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 Post subject: June 2010
PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 10:54 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2005 1:43 pm
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Location: Northern California

get queries about a technical issue that's probably of interest to many listeners. With all of the current re-mastered editions of earlier releases, newly expanded versions and whatnot... people ask why are there differences in the playback volumes between multiple versions of the same title and does it matter? Here's my quick response.

Some labels do a lot of "normalizing" of their programs (others do not) and yes it matters. Normalizing is a process where - during final mastering - the reference levels are set to the very highest peak in volume of the entire program - and then subsequently, every other track is adjusted to match that level peak. We tend to avoid the process unless it becomes absolutely necessary because normalizing actually does affect the recording, especially with orchestral music. There is a tendency to subtly alter the contrasts between loud passages and intentionally soft ones. We generally prefer to let the conductor, musicians and original recording engineers determine how loud or soft they want various passages to be.

Further complicating the situation is a process (also used by some labels but avoided by others) called "compression", where the recording at both ends is literally squeezed to allow a consistently loud playback. Virtually all engineering for all labels strives for the loudest playback levels without distortion and whatnot. But normalizing and compressing simply to make the entire program louder isn't necessarily a good thing. It's one reason our recent issue of ROBOCOP, prepared from the newly re-mixed 2" 24-track masters seems less "hot" than the earlier Varese Sarabande release, even though it offers superior clarity and sonics. Our version is just as loud, but only when the performance and original recording warrant it... and not throughout.

Normalizing and compressing the recordings during mastering was a really common practice for LPs, especially in the pop and rock fields. This way, every track of the record played back at a volume roughly equivalent to every other track, making it easier for DJs to set airplay levels and let things roll instead of needing to make constant adjustments. It's a process that still gets used a lot. I'm just not a big fan of it with orchestral music, where subtle changes in performance levels really are the domain of the conductor, players and recording engineer. Over-use of it actually reduces the expressive and dynamic range of the actual recording, which is a concept I find unsatisfying.

Sadly, the process now shows up a lot with many of the current soundtracks on several labels, especially with regards to some of the more repetitive, percussion and synth-driven scores. In my opinion, it only increases the feel of the music being somewhat bland and generic.

I'll try to find time to toss out some more fun thoughts on production decisions that get made behind the scenes... but I do have trouble finding extra time lately. Such is life.


We'll have two new CDs to offer on Tuesday, June 8. They'll be posted for ordering Monday evening (June 7). I'm happy to say our latest CD courtesy Universal is an action adventure score I loved in the 1980's and really hoped for an album at the time. It wasn't to be. But hope springs eternal as they say. Now we finally have that album! Our other release presents an obscure score by a reasonably prolific composer that I'm trying to convince listeners is worthy of attention. I'm a fan for sure.


We know you have choices. Lots of them. New CDs coming out your ears, so to speak. To this end, we're offering a tiny respite from our normal releasing pattern, albeit just a brief one. To help you get some things you may not have been able to acquire yet, and to help us make room for a whole lot of stuff coming in, we're extending to you a special one-week-only sale on some of our limited edition titles that currently remain in supply in our warehouse. We'll post the titles and begin shipping orders on Tuesday, June 22, just as we normally would have done with our next set of new releases. For the following seven days, you may enjoy the special savings. After one week, prices go back to normal without exceptions... and hopefully we'll have made some more room for the ever-growing batches of incoming stuff. Hopefully you'll find some titles of interest, too!


Thank you to everyone taking advantage of our current sale on select limited CDs. Predictably, the 2-CD sets are getting pinged the most. It was never our intent to slash the prices to the bone and just "blow out" the stock. There's still a lot of bread tied up in these discs. We get no discounts on the royalties, publishing fees or manufacturing costs, of course. But we wanted to offer a modest assist to collectors who've got lots of stuff on the market to choose from and limited funds to get what they'd like. And guessing by the looks of our upcoming slate, and what we hear might be on the agenda for other labels, you'll have lots more to choose from!


With your help we managed to make room for new stuff. The special sale is over and our typical pattern for new Intrada releases is now back in effect. So plan on checking out our site this coming Monday evening (July 5) and consider our two newest titles going on sale Tuesday, July the 6th. One hails in our Special Collection and features seventies music by one of our most popular composers. The other title goes with the Signature Editions and offers 2-CDs worth of music from a lavish 1980's production. We hope you find one or both titles to be of interest!

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