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Thread: Are classical music recordings set to a lower volume than other recordings?

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Default Are classical music recordings set to a lower volume than other recordings?

    Is it just me or are classical music CDs a lot quieter than CDs other genres of music? Even acoustic music of other genres sound louder than my classical music CDs/

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    Yes, and this is a good thing. Lower volume means better dynamic range.

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    It is indeed true - I accidentally heard an 'other genre' piece on my usual volume settings once and was nearly deafened. I don't think it's necessarily because producers want that, I think it's to do with the differences in recording - with pop music, you have a few instruments each dedicated to a high quality microphone (or electronic sounds); with classical music, you have an entire orchestra to balance, which you can't do by giving each instrument a mic of its own.

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    More victims of the Loudness war, every producer and record label wants their new pop CD to have more "punch" than the one before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    It is indeed true - I accidentally heard an 'other genre' piece on my usual volume settings once and was nearly deafened. I don't think it's necessarily because producers want that, I think it's to do with the differences in recording - with pop music, you have a few instruments each dedicated to a high quality microphone (or electronic sounds); with classical music, you have an entire orchestra to balance, which you can't do by giving each instrument a mic of its own.
    You can avoid that situation by setting up ReplayGain on your player. It scans each album and file and adds loudness information to the tags (the audio information is not altered). Volume is then adjusted depending on which album or file is playing.

    I don't use it on the PC, because i manually adjust the volume for each album, but i do use it on my MP3 player.

    And yes, it is exactly because the producers want that... a classical CD with poor dynamic range would get ripped apart by reviewers and audiophiles. On the other hand, teenies would complain if the latest pop album were too quiet.

    Also, in many cases, an orchestra recording requires more microphones than there are tracks on your average pop song, since each section of the orchestra can have it's own mic, as well as soloists, etc.
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-27-2011 at 14:21.

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    One problem with the classical dynamic range is difficulty listening in the car. When I play just about anything but Baroque in the car, there are sections that are very hard to hear (especially on the highway where vehicle noise is higher). I seem to have less trouble listening in the car when the music comes from a classical music station. Does anyone know if classical radio stations might purposely have less dynamic range (or if radios in cars have less)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    One problem with the classical dynamic range is difficulty listening in the car. When I play just about anything but Baroque in the car, there are sections that are very hard to hear (especially on the highway where vehicle noise is higher). I seem to have less trouble listening in the car when the music comes from a classical music station. Does anyone know if classical radio stations might purposely have less dynamic range (or if radios in cars have less)?
    In reading the link above about the loudness war, there was mention of radio stations having their own control over the dynamic range of what they play, so stations may well take into account the fact that many listeners are in cars.

    This is one reason why I think you do need better-than-standard earphones for listening to classical music, as I've often been on a busy street or in public transport and unable to hear a quiet section, but a good set of £15 in-ear phones usually do the trick!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    One problem with the classical dynamic range is difficulty listening in the car. When I play just about anything but Baroque in the car, there are sections that are very hard to hear (especially on the highway where vehicle noise is higher). I seem to have less trouble listening in the car when the music comes from a classical music station. Does anyone know if classical radio stations might purposely have less dynamic range (or if radios in cars have less)?
    FM stations typically use some dynamic range compression, and some frequency range compression; has to do with bandwidth?

    I sometimes rip CDs and compress dynamic range, to make CD-Rs for use in my vehicles - especially symphonies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    One problem with the classical dynamic range is difficulty listening in the car. When I play just about anything but Baroque in the car, there are sections that are very hard to hear (especially on the highway where vehicle noise is higher). I seem to have less trouble listening in the car when the music comes from a classical music station. Does anyone know if classical radio stations might purposely have less dynamic range (or if radios in cars have less)?
    Apart from the 15kHz bandwidth limitation of FM broadcasting that Hilltroll72 mentioned, there's a LOT going on in the processing racks at radio stations. Automatic gain control, multiband compression, limiting, clipping... you name it, these are not only used to condition the signal for proper broadcasting, but also to psychoacoustically enhance the signal in hopes of listener appeal.

    Especially in 'Top 40' stations, pre and post processing will completely butcher any sort of audio fidelity. It's a viscous circle in which producers are trying to compensate for FM compression by mixing albums differently, but then radio stations are also constantly adjusting their own setups to compensate for the overuse of prepossessing in albums.
    Last edited by Philip; Dec-27-2011 at 16:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    Apart from the 15kHz bandwidth limitation of FM broadcasting that Hilltroll72 mentioned, there's a LOT going on in the processing racks at radio stations. Automatic gain control, multiband compression, limiting, clipping... you name it, these are not only used to condition the signal for proper broadcasting, but also to psychoacoustically enhance the signal in hopes of listener appeal.

    Especially in 'Top 40' stations, pre and post processing will completely butcher any sort of audio fidelity. It's a viscous circle in which producers are trying to compensate for FM compression by mixing albums differently, but then radio stations are also constantly adjusting their own setups to compensate for the overuse of prepossessing in albums.
    I don’t own a DAB radio mainly because I‘ve heard that much of it is compressed, that probably wont bother “wallpaper listeners” but for serious symphonic music actually being listened too, I would hate it.
    In the UK we have two Classical music stations on FM -

    Classic FM, a commercial station mainly with light classical music, I can clearly hear some compression going on, sounds horrible!

    BBC Radio 3, for the more serious music lover and I’m unable to detect any compression in their concert broadcasts, but possibly a little in their recorded programmes, certainly not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the music.

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    Definately true I have nearly ruined my ears many times after forgetting to turn the volume down after listening to classical. Some CDs are more toned down than others. When I first bought a new CD I couldn't even hear it and thought it was broken because I couldn't hear it at all.

    Sometimes the difference in volume of classical music is advantage for hearing artistic volume variation but soemtimes its a disadvantage. In songs that are more piano I can't even hear most of the song when i'm in the car.
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    It bothers me that classical music is barely audible over my computer speakers, or in the car on the freeway. Sometimes I just want to break my eardrums with Mahler, you guys. I guess that's what headphones are for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meaghan View Post
    It bothers me that classical music is barely audible over my computer speakers, or in the car on the freeway. Sometimes I just want to break my eardrums with Mahler, you guys. I guess that's what headphones are for.
    Not on the freeway; you need to hear the siren.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    One problem with the classical dynamic range is difficulty listening in the car. When I play just about anything but Baroque in the car, there are sections that are very hard to hear (especially on the highway where vehicle noise is higher). I seem to have less trouble listening in the car when the music comes from a classical music station. Does anyone know if classical radio stations might purposely have less dynamic range (or if radios in cars have less)?
    Yes, I believe classical radio does have less dynamic contrasts, at least from my experience. I'm not sure, though, if the stations themselves control the volume to do so or if radio as a medium naturally dilutes these dynamic contrasts. I've been meaning to spend a day as a jockey when I have some free time, so I'll let you know which it is after I finally get to do that.

    I have the same problem as you regarding the dynamic range of CDs in the car. If I'm sitting in 'shotgun' (California slang for the non-driver front seat), I basically spend the whole time turning the volume dial up and down to make sure the volume is audible yet not obnoxiously loud for everyone in the car.

    Another problem is when burning a CD (or making a YouTube playlist, etc.) with both classical and non-classical music on it. I've noticed that the constant volume of a rock/pop/etc. song is the same as that of the loudest moment in a classical piece. It gives the faulty impression that one can't blast classical music because it's meant to be quiet or subdued to the 'background'. Those who have this idea have obviously never played an instrument before or had the wonder experience of blasting a Mahler symphony at 11:00 at night through high quality headphones.
    Last edited by Air; Dec-28-2011 at 05:08.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Not on the freeway; you need to hear the siren.
    Haha, don't worry, I don't wear headphones in the car. I just listen to other music (yes, I do, occasionally!) or no music.

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