Squeezing harder

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Squeezing harder

Many of us prefer our music compressed. All modern music captured on vinyl has been compressed to fit the dynamics within its limited space. That process might sound bad but actually, we may be making it better.

When we make a modern digital recording there's easily 100dB of dynamic range. If you were to apply that range to a vinyl disc the only way you could do that without distortion is to lop off the bottom 30dB of information in order to fit the limited space.

But, we don't want to lose the subtle sounds captured in those quiet passages and so we simply squeeze them into the quietest listenable areas available to us in vinyl. That's what mastering engineers do and that's likely why many prefer the sound of vinyl. We know this because a digital recording of a vinyl master sounds pretty much indistinguishable from the original.

There's been a lot of work in consumer electronics centered around gentle compression to improve intelligibility. This involves not reducing the peaks but raising up the quietest sounds. Imagine an average room not specific to sound reproduction—say, your living room. It's not a particularly quiet listening space and so softly recorded music will not be easily heard using a full range digital setup, but much more acceptable and "musical" (with more information and easier to hear subtle nuances) when listened to on vinyl.

It might behoove us as an industry to offer users the ability to gently squeeze more out of our recordings by reducing the dynamic range so they are more enjoyable within the noisy confines of our listening spaces.

It's something vinyl mastering engineers have been doing for a century.

When it comes to dynamic range, sometimes more is not a good thing.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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