More than a few people have asked why their home theater systems seem to have more low-level details on music videos than their two-channel audio systems. Their conclusions are that the HT formats are technically better than their two-channel counterparts.
That didn’t sound right and was a mystery to me until I started doing a little digging. Turns out the common denominator in this equation is our old buddy, mixing and compression.
The culprits are BluRay and DVD music videos designed specifically for multi-channel home theater presentations. Most theater-based productions take into account the idea that playback in theater spaces is not the same as playback in small and quiet two-channel listening environments.
Theaters are typically large and relatively noisy. To compensate, compression and expansion techniques are employed to the performances (as they are on vinyl but for different reasons).
This squeezing of the dynamics sounds like there’s more low-level detail because there is. Well, louder anyway.
The problem with confusing differences in mastering with superior playback technology is the chance of getting it wrong.
It may be better to raise the level of low-volume inner details to a point where they are more obvious to the listener, but let us not confuse the hand of a mastering engineer for a better engineered technology.
Jumping to conclusions often gets us headed down the wrong path.