So, it should be pretty obvious by now, that I don't like Metallica.
I'm sure they are very upset about this, LOL!
Off a story (featured on Gizmodo of all places), it's come to the attention of Metallica and/or Guitar Hero fans, that the mix of their new single "Death Magnetic" (blarf! - stupid track name) sounds much better on Guitar Hero than it does on the album.
Brick wall limiting and compression.
Ian Shephard has an incredible write up of the "Death Magnetic" situation over on his Mastering Media Blog (just added a video in fact), but long story short, the track on the album has been smashed and compressed to death, whereas the track on Guitar Hero has not been smashed.
Ian posted this pic of the two tracks side by side:
Guitar Hero is on top, album version on bottom.
See those Spikes on the GH version? That's dynamic range. Sound is supposed to get louder and quieter. It's NOT supposed to stay at a constant level all the time. That's why TV commercials are so obnoxious.
By squashing the audio into a tube like form (the bottom track in green) you've made the quiet parts as "loud" as the loud parts, and the loud parts will sound distorted, as they've pretty much been cut off.
So what can we learn from this?
Don't over compress your audio!
I get it!
Compression makes you sound loud and full, but it can also REALLY work against you.
See, in audition land, chances are you wont be listened to on studio grade equipment, and in a lot of cases a producer's first round might be on the crappy seakers built in to a laptop or LCD monitor. What sounds great on pro gear (which has a lot more tolerance), is going to sound muddy and distorted on consumer gear.
It kinda makes my head hurt a little...
Don't be like Metallica!
More info on dynamic range and "the loudness war".