Metallica win loudness war.. but it doesn’t matter
Expert says Death Magnetic was mastered to the max and lost detail as a result
Metallica album Death Magnetic has been named the loudest-ever by a mastering expert.
But he says the advantages of the approach are all-but cancelled out in the modern era.
Engineer Ian Shepherd compared a number of albums for dynamic range, the key element in the “loudness war.” Death Magnetic topped his list – but lost significant amounts of sonic detail in the process.
The 2008 title scored a dynamic range rating of DR3, compared to the band’s 1991 Black Album, which was much lower on the list at DR11. The least-loudest was Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms at DR16.
Shepherd says in his Production Advice blog: “Why is it crazy? Because it doesn’t work. None of these ‘loudness’ differences will be audible in any of the most popular places we listen to music. Not on Spotify, iTunes Radio – not even YouTube any more, and certainly not on radio or TV.
“Volume is ‘normalised’ in all of these places to improve the listener experience because the number-one source of complaints about audio is variation in loudness. We hate to keep adjusting the volume control.”
But he adds that things will change as the industry accepts the new norm, adding: “When they do, our ears will thank them.”
Rock Loudness list
Metallica: Death Magnetic – DR3
Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Californication – DR5
Jack White: Lazaretto – DR10
Radiohead: OK Computer – DR10
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon – DR10
Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase. – DR11
Metallica: The Black Album – DR11
Motorhead: The Ace Of Spades – DR11
The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks – DR11
AC/DC: Back In Black – DR12
Bruce Springsteen: Born In The USA – DR14
Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms – DR16