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  1. #1

    The Loudness War, or, that's why Icky Thump sounds like crap.

    So, I got "Icky Thump" back around Christmas on CD. I have a "real" stereo at home to listen to music on, you know, with actual components and speakers you buy in a stereo store.

    I put it on, and boy, it sounded great, at first. LOUD, just like Spinal Tap told you, it really does go to 11. But I noticed something ugly- clipping, a distortion that usually occurs when the amplifier cannot deliver the power to drive the speakers because the signal is too demanding. But it was odd... I didn't have it turned up very loudly, and it seemed to clip even when played relatively low.

    And for those of you who say Jack White likes distortion and lo-fi recording techniques, I can tell you that this phenomenon is not the same. This record has been mastered to be an assault on the ear drums, and its peaks go above the CD format's abilities.

    Anyway, I was curious about this, because I have noticed over the last couple of years that I cannot even listen to most CDs all the way through any more. Anyhoo, I discovered the following:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/aug07/5429

    http://www.rollingstone.com/news/sto...fidelity/print

    This is all particularly galling, because the only reason I buy CDs instead of pulling them from itunes is because I want a higher quality for at home listening. But recordings are now made to be heard over your car engine, or sound fuller on lousy computer speakers, ipods, or shelf systems, making them sound like garbage on a real set up.

    Fortunately, all is not lost with "Icky Thump", my local record shop has it on 180g vinyl, and this edition was newly remastered by a fella that refuses to compress the dynamic range of recordings. Lucky for me they purchase cds for resale so I can put it towards the vinyl copy. Being that Mr. White loves vinyl, it wouldn't surprise me if he deliberately made the CD sound like crap.
    Peeps who have hooked me up: General Grievous Dark Marble jjreason Ramy GrandMoffLouie Josephe vader121 Val Da Car

  2. #2
    This was a problem when Zwan (remember them? ) released their only disc and people were complaining about the loudness and the distortion. I think Billy and Co said they had turned everything up to make a loud rock n' roll album. It didn't bother me too bad though, luckily. And I have Icky Thump too, but haven't noticed too much. Then again, I just play it on my PC right now, not on an actual stereo.
    "Woke up at 9.55am. Soon as I woke up, I looked at Suzanne and she looked at me. I said, 'Did I tell you about the immune system?' Suzanne starting laughing, I said, 'it's amazing.' She said, 'Not now.'"

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jedi_Master_Guyute View Post
    This was a problem when Zwan (remember them? ) released their only disc and people were complaining about the loudness and the distortion. I think Billy and Co said they had turned everything up to make a loud rock n' roll album. It didn't bother me too bad though, luckily. And I have Icky Thump too, but haven't noticed too much. Then again, I just play it on my PC right now, not on an actual stereo.
    I regret to say that I have never heard of Zwan. However, nowadays, everything is turned up all the way in every genre. I do know Led Zeppelin, however, and there should be loud parts and quieter parts, not all loud parts like on the "Mothership" recordings.

    Did you watch the youtube link?
    Peeps who have hooked me up: General Grievous Dark Marble jjreason Ramy GrandMoffLouie Josephe vader121 Val Da Car

  4. #4
    I remember the first "loud" album I came across was "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera back in '92. I'll agree that the first reaction like mentioned in the video you posted was "wow, this sounds great". As time went on I'll agree that the music sounded a bit muddled in parts. Since then there have been albums that are even worse.

    I too stick with CD's rather than buying digitally to maximize the music quality. It's disappointing that the music industry has tried to spice up a few of their albums like this. Why bother? I bought the album because I like the music so there isn't any need to spice it up any.
    "No one helped me so why should I help you?" - College professor circa 1999

    By choosing not to decide you still have made a choice.

    I'm in love with the women of Univision.

  5. #5
    Please do not disgrace the name of Tap by mentioning White Stripes in the same breath.

  6. #6
    A thread about a White Stripes album pops up, and it takes you ten hours to make a snide comment?

    You're slipping, Caesar.
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  7. #7
    Sorry, I just got back online for the day. I was busy remixing Big Bottom to add a 4th bass line.

    Anyway, people need to stop posting pornographic videos on the interweb and claiming the woman in the video is Meg White. That's not very nice.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JON9000 View Post
    Being that Mr. White loves vinyl, it wouldn't surprise me if he deliberately made the CD sound like crap.
    I suppose it all boils down to his loving cash money more than vinyl. Having heard and been impressed by the White Stripes at a little club show years ago, I know how great they can sound live, but Iíve never been impressed by their albums. They donít have the same force.

    Funny, this subject really hits home for me. I've been downloading a few things lately that I'd probably never have even bought on CD, but because of the convenience of iTunes, I've gone ahead and got them. Talking about ďclassicĒ rock, the biggest digital failure of late was my download of Band on the Run by Wings. Now, aside from the fact that itís nothing more than a typical McCartney pop album, whatís terrible is how weird the mastering is. Itís not just flat, itís really badly mixed in general, with the bass smothering the vocals... a pretty good example of someone doing the job that just didnít care one way or the other how it sounded.

    Reading the mention of bands like Pink Floyd... funny also, because I just downloaded ďPiperĒ and ďRelics.Ē They sound decent enough on the iPod, or even through the Roland monitor speakers that I have hooked up to my computer, but Iím starting to dread how theyíll sound when I get my ďrealĒ stereo hooked up in the living room at some point.

    Iíd be curious to see if this want for a better quality recording is what ends up saving the record industry... or at least keeping it from completely tanking. When I get my lovely old Ohm Walsh speakers hooked up to a big watt Sansui or McIntosh receiver, I suspect that Iím not going to want to play any of the CDs that Iíve got piled up.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by plasticfetish View Post
    When I get my lovely old Ohm Walsh speakers hooked up to a big watt Sansui or McIntosh receiver, I suspect that Iím not going to want to play any of the CDs that Iíve got piled up.
    Prepare yourself. No amount of power can overcome "digital" clipping. No speaker can articulate particular instruments when every frequency is maxed out. If you think CDs are bad, itunes is even worse. The physical properties of vinyl force engineers to work within certain constraints. These constraints can be a problem with full orchestral music, but I think classical has avoided the "loudness war" and thank heaven for that. Can you imagine Siegfried's Funeral March without the quiet drums at the beginning, "Mars" without the quiet strings, or "Carmina Burana" without the quiet choral opening?

    Fortunately, if you can afford MacIntosh amps, you can afford a decent vinyl collection!
    Peeps who have hooked me up: General Grievous Dark Marble jjreason Ramy GrandMoffLouie Josephe vader121 Val Da Car

  10. #10
    I played a few tracks off this album to check and see if I could hear the clipping - but it sounded "fine" to me (well, at least what I'd expect the songs to sound like - no popping noises or weirdness with the levels).

    Maybe my stereo is sub-par (15 yr old mid-range Sony receiver and CD player with JPW speakers I got on clearance from my wife's old boss at the stereo store), but I've never had any problems with popping unless I turn up the volume to levels high enough that I can't enjoy it.
    GOLDEN DEUCE AWARD WINNER & MABUCON ATTENDEE 2008

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