Monday, September 29, 2008

Why the new Metallica CD sounds bad

Apparently the major labels have been making CDs as loud as possible in recent years, at the cost of sound quality and dynamics. Rick Rubin, who produced Death Magnetic, has a history of producing overly compressed CDs.

Here's a rather odd situation:

Metallica's new album sounds better in the Guitar Hero III version than the CD!

This is a zoomed-out view of the entire waveform for "The Day That Never Comes" taken from the Guitar Hero 3 version of Death Magnetic. This is very typical of a waveform from a well-produced CD, but note that waveform alone will only paint part of the picture, and you must listen to really know the sound quality as there are many factors. You can see differences in volume, and it appears to get loudest at the very end.

Now here (above) is the CD version of the same song from Death Magnetic. See how the differences in volume are almost non-existant? So much compression was used that it makes for a very loud, but uninteresting and painful listen.

This is a zoomed-in section near the end of the GH3 version of the track. Again, this is pretty typical-looking.

And this is the same section (more or less) from the CD. Note the funky-looking sawed-off tops and bottoms of the wav? This is clipping, which is a nasty-sounding kind of distortion. It sounds like you've blown your speakers, even if you haven't.
Now, maybe Metallica intended for the CD to sound distorted and one-dimensional, but if not, I'd say the whole run of CDs is defective.
There's an online petition to get this album re-issued with proper sound. If you want to help end the "Loudness War", I urge you to sign it:
Also, here's a group that is determined to end the Loudness War: