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Sorry Metallica, We Would Rather Play Guitar Hero

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 10 comments
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In a strange turn of events, fans of Metallica say that they would rather "rip" tracks from the new Death Magnetic album directly from Guitar Hero III : Legends of Rock rather than purchase the physical CD in retail outlets. According to fans and analysts alike, the Guitar Hero version actually sounds cleaner, free of the clipping distortion plaguing the retail release.

Recently Sterling Sound’s head engineer Ted Jensen has come under fire for mastering Metallica’s latest album. Naturally, he refuses to take the blame for the intense clipping distortion, claiming that the mixes were already finalized before reaching his studio. "Suffice it to say I would never be pushed to overdrive things as far as they are here," he said in a response posted on this forum. "Believe me I’m not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in some form of backlash against volume above all else."

Within the last decade, perhaps even longer, music-publishing companies such as Sony Music and EMI have pushed to maximize the output of each track without distorting the overall volume. Called the Loudness Wars, these companies strive to not only stand out against their competitors, but to stand out in volume over the previous year. Usually this is accomplished by reducing the overall dynamic range, pushing the lower-level material higher and diminishing the loudest peaks sounds. Some compression filters can also help increase the loudness as well.

In the case of Metallica’s recently released Death Magnetic album, the lower levels were heightened, but the peaks were not reduced, causing the much-debated distortion. Some analysts say that the recording is just too loud, ranging from -2,93 dB RMS to -7 dB RMS. There’s also speculation that there are many different levels of distortion that could have occurred during the actual recording, the mixing, or perhaps introduced during the mastering portion.

So why does Death Magnetic sound so clean in Guitar Hero ? It’s quite possible that Neversoft received the raw tracks before final mixing, and adjusted the levels to better suit a general audience, and not just Metallica fans. And because Death Magnetic is downloadable content, PlayStation 3 (or Xbox 360) owners are already scheming to rip the files off the console’s hard drive and create their own distributable CD (over BitTorrent, newsgroups, etc).

It’s unfortunate that consumers end up as victims when it comes to corporate competitiveness as shown with Metallica’s latest release. Disgruntled artists in the music business breathe a sigh of collective of grief when it comes to the ongoing "loudness wars." Yet somehow, gamers seem to have come out on top with Guitar Hero. It wouldn’t be surprising if sales of the game start rising dramatically simply because of its version of Death Magnetic.

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  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 19 September 2008 18:25
    Oh dear... This has gone too far Music Industry. We don't choose to listen to certain CDs because they're louder. I use my volume control and have it at the level I want.

    Bring Back Vinyl!
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    david__t , 19 September 2008 18:29
    It seems like quality has gone out the window in the MP3 generation anyway. Kids who haven't grown up with good HiFi systems don't realise just how much information is lost on compressed audio formats. If they are doing this more and more on CDs as well then the music industry deserves all they get with piracy. Getting the best quality is the only reason for buying a genuine CD album. If they start tinkering with them just to beat the sound levels acheived by other studios then they don't deserve our cash: Listen Music industry execs: Give us quality and original recordings - not what you think we want to hear.
  • 0 Hide
    rtfm , 19 September 2008 18:33
    Vinyl died because it sucks balls. Bring back sound engineers who know how to master good tracks!
  • 0 Hide
    Nick_C , 19 September 2008 19:43
    Simply use sound check on your iPod or use a PC / DAP player which is compatible with the Replay Gain standard. Using these will "undo" the worst efforts of the mastering process / label policy to make the tracks as loud as possible (or possibly a bit too loud).
  • 0 Hide
    Flakes , 19 September 2008 20:58
    i feel like im missing something when i say this...... why not just use the volume control on the hifi? why the hell do music publishers have to make it louder? id rather have better quality, which as already stated is the only reason to buy CD.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 19 September 2008 20:59
    I would pitch my vinyl against any other format, safe in the knowledge that on proper equipment it cannot be bettered.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 19 September 2008 23:28
    once again, greedy money grabbing music companies destroying good music for bucks, i hope the time comes when they are 'broken, beat and scarred' ;) 
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    will_chellam , 21 September 2008 06:28
    I'm sorry nick_c - whatever it is you're suggesting cant bring back information that isnt there - it may sound ok to you, but to us proper audiophiles its simply not acceptable....

    I run a $7000 arcam / linn setup which sounds freaking awesome, and it doesnt have whatever feature you're going on about - because it shouldnt need it - its designed to reproduce exactly whats on the disc.
  • 0 Hide
    Nick_C , 22 September 2008 05:26
    You're right, it won't - anyway Replay Gain is not applicable to audio direct from the disc. It adds a metadata tag to ripped audio which tells compatible players how much gain (+ve or -ve) to apply to the audio. I suggest you look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replay_gain

    What it will do is stop you having to change the volume every time the track changes (assuming that you're not listening to albums). This is particularly useful when playing self created playlists containing tracks from different albums. In this mode one would select Track Gain to ensure that all of the tracks were plyed at pretty much the same level.
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    Anonymous , 23 September 2008 20:07
    Dear "Bring back vinyl" friend, the cd has better dynamic range and in vinyl those distortion wars was worse.

    Now on metallica, if any member of the production team read this - your audience has ears, are you surprised by that? try listening to your 2 latest albums for over 4 hours in 90 db spl in 1KHz @ one meter, just remix them to be ok, roughness in music doesn't come from bad production, it comes from the heart, but you probably cannot make art after so much money gain, try giving some, not all, you know you have plenty, you earn it, but what about the overall good?