Want proof ? Guns 'n' Roses' new CD, "Chinese Democracy", has been mastered by industry legend Bob Ludwig, who offered the producers three different masters, and they chose the most dynamic version.
In an article on his website, Bob says
I was floored when I heard they decided to go with my full dynamics version and the loudness-for-loudness-sake versions be damned.
and goes on to explain:
I think the fan and press backlash against the recent heavily compressed recordings finally set the context for someone to take a stand and return to putting music and dynamics above sheer level...
...I’m hoping that Chinese Democracy will mark the beginning of people returning to sane levels and musicality triumphing over distortion and grunge. I have already seen a new awareness and appreciation for quality from some other producers, I pray it is the end of the level wars.
Bob isn't the only one to see a change, though. Mastering engineers have been commenting on the Gearslutz Mastering forum and elsewhere that since the publicity surrounding the release of "Death Magnetic" more and more people are asking
"Please don't do a 'Metallica' on my record"
I've seen it myself too - recently I called a long-time customer to suggest that his latest CD would sound better with a few dBs more headroom - I said "I realise you'll probably disagree with this, but in my opinion it's too loud" - and he replied "I know" !
That had never happened before.
But it will happen more and more, from now on. Despite Metallica's unconvincing insistence that they are happy with the way Rick Rubin produced "Death Magnetic", over 80% of fans responding to a poll on their forums think that it should be remixed. Over 18,000 people have signed the online petition. Only a handful of the 280,000 who have viewed the YouTube comparison video say they prefer the CD version.
And what about "Chinese Democracy" ? One of the most expensive and anticipated rock albums in recent years ? Against all expectations, it has been produced and mastered with dynamics, punch and power. The average A-weighted RMS loudness is around -16 dBFS, and as a result it "jumps out of the speakers" at you in a way that "Death Magnetic" never will. Check out a preview of the first track on Last.fm - listen to the way the guitars pile in at 1'26" and then again at 2'10" and then again at 3'36" - you just can't achieve that kind of buzz and build with an RMS of -4 dB.
Here are some predictions for "Chinese Democracy":
- It will sell by the bucket-load (head?!) even though it hasn't been smashed to hell
- No-one will complain that it's too quiet
- It will sound fantastic (and loud) on the radio, because it's dynamic and punchy
- No-one will start a petition to have a crushed and distorted re-release made
Hats off to Bob and the team behind Guns 'n' Roses, and here's to a future of better-sounding music.
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