Geek Trivia

The Phenomenon Of Mastering Music With Increasing Loudness Is Known As What?

Decibel Race
Remaster Blast
Loudness War
Ear Picking
Which Famous Scientist's Family Has Won The Most Nobel Prizes?

Answer: Loudness War

If you feel like music is becoming louder and lower quality sounding over time, you’re not simply imagining it or suffering from a “Back in my day…” moment. For almost four decades there has been a slow and steady push towards producing new (and remastering old) music to sound louder and louder while, as an unfortunate sound effect, reducing the quality of the sound itself.

Although the introduction of the CD and digital mastering greatly accelerated the phenomenon, known informally as the “Loudness War”, examples of remastering for intensified loudness reach back into the days of records and 7″ singles. Back in the time of analog juke boxes, the individual singles were held on 7″ vinyl records. The jukebox almost always had a fixed volume, set by the owner of the establishment. Singles would be mastered to be “hotter” than the industry standards in order to really stand out against other singles in the jukebox. A “hot” record would get more playtime and catch the attention of the nearby patrons. The medium itself served as a limitation to how far the loudness of a given song could be pushed, and for a time the change was negligible.

With the advent of CDs and digital playback, the physical restrictions were removed and audio engineers were able to push the envelope further. Consumers can easily test the creeping volumes in the loudness war by looking for old CDs of popular music at thrift stores and yard sales. Albums in released in the mid-1980s sound much softer and have a greater auditory range than remastered versions of those same songs by those same artists released later on.