Normalisation: fighting the loudness war

Audio normalisation and the loudness wars

There’s a myth that louder music sounds better. And for some people and genres it’s quite possibly true. Yet since the 80s, audio engineers have continually pushed the envelope of just how loud recordings can sound. It’s great if you’re listening to that latest pop album. But when you’re playing a carefully-curated playlist to your customers and the music disappears? Not so good. Let’s take a look at what’s been dubbed the “loudness war”.

What is the Loudness War?

This two-minute video is a brilliant example of what’s at the heart of the “loudness war”; quieter parts of a recording are being artificially “loudened”, giving the overall impression that the track is louder. You’re then left with little range between what is actually loud – drum hits for example – and the other details in the recording. When the listener turns down the volume, the recording loses the clarity the artists intended you to hear.

“When there’s no quiet, there can be no loud.”

Here’s another, slightly longer example of the issue, this time looking at Michael Jackson’s Thriller; the original recording and then two remasters. The video also continues to show how, with good normalisation (which most reputable devices and streaming services will handle!) there is so little to gain any longer from these artificial, ear-busting mixes.

Introducing Audio Leveling

Q.SIC audio leveling

In commercial applications, amplifiers are typically tuned so that the loudest track will be an acceptable volume in the background. This means the occasional “quiet” (or dare we say perfectly-balanced?) track – George Ezra’s Budapest for example – would hide under the ambient venue noise. As consumers ourselves, we here at Q.SIC know just how unsettling it can be when the background music you haven’t even consciously registered suddenly disappears.

We have just introduced “audio leveling” in our iOS app and will be updating our web player soon. Grab the update from the App Store now! We have built our own algorithms to listen to each track and determine just how loud they sound. As most of our professionally-curated playlists feature current pop music, we have found our tracks are now slightly quieter in general, so you may wish to consider adjusting in-house systems slightly. Combined with our new, more natural cross-fading algorithm, our music is sounding better than ever.

We are always happy to discuss our services or receive feedback from existing customers. Call us on 1300 113 279 or visit for more info.

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