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  #1  
Old Jun 25, 2012, 09:43 PM
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Default Loudness War Casualty List

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX
I remember looking at the volume level for Xenoblade and I couldn't believe, for that type of music, they would make it that loud. Virt's recent Mighty Switch Force OST is downright sad...every track is up near 99-100db. It should not be anywhere near that (his prior works were just right, as far as listening volume went) and it a huge reason I don't enjoy the music more (the actual music is amazing, I'd gladly pop for a well-mastered version of it). New-school Falcom has zero idea what they're doing, with regards to volume levels and dynamics and it kills 95% of the music outright for me. Just go listen to Mighty Obstacle from Ys VI for the ultimate example. Amazing tune, horrible, horrible production. And has anyone ever noticed, oh say, the Black Mages or Guilty Gear XX and why they sound off? Yup, whoever mastered those albums cranked them and the layers are distorted as hell (although ironically, the Korean GGXX is one of the best mastered albums I own...It sounds amazing and detailed on higher-end equipment) This weighs heavily on any buying decisions I make, because I have to be sure I'm not buying something I don't want to listen to, even if I like the music. I mean, when they say they are going to "master" the classic Megaman music, I am absolutely dreading the results.
This is a thread where we discuss and compile all the albums that are mastered too loud and/or are clipping.

From the above:
Xenoblade
Mighty Switch Force
Ys VI
Black Mages
Guilty Gear XX

From same user:
Fuujin Ryouiki Eretzvaju Original Soundtrack

From Vert1:
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3
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Last edited by Vert1; Jun 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM.
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  #2  
Old Jun 26, 2012, 03:09 AM
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I think we can add LAST RANKER to the list. Together with lots of albums from Kajiura *g*
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  #3  
Old Jun 26, 2012, 05:48 AM
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DO-DON-PACHI DAI-FUKKATSU BLACK LABEL Original Sound Track

It sounds like it's 10db higher than all of the other soundtracks. -_-
ReplayGain is a must if you listen to this album.
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Old Jun 26, 2012, 08:04 AM
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Funny, I haven't needed to use replaygain on any of the albums on this discussion. And I haven't heard any bad cases of loudness war even. And I own GG XX. Perhaps I just can't hear it.

I would be more annoyed if the albums in questions would be like Metallica's Death Magnetic.
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Old Jun 26, 2012, 08:17 AM
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I think I first stumbled on the so called loud-war problem many years ago, with the Chaos Field soundtrack cd.

I would be more than glad if the resident experts here would pay a second to see what's afflicted by poor mastering in my collection and what is considered "solid".
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Old Jun 26, 2012, 08:19 AM
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The recent Sonic CD one was loud as hell as well.
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  #7  
Old Jun 26, 2012, 08:38 AM
Xenofan 29A Xenofan 29A is offline
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There should be different expectations for electronic music as opposed to acoustic. Furthermore, as much of VGM is sample-based, the issues surrounding overcompression are less obvious than elsewhere. I don't have many problems with Xenoblade other than "Mechanical Rhythm", but that was a conscious decision to get an overcompressed sound. The rest is fine, honestly.

But if you must expect me to contribute to this topic...
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was hit pretty hard.

Last edited by Xenofan 29A; Jun 26, 2012 at 08:57 AM.
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Old Jun 26, 2012, 10:51 AM
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One should note that applying Replaygain doesn't fix clipping or the low dynamic range of the track. It just prevents that you blow up your ears

Last edited by LiquidAcid; Jun 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM.
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  #9  
Old Jun 26, 2012, 11:14 AM
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^ Even that's something xD

You do not mess with your own ears

Loudness should naturally depend on the genre, real instruments and/or synths used etc. but somehow more and more engineers think louder is always better, fuck everything else lol
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  #10  
Old Jun 27, 2012, 04:47 PM
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Digital dynamic range actually shouldn't depend on the genre at all, the overdrive used in some genres should be of analogue nature which isn't the same at all. The "natural" dynamic range of CDs is 16bit, the loudness war is essentially turning the music into lofi pieces by only using the top end of the whole range (which isn't really all that big anyway). If one ever gets a comment with regard to "bleeps and blops" again feel free to note that plenty "modern" masterings as well as compressing on radio channels are technically even worse.
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  #11  
Old Jun 27, 2012, 10:04 PM
Xenofan 29A Xenofan 29A is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Datschge View Post
Digital dynamic range actually shouldn't depend on the genre at all, the overdrive used in some genres should be of analogue nature which isn't the same at all. The "natural" dynamic range of CDs is 16bit, the loudness war is essentially turning the music into lofi pieces by only using the top end of the whole range (which isn't really all that big anyway). If one ever gets a comment with regard to "bleeps and blops" again feel free to note that plenty "modern" masterings as well as compressing on radio channels are technically even worse.
But it unquestionably depends on genre and style.

Evangelion 2.0 - "In My Spirit"


FFXIII-2 - "Last Hunter"


There's a very good reason why the top one sounds far worse than the bottom one. They both have an extremely small dynamic range of 6 db, but the top one is compressing a full orchestra and choir into that space, while the bottom one is a rock band, which is a smaller group with a naturally smaller dynamic range. And as I was saying before, with electronic music and samples, one can easily get a small dynamic range without too much in the way of clipping or limiting.

In terms of natural dynamic range:

Pure synthesized tones < Samplers < Rock band < Amplified Jazz Fusion group < Unamplified Jazz band < Orchestra
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Old Jun 28, 2012, 12:42 AM
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When I am mixing my songs I tend to aim for something like an average of -9db, sometimes higher or lower, but about that for a fully fleshed out song that has a beat and etc. I always thought it was because the kind of music I write didn't really need to be compressed heavily, though when I listen to things like dubstep, it seems entirely appropriate to have full wave saturation, it's kind of the point of the genre to be totally in your face, and that applies in other instances as well like lots of metal and breakcore and things.

It's only a problem if there's very noticeable wave clipping and resulting distortion in the sound, IMO. And that's easily avoided if instead of simply trimming+normalising the wave you use a limiter with a lookahead function, so that instead of chopping the wave dead above a certain point, it does some fancy attenuation to the transients (the mix needs to be under control though, otherwise it will sound squashed.) well anyway, that's what works for me. tl;dr it depends on what you're making and what your taste is. Dynamics simply aren't that important in some music.
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  #13  
Old Jun 28, 2012, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenofan 29A View Post
But it unquestionably depends on genre and style.
Both screenshots are a disgrace to look at. That some genres often have quieter sections than others which aren't compressed over the top as well doesn't make the end result (barely using the dynamic range available) any better.
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Old Jun 28, 2012, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Datschge View Post
Both screenshots are a disgrace to look at. That some genres often have quieter sections than others which aren't compressed over the top as well doesn't make the end result (barely using the dynamic range available) any better.
The whole point is that you can't make a simple prescription like "the dynamic range needs to be X dB" that covers any and all cases, because the end result varies. Furthermore, while neither picture exactly looks enticing, the 2nd one sounds far better, because the squashed dynamics fit the style of the music more than with the 1st.

But I stand by my statement that, aside from a few cases, VGM has not suffered terribly from the loudness wars. The Final Fantasy main battle themes come out as follows:

1989: I - 9
1989: II - 8
1990: III - 11
1991: IV - 10
1992: V - 12
1994: VI - 12
1997: VII - 11
1999: VIII - 8
2000: IX - 9
2001: X - 9
2003: X-2 - 9
2002: XI - 12
2006: XII - 8 (Using track "Boss Battle")
2010: XIII - 8
2012: XIII-2 - 6 (Using track "Last Hunter")

Aside from FFXIII-2, they keep to a quite reasonable 8 or above.

Last edited by Xenofan 29A; Jun 28, 2012 at 02:54 PM.
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Old Jun 28, 2012, 09:21 PM
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The 2CD release of Wild Arms, and the reissue of Culdcept II (with track breaks).
Both are easily much louder than the originals.


As for Last Ranker, that just has horrid sound quality in general for some reason. It's not a result of it being too loud.
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  #16  
Old Jun 29, 2012, 07:50 PM
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Oh how I loathe the loudness war. My ears are too sensitive for that shit.

Listening to SQ Chips right now. Some tracks suffer. Just take a look at "Xenogears ''The Wind Calls to Shevat in the Blue Sky". :-/ Other tracks a good, e.g.; FFXII & Einhander/Project Sylpheed
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  #17  
Old Jun 30, 2012, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenofan 29A View Post
The whole point is that you can't make a simple prescription like "the dynamic range needs to be X dB" that covers any and all cases, because the end result varies.
Yes, the end result varies between bad, worse and worst. See, with digital formats the dynamic range is already limited, on CDs and with most common formats to only 32766 steps between silence and clipping full power. Analogue sounds (and such recorded) cover a wide range of them even when a human recognized it as a stable specific loudness. Even analogue overdriven sounds and the likes still actually consists of different parts at different loudnesses. The whole issue with compression and loudness war on the digital level is that unlike with the analogue side this is a totally lossy process, through compression the range at any point of the song gets reduced and will never be recoverable anymore as it's essentially the same as reducing the bit depth, then using the dynamic range only for dynamic changes in the duration of a piece, not for the dynamic range of the sounds itself. Of course there may well be artists that actively use digital artifacts, but the terrible thing about the loudness war is that it affects and cheapens a lot of recordings that's far from "profiting" of such lossy range reductions.

It's gotten so bad that even for popular music the "unmastered" lossy audio data used in games is of far better quality dynamic range wise than what's officially put on CD.
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  #18  
Old Jul 21, 2012, 07:36 PM
Xenofan 29A Xenofan 29A is offline
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I'd like to bring up that probably the worst-sounding album in my VGM collection is the soundtrack to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It is horrible by any standard.

A few others that are too loud:
an cinniuint
Metal Gear Solid Original Game Soundtrack
Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song OST
Symphonic Fantasies
Recent Basiscape albums

Last edited by Xenofan 29A; Jul 21, 2012 at 07:40 PM.
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  #19  
Old Jul 21, 2012, 07:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenofan 29A View Post
Metal Gear Solid Original Game Soundtrack
I don't remember this one being loud, I remember it having the same sort of overly excessive echo effects that Konami used on several of their 1990s soundtracks.
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Old Jul 21, 2012, 08:13 PM
Xenofan 29A Xenofan 29A is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxhack View Post
I don't remember this one being loud, I remember it having the same sort of overly excessive echo effects that Konami used on several of their 1990s soundtracks.
You know, you're right. Some of the tracks clip quite a bit (especially the opening), but the levels are far from brickwalled. Still sounds bad, though.

Also, I forgot to list the Digicube release of Xenosaga Episode I, which isn't loud compared to most things, but has some bad clipping on a few tracks.
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Old Jul 21, 2012, 09:11 PM
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Which Basiscape releases? Like the rerelease of Baroque?
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  #22  
Old Jul 21, 2012, 09:43 PM
Xenofan 29A Xenofan 29A is offline
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Muramasa is the particular offender. I haven't heard the recent remaster of Baroque yet, but I'm sure it's louder than the Digicube one.
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  #23  
Old Jul 22, 2012, 12:41 PM
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Sup vert! I think you might have picked one of my better rants on the subject over at STC to open the topic with. For me, it just started with looking at my "regular" albums and feeling a difference in them (particularly my Iron Maiden remasters vs original prints and vinyl rips) Just felt like there was more to the non-mastered stuff, so I started reading up on the loudness war and it dawned on me that the same thing is likely an issue for VGM. I wavegain or mp3gain EVERYTHING in my collection to a standard volume level, so I am always checking the loudness ratings. I just don't understand why VGM needs to be recorded super-loud like most of the albums listed here. It's not in competition with others for radio airplay, so hot mastering is not needed for it. The underlying idea is to mix it with the dynamics intact, so the listener can turn the volume up on their own.

My rule of thumb is to throw the tracks into mp3gain or wavegain and look at the loudness ratings. Usually anything below 95 is fine, 97-96 is iffy and anything constantly over 97 is pretty much unlistenable to me (or they require effort to listen to, vs a fairly effortless experience when listening to music with the dynamics fully intact).

I agree on Last Ranker. I sampled a couple tracks off of that one.

Pretty much any of the recent Falcom soundtracks and arranges end up on this list. They really have no idea what they are doing in regards to this issue and it would explain my lack of enthusiasm for them recently. But Mighty Obstacle from Ys VI is probably the ultimate example for me.

For the recent Sonic 1 and 2 Original soundtrack, I find my old downloaded rips much more appealing to listen to. That was kind of sad.

Just about every single rock arranged doujin/fan arrange I've come across. Blasting the recording volume on midi-metal is the worst thing you can possibly do to create an unlistenable and tiring experience. This pretty much covers every single rock arrange I've sampled on Bandcamp as well. Guys, TURN THE STUFF DOWN! Seriously.

Some others from me:

King of Fighters XIII
Chocobo Racing
Black Mages 2 as well (not sure about BM3)
Arcana Heart 3 (one of the first ones I noticed, where I liked the music, but couldn't really get into it)
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  #24  
Old Jul 22, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Concerning mp3gain and Replay Gain in general: You might want to start using a tool which implements gain scanning based on "EBU R 128" (google it). E.g. foobar2000 changed it's scanning code to libebur128 in version 1.1.7.

Also I don't recommend anything that changes the audio data directy. So this includes wavegain as well. Just encode it to flac and apply gain correction via metadata.
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Old Jul 22, 2012, 01:38 PM
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I never use replay gain of any kind, as it is completely inappropriate for kinds of music where the average level is not meant to be the same track-to-track (classical, jazz, some VGM). If something quiet comes up, I want it to be relatively quiet, not at the same average level as whatever I was just listening to.

I found the Sonic 1&2 Soundtrack fine. It sounds cleaner to me than any game rip I've heard, despite the clipping (the waveforms are not squashed in terms of dynamic range, though).

Also, I've never found that I couldn't listen to something just because of poor mastering. I care about the music, not the sound.
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Old Jul 22, 2012, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenofan 29A View Post
I never use replay gain of any kind, as it is completely inappropriate for kinds of music where the average level is not meant to be the same track-to-track (classical, jazz, some VGM). If something quiet comes up, I want it to be relatively quiet, not at the same average level as whatever I was just listening to.
That's why both track and album RG values are stored.
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Old Jul 22, 2012, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidAcid View Post

Also I don't recommend anything that changes the audio data directy. So this includes wavegain as well. Just encode it to flac and apply gain correction via metadata.
I have my own reasons for using Wavegain...namely a player that doesn't support replaygain on FLAC files (and no Rockbox support). But yes, I'm not in love with the idea that it directly changes the data. It was only solution I could come up with. In any case, most of my stuff I own the original, so if I discover an issue down the road, I can re-rip.

Xenofan: To each their own, I guess. I did a direct comparison with the Sonic music and I just thought the rip (in mp3 vs the soundtrack in FLAC) sounded better. Richer, warmer, more fun.

Replaygain is a must for me, since I use "Random All" a lot on my library. Without it, I would be adjusting the volume with every track that comes up. Totally inefficient for me. Going from chiptune to pop to classical to metal to classic rock to whatever, with albums mastered from different eras, having everything come up the same perceived listening is a godsend. I really don't fully understand the aural science behind it, but it works for me.

I care about the music too. Most of my favorite VGM just happened to be my reference points for newer stuff and I've found it is generally mastered extremely well. Most SNES soundtracks, for example, have a richness and warmth that few soundtracks I pick up nowadays can match. Ditto for the first Grandia soundtrack and Guilty Gear XX Korean Reload, two longtime favorites that rank as some of the best-produced VGM I can think of. Also, Mitsuda's stuff is generally well-produced, one of the reasons I think his music ends up on the upper end of the popularity scale (someone above posted about the Tsugunai soundtrack, I felt that one sounded fine). For that matter, Uematsu's Playstation FF's are good as well (I was revisiting FF8 music the other day). On the other hand, I grew up with the Guilty Gear XX soundtrack and I grew to accept it, despite it not having the emotional connection I felt like it should be having (in other words, accepting it as good music, but not always looking forward to listening to it). Nowadays, I might just sell or delete it on top of analyzing it closer, but I can't just cast it aside either, since I have a history with it. Most of the other examples above that I gave, I don't quite have that problem.

Last edited by GoldfishX; Jul 22, 2012 at 02:06 PM.
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Old Jul 22, 2012, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX View Post
namely a player that doesn't support replaygain on FLAC files (and no Rockbox support)
That's why I decided some yrs ago to never again get a player which isn't Rockboxable.

Too often I experienced that the standard firmware just plain sucked.
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Old Jul 22, 2012, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blitz Lunar View Post
When I am mixing my songs I tend to aim for something like an average of -9db, sometimes higher or lower, but about that for a fully fleshed out song that has a beat and etc. I always thought it was because the kind of music I write didn't really need to be compressed heavily, though when I listen to things like dubstep, it seems entirely appropriate to have full wave saturation, it's kind of the point of the genre to be totally in your face, and that applies in other instances as well like lots of metal and breakcore and things.
I'm not so sure about most electronic music, but for metal, I need to hear most of the frequencies cleanly interacting with each other or else I tend to either get fatigued or bored with the music. Nothing worse than the wall of sound smashed into the midrange, especially if it's nothing but repeated notes like most thrash or power metal tends to be. And stuff like Dream Theater, forget it...Once listening fatigue sets in, my mind is in no shape to take in all of the great musical masturbation that is to follow.

To be honest, there isn't a single metal CD from the last 10-15 years that I would really call acceptable. I think rock music (and especially metal) needs that dynamic range, otherwise it really becomes easily disposable (like I said about most fanmade metal arranges).

Sorry to be off-topic, but I noticed the whole loudness wars thing with remastered/modern metal CD's before I did with VGM. It's MUCH worse in that realm.
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 07:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldfishX View Post
Sorry to be off-topic
It's not...
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