Hearing Loss, EQ and The Mix

NPR posted an interesting article and audio clip entitled, “The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse”   http://bit.ly/7hFhGK

It got me thinking. When working with young audio engineers (20’s and early 30’s) in live sound situations, I can always tell the guys/girls who work in the clubs.  There always seems to be a ring in the system around 2+ K.  The 20 something engineers almost always set up a mic and computer right away and take out the ring and other problems using the software. The 30 something people tend to set up and use their experience and ears first then go to the software. When they use software to EQ the system, we surely get rid of the ring but until they use the software, ring, ring, ring.  They can’t even hear it.

I don’t usually listen to contemporary pop music from the “radio” more than I have to. I do listen to hours of my student’s music every day. There it is. HUGE high hats and cymbals in the mix. I mean, these instruments are like 30 inches in diameter if you aurally envision and compare them to the size of the other drums save the bass drum. Maybe it was the headphones or the speakers. Nope, always there. At first I thought it was my 1970’s trained ears and personal preference to a heavy handed 2 & 4 in the snare drum. I started listening to music my student’s listen to. There it is! Hi hats, shakers and other high percussion that pop. Don’t think I just guitar amps that go to 11. I’m a percussionist. I should be loving this. Nope. No way around it. I listened to music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and there it is. More and more highs creeping in the mix especially this past decade.

Think about this: Volume affects hearing. The first to go are the highs. Is this why cymbals and hi hats are so loud/hot in today’s mixes? Are the producers and engineers putting out contemporary pop music, basically, going deaf and is this affecting the quality of the EQ? Is it creating a new aural norm for today’s mixes?

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