Chapter 33/ Just One Louder

Producers want to sound as “hot” as possible, bands want attention and record companies want their artists to sound as loud as the competition—or louder. This has resulted in what we call the "Loudness War." There are massive advantages to compression and limiting: it makes music compact and injects it with excitement and urgency. On the other hand: not only is overcompressed music tiring to listen to, if there are no soft notes, loud notes will fail to impress. And with less and less dynamics, the mix may appear undersized, or even flat like a pancake. This video explains the issue at hand:


As a matter of fact, overcompressed music sounds better on small speakers, and worse on large systems. If you compare Johnny Guitar Watsons’ "A Real Mother For Ya" (1977) on the same volume with Snow Patrol's "Run" (2003) for instance, the differences are striking:


Typical examples of the Loudness War are:

Oasis - 'What’s the story, morning glory

Avril Lavigne - 'Avril Lavigne'

U2 - ‘How to dismantle an atomic bomb

Kid Rock - ‘Rock and Roll Jesus

Arctic Monkeys - ‘Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not’

Franz Ferdinand - ‘You could have it so much better’

Foo Fighters - ‘Wasting light


Some artists never wanted to join the volume competition:

Norah Jones - ‘Little broken hearts

Belle & Sebastian - ‘Girls in peacetime want to dance

Beck - ‘Morning phase

Arcade Fire - ‘Reflektor

Daft Punk - ‘Random acces memories

Bon Iver - ‘Bon Iver

Alison Krauss & Union Station - ‘Paper airplane

Jack White - ‘Lazaretto

Mark Ronson - ‘Uptown special