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article imageLoud Music Makes You Sick: Acoustic Spam, Health Problems and a Price Tag for Properly Mixed Recordings

By Paul Wallis     Jun 5, 2007 in Entertainment
Some genius has got the idea of using digital technology to raise sound levels on recordings so it can be heard in public places through the background noise.
The technique is called “Peak limiting”, which effectively creates one sound level for all parts of a track. Another description would be mixing with a blender. Homogenized music. As though the formula pap wasn’t bad enough.
CD players, quite understandably, react by producing a buzzing or distortion of the sound. Obviously too much signal is going through at one level, like a P.A. system on overload.
This is a pretty primitive recording technique. Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound was done using massive amounts of sound, but the volumes on recording were done properly. The Peak Limiting thing is for infants/idiots who don’t know what a woofer can do to signal, or don’t know where tweeter sound goes.
The health angle is based on the effects of the distortion, and the non-musical sound has a “tiring” effect. That’s not at all surprising, because amplified music is a well known risk at some volumes, let alone amplified and compressed into something with all the finesse of a jackhammer.
The musical synonym for misery is Tinnitus. It is one of the nastiest, most persistent conditions, and it’s been making life rough for rock musicians since it began. In its worse cases, there’s a real risk of deafness. Subsonic sounds from bass can do actual physical damage, because it resonates with soft tissues.
If you’re a music fan, and you have any hearing problems, or any feeling of nausea, see a doctor, check it out. You might save your hearing.
As a sort of final insult, EMI, the soul of sensitivity, is offering higher quality tracks at an increased price.
Gee, thanks, guys.
Anyone affected with identifiable health problems which can be proven to have been caused by this multi level atrocity, may I be the first to suggest the magic words “class action”.
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