Fans Make Racket Over Too-Loud Music

Arms-race mastering is losing musical detail, listeners and engineers complain
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2008 4:20 PM CDT
The audience cheer up as American heavy metal band Metallica present their latest album "Death Magnetic" in Berlin, Friday, Sept. 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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(Newser) – Some fans have a surprising problem with Death Magnetic, the new Metallica album, the Wall Street Journal reports: It’s too loud. Since the advent of the compact disc, musicians have pushed mastering engineers to make albums as loud as possible. As a result, a new CD like Death Magnetic is four to eight times louder, at the same stereo volume, than a 15-year-old disc.

Audio engineers say the sonic heft comes at a price: Boosting overall volume reduces the “dynamic range,” meaning that sonic detail is washed over, musical nuance lost. On this, discerning headbangers and engineers agree—“I’m not proud to be associated with this one” Death Magnetic’s mastering engineer told fans in a recent email.