Question The Loudness Wars - A revelation

haltny

Active Member
I recently read an article all about something called 'the loudness wars'. Without getting technical, because I am not a technical person, it is something to do with the compression of sounds on modern music and supposedly 'remastered' music.

I had never heard of this before so decided to do a comparison. I did this comparison with Rod Stewart's song 'Sailing' from his 'Atlantic Crossing' Album. This was played from Quobuz via USB direct to my Cayin CS55-A valve amp, which has a very high-quality built-in DAC.

I also did the same comparison played via my laptop listening via Philips Fidelio X2HR headphones with Cyrus Soundkey and finally, I played the song via Spotify Premium 320kbps via my Cambridge Audio 851N via RCA to my amp.

The first song I played was from the 2008 'Atlantic Crossing' album based on the original CD and was 16bit 44.1 KHz CD quality.

The second song I played was from the 2009 'Atlantic Crossing Delux' 'Remastered' release. It was also 16bit 44.1 KHz CD quality.

Wow is all I can say. I assumed that the newer 'Remastered' song would sound much better. Nope. The newer 'Remastered' version was awful. By direct comparison to the original, it sounded completely flat. Like someone had removed everything that makes the song sound enjoyable, leaving this dull-sounding, uninspiring song that made me want to turn it off, rather than listen to it. The difference was not slight, it was night and day.

The 320kbps Spotify version via my 851N sounded equally as good as the CD-quality version, to the point I could not discern any noticeable difference in quality. In fact, the 320kbps Spotify '2008' album version sounded much better than the CD-quality '2009 Remastered' version played via Quobuz. Thus my conclusion, a poorer quality stream with a far better quality recording sounded much better than a poorer quality recording at a supposedly better quality stream.

This got me thinking. With this modern craze of 'High Res' music and 'MQA' are we all simply being hoodwinked by the music industry into paying for something new, which is actually worse than the original?
 

drummerjohn

Well-known Member
This got me thinking. With this modern craze of 'High Res' music and 'MQA' are we all simply being hoodwinked by the music industry into paying for something new, which is actually worse than the original?

It's all about the mastering regardless of format. I have some awful vinyl albums but great CD versions. I have great 12" singles that are far superior to the same track on an album.

High Res music is fantastic, but again, if poorly mastered then pointless.

It is true that many of the remasters are awful.

@gibbsy has linked to a great site that I have used to obtain CDs from Ebay. That site only deals with compression\dynamic range but it's a great start to identifying the better pressings.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I use dr.loudness wars site to search for the best version of any CD and SACD that I intend to buy. Some of the modern releases have very poor dynamic range readings and this can, not always though, produce some very poor recordings. Same is true for vinyl releases of late as well. I've got some great CDs from the 1990s that have brilliant dynamic levels and on the right equipment can push to almost SACD performance. You have to be prepared to search them out.
 

mark6226

Well-known Member
Remasters often sound worse than the original. Take the recent so called kraftwetk remasters. When compared to the original they sound dreadful. Many remasters just boost the mid range and high end thus creating a mess of imbalance.
The beatles remasters by young Martin are also dreadful when compared to the originals as the entire composition of sound has been altered. For those lucky to have the blue box then this for me is the reference beatles. Yes its a remaster but done by GM and taken from the actual masters themselves. Yes a remaster can sound better but as ever it's about the source. Today, they use the digital source rather than the original analogue master because its cheaper and requires less skill.
Proper hifi isn't fashionable these days for a variety of reasons which means they can get away with releasing remastered rubbish more easily.
It all depends on the sort of music you like. If it's jazz from the analogue era then it's just about certain that the original will sound the best. With rock things get messy as many originals sound poor. But that was often down to poor quality vinyl pressings
Where possible I always try and get the original analogue source.
 
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haltny

Active Member
I wonder, there are lots of people who swear that the older CD players were far superior to modern iterations. I wonder if it was simply that older CD's sounded better by comparison to newer releases.

The Atlantic Crossing 'Delux' album is not listed on that website, but I'd be really interested to see what the figures are for it. Whenever I browse for music now I will also see if I can find an original album/recording to compare if there is a newer 'remastered' (= potentially butchered) version..
 

mark6226

Well-known Member
I wonder, there are lots of people who swear that the older CD players were far superior to modern iterations. I wonder if it was simply that older CD's sounded better by comparison to newer releases.

The Atlantic Crossing 'Delux' album is not listed on that website, but I'd be really interested to see what the figures are for it. Whenever I browse for music now I will also see if I can find an original album/recording to compare if there is a newer 'remastered' (= potentially butchered) version..
I agree. It's also a good idea to see if there's a Japanese version of the Cd as invariably these are the best recordings.
 

haltny

Active Member
I agree. It's also a good idea to see if there's a Japanese version of the Cd as invariably these are the best recordings.
That is bizarre! Surely if they can produce better quality CD's for the Japanese why on earth do they make poorer mixes for the West? Seems ludicrous.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
That is bizarre! Surely if they can produce better quality CD's for the Japanese why on earth do they make poorer mixes for the West? Seems ludicrous.

I've several Japanese SHM CDs, they are very good quality and if one is available of a title I'm after I'll order it. Some very Yes albums available. I'm currently waiting for the SHM SACD of Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story.

Only one problem.......try singing along to the lyrics.:confused:
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
The Atlantic Crossing 'Delux' album is not listed on that website, but I'd be really interested to see what the figures are for it. Whenever I browse for music now I will also see if I can find an original album/recording to compare if there is a newer 'remastered' (= potentially butchered) version..

You can easily measure it yourself using free software assuming your computer has a disc drive connected. It's a long time since I've done it but I think I used free software called Foobar.
 

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