The Death of Dynamic Range

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by keb, Apr 16, 2005.

  1. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
  2. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Is that bad? I'm a bit confused.
  3. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    cool, not the reason Ricky Martin hurts my ears... but that's another story :cool:

    I've recently got the "retro" bug in the "listening to Music" field like I have with my basses now. I'm shopping for a late 70's to early 80's Solid State Stereo receiver (Marantz, Fisher, Sansui, etc). I have a killer set of Ohm Walsh 2X0 speakers that went into storage 5 or 6 years ago when I started ripping all my CDs to my computer. As much as my Yamaha 2.1 computer speakers have an OK sound, I'm missing quality HiFi lately.

    As far as the Hyper Compression...
    I find myself listening to live recordings more than not for a while now. Some can be bad mic source, but I have gotten a few that are recorded VERY well.
  4. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    i found a beomaster 1000 bang & olafson[sp] [ by appointment of the danish court]

    for 20$ at a garage sale
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Very very cool link Kurt. I really appreciate it.

    Aparently I've been producing like the pros. ;) Good food for thought.
  6. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    There was a similar writeup after Rush's "Vapor Trails" album came out that analyzed all of their past recordings in a similar fashion, with the same results. It seems like every time I mix a project for someone, at least one person demands to know why it's so quiet. People are so used to having the compression slammed that they think it's something wrong with the recording.
  7. So while not putting a bunch of compression on it to peak it all out, you could turn it up louder and still have it retain it's great sound quality?
  8. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I remember that article. (Found it:
    I love Vapor Trails, but man it just tears my ears to shreds listening to it. And you're absolutely right about people being used to hearing things slammed; they want to sound as "loud" as the next band so they won't sound "wrong".

    I remember when I was a kid, before I started buying albums, and I was used to hearing music on the radio and TV only. Then when I started buying albums, I noticed how different they sounded. I didn't know what it was I was hearing back then, but I was hearing the dynamics. At first I thought they sounded wierd because I was used to hearing those same songs on the radio in all their compressed-for-the-airwaves glory. I think it took me a while to kind of deprogram myself and learn to appreciate a little dynamics in music.
  9. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001 this why i get a headache from listening to music on the radio?
  10. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    That's the idea, assuming your radio's amp has the necessary headroom.

    When you compress it in that manner you're essentially putting it through a hard limiter, so not only do you lose a whole lot of the dynamics but there's a slight bit of what amounts to solid state distortion in some points. On most stereos it's not audible to the casual listener, but any somewhat decent stereo will reveal it, especially when listening critically.

    And don't even get me started on what we headphone affecionados go through with this crap.

    But getting back to the headroom thing, extreme compression makes it a lot easier to sell records to people with crappy radios, which in turn makes it easier for crappy radio manufacturers to widen their profit margins.

    Yep. It's one of my favorite Rush albums overall, but the mastering is so awful that I almost always go for something else instead.
  11. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I know excatly what you mean..

  12. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    This is why I like classical music.
  13. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    Amen Brother!
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's right - classical music has huge dynamic range and to my ears that makes the loud parts seem even louder and have a bigger impact.

    So - you go from a solo woodwind to 120 people playing as loudly as they can !! ;)

    I was noticing this effect recently - so, I listen to a lot of uncompressed Jazz and Classcial music - then this weekend I went back to rock/pop CDs I had bought in the 80s and 90s and they sounded "plastic...artificial" - it's the unnatural amounts of compression...:meh:

    It's subtle...but insidious.
  15. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Wouldn't it be argued that sometimes this approach might be OK? I mean, not all bands are "radio" bands.
  16. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    I too lament the excessive use of compression and squashing of dynamic range. Unlike the page's author, though, I don't find that it's a US versus Europe mastering thing. I've bought pop and rock CDs in Europe, of European bands, and they often have significant "digital clipping"--that is, the signal goes full scale and then flat-tops--just like many in the US do.

    The early Beatles recordings, FWIW, were fairly strongly compressed.
  17. munificent


    Mar 15, 2005
    I generally agree with the article, but it does oversimplify some things. Definitely compressing the your entire album until it's constantly peaking is a bad bad thing. I can't imagine the earstrain of listening to that entire Ricky Martin album (musical taste notwithstanding). But compression is a very valuable tool in mastering.

    First of all, compression is not always used across all frequency ranges. It's possible to compress the bass independently of the mids and highs. This lets you balance the EQ of a song so that when the bass and the kick drum are both rocking, the two don't muddy out the rest of the song.

    Likewise, compression lets have nice long cymbal crashes during breaks and quiet parts without them just destroying a song when other stuff is happening at the same time.

    Another thing to keep in mind is listening environment. I like classical music, but I can't listen to it in my truck. It has so much dynamic range that I have to turn the quiet parts way up to hear them, and then the load parts blow out my ears.

    Good mastering helps that by keeping the audio within a certain range and bringing emphasis to quieter details. This is why radio stations do it. They have to ensure that the signal they put it is consistently able to be well-defined over the background radio noise.
  18. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Indeed, there is a lot of music that ends up being more or less "background noise", and for those instances (from music on in-store play systems to college girls just having something in the background playing in their dorm rooms), it's nice to have everything at a constant level, since you're not sitting down to analyze the music in those instances anyway (like someone in another forum said, "no one sits down to listen to Britney Spears." ;) )

    It just bums me out when my favorite band (Rush, who have a vast audience who do "sit down to listen to" their albums) has their latest album sonically mangled by someone too happy with a limiter.
  19. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    I listen (or at least attempt to listen) to classical and jazz music on my job site. Nope, doesn't work. I can't hear a thing over jackhammers, scissorlifts, and yelling supervisors. Once I tried to remaster my favorite recording of The Planets so that the volume level never reached below a certain threshold, and didn't clip, ever (except for a brief period when the orchestra overdrives something during the recording process--it's one of my favorite parts!)

    It was thoroughly boring. I couldn't listen to the CD, and eventually just backed up the original to prevent scratching. Some music NEEDS that dynamic range, top to bottom. I just turn up the volume at home, and listen to Motograter ( originally mastered so the WHOLE thing clips) at the jobsite.

    When I listened to Vapor Trails and Feedback, I noticed an overly digital sound, i.e. dynamic range distortion. I enjoy both albums, although they're both on my don't-listen-to-through-high-quality-systems list.

    Rush is famous for being closely involved with the whole recording process, why does everyone think they didn't want it to sound that way? They own Anthem records, and have full publishing rights to their tunes. Most artists get a CD shipped for final approval before printing, why wouldn't they? No, really, why is everyone assuming this caught them unawares?
  20. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I'm not assuming anything of the sort. I honestly don't care what caused those albums to sound sonically on par with the latest Britney album. I just know that it sucks and is disappointing. They are the last band which needs to "keep up with the Joneses".