There is a very nice article at the Wall Street Journal about the increasing amounts of compression found in today’s music. Check out my previous post on the topic. The WSJ article uses past and present Metallica albums as the focus of consideration, though the pattern is found throughout numerous genres of music.

I thought I’d put my own comparisons with the same file here:

 

Practice session 2008-09-30 without compression:

[audio:http://kouroshdini.com/417189a/2008-09-30_Practice_no_compression.mp3]

 
 

Practice session 2008-09-30 with some compression:

[audio:http://kouroshdini.com/417189a/2008-09-30_Practice_w_compression.mp3]

 
 

Practice session 2008-09-30 with heavy compression
(background electronic hiss becomes more audible):

[audio:http://kouroshdini.com/417189a/2008-09-30_Practice_ww_compression.mp3]

 

Though the initial reaction might be that the second one is more accessible, the perception may change depending upon environment. In today’s surroundings, sounds are most often competing with other sounds. Silence is becoming more golden by the day. The former file, with no compression, offers the more complete range of dynamics, but is more appreciated in a quiet environment. Much music is heard over earbuds or in the car nowadays. Or, if at a concert, the sounds compete with the natural audience ambience.

As such, it is difficult to lay the blame on anyone. The desire to listen to music in increasingly busy and noisy environments result in increasing compression.

Any audiophile who wishes to combat this trend is perhaps in the minority. One needs to design an environment in the home where music can be heard with little else to interfere. Doing so, takes time, money, and effort. Unless done as a group, where consumers of music begin to demand uncompressed sound, the dynamics of sound seem increasingly doomed to reside in a narrow shell.

If you have a particular preference with the examples above – let me know in comments or contact me.