Field Recording and the Loudness Race

March 2, 2009

It appears to me that field recordists and phonographers are the only remaining people in the audio industry who still care about having dynamic content in their material.

The battle for the consumers money has resulted in increasingly loud music. Louder is better. Louder means more money in the bank.

Louder however also means boring song material and fatiguing music because dynamics and clarity have disappeared in the process of compressing and limiting the sound material to maximum loudness. It is not uncommon for CD’s today to peak at full scale almost throughout their entire length.

This stands in sharp contrast to the dynamics of sound in the natural world. Quiet and very quiet sounds exist alongside louder sounds. Consider a forest at dawn in spring or a tropical rain forest after a thunder storm. Quietly falling drops of water, the rustling of the foliage, birds in the trees vocalizing their songs and insects humming above the flowers, some rolling thunder in the distance. Imagine how this would sound if everything was compressed to equal loudness and normalized to peak level.

Sound artists and more so field recordists and phonographers are trying to capture the world of natural sound dynamics.

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