fired this instant.

Andrew said...

I am very upset with the new metallica album. It's a great album but I don't even want to listen to it because the clipping drives me nuts. I'm no fan of the loudness wars and I think it's stupid and sounds terrible in general, but if that's what they really want to do - OK. But to allow the album to be released with the ridiculous amount of clipping is just wrong. What's even more frustrating is looking around the web and reading about people who either can't hear the clipping (are you serious?), or worse, people who hear it and *shudder* actually LIKE it?!, or the third group who hear it and are perfectly content to deal with it. It's a sad day for music.

Steve said...

you guys are a bunch of fags. their new record rules and the loudness gives it a gritty edge. Quit your fuckin' bellyaching. If you want dynamics listen to jazz.

nlafrenz said...

I can understand how a typical listener could not understand this epidemic, or not care. But what audio engineer is going to willingly allow this to occur? I would think that within the audio engineering community, these types of things would be highly criticized.

Is it something the band mandates? Or the record label? Couldn't a concerted effort by audio engineers to simply refuse to over-compress the recordings be the most effective way to fight back?


And I'm sure it's superfluous, but to Steve, the Metallica album is not gritty, it's just painfully bad. The lack of any punch or definition makes the music sound flat and lame on any mediocre equipment, and I literally cannot stand to listen to it for more than a few songs.

troy said...

labels and bands have been playing the loudness game since the first note was recorded....

the average music listener
precieves a quieter record as a weaker record...labels and bands prey on that....enigineers do as well to some extent..but most would agree the album in question is over the line...

it becomes more of a problem now when people have acess to thousands of songs on an ipod at one time..and are constantly skipping from song to song..band to band...nobody wants to be the quiet one..even if it sounds better

in the end the numbers win....how can a half a million records sold in a week be wrong?.maybe this record will knock some sense into people.


t.

ianshepherd said...

@ Troy - Did you read the second half of my post ? The whole jukebox/ipod thing is a red herring - varying levels just annoy people, it doesn't affect their perception of quality.

And, take a look at the YouTube video I linked to in my latest post - are you honestly telling me the CD version sounds better ? It's a distorted mess. The most common thing I've heard FROM FANS about this CD is "yeah, I had to check my speakers weren't bust". Or "my mate's band sound better than this".

This CD doesn't do the band, or the music, or the fans, justice. Hm - And Justice For None ?

troy said...

no the cd version is a mess...one of the biggest piles of crap ive heard in a long time.

im meerly giving my 2 cents on how we got to this point...i master mostly really heavy music...as heavy as it gets..within this genra..and with the kids that buy it..or steal it..HA! the quieter records feel weaker to them.....ive lost a few records to and in ferior master because i refuse to push it that far....kick drum punch means to much to me...and i love the music i work with to much to do that to it...

unfortunately the preception of reality in my experience..is more important than reality..and thats how we end up where we are now.

hopefully the distorted release in question is enough beyond fans preception of reality to make a difference this time.

t.

troy said...

my comment "in the end the numbers win how can half a million records be wrong"

was sarchastic

t.

ianshepherd said...

Sorry Troy, I didn't pick up on that, it's the problem with the internet - but people genuinely ARE using that argument, including Metallica's manager :-/

I wonder how many returns they are getting ? Someone claimed 25%, but no proof.

troy said...

hah..sorry i should know better...sarchasm doesent really work with written word....i didnt really answer your question regarding red hearing tho....

yes..i completely understand the physics of it all....

my point im trying to poorly make is that there are alot of kids out there also posting that when they hear the guitar hero version of the death magnetic release .. it just sounds like a castrated pussy version of the cd release..this is all all because of volume.

the ipod maximizing BS software only does soo much and the 10db plus difference between the 2 is a long long way to go...i hate apples stupid software they put in there...ive been screwed more than once by labels and bands jacking up the apple "enhance" fader in itunes....geez...thats a whole different pissing match tho.

t.

troy said...

not sure about the 25% returns... im more interested in the generation gap....kids 18 and younger are much more use to distortion and at least some clipping in their rock records...that combined with the mp3 artifacts just being part of how records sound now to them.......metallica fans spread across a few generations now.....id bet money more older metallica fans are upset at this than younger ones.



t.

ianshepherd said...

Maybe the younger generation are used to clipping, just like they're used to mp3 and listening on phone speakers. My first radio was AM only, and that sounded pretty bad, too.

That's the GOOD news - music will survive almost anything.

My opinion though is that if those kids who are used to clipping heard an unclipped version they would prefer it. It's not THAT big a part of the sound.

The problem about this situation is that the GH version is un-mastered - there is still room for improvement, and part of that is it needs to be louder. But not 10dB :-)

Most of the posts I see on the forums prefer the GH version despite this, thankfully. That's what makes this occasion different and worth shouting about.

troy said...

i agree....i spent 8 hours 2 days ago mastering the guitar hero mixes for myself and a few of my engineering buddies,..sounds like it outta now...my buddies threw away their purchased releases after..ha...not that my master is the best thing ever.im not braggin...im sure ted or bob could kick my ass.....but more that what was released was so very bad in comparison

the GH mixes are not that great..they were obviously done pretty fast for the game..alotta lame automation moves..ext...but

hey at least its better then what ted was given.



t.

Various said...

that said this is not a new argument..the loudness war has been going on for decades...motown in the 60s use to cut louder vinyl and distort the cutting stylus to do this...other labels hated them for it because it didnt sound as good...but it was louder than everyone else and it worked for the time being..and it got thew dj's attention.

That's interesting. I recently read a comment by George Martin (in his book "Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt Pepper") that he was always impressed by how loud American records on the King label were. He says in the book that he always strove to make the Beatles' records that loud, but that if EMI's engineers had done so, it would have shaken the needle out of the vinyl groove, and he couldn't work out how their American counterparts had done it.

I'm far from an audiophile - my sound system is pretty cheap - but even I get annoyed by the sound quality of the worst offenders like Californication. I'm just hoping that these loudness wars don't ruin next year's Beatles remasters. :-(

troy said...

yup...the "war" has always been the same...just on different formats...there are a bunch of nasty loud ass distorted sounding vinyl out there..its a different type of distortion tho...most would say the vinyl distortion is a more "musical/pleasing" type of distortion..ha..


t.

jungluthr said...

Does loudness trump quality songwriting? I don't think so. It is sad that current artists feel their only route towards making their music stand out from the crowd is through sheer volume not quality songwriting. Here's a thought- why doesn't Metallica try to write a single song that is as good as any song from Kill Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets or and Justice for All? If they could accomplish that, people would notice and their music would stand out and no mastering engineer or producer would allow music of that caliber to be degraded by "blowing it out." The music would be too precious.
The "loudness war" is just another symptom of an epidemic of mediocrity infecting popular music, artistic integrity and true musical talent (this epidemic is present in most all human endevours which require creativity or intelligence.
When songs by current "artists" amount to little more than glossy, advertisements for corporate brands, ie. bands, then "bands" deserve to have their music mixed and mastered in accordance with the mastering standards of television commercials.
And, on a side note, every musician who cares about their recorded music makes a serious effort to be present at mastering sessions.

troy said...

i hear what your saying...it is my feeling that no matter what my personal opinion is of the creative content of a record ..someone cared enough to make it....and they all deserve to be at least listenable so that the public can make the decision as to how sucessful it is...

as far as being present at the mastering session... i master 200 plus records a year...for artists,band,producers, mixers and labels big and small...out of those 200..maybe 30 attend....theres not much point for the artist hearing their record played again in a room they have never been in and making comments..

with the internet its soo easy to upload a cd resolution reference master for a band anywhere in the world..they download it...play it at home and on systems they actually know...send the mastering guys notes for a final master..and move on...its just not necessary for them to be there.

t.

Benjamin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

Запись просто пздец! Russia requests REMASTERING!

ummagumma69 said...

First I would like to say this. Death Magnetic is the best album, best produced album and best sounding album I have heard in recent times. (Actually I loved St Anger) I believe that 75% of this album was recorded with all members playing at the same time, hence all in one room together, take after take after take, with Rick in the control room dictating the engineers what to do. What you are hearing the lost energy of the real Metallica. James got rid of the character voice that Bob Rock brought out of him to bring them commercial and Rick brought back the soul inside the Masters of ALL Puppets.


Oh and I personally could care less about Guitar Hero if that’s your primary listening environment then that is an all together different issue.


Now CD vs. Vinyl, well the CD is HOT no don’t about it, but the Vinyl is so HOT I sweat every time I listen to it. Death Magnetic has the same feel and sound as Led Zeppelin II. Where everything feels like its going to explode.


Too all involved with this recording my hat is off to ya, great job. And for everyone else if you want Metallica to sound like Nickelback (prefect production let their fake) then don’t listen to Metallica.


My reference system is 3 mortgage payments for a house on long island so I CAN MAKE A VALID ARGUMENT. And I have been following Ted Jensen, George Marino and Bob Ludwig’s work since early 80’s, I am 33 year old Audiophile and what I say matters.


Thanks feel free to email me with hate mail. I would also like to know if I am right about recording process because if you sit and listen to can hear the energy of the room.

ianshepherd said...

Thanks for posting. So when you listen the audio on the video I link to here:

http://mastering-media.blogspot.com/2008/09/metallica-death-magnetic-comparison.html

the CD sounds better to you, is that right ?

I think *all* the things you like about the CD are there in the less distorted version too - but you can hear them better.

Richco said...

This is the same problem I have with Celtic Frost's "Monotheist." after a while it's just punishing to listen to.

Loud is fine, but it's getting insane!

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

@ummagumma69 - It doesn't matter how expensive your system is if your ear sucks.

Even if your ear doesn't suck, this entire argument is subjective and many, if not most, think the album sounds like crap.

I have a hard time giving you any credence as an audiophile (especially one who claims to have been listening since the 80's) if you have no appreciation for dynamic range. Dynamics are a HUGE part of what makes music music. If everything is simply loud, clipped and distorted, loud no longer has any impact, be it in the drums, the guitars or the vocals.

Go back and listen to Justice, it's probably their best album from a technical perspective, but the songs also have a dynamic range. One, for example, starts out slow and mellow before getting into a louder, hard hitting ending. If the beginning of that song were just as loud as the ending, the ending would carry no punch at all and people's ears would be tired about 2 min into the song.

I like the CD as far as the songs themselves are concerned - I do, however, prefer to listen to the CD I burned from the GH flacs that someone created vs. the $10 coaster of a CD I purchased at best buy.

ianshepherd said...

@ummagumma69 - I haven't heard the vinyl, but apparently it is also clipped:

http://death_magnetic_vinyl_clipping.easyurl.net

troy said...

"First I would like to say this. Death Magnetic is the best album, best produced album and best sounding album I have heard in recent times. (Actually I loved St Anger) I believe that 75% of this album was recorded with all members playing at the same time, hence all in one room together, take after take after take, with Rick in the control room dictating the engineers what to do. What you are hearing the lost energy of the real Metallica. James got rid of the character voice that Bob Rock brought out of him to bring them commercial "


rick rubin....is that you anonymously posting!?! i knew if we yelled loud enough you would hear our calls!...has your beard grown around your ears? muffeling the clipping sounds?

please stop the madness..because our ears are bleeding.

t

jungluthr said...

I know this has been said before but I feel compelled to respond also.

["My reference system is 3 mortgage payments for a house on long island so I CAN MAKE A VALID ARGUMENT."]

Three mortgage payments on a house in Long Island could cost $5000 or less, which is nowhere near real Class A, "referance" level prices, which, in reality, would be closer to the price of the house itself. Any real audiophile would know this. More importantly, any real audiophile would know that the validity of one's subjective, musical "argument" does not rest solely on the cost of their high-end system. System cost alone would add little to nothing to the validity of one's argument. An audiophile will be able to tell the difference between a good and a bad recording on most any system, regardless of cost because, as is commonly acknowledged, simply owning an expensive system does not an audiophile make. The true audiophile holds more important their listening skills and trained ear. Without these highly developed skills one cannot fully appreciate the sonic benefits of a "referance" level system. More importantly, without a trained ear, one would have no hope of making wise purchasing decisions based on careful system matching and listening tests.
Actually, a crappy recording will sound worse on an expensive system so, as an "audiophile," your "referance system" should have revealed the mixing and mastering flaws on Death Magnetic in all their acoustically painful detail.

["And I have been following Ted Jensen, George Marino and Bob Ludwig’s work since early 80’s, I am 33 year old Audiophile and what I say matters.
"]

So you were about 8 years old when you started following their careers? Is that right? And you think, because you are a 33 year old audiophile, what you say matters? I'll tell you what, I think YOU ARE A LIAR. I don't think you have an expensive "referance system." Any 33 year old who has earned and saved enough money to own a true Class A referance system would have better grammar than you. No true audiophile would make ridiculous statements such as, "what I say matters," backed up by even more ridiculous qualifiers such as "I am 33 audiophile."[sic] I doubt a real 33 year old would say something that immature. Finally, no audiophile would find Death Magnetic to be the "best sounding, best recorded album" they have heard in recent times. PATHETIC.

ianshepherd said...

Hm, I think it's time we all took a deep breath... if you guys start flaming each other I'll delete the posts, simple as that.

However, as far as the whole "audiophile" thing goes - I just posted this in the comments to the YouTube video, and it applies here as well:

***
You don't have to be an audiophile to hear this. The office staff here can hear it, my four-year-old can hear it - even the drummer in Simon's band can hear it ! :-D
***

The better the system, the more revealing of faults. Having said that, the distortion on this album is shocking, listened to even on iPod headphones. Draw your own conclusions...

troy said...

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122228767729272339.html?mod=todays_us_nonsub_page_one


front page of wall street journal today

t.

adi said...

Hi Everyone!

First of all I`am very happy to read what Ian has written; there is absolutley no reason to make records so loud! All the common arguments to do so fall appart. Not the radio thing (read the truth: http://www.omniaaudio.com/tech/mastering.htm), nor the Ipod and itunes argument is big enough to destroy music! But I also agree: Loud records are cool, BUT it still has to sound good and microdynamics need to be preserved!!
Now something about Vinyl. Pop records nowadays are mostly a copy of the CD master. A friend of mine ownes al lot of britpop and other stuff and it has the same dynamic range as a CD! The only reaseon that makes it sound a littlebit more pleasing is that the pickup or needle does roll off the high frquencies, and the high-mids (where you can hear a lot of limiter artifacts) are nicer, because the dullness of the pickup sounds more natural to our ears. So my advice: listen to the record before you buy, if you can and dont buy Cds anymore (you`ll have more sex with your girlfriend)...

cheerz

adi Flück
Mastering and Vinylcutting engineer
www.centradubs.com

Roberto said...

Ian,

Great post and examples.

One of the biggest problems I had working with pop music was artists wanting their mixes to sound like it does on the radio.

I had to explain to them that radio stations do their own processing hence the louder sound. I also explained that anything they heard on the radio was not an accurate representation of what the original mix sounds like.

I have been fortunate enough to work with people who were able to understand this and not ruin their mixes by limiting them to death, but it's a constant battle.

I work mainly with classical music now and even in this field, I experience the effects of the loudness war. It's a daily battle but I refuse to give up!

Roberto

ianshepherd said...

Hi Roberto, and everybody who has posted - I'm sorry I don't have time to reply individually to everyone, but I really appreciate your comments. Thanks !

ibanezuv7 said...

Hi,
I currently have a copy on half speed mastered 180gram vinyl and recently went and bought a copy on CD to see what all the fuss was about. for sure the CD sounds about as bad as everyone is saying it does. On half speed mastered vinyl however it sounds not bad at all. Yes sure some might argue that there is way to much "warmth" in the dynamic processing and in some cases parts seem totally devoid of dynamic range what so ever due to brick wall limiting. But on the CD its really obvious but on vinyl is really is good 99% of the time. It is open sounding, a million times more than the CD and you do get a sence that maybe this was the "raw" sound they were after with St Anger. Sadly i dont think this album has been mixed or mastered with the adverage listener in mind.

(anyone seen my NS10's ????)

Its a shame really i think as not many people will be able to listen to this album with a system like mine and sadly and unusually in this case the reference system makes all the difference here.

In my Case i have a Rega P3 turntable with Dyna Vector 10X5 cartridge, Naim Super Nait, Naim Flat Cap PSU, Naim CDS3, Neat Motive 2's, Naim n-Sub.

J.Guilherme said...

Lars has responded to this. See:

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/09/lars-ulrich-res.html

People should stop buying the album, and those that already did should ask for their money back. If they are finantially hit, maybe they'll realize that there is indeed an issue with the album, and that hiring the notorious (for producing junk) Rick Rubin was not a good idea after all. I also find it funny that Lars thinks he can assert sound quality by listening in his car. OTOH, the album does appear to have been mixed IN his car... :)

Brian said...

I think all you "loudness war" fanatics are just a bunch of cry-babies who can't handle good metal music. Heavy Metal is supposed to be loud and distorted. We're in the twenty-first century, music and the way people record it is changing. In my opinion, there's just too many so called "Metallica fans" who want to rebel against Metallica and the great music they're recording. Why don't you "children" get over it and get on with your childish lives. The world's not come to an end.

Minnor said...

brian STFU, u know nothing about sound quality. if i want metal loud, i have a volumeknob to turn it up!
ur just a mindless sheep of the recordcompany, who still believes in the myth "louder is better".
if u enjoy loud, unlistenable, low quality music, be my guest. but let us who care about quality listen to good sounding records.

Geoff said...

Maybe Ted would have done better to say "No thanks, I don't want my name on this one".

Sean said...

I'm a recording engineer and an audiophile with a reference playback system and I can honestly say that this practice is RIDICULOUS!!(Imagine the all-caps being screamed and compressed to the gates of hell) I would never willingly be a part of it without at least voicing my disdain for the sonic result. Hell, why bother using high-end gear in the tracking process only to crush and distort into oblivion all that high resolution audio. I guess so we have a more robust sounding turd. I hate listening to what would have been truly great albums that have been ruined by this process. If kids want to hear it this way, then let them turn up the volume to distorting to taste.

glitchfactor said...

I hope it's ok, but I referenced your blog in mine. I had my little tirade on Death Magnetic!

http://recordingstudiolife.wordpress.com


Thanks!1

Ian Shepherd said...

Of course, thanks for getting involved !

Here's another link you might like to share:

http://DynamicRangeDay.co.uk

Ian

Blake Cooper said...

Death Magnetic is such a great example of what people opposed to heavy compression in music don't like. It's so aurally clear, I think that's valuable. On the other side, I like to point to Radiohead's Amnesiac as an album that is heavily compressed in a way that people still find musically appealing.

The arguments about the loudness war are pretty one-sided (just scanning the comments here I see words like 'tragedy' and 'epidemic') but it's worth pointing out that sometimes loudness in a recording is a creative statement and it's worth taking that seriously. Sorry if this sounds like contrarianism or evangelizing... I just finished producing a podcast about the loudenss war that tries to present two sides to the story, so my head is spinning (if you're interested, you can hear it here).

Mayor of Fairwood said...

I have no problem with compression...especially in heavy music...its necessary and beneficial to keep that in your face sound.....compression itself does not mean some thing is loud......my issue with death magnetic is blatent digital clipping ...I'm fine with the amount of compression on the record....what I'm not fine with is pushing a mix so hard into the digital zero brick wall there is audible crackling and clipping....some people may argue this is a form of compression...but the 2 are very different in .my mind

Troy glessner
Spectre mastering