Some older CDs play much lower than newer ones

Noticed today that there is are discernible differences in volume with some of my older CDs compared with newer ones. I have to almost double the volume level when listening to some of them. I would not think output would not diminish over time with CDs or could this be a signal that the CD is needing replacing? It is old...a Cal Audio Icon II. Thanks.
Hi Nimbus109

Do you happen to have another CDP to test what you are hearing? If not I"d get a DVD or CD player from Target or Walmart and play both CDs to hear if there is a volume difference. Are the CDs you are listening to are of the same artist just one was the original and one was re-mastered? Are the CDs you are listening too one from the 90s and others are from today?

The reason I ask these questions is that I find with some newer CDs the gain or volume on them is really high. I had a CD from a band in the late 90s to early 2000s listened to it and then put in one of their newer albums from recent years and the volume difference was large to me. I had to take the volume dial down a notch or 2 in my system. It seemed like the sound mix from today's artists is made for headphones etc to be louder. Even with current compilations CDs of various pop artists I can hear volume differences between the tracks.
Older CDs were not boosted to the upper limit allowed like most new CDs.
It has nothing to do with the CD material or 'aging'.
It has everything to do with the fact producers are trying to make their CDs LOUDER than ever before. It is a known complaint called 'The Loudness Wars'.

And in fact a lot of 'in the know' folks are trying to buy up old CDs BECAUSE they are not overboosted, and sound more natural.
On my PAS Audio preamp, setting the volume @ 20 needs to be boosted to 40 for older CDs. Thanks for your response....maybe I will focus more on my LPs.
I recall there was inherent technical improvements made to the CD mastering standards back in the mid 90's sometime that inherently changed how CDs were mastered to make better use of available dynamic range and perhaps also changes to how equalization was performed.

Do not recall the details, but perhaps others more familiar can elaborate.

The differences are clearly heard in most CDs since the mid 90's or so and older earlier generation CD recordings.

This was a clear technical improvement for the better as I recall and I would agree based on results.

However, then perhaps on a separate, but related front, the loudness wars kicked in as well, resulting in many recordings being taken to extremes in terms of overall loudness and more importantly associated clipping of waveforms to help achieve this goal, which most would consider a clear step in teh wrong direction in regards to sound quality.

So these days, like most days past, its largely a mixed bag. SOme recordings are well done and take proper advantage of teh technical refinements possible with modern recordings and others go the louder at all costs route, especially in the more pure pop music domain.

Loud recordings can present a larger challenge for home audio in terms of the power requirements needed for accurate playback, especially with a system that attempts to deliver the lowest octaves. CLipping and other forms of distortion can come into play more easily than ever with louder recordings.

I have found the best strategy these days is to throw the kitchen sink amp wise as needed at things to whatever extent necessary to insure against clipping at all costs. Class D amp technology is perhaps the best weapon that most might consider to address this. High efficiency speakers is another.

Only then can one expect to get the best possible results, for better or for worst, regardless of recording specifics.
Most modern recordings have a lot of compression applied in the mixing process. This will make them louder, but will compromise the dynamic range.

Some older recordings were captured at lower levels, because they were afraid to approach the 0dB limit of the CD. Nowadays, most recordings hit this limit.

If you rip any of these older recordings, they can be normalized and dithered to make them hit the 0dB limit, so in other words, they can be fixed. However, many of these older recordings were also lacking in bass, which can also be fixed digitally, but harder to get right.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio