Comments on

Two Cans

Original entry posted: Mon Oct 19 19:14:48 2009


Justin Pickard @ Mon Oct 19 18:16:21 2009 EST

Linked to this post, I thought this might be of interest -

Thomas @ Mon Oct 19 19:15:50 2009 EST

Funny thing is, I'm not usually annoyed by the loudness war as long as the music sounds good--I'm a lo-fi kinda guy, normally, and for most of the music I listen to, compression is part of the genre's "sound." But it is frustrating to have my older Who tracks mixed in with music of a newer production style, just due to the volume changes. Particularly since the player software I usually use doesn't support plugins for compression.

I don't think MP3 is going anywhere, but I think we've passed the point where it matters--the quality's good enough for everyone but the gold-plated-speaker-cable crowd.

That said, this old post of mine also raises some of the interesting conventions that I think are much more mind-rattling than the culture of loudness--namely, that modern music production is primarily aimed at a kind of auditory omniscience.

Thomas @ Mon Oct 19 19:20:35 2009 EST

It bears mentioning, incidentally, that compression means two things between this post and the context of "loudness." In the former, it's a psychoacoustic scheme that selectively raises the noise floor of a track to just below the threshold of perception in order to discard unheard audio information. In the latter, it's a signal processing tool that manipulates the dynamics--the amplitude--of a given audio stream.

Ironically, dynamic compression actually makes a signal softer, since it's effectively a gentler version of a limiter. When people discuss it in terms of loudness, they're combining compression with the application of make-up gain.

You probably knew that, but it's always nice to make it clear, since it can be confusing.

Justin Pickard @ Mon Oct 19 20:47:46 2009 EST

No, I'm relatively new to the audio side of things (having just laid my hands on a digital audio recorder, and starting to get involved in student radio production as a Masters student), so your comments and explanations are interesting, if a little opaque.

I think I'll need to get some hands-on experience with the gear, and a feeling for the shape and meaning of the jargon will probably follow.

Thomas @ Mon Oct 19 21:04:26 2009 EST

Oh, you're going to have some fun, then. I miss my audio production days.

I did an "MP3 compression for beginners" that was generally well-received over at Ars Technica about a year ago, covering the basics of psychoacoustic compression--the kind that turns a .WAV file into a smaller format (AAC, OGG, etc. all work basically the same way). It's fascinating stuff. Researching and writing it was incredibly eye-opening, and dispelled a lot of my digital format snobbery.

Sound on Sound did some decent "master class" articles on dynamic compressors (e.g., the volume kind) here, but one of the best ways to figure it out would be to download a copy of Reaper and start playing with it. Especially if you've got a compression plugin that supports side-chaining, so you can set up ducking for vocals (one of my favorite simple tricks while I was working for the Bank).

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