Loudness normalisation: Paradigm shift or placebo for the use of hyper-compression in pop music?

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings - 40th International Computer Music Conference, ICMC 2014 and 11th Sound and Music Computing Conference, SMC 2014 - Music Technology Meets Philosophy: From Digital Echos to Virtual Ethos, 2014, pp. 920 - 927
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© 2014 Malachy Ronan et al. Loudness normalisation has been heralded as a tonic for the loudness wars. In this paper we propose that a side effect of its implementation may be a greater awareness of sound quality. This side effect is explored through an analysis of the manner in which music is listened to under this new paradigm. It is concluded that the conditions necessary for sound quality judgments have been provided but that the existing preference for hypercompression may affect the de-escalation of its use in the pop music industry. The aesthetic concerns of hypercompression are examined in order to determine the sonic trade-offs or perceived benefits inherent in the application of hyper-compression. Factors considered include: (i) loss of excitement or emotion, (ii) audition bias in listening environments, (iii) hyper-compression as an aesthetic preference, (iv) the increased cognitive load of hyper-compression, and (v) the ability of loudness variation to define musical structures. The findings suggest that while loudness normalisation may help de-escalate the loudness wars, listener preference for hyper-compressed music may be more complex than simply a competitive advantage relating to loudness bias. Copyright:
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