Mastering Engineers, Loudness and Hyper-Compression : A survey about practises, application goals and ideas about how they impact quality
Abstract: The loudness wars have been a frequently debated topic in the audio industry. Earlier research has been done on the technical and perceptual effects of loudness and so called hyper- compression but little research has been done to investigate the opinions of the mastering engineers, those who are applying the processing. This research is set out to understand the practise and goals of mastering engineers relating to loudness and hyper-compression, trying to broaden the subject with the viewpoint of those responsible for applying this loudness processing. The goal was to find commonalities amongst the engineers regarding the topic and to investigate the reasoning of the engineers. The study is based of five semi-structured interviews with professional mastering engineers. The interviews were conducted over Skype and the analysis was of a grounded method, originating from three main categories; commercial, technical and aesthetic, and subcategories were generated by the interviews. The research showed that the use of loudness and hyper-compression is multifaceted, with different goals depending on who the user is. There seems to be a strong connection between the loudness processing and genre, that genre often dictates how the processing is used. The research also found that there is a common opinion towards a standardisation of loudness normalisation in streaming services.
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