CD loudness: the pro perspective

I noticed this comment on my piece on CD mastering, from the webmaster at APRS (Association of Professional Recording Services):

By making CDs Extremely Limited we are not only destroying natural dynamics, we are also reducing the clarity and making CDs which are far more difficult and tiring to listen to…I’ve lost arguments and jobs over this a number of times. You master something and make it sound as good as possible, just the way the client and musicians agree they want it to sound; you transfer it at the maximum level possible without destroying it, then they take it home and complain that it’s “just not loud enough”…

I have sympathy for professionals who are in an impossible position. They have to make CDs that sound worse than they should, sometimes much worse, or risk losing their jobs.

It’s a bad situation, but there is hope. Publicising the issue must help the pros win more arguments. Technology may solve this too. ReplayGain and Apple’s Sound Check are both techniques for matching the replay volume of music automatically, removing any supposed advantage from “loud” mastering. Broadcasters already use compression and limiting on their output. There is no need to compromise the source. 

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