Loudness of recordings

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peastman
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Post by peastman » November 27th, 2015, 6:14 pm

The recording guidelines say that all recordings should have a loudness of about 89 dB. I think that value is way too high and we should change it. For my solo projects I always aim for about 83 dB instead. Occasionally proof listeners object, and so each time I have to explain the reasons behind it. But really, we should change the guideline.

89 dB leaves much too little difference between the average loudness and the maximum possible loudness. As a result, you either get clipping, or you have to use compression which hurts the sound quality. Most audio engineers recommend using 83 dB, which is the standard for all movie soundtracks and for classical music. But the loudness of pop music has been gradually creeping up for decades in a process called the "loudness war". Everyone wants to make sure when their song comes on the radio, it will be as loud as or a little louder than whatever was played immediately before. As a result, most pop music now comes in at around 89 dB, even though this means worse sound quality.

For lots of details about this, see http://www.digido.com/how-to-make-better-recordings-part-2.html. Useful background can also be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war.

Peter

tovarisch
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Post by tovarisch » November 27th, 2015, 6:48 pm

peastman wrote:The recording guidelines say that all recordings should have a loudness of about 89 dB. I think that value is way too high and we should change it. For my solo projects I always aim for about 83 dB instead. Occasionally proof listeners object, and so each time I have to explain the reasons behind it. But really, we should change the guideline.[...]
Peter
I disagree wholeheartedly. It's a very good setting. Recordings made lower than 85 do not play well on any devices I've used when listening to LV books. If one's at home, in a relatively quiet environment, and one wants to listen to a classical piece with pianissimo and fortissimo rendered well, then maybe. But for audio books listened to in the street or in a public place, behind the wheel of a car, I want to be able to hear what's being said without resorting to pushing the volume level to the max, especially considering that that level affects other sounds on my not-so-smart phone: alerts, rings, phone conversations...

Sorry, one reader's inability to control his/her recording levels is not a good reason to change guidelines for everybody. And music industry has nothing to do with it.

If you need to shout and want to avoid clipping, move away from the mic. If you need to whisper, move closer.
tovarisch
  • reality prompts me to scale down my reading, sorry to say
    to PLers: do correct my pronunciation please

peastman
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Post by peastman » November 27th, 2015, 7:19 pm

I listen to recordings in the car all the time, including ones mastered at 83 dB. There is absolutely no problem hearing them. 83 dB is not some insanely low value: it's the standard value used for all movie soundtracks and all classical music. All stereos and audio players are designed to handle that volume range with no problems at all. You simply turn the volume up a notch or two from what you use for pop music (but leave it at the same setting you use for classical music).

This has nothing to do with "controlling your recording levels", and everything to do with sound quality. Please read the links I posted, or just do a search for "loudness war". You will find dozens of web sites discussing this issue.

Peter

Availle
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Post by Availle » November 27th, 2015, 8:15 pm

You must live in a very quiet town Peter - when I still did a lot of driving, I would crank the volume up rather than down... :lol:

Seriously, I understand where you are coming from: (Classical) music with lots of nuances is more enjoyable if it does not blast your head off...
But what we are doing here is strictly spoken words; so the nuances (in loudness) are minimal.

We have people listening to our recordings all over the place - from quiet bedrooms and nature walks to noisy trucks and gyms. In my own experience, I find there is more room to turn down a recording instead of up.


Also, don't forget that we need to adopt some sort of standard in our group recordings. While you are free to do in your solos what you like (within reason), a group recording has to sound even over many different readers. And the standard, which is often built in and hardcoded into recording devices already, is 89 dB. For example, when I use mp3gain to check my own recordings, this standard setting is already filled in.

Yes, this setting can be changed (somewhere, probably) - but we have lots of different readers with different backgrounds and different aptitudes for technology. Many people find audacity hard to learn, as well as post processing. Just adding yet another step that is simple for you may be the unscalable hurdle for somebody else.
Cheers,
Ava.

--
AvailleAudio.com

annise
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Post by annise » November 27th, 2015, 8:27 pm

Speaking as the person who reads the compaints or helpful hints that arrives , I've never had a complaint about anything ever being too loud but I do get a number of people saying they can't hear some readers and some recordings with earbuds
I have always felt it was easy with most devices to reduce the volume if it is too loud for one . Peter, are you saying that amlifying then reducing affects the overall quality ?

Anne
Our objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet. - Hugh McGuire.

smike
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Post by smike » November 27th, 2015, 11:42 pm

I listen to audio books A LOT, and to me, it's a nuisance if they aren't loud enough. Plus--I usually go for the 64bit files, and their volume is generally very low at around 84-85 db. If we had the 128kb files at only 83db to start with, the 64kb files would be totally inaudible.
Claudia

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Post by RuthieG » November 28th, 2015, 2:03 am

I have to say that I also disagree wholeheartedly. When the derivative files are produced at Internet Archive, they automatically lose about 3 dB. So everyone who downloads the 64 kbps zip files would have a volume of only about 80 dB if you start with only 83 dB. Audible, by the way, requires its narrators to produce files with a volume equating to about 91 dB.

I would agree that not everyone's "89dB" sounds the same. I myself use gentle compression to achieve a balance where the loud "shouty" bits still sound loud but are not too loud, and the quiet whispery bits still sound whispery, but are clearly audible. This removes the problem of clipping, too. I use GComp, but Audacity has a native compression feature too.

The loudness war is a whole different animal. It's all to do with music - and commercial music at that. Oh, and adverts on the TV. They are deliberately made horribly loud to attract the viewer's attention - unless, of course, like me you mute them all ;).

Ruth
My LV catalogue page | RuthieG's CataBlog of recordings | Tweet: @RuthGolding

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