Originally Posted by Northern_Shaman
I'm about to ask a potentially retarded (series of) question(s).
Why the fuck is this 'CD volume' bullshit an issue to begin with? Who cares about this? Don't you people have volume controls on whatever you're listening to music with? Why the fuck did this become a thing? Who would be losing business due to tracks not being 'loud enough'?!?
I don't get it.
This explains the loudness thing, which is related to the problems we associate with Rick Rubin's productions, but not quite one in the same. On a record, clipped signal is so because it is too loud. Loud signal is not necessary clipped. Squares and rectangles dude. And yes, we do have volume controls, that's very true- too bad artists and labels don't give a shit. Artists and label people for the most part, don't know a thing about sound engineering. To them, louder = better. Now think about this for a second- mastering engineer delivers final product to label. Label says "This isn't loud enough, do it again." Mastering engineer either says no and loses not just present, but also future business, or says yes and keeps present and future business. That's why albums have gotten louder over the years. It's literally a competition, and engineers are forced to encourage it in order to stay in business.
Like I said earlier, loudness isn't really much of a problem anymore. It was before when engineers had to literally drive signal through the roof to increase the loudness of a track. In 2013 modern mastering technology can get a good sounding jacked signal. Yes, some dynamic range would be nice, but there are a lot of albums that sound perfectly good while still being really loud. The Devil You Know is actually a really good example of this funny enough. Most people that complain about 'loud mastering' spend more time staring at waveforms instead of actively listening and making a judgement based on that (to anyone that judges a track's quality based on a waveform photo, listen with your ears, not your eyes). Clipping always equals distortion, and for the most part distortion = bad. As of now, clipping is now a result of a small number of things including, but definitely not limited to these:
1) A mix engineer that jacks the album to oblivion for purposes that supposedly serves the mix. Ted Jensen, the guy who mastered Death Magnetic, claimed that the mixed tracks he was sent was already clipped- that's an example of this scenario.
2) The artist themselves clip the track or part of the track for artistic purposes. Trent Reznor did this to some NIN instrument tracks to achieve a desired digital distortion effect. If that's what the artist was going for, then more power to them.
3) The mastering engineer doesn't have the tech or the knowhow to get a song to be loud without clipping the signal. This scenario was the most common one, but it should be happening much less frequently as time goes on.
Just listen to The Tenant by Ludicra. The album has one of the best modern metal productions in every single area- performances, tones, mixing and mastering- while still being really fucking loud. Same with Andy Sneap's recent productions, he especially has really improved in that regard in the last couple of years. To be honest with every single person here, dynamic range compression is absolutely necessary.
If you like listening to music in your car, or on earbuds, or in any other environment where you're listening to music with shit happening in the background, compression makes your music listenable. The only people who can actually enjoy records with zero dynamic compression are people that are able to listen to music in otherwise silent environments. That's probably like 5% of any act's fanbase at best, and realistically only 2%. Basically, compression can act as the glue of a good mix. Quieter elements are brought up, and more abrasive ones are toned down. It also adds uniformity to the volume of a track, so that way you don't have to constantly adjust the volume as you listen to it. It also has the potential of causing the opposite extreme- a song can sound 'too together' and can sound too tightly packed for lack of a better phrase. Limiters can potentially avoid some of this issue thanks to some black motherfuck audio magic that I don't understand, but they're certainly not a definitive solution.
And to everyone here, if my posts haven't indicated this enough already, this whole loudness and compression issue is a very complicated issue. There is no perfect solution other than to hope that the engineers give every song the unique treatment it deserves. And as far as this Black Sabbath song is concerned, I do like that all the instruments are nicely balanced in the mix. I'm not a fan of the drum tones, the kick drum sounds especially super weak during the slow bits. I also think that the loud parts of the song are just a tad too compressed. One of the great things about Paranoid, Master of Reality and Vol 4 was how well the mix breathed- you could practically feel the air on those albums, even if their fidelity wasn't too great, especially on Vol 4. The instruments weren't merely all audible, but there was space in between them too. That's the big thing missing from God is Dead to me, but it won't be a deal breaker- it certainly wasn't on The Devil You Know anyway, although the issue wasn't nearly as pronounced on that album.
If anyone has any more engineering questions and whatnot, just shoot me a PM. I've hijacked this thread enough already haha. I'm also afraid that if I go into any more detail about specific albums that I know the production process of, I'll put something on here that I'll later regret.