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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive for January 12th, 2009

Not so loud

I saw a movie in the theater this weekend. I don’t see movies in the theater much anymore, mainly because most movie goers have lost all sense of courtesy. It’s not just the feet on the seats or leaving trash everywhere. It’s talking. Chewing. Slurping. Opening the loudest plastic snack food packaging on the planet.

Now I have a new reason for not going. Volume. I’m sure you have noticed how people who work in different sectors of professional audio have different standards of audio levels. Our brethren in TV don’t even call it audio. They call it sound. And even then it’s that component that rides along with the pretty video. Is the sound meter moving? Must be ok.

I’ve always felt that people in cinema push audio levels too high. During a movie there has to be some compromise between whispered dialog and the end of the world explosion, but there’s not need to keep it at 120dB the entire time. The worst part was during the endless pre-show commercials. Those audio levels are all over the place.

I have taken ear plugs to concerts for years. I would like to enjoy the show in its full spectrum glory, but I don’t want to suffer from the constant excess of sound levels. Now I’m going to take ear plugs to the movies (whenever that might be).

Of course in radio we have levels well under control. In some cases, too much control. Is the audio meter still moving on the modulation monitor? Better turn up the processor. Seriously, even though some stations over process, at least the levels are consistent. That makes it easier for the listener to set the final playback level at a reasonable and comfortable level.

Or do they?

We live in a world full of sound now. I see people wearing ear buds everywhere. Some of my coworkers wear them in the office all day. (Some say it’s to mask the other loud coworkers. Gee, more added background noise.) I even see people driving while wearing closed-back, over-the-ear headphones. I sure hope the real world doesn’t interfere with that driver’s touring experience.

I play in several bands, from rock, to concert band and once in a while some small combos. I do my best to keep the stage level to a respectable level. I’m still proud of my hearing. I’m sure I have lost a little high end as the decades go by, and one of these days I actually have it checked just to be sure, although I’m confident I’ll do well.

Hopefully, your hearing is still good. I also hope you’re being careful to keep it that way.

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