July 3, 2008

Don't Limit my Compression Man... It's Not Evil, Just Misunderstood

Everyone is talking about how horrible the compression fad is (yes... that's 10 different links).

Every mastering house has a rack full of limiters. compressors and exciters to make your songs as loud as humanly possible, and there's definitely a bit of mania to it. but...

I for one welcome our dynamics reducing overlords.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should squash every little clip of audio like a roach, there are definitely some things that deserve the high fidelity bestowed upon them by the audio gods - classical, folk, acoustic. Even indie rock can benefit from remaining in it's unadulterated form.

But in the age of surreal performances, artificial instruments, and the "Radio mix", I don't see a huge problem globing on the compression as just one more layer of distortion.

After all, if the end listeners like it, isn't that what we're really going for?

Even if that's not enough of an argument for you, the Mastering Engineer's job is to make your music sound as loud as possible without making it sound worse. After all it's a proven fact that the average person perceives a louder song as sounding better.

Of course you can argue that if you just turn it up, it sounds better without the compression, but I have personal experience that this is not necessarily the case...

Heavy, brick-wall limiting (compression on horse steroids), changes the tone of the music, not just the dynamics. After a lot of top 40 listening, many people grow familiar with this tone, and begin to expect it. Anything without that "hyper-squashed" tone doesn't sound professional to them.

I don't know about you, but I like to make a slick, professional first impression. Don't you?

edit: I would have left this as a comment but there are already about 30 comments, and I want to make sure people see it. So I learned 3 things today:
  1. Audiophiles hate compression as much as I thought they did.
  2. Sarcasm is in fact, dead on the internet ;)
  3. You really can get a bunch of blog traffic by pissing people off.
With that said, maybe I should start a feud that divides the internet using population in half... comments? ideas?

© 2008 Jim Robert