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LOUDNESS WAR - alternative mix for hifi/headphones

  loudness-war-compression-diagram.jpg   lwkillsmusic.jpg


This post is for people who listen to spotify using either a hifi, any decent cans (headphones), or any decent speakers in general. We need to fix the following problems BEFORE increasing bitrate in the future.


Better mastered version as an option for spotify paying members (see above links). The loudness war really started to affect music quality on albums released from mid-late 90s onwards. Even putting more non remastered CD versions on spotify from albums pre 90s, as an option for people to listen to is a start (many originals blow the remasters out the window - they shouldn't, but they do because of all the compression that's added to a lot of remasters).


In the 21st century, typical digital albums and CDs to have a very Low Dynamic Range (see 1999 in the image above - the signal is all loud and there's no quiet parts. Everything is effectively the same volume which sounds crap on headphones or hifi)


For modern albums, every paying member should have the option of a well mastered album version to listen to. Before you tell us this can't be done, every modern vinyl and CD comes from the same pristine digital master, yet only CDs are intentially compressed to hell before being released. The high quality digital master for the vinyl rarely contains any compression, even on new albums. Spotify and amazon mp3 etc encode there collections from the loudness war'd CDs, why can't premium members have the option of listening to a 320kbps of the actual master or the audiophile master intended for vinyl, so that there's no DR compression. Paying members deserve high quality!!!


Music on spotify should have a dynamic range reading so that people can pick the version at a glance. The only alternative to a DR rating is descriptive terms such as Quiet Version (must be non compressed album version for headphones or hifi) or LOUD Version (for the standard commercial compressed version). There is a dynamic range scanner available at the 2nd link above.



By far my favourite feature in spotify is the drop down menu next to the album. If you don't care about audio quality, then you don't have to click on it (just listen to the album on top). However If you care about audio quality, you can click on it and go searching for a better sounding version.

If you've seen the 2 links above, you'll note that the thing that bothers me the most about new commercial cds, spotify and iTunes etc is that all the audio is encoded from the same master, quite the problem when most of your cds mastered or remastered after 1995 look and sound as squashed in dynamic range as the 1st waveform in this audacity screen shot from wikipedia.
This first waveform is usually called LOUD version by the music industry, due to the style of mastering. All the detail in the commercial CD, done away with before being shipped, just to make it sound louder in comparison to another CD when played at exactly the same volume. The mp3 in the 2nd wave form, taken from a more careful mastering job shows the detail that is missing from the 1st wave form.

Lossless is of course the future, but through years of experience with audio quality, let this sink in, a 320 kbps mp3 ripped from a high quality master (e.g. a well mastered new vinyl or well mastered CD) will easily sound a lot better than a CD that is taken from your average dynamic range compressed master. If a CD has crap audio quality (as most do now) and you encode it to FLAC, then what's your FLAC going to sound like??? You know the answer! People don't realise how bad the quality is that they're listening to until they get hold of an older CD. The labels choose to create masters with the loudest possible audio signal, because the music labels don't care about audio quality. There are many people out there including myself that want that to change.

Another example, Nevermind by Nirvana officially remastered and released on hdtracks as 24/96khz flac has severe dynamic compression (DR7), the 2496 was compressed to bits because it was intended to be the new version used for the CD remaster. The original CD (DR12) or a 320 kbps mp3 taken from that well mastered cd (therefore DR12) easily blows that crappy remaster out the window.

Updated: 2015-11-17


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There is a "loudness war" going on in the music industry, that makes the music louder, resulting sounding better in most cars, but  lowers the music quality, noticeable when playing on a good HIFI. See: or google "loudness war".


My idea is that Spotify could help addressing this issue by providing a column named DR+ (Dynamic Range Value).

Music enthusiast that cares about good music quality, could use th is value to ensure the quality of the music is good.

The user could also search for good dynamic range music. I got this Idea after reading this page


I think the future will bring more Dynamic Range music, and Spotify could start this trend. Maybe the future of digital music will allow the music industry to master two versions of the same album, with and without Dynamic Range?

Concert Regular

I think that's a really good idea, music with non compressed dynamic range sounds much better on a hifi, or even with half decent headphones on the move. Read these before asking questions, as people will think that dynamic range compression is mp3s etc.

Concert Regular

Please give me feedback and ideas, if you've read the 2 above links.


A problem I've experienced is that many people judge how loud the music is by the amount of distortion being created. Poor reproduction systems distort the music at a low spl. Since THEIR speakers/cans distort at speaking volume, they don't miss the overtones and detail in the music. Having never heard it (unless they are musicians or live music fans in good acoustic environments, they can't tell what isn't there.


To demonstrate this to friends, I will put on 24 karat CD of their choice. I tell them to hold up their hand when they think the music is getting "too loud". Then I try to get them to speak. They are astonished by how loud they have to scream to be heard over the music.


I played french horn in orchestra, keyboards in jazz. French horn sits directly in front of the conductor in the middle of the orchestra. Timpani are usually close behind. You really have the best seat in the house to hear every body else play. Trust me, a trumpet over your right shoulder is much louder (unamplified) than the music you listen to in your living room. You will see great classical pianists bring their hands down from a full reach on a New York Steinway. That is also louder than you think. As a matter of fact, when Haydn invented the symphony and more and more musicians were included in the orchestra, parents were absolutely certain that the loud music would destroy their children.


Most performances for commercial consumption are squeezed into a narrow band. The process is called "gain riding" where the engineer constantly manipulates the gain to keep the volume normalized to something unrealistic. Most people gravitate to music which is "comfortable" to listen to. Most home sound equipment caters to this preference. As such, you don't know the dynamic range between a pp solo violin and a ff blast from the brass while the percussion is playing cannon (think 1812 overture).


I never listen to Pandora. I don't buy MP3s. I encode to FLAC with EAC. Spotify's OGG is the best commercial product I can find right now. But to whine about "bandwidth" for a sub 1mbps stream while Netflix is giving me 4 gbps (that 4,000 mpbs) for HD video is an empty complaint.


I would love for Spotify to be my go to for music, but I still have 5 hours of VLC to 1 hour of Spotify. 320 OGG is better than 320 MP3 (MOG), and I've moved to Spotify, but if Netflix starts streaming FLAC audio (just a drop in their bucket of bandwidth) my subscription will migrate.


BTW - Have you listened to (and watched) Classic Albums on Netlfix? Turn it up, it will blow your socks off.


I would gladly pay more for better audio quality!

But that wouldn't change the real problem. We have to put an end to the loudness war! We won't do that by making good audio quality exclusive. :) It have to be open and available for everyone!


And someone have to take initiative, someone that can make a change, someone "big" - like Spotify! They hold the future in their hands, and they control it.


But they have to spread the word, take action - fight for the cause! Silence can't be heard.

Concert Regular



Sorry for taking so long to reply. Gold CDs have always been mastered well and you can turn them up seriously loud before the music starts to distort because they are mastered well with a high dynamic range.

Lossless streaming is the future, but it definitely comes after getting loudness war'd music sorted out. A well mastered 320kbps stream that's got a good dynamic range blows away a lossless file with terrible dynamic range.
I've never checked out netflix as I'm not into films etc. I've got all my fav classic albums on non remastered CD version (if the remastered versions are crap). I've got a lot of good sounding cds all ripped to flac etc, although I've also got some loudness war'd cds of recent music. I just use mp3 for the loudness war'd cds, as I don't see the point.




I actually recently quit spotify, as I felt that £10 was too much for the limited amount of well mastered music that I listened to on it. I'm on deezer now which is £5 per month for 320kbps. I'm all for going back and paying £10 per month if they sort themselves out with proper audio quality. There's still a few non remastered originals on spotify / deezer that I like listening to but there's not enough. If there is only a crap sounding version available to listen to, I will still check it out but I'll always end up tracking down a better sounding version on CD. I'm lucky in the fact that the majority of music I like is quite old, so alternative non remastered cds are available or can be purchased second hand. For the music I like that is new, I'm fu****


Great idea!



Maybe the biggest problem with Spotify as I see it, is the mastering quality of their tracks and the lack of focus on this. Spotify should do something, if they really love music they should. There should be an icon to the left of each song, showing their DR-rate. Nowadays mastering quality is not something people are aware of. And high DR-value is not looked at as good, because they don't know what it is. How could we make people more aware of this? How could we make good quality masterings a good thing, also for the record companies? Not just a thing that people do not have a relationship to.


Some believe that the loudness war is coming to it's end soon. What would be better than Spotfy helping out, also helping the record companies not having to fight like this. Spotify is able to make a lots of people aware of this, and also sound quality.

Music Lover

As far as I know, the loud-version mastering is always used for comercial breaks to be louder than the music in radio. As music has gone very comercial recently, the radio music wants to be louder than the comercials, and voila, we get served ad-music all day on radio with loudness mastering - and the labels are to blame!


For those who like to listen to true artists, this is not a problem, I buy many songs from small labels on spotify, put them in a sequencer, and never have they looked like the 1999 picture you have up there.


All I can say is that the money hungry labels are to blame, a true artist would never retard-master their music.


The savior is spotify, because it is a market-opener for the artists that do music for other reasons than to be overly rich.

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Status changed to: New Idea