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6. The ‘Loudness Wars’

One negative aspect of the use of digital mastering processors such as the TC Finalizer has come to be termed ‘The Loudness Wars’. The problem originates in research on radio airplay done by the record companies – they found that listeners were most attracted to the radio stations with the loudest volume. This resulted in a shift in the industry towards making all releases as compressed as possible (and therefore of maximum perceived loudness), so as to gain a competitive edge over other companies. With the multiband compressor’s ability to dig out drops in level anywhere in the frequency range and raise them to their maximum, louder and louder songs with less and less dynamics have been produced over time. Although most modern music sounds undeniably much louder, much of the ‘life’ of the music given by its dynamics has disappeared, and things have got to the point where in some cases, a small amount of distortion is deemed acceptable if it helps make the recording sound that tiny bit louder!

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