We have had some very well-informed feedback to the music that subscribers to Society of Sound music have so far enjoyed. One question that has been raised a number of times is the way in which the albums have been mastered.
The so-called Loudness Wars have been well-documented in the press – if you haven’t come across the idea have a look at this video courtesy of Charles Dye’s organization Turn Me Up. We spoke to John Dibb, our Senior Development Engineer, to get his thoughts on the issue of mastering compression.
“Acoustic compression, in short, tames the peak volume levels in a recording in order that the overall average level can be raised proportionately. Originally it was introduced in the studio in order to compensate for the limited headroom afforded by analogue tape before distortion occurs. …!In the past ten years compression has increasingly been used during the final process of mastering a recording in order to achieve the maximum volume throughout, such that a track will always be audible even when played in noisy environments – in other words, it has become a weapon in the Loudness Wars.”
But as John points out, some acoustic compression is desirable on a recording in order to achieve a satisfactory level of volume during the quieter parts of a track such that they will be audible, for example, when heard on headphones whilst walking down a noisy street.
“What is more relevant is the way the public in general are listening to music – in the street, on the tube, in the car. In all these cases the background noise is so high that the quieter sounds of (acoustically) uncompressed music would be lost. The signal-to-noise on a CD is around 90dB – on vinyl 60dB at best – in a car 25 – 35dB !! So acoustic compression is essential, despite taking some of the drama out of the music. ”
This raises a crucial question for the music industry: should music be produced to sound good in all environments? Let us know your thoughts below!