Metallica win loudness war.. but it doesn’t matter

Metallica album Death Magnetic has been named the loudest-ever by a mastering expert.

But he says the advantages of the approach are all-but cancelled out in the modern era.

Engineer Ian Shepherd compared a number of albums for dynamic range, the key element in the “loudness war.” Death Magnetic topped his list – but lost significant amounts of sonic detail in the process.

The 2008 title scored a dynamic range rating of DR3, compared to the band’s 1991 Black Album, which was much lower on the list at DR11. The least-loudest was Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms at DR16.

Shepherd says in his Production Advice blog: “Why is it crazy? Because it doesn’t work. None of these ‘loudness’ differences will be audible in any of the most popular places we listen to music. Not on Spotify, iTunes Radio – not even YouTube any more, and certainly not on radio or TV.

“Volume is ‘normalised’ in all of these places to improve the listener experience because the number-one source of complaints about audio is variation in loudness. We hate to keep adjusting the volume control.”

But he adds that things will change as the industry accepts the new norm, adding: “When they do, our ears will thank them.”

Rock Loudness list

  1. Metallica: Death Magnetic – DR3

  2. Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Californication – DR5

  3. Jack White: Lazaretto – DR10

  4. Radiohead: OK Computer – DR10

  5. Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon – DR10

  6. Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase. – DR11

  7. Metallica: The Black Album – DR11

  8. Motorhead: The Ace Of Spades – DR11

  9. The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks – DR11

  10. AC/DC: Back In Black – DR12

  11. Bruce Springsteen: Born In The USA – DR14

  12. Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms – DR16

Freelance Online News Contributor

Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history, including SAHB Story: The Tale of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, a band he once managed, and the best-selling Apollo Memories about the history of the legendary and infamous Glasgow Apollo. Martin has written for Classic Rock and Prog and at one time had written more articles for Louder than anyone else (we think he's second now). He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.