The loudness wars are over, Apple has won!

Excuse me while I gag…

Okay, that’s a little better.  I was just reading up on the newest, greatest, holy cow, gee whiz, gotta have that expensive box processor, also known as the Omnia 11.  I have to hand it to Mr. Frank Foti and his marketing team.  They have created one heck of a buzz about this thing, and it seems like folks are jumping on board to shell out $10 – $12 K for the box.  But let us review a few things.

I will admit most freely that I tend to be an audio purest.  I do believe that a limited amount of processing has its merits, especially for those listeners in high-noise environments like automobiles, work sites, etc.   With sloppy DJs working the consoles, there is a minor need for some limiting, gain reduction, and so on, just to the air product levels aren’t all over the place.  Those are real-world considerations.

Does an iPod have an air chain processor? No, if the iPod user wants more loudness, they turn up the volume.  Since most Ipod users are normal people and not some burned-out DJs with bad hearing, the volume control on an Ipod has plenty of headroom to satisfy.  Does a Droid or a Blackberry or whatever else people are listening to these days have an air chain processor? No.  And most users/listeners of those devices are perfectly happy with the quality and quantity of audio.

Back in the day when loudness meant a bigger transmitter, more carrier power, bigger signal, was easier to tune manually with the non-digital dial readout, etc., perhaps a loudness war with the cross-town rival was part of the game.  Nowadays, nobody cares except the program directors.  I repeat NOBODY CARES.  Ask anybody on the street what the loudest radio station is.  They very likely won’t even understand what you are trying to ask and you likely could not explain it in terms that would make them understand, much less care about.

The average person doesn’t give a rat’s ass about loudness.  Nor do they really care about how deep and full the DJ’s voice is, or how well the noise gate works, or the six-band EQ, or any of that crap.  In fact, if the music sounded just like it does on the iPod, e.g. completely unprocessed, they probably wouldn’t even notice.  The competition has changed and radio is being left behind because many people are stuck with old ideas about how things used to be.  Times have changed, and what should be the driving force in radio, the listeners, want to hear the music that they like.  That is what the program director should be worried about, finding and playing good music that the listeners want to hear.  Or having the best talk show, the most interesting news, or whatever other programming the station carries.

If the programming content is good, compelling radio, they will listen.  Never mind the air chain processor, the mic processor, the limiter, how loud the station is, what power the transmitter is running at, etc.  That is for the Engineers to take care of.

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2 thoughts on “The loudness wars are over, Apple has won!”

  1. Nicely put.

    Me and my co-worker honestly changed the low frequency of our vorsis by 1dB and the program director came into the shop about 10 minutes later asking if we changed anything.

    Tight leash.

  2. I have just returned from the NAB Convention in Las Vegas. I drove out there and listened to the AM & FM band all the way there and back traveling two different routes. The programming was almost entirely satellite delivered with the same usual “gas bags” on AM talk. It was almost impossible to get anything as to locally produced programming, except for the farming markets. The price of hogs, steers, heifers, etc. was repeated early in the morning by some guy that sounded like an auctioneer on a station in western Nebraska. Of all the stations I listened to on AM, throughout the trip, three were playing music, but with the usual boring satellite feed. It would appear to me that the AM guys are either lazy or have given up. It is no wonder that terrestrial radio is in danger of becoming extinct. And, FM wasn’t much better. I often wondered if I was driving through Mexico or Spain rather than to Las Vegas. What’s next, maybe some joker will introduce a bill making Spanish the American language and we will all have to go back to school? The programming was simply disgusting! And even the little poops on 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490 were nothing to write home about. One AM station in Ely, Nevada seemed to have a monopoly there, but looking at the FCC records, it was recently sold, and probably isn’t very profitable. Southern Utah has a few of these 1 kW Class D (formerly Class 4) stations, and they don’t sound particularly invigorating. No variety, no innovation, and no real super attempt at over-performing makes me think that these guys are either lazy or don’t have a clue on how to attract listeners.

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