Knife Party and the Loudness War

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Grimenoceros
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Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Grimenoceros » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:33 am

This is a topic about theory and mixing/mastering practices, I just wanted to post it up to incite some further thoughts and discussion on this sensitive topic. Here we have an ultra popular EDM (mostly brostep-ish) group made up of legendary, established producers, and yet all of their big releases are decidedly smashed to hell and back...but they sound uncompromisingly huge and heavy (subjective opinion). I ran their tracks through the trusty TT Dynamic Range Meter (http://www.kvraudio.com/product/tt_dyna ... foundation) just for a reference of what professional big name mixes really look like in terms of dynamics and limiting/compression, and the results were shocking and honestly very confusing, in terms of traditional mixing protocols and no-nos.

Bear in mind, the very general and vague level of quality dictates that mixes with a dynamic range number (the average difference between highest and the quietest points of the entire track, not just peaks)of at least 10 (minimum before it starts sounding a little crushed) and higher (ideal being 14 and up), and RMS should be somewhere in the high 0s (- 7-10+ dB), with something like Metallica's crushed to pieces "Death Magnetic" album being at an average RMS of -4 dB (bad). So high DR (Dynamic Range) and RMS levels good, low DR and RMS bad.

If I explained that poorly, please give this article a quick read, you won't regret it if you are not currently informed on the dynamic war: http://productionadvice.co.uk/how-to-av ... -your-mix/

Here's an awesome chart to give a better idea of the dynamics of popular releases:
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7209/6960 ... 7678_b.jpg

Here are the readings of Knife Party's first two EPs, Rage Valley having just released a few weeks ago:

100% No Modern Talking:
Destroy Them With Lazers - DR: 4 RMS: -6
Fire Hive - DR: 4 RMS: -5.6
Internet Friends - DR: 2 RMS: -4.9
Tourniquet - DR: 3 RMS: -4.7

Rage Valley
Rage Valley - DR: 2.5 RMS: -5.1
Sleaze - DR: 2 RMS: -4.5
Centipede - DR: 2.6 RMS: -4.9
Bonfire - DR: 3 RMS: -4.5

But all of these tracks sound - in my opinion - very good and weighty without any overload. Obviously many other people agree as they're very well-liked. We all know visual meters and numbers and the like are NOT the way to mix or determine if a mix is good, and I'm not suggesting these numbers mean much, but a lot of the time it offers a very good indicator of what's going on behind the scenes and the results are a little frightening. I used Knife Party as a singular example but we all know they are one of many producing the same sort of sound, so others are probably putting up similar numbers. Why is this becoming acceptable practice, and should it continue to be? Are you for or against intense compression in heavy EDM music like this?
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by JTreeZY » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:47 am

Interesting and i'm too much of a rookie to really understand all this but how would the loudness of a track reflect the quality of the music? Are'nt you just going for w/e sounds the best?

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Grimenoceros » Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:04 am

JTreeZY wrote:Interesting and i'm too much of a rookie to really understand all this but how would the loudness of a track reflect the quality of the music? Are'nt you just going for w/e sounds the best?
Ultimately yes, the best mantra is "if it sounds good, do it. If it doesn't sound good, don't do it." Unfortunately it's not always that simple, and generally fans and engineers alike prefer a song to have dynamics - highs and lows - rather than constant uncompromising loudness all throughout. Dynamics are what makes a track overall sound punchy and clean and, well, good. As a quote I read once said (paraphrasing) - "Without quiet, there can be no loud." This means that how quiet a track is at points dictates the impact of when it eventually gets loud. When that range is smaller and smaller, it means there's less impact, less punch. It's a very tricky subject, that's just the tip of it and there are others who can explain it better than I.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by outbound » Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:43 am

It's rob swire, he has plenty of experience getting things loud and still listenable. (just listen to the last pendulum album) everyone has their own taste when it comes to loudness, some guys want things a bit more subtle, others want it slammed up to -5 rms for the entire length of a track. Whether they do or not is up to them, If it works and suits the music (which I find it does with knife party's stuff) then it has achieved it's goal.
Last edited by outbound on Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by narcissus » Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:01 am

exactly. the fecking thing that no "industry" person every says... is that's it's REALLY. ALL. UP. TO. TASTE. don't like limiting, don't do it. or limit as much as you dare. just keep experimenting and express yourself to the fullest.

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by lightshapers » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:37 am

wrote my dissertation on the loudness war, it all really comes down to wether the style of music is really suited to having the shit smashed out of it with brick walling, with dance music its got quite bad but at least syilistically its appropriate (to most of it), the real problem comes from stuff like adele, lana del ray etc which is absolutely hammered and has the same sort (or lack) of dynamics as green day and foo fighters :lol: stylistically they dont need to be treated that way, but every one wants to be the loudest. That lana del ray record is fucking terrible btw, sounds shit


its been 'acceptable' for some time as well, its not a new thing

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Augment » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:41 am

i don't remember who said it or what exactly he said, but imo he made a good point. In the type of EDM Knife Party makes, it's all about energy and it being played out loud. Therefore, a more compressed and almost brickwalled mix will sound more pleasing and just have more energy when played out loud. I think that's how he put it. I don't know, it made perfect sense to me when I read what he had written, lol
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Genevieve » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:42 am

I'm not an anti-loudness izan like a bunch of people here are but I do find it impossible to listen undynamic, loud music on my headphones for a prolonged period of time, even when I turn the volume down. Kinda like both my eardrums are being bored by jackhammers.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by drake89 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:30 pm

apparently people sometimes to seperate radio mixes that are highly compressed or limited. this is because you don't get as much bandwidth on the radio or some shit like that, and also people will prefer the 'louder' radio station so it's going to get compressed to hell anyway. that may be sort of while adele et al are compressed heavily, perhaps they are just bypassing the radio mix and just releasing that version for the masses.

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by JTMMusicuk » Sun Jun 17, 2012 2:49 pm

drake89 wrote:apparently people sometimes to seperate radio mixes that are highly compressed or limited. this is because you don't get as much bandwidth on the radio or some shit like that, and also people will prefer the 'louder' radio station so it's going to get compressed to hell anyway. that may be sort of while adele et al are compressed heavily, perhaps they are just bypassing the radio mix and just releasing that version for the masses.
nah the actual equipment used on radio compresses the audio heavily, the artist wont have a different mix/master of the song for radio, just maybe a shorter version.

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by AxeD » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:29 pm

It's up to taste and this tastes awful.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by skimpi » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:53 pm

Yeah like someone said, dance music is a different thing, its not live music with natural dynamics, it uses strict samples over and over again, with the same level values. Also with this style, it may not even be the limiting that is doing it, the composition of the tracks means that every last space in the track is full of something going on, so there are no gaps in the arrangement of the track for it to breathe anyway.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by narcissus » Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:42 pm

AxeD wrote:It's up to taste and this tastes awful.
:lol: yes, that's exactly what i meant to say. perfect.

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Cubicle » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:16 am

I just mastered my track and got to an RMS of -9 which is the max for me. If I push any more or compress any further I smash it to shit. I don't understand why people want to smash the shit out of their music just so it is 'loud enough for the audience'.

If you have 'fans' than they will happily turn your music up, no use for smashing it.
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Sparxy » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:29 am

Don't forget these tunes have been professionally mastered. Comparing your tracks to that is ridiculous, pro mastering engineers are brilliant at what they do.

Furthermore, the nature of these tunes, their production style and vibe, means that dynamic range is not important. These tunes are literally designed to just melt your brain and thats it. If you're making something a bit more meaningful then it I would say dynamic range plays more of a part. Besides, its common knowledge that alot of the "brostep" labels literaly squash the shit out of their tunes.

I wouldn't read too much into this, just do what works for you.

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by hasezwei » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:14 pm

who the fuck is knife party
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Sparxy » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:18 pm

hasezwei wrote:who the fuck is knife party
Rob Swire from Pendulum. Putting out nosebleed tearouty stuff. Not to my tastes really

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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by Augment » Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:08 pm

Sparxy wrote:
hasezwei wrote:who the fuck is knife party
Rob Swire from Pendulum. Putting out nosebleed tearouty stuff. Not to my tastes really
Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen. Both from pendulum
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by hasezwei » Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:11 pm

pendulum
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Re: Knife Party and the Loudness War

Post by hasezwei » Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:12 pm

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