IEEE Spectrum: The Future of Music
Whether the loudness war can end and give rise to the next generation of high-fidelity audio depends heavily on the attitudes of consumers. Unlike the CD and DVD video, there is no overwhelming industrial push toward the next level of sound quality. How songs and albums will sound will depend entirely on whether or not the listener actually cares about the intricacies of the music.
Thanks for the link, Steve.
My albums One Guitar and christmas + santa fe were mastered without compression. The upcoming download-only album Up Close: The Fritz Files was also mastered without compression. These albums might not do so well when mixed with “loud” albums, either on a mix-CD or as part of a mp3 playlist, but I think you will enjoy the dynamics, which are far greater.
Just curious when the last time was that you used compression…
would you mind sharing a bit about what compression really does. I know I love the way your cd’s sound they have such a crip sound. Would compression get rid of that? Do you use any compression at all? Thanks
I wonder if they could use compression to improve hearing aids?
As for your music. I love them all compressed or not, and I don’t feel the need to reset the volume. I’m glad you’re a genius and aware of all the details in music makin, and willing to innovate. I just enjoy the results.
Carol: That would be a really bad idea for hearing aids, I imagine. Compression would make everything equally loud as it “compresses” the loud parts and raises the volume of the soft parts. In fact hearing aids try to distinguish between noises we do want to elevate, e.g. speech, and noises we don’t want to elevate, e.g. the police siren in the background. Compression takes away the dynamic between soft and loud and makes everything loud. A whisper would become just as thunderous as somebody yelling at you. Doesn’t sound like fun to me…
Glad you enjoy the music. I do try to have a nice collection of loud parts and soft parts.
Basically, a compressor makes the loud passages quieter, based upon a setting on a control called “threshold.” Example: suppose you had a fairly loud signal of 115dB coming in, and you wanted to reduce it to something like 60dB. The threshold setting in this instance is 1.92:1 since 115/60=1.92. In the case of the example I indicated, for every 1.92 dB above the threshold point, the compressor only increases the output by 1dB. So, despite the fact that the amplitude of the input increased by 1.92dB, you will only hear a 1dB increase, thus making that portion of the signal quieter, and therefore “compressed.” It reduces the dynamic range of the signal, and it’s all based upon the setting of the threshold. The problem is that as the IEEE article indicated, the current trend is to turn the threshold up un-naturally high, and REALLY squish everything.
You might be thinking that I said that takes signal ABOVE the threshold and makes it QUIETER, and how does this result in a louder sounding recording? Simple: the gain of the broadband compressed audio is just increased for the overall program material after all the compression nonsense has taken place, and the now reduced dynamic range signal is simply made louder…sometimes MUCH louder.
The aforementioned is accomplished these days using a computing device optimized for audio called a digital signal processor. In the analog days, it was accomplished using an OpAmp and an opto-coupler, and in the really old days previous to that, it was done by a person at the mixing board/recording device and was called “gain riding.” I realize I kinda zorched off into geek land…sorry…hope this helps.
Thank you, Ottmar, for explaining it so well. No, that would be chaotic.