Vinyl, Digital and the Loudness Wars

Last week, I blogged about the joys of listening to great albums on vinyl.

I’d thought the extra pleasure of listening to music in this way could be put down to romanticising the sound of the stylus in the groove, amplified through the audio gear of my childhood.

The records really did sound better though.

At the end of my last post I said I’d be listening to whole albums rather than falling into the digital ways of playlists and shuffle, to recapture some of the experience.

I did, but it still didn’t seem the same.

Then, this week, Lloyd Cole (formerly backed by The Commotions, now solo since the 90s), posted:

He linked to a Wikipedia page on something called the Loudness Wars.

It seems that what I tried to write off as romantic notions of the past is actually more than that. The recordings have all been remastered in order to release the CD and download versions - and those remasters have wrecked the sound the artists intended.

Later, when Lloyd had digitised the masters he had recieved he posted a screenshot showing the different waveforms from the original master, and then the processed version, remastered for the CD release - both of the album ‘Rattlesnakes’:

In the image at the beginning of this post, the blue waveform, on top, is the digitised version of the original 1/2 inch master tapes for side 1 of the original album. The grey waveform below is the remaster that was used to make the CD of the record.

So that shows how different digital music, on CD or download, is from the orignal vinyl albums.

Lloyd Cole is now working on issuing a CD/download of Rattlesnakes that’s faithful to the original master - I really hope other artists do the same.

Written on February 1, 2015