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Happy Dynamic Range Day everyone!


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Happy Dynamic Range Day 2014 everyone!



As some of you may know, since the 90's there's a so called 'Loudness War' going on; an urge to make music as loud as possibly can. In commercial music the reason for doing this is, of course, a commercial issue: a track that sounds louder stands out more, resulting in more sales – that's the wrongfully assumed idea behind it. But there is a technical limit in mastering a track louder through compressing (and thus decreasing the natural dynamic range a track has), and this limit has been reached and broken by tons of albums, reducing the sound quality and (as important!) the enjoyment of listening to music as a result.


This is the same in the Goa Trance scene. I believe that this is more out of lack of knowledge than a commercial reason; we do make, release and listen to this music out of love (and also because none of the artists or labels can make a living out of it, true :) ). Not only the mastering engineers are to blame; there are a lot of artists who mix and compress their music nowadays in such a bad way that there is nothing to do about in the mastering stage. But if that mastering engineer is also unaware of respecting a decent dynamic range, and the label owner too, then... You're going to have a bad time. :)


Also, a lot of releases are free today, and thus less 'professional' regarding artwork, mastering, production – but this is not necessary bad, I really think that a DIY approach is a thing that can create a lot of positive projects. But this doesn't mean that there are some aspects that really need to change, in order to make most goa trance listenable again. This has nothing to do with money, but with mentality and knowledge. Those things are for free! :)


The reason of this post? To raise awareness, for the listeners, the label owners, the mastering engineers and the artists. Because in 10 years of newschool goa trance and re-releases of old classic, the vast majority of the releases suffer of high compression and/or even distortion! About time to change this fatiguing stuff!



Want to learn more about dynamic range, music and loudness? Visit http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/about/, https://www.facebook.com/DynamicRangeDay, or visit mastering engineer Ian Shepherd's youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/masteringmedia for easy, understandable videoclips of this subject. I know, these are the same guys but I think that's the best way to keep yourself informed. :)



Here is a very good short video that shows why 'brickwall limiting' removes all the impact of a track - and impact is a thing that in a genre like goa trance with all its climaxes is so so necessary!



Let the music breathe and live again!

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I agree with you on the fact the music shoudl breathe. Three comments though:


1) Those labels who give already mastered tracks to a mastering studio have no idea what they're doing. This is so wrong. Any serious mastering guy will be unable to do anything out of a track that has already been limited or compressed or mastered. He will even refuse them because HE would be accused of doing a bad work whereas he would have just done what he could. I didn't even think this happened as you're suggesting. If it does, then such label managers must be shot in the head (twice).


2) 95% of the DIY masterings are just plain awful. Neogoa producers tend to put the melodies too much in front and the track sounds unbalanced. We get hundreds of promos per year and there's strictly no doubt about it.


3) The "dynamics" discussion has been all the rage in Belgium for some time, and everytime I'm shown a waveform graph with some comments about dynamics I interpret it as an attempt from the person to show how much knowledgeable he thinks he is. Such endless discussions leave me cold. I'm not targetting you here as your post is not giving any example.

I'm just saying: leave the plumbery to the plumber. Hire a good mastering guy. Keeping in mind his price may be unrelated to his competence. And if he can't adapt to the style of music, then change engineers!

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1. I was just pointing out the 'chain of misinformation' (hmm, I feel a track title coming up..!) that can happen.


2. Another problem: every artist thinks that his or her music should be mastered in order to be 'complete', while its actually mostly ruining the original balance because of that lack of knowledge of how to do it. Actually I think almost everyone (artists and listeners) is way too obsessed about mastering without actually knowing what it's all about, or what can go or sound wrong.


3. You're scaling it to a 'local disturbance in the force' while actually worldwide fans of music, as well as technicians and artists (well, sometimes they are the last ones having a clue ^^) are tired of it and are expressing their concerns. The most famous example is probably Metallica's heavily butchered Death Magnetic album, where a lot of fans demanded a re-release of the CD with the more dynamic mastering that the tracks had in the game Guitar Hero. :) Yup, that's a million-dollar band, and they still didn't knew what the hell they were doing. So having a big name as an artist or technician don't really impress me if they can't treat the fundamentals of dynamic music right.

But an other thing, what's wrong with showing examples in an argument? If they can be challenged, why not take the opportunity to do so?

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I definitely agree that mastering is misunderstood by most musicians & the general public. Actually i think what ruined it was the introduction of showing who mastered a release on album covers in this scene as a part of the main information. Where I look at older releases it wasn'y such a prominant feature. From my experience it works best if both the artist & technician can be together for the mastering, it;s extremely hard often to explain how you want the sound to be in types words or over the telephone.


I've been involved a few times i mastering some local extreme metal bands, and it's one of the hardest genres I think to get the music to breathe as there is so much distortion & it's very easy to make it sound like mindless mud. The album I always look at is Fear Factory's Demanufacture. The way they actuall get alll of the instruments to breathe is amazing, including the samples & synths. The story goes that Dino Cazares was furious at the way the first engineer was making it sound so he was eventually banned from partaking in the mastering sessions. After it was finished he trashed the effort and asked I think Rhys Fulber from Frontline Assemble to master it and again was banned from the sessions. Finally I think he was happy with that version but tweaked it a bit more himself and as i always believe it is the artist who knows how the final product should sound, as it is an amazing album to this day!


I find most psychedelic trance in the 90's has a very nice organic feel to it, I often wonder whether much was done mastering wise back in those days. Currently Tim Schuldt is my favourite for a lot of the reissues coming out. He made the Sandman "Starfinder" on Tribal Encore really shince compared to the original. The first time I heard it recently on a proper PA system it just really melted my mind in a great way with no alcohol or other influences.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Funny that you mention Fear Factory, they were one of my favourite bands when I was a teen, I guess it was the combination of mellow moods, hard riffs and dirty synths :). Don't know about their new stuff but their releases from the 90's definitely didn't sound bad no. I know Slayer a bit better though, and their new albums are also victims of the loudness war. Pointless; Reign In Blood is from 1986, almost 30 years old and without fucked up mastering, but is still as hard as Jesus' corpse! \m/

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