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iTunes Radio will end ‘loudness war’, claims engineer Bob Katz

By | Published on Thursday 7 November 2013


Much debate around iTunes Radio, which went live in the US earlier this year and is due to his the UK in early 2014, is centred on its ability to kill off other streaming services. However, mastering engineer Bob Katz says that he believes it will actually kill off something else entirely.

Speaking at The Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York last month, Katz told attendees that the process by which the service ‘normalises’ tracks (ie it sets them all to the same volume level) would end the so called ‘loudness war’ as early as next summer.

The ‘loudness wars’ – a trend for mastering recordings to sound louder than others in order to make them stand out – has been a hot topic, particularly amongst the studio community, in recent years. Notably, this debate came to the fore in 2008 when Metallica fans realised that songs from the band’s ‘Death Magnetic’ album sounded a lot better in the ‘Guitar Hero’ videogame than they did on the CD release of the record, which had been mixed too loud ahead of mastering.

“[This] approach to sound has become the norm in record production and mastering”, Katz told CMU. “The whole situation has become an obstacle to artistic integrity, freedom and a disservice to all consumers”.

Speaking about how Apple’s Sound Check normalising algorithm may inadvertently reverse this trend, Katz continued: “Of course Apple was not the first to loudness normalise. Pandora has this as an option. [But Apple has] made Sound Check a default in iTunes Radio. It cannot be turned off. This is a big development. It levels the playing field for all musicians. And we engineers hope that they will soon turn it on in regular iTunes as a default too, which will hasten the end of the loudness race”.

Read our full interview with Bob Katz about how iTunes Radio could change how we hear music here.