Is louder better?

Join Our Community Subscribe to Paul's Posts

If we’re playing a dynamic piece of music at a moderate level it’s likely we’ll not hear the soft parts of the score. A little compression would enable us to hear both the softest and loudest passages.

Yet to purists, compression is about as acceptable as farting in a crowded room.

Let us not be too hasty with our dislike of squeezing the life out of dynamics. In the right circumstances, compression can actually produce better results.

Vinyl records are a great example. If the recording engineer’s worked hard to utilize the 100dB of dynamic range available to her on even the most basic of digital recordings, we’re going to need to squeeze 30dB of sonic contrasts into a 70dB container afforded us on the best of vinyl pressings. To do otherwise would result in the loss of precious information.

Then there’s the example I first suggested—listening at a volume level lower than what’s correct for the room and the music. To enjoy without losing all that’s on a dynamic recording, music’s softest passages must be loud enough to be heard—which means the loudest movements will overtake the room. If one’s goal is to keep the level soft enough to accommodate conversation, then the quietest passages will be inaudible.

Unless some compression is added.

I think we can safely suggest that given the right circumstances judicious levels of compression are acceptable—even preferable to the loss of music.

What would be wicked cool is to leave recordings fully dynamic and apply compression in the reproduction chain.

Now that’s a feature I could get behind.