Guitar Hero Metallica DLC Tracks Better Quality Than Universal's Retail CDs

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Internet audiophiles have discovered that the Guitar Hero version of Metallica album Death Magnetic is of better quality than the retail CD recently released by label Universal--and they have science to back it up.

"The CD version ... has been heavily compressed, limited and/or clipped, and sounds massively distorted as a result," said recording industry mixing engineer Ian Shepard in a blog post relayed by Wired.

The Guitar Hero version, on the other hand, uses a fuller dynamic range, as illustrated by a soundwave comparison pictured above. The more dynamic Guitar Hero version is more likely to resemble the songs as recorded by the group.

In this case, "compression" does not refer to data compression like MP3 files, but rather a "part of the 'loudness war,'" a recording industry technique in which the music's dynamic range (the range from soft to loud) is squished together to make music sound as loud as possible.

The technique, commonly used in TV commercials, means that the retail CD is ten decibels louder than the $18 Guitar Hero III DLC, or twice as loud to the human ear.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 17, 2008 11:36 AM

    Why doesn't the music industry just give up the loudness war? It has been well known for a while now and it just makes the music sound worse. My car stereo volume knob goes up to 40. Yet any recent CD is unbearably loud at 25.

    Give us higher quality music, we can always turn up the volume ourselves.

    • reply
      September 17, 2008 11:46 AM

      Music industry + higher quality music?

      I don't have enough LOLs to express my reaction to that idea.

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        September 17, 2008 1:21 PM

        He's talking about the sound quality--less use of compression, and so on.

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      September 17, 2008 11:50 AM

      Being louder sounds better on the radio because the radio does not have the same dynamic range of a CD, and a song will stick out more than other songs if it is louder. Thus, songs tend to get made for the radio.

      Aside: this is a prime example of why art in general should NEVER pander exactly to what people say they want. It always results in a lowest common denominator-type effect and the end result is watered down.

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        September 17, 2008 11:59 AM

        Aren't many radio stations switching to HD radio now?

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          September 17, 2008 12:11 PM

          Some.

          I work in the Radio Broadcast industry.

          It's been more of a "Oooh, we can do what?" Than a real direction.

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        September 17, 2008 12:04 PM

        Radio stations apply their own compression/limiting to help with that though so it's pretty redundant. I think the original causes for the trend where multipart, with the proliferation of cheap portable music players playing a role. Now it's become some monster where they feel people expect a certain level of loudness and when it isn't there they think it's bad. Uggh.

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          September 17, 2008 12:07 PM

          Good point. A LOT of people listen to music mostly in the car, which has...crappy speakers, generally. And then they throw them on their iPods, which have...crappy earphones, and compress them to 128kbps AAC, which does do a bit of a number to the audio.

          Like I said, its still being watered down.

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          September 17, 2008 12:12 PM

          Ya, our Program directors for our 3 stations are always fiddling with the audio processors to get a better sound.

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        September 17, 2008 4:23 PM

        This is a moot point though because radio is already using peak limiters and the like. If a CD is less loud and has more dynamic range, it would still get limited up anyways when it went out over the air. This sort of thing does NOT need to be done just for the purpose of radio, they're already doing the same thing to anything that goes out over the air.

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        September 20, 2008 11:29 AM

        Just like glossy screened laptops selling better than matte screened, even though they are mirrors and harder to see when outdoors. Or glossy bodied laptops and electronics that are fingerprint and smudge magnets. They are shiny! so people buy them. WTF

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      September 17, 2008 4:02 PM

      switch to classical music, the genre that values dynamic range as a fundamental part of the music itself.

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        September 17, 2008 11:53 PM

        we have ONE classical station around here. i occasionally turn it on when i dont have a cd, but most of the time its reaaaaallllllllly slow classical, with long, drawn out chords. the kind thats not good to listen to when youre trying to stay awake.