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:
Practice session 2008-09-30 with some compression:
Practice session 2008-09-30 with heavy compression
(background electronic hiss becomes more audible):
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.
On first listen, with headphones, I heard little difference and perceived the matter moot. Then I listened again using speakers. The compression version grated on me, the difference was much more noticeable. I definately preferred no compression when listening to speakers. I Should also mention that since I make and play Native American flutes I tend to prefer a minimum of technology.
Good to know, Keko. Thanks for your thoughts. There is something more enchanting, the closer one gets to its natural state. I agree – I prefer leaving things as much as is.
PS – I’m enjoying your work on your myspace page 🙂
Compression sucks the life out of music. Given the large dynamic range of live music there are of course practical and technological considerations to factor.
Consider this too, if one is listening in a car or other noisey environment the ability to enjoy the music is already compromised. Have to ask yourself what the purpose of your music is and what audience you are trying to reach:) Thanks for making music!
Absolutely, David. The concept of foreground music is rarely discussed. We talk of music as soundtracking life, but why not stop and listen with intention?
One of the topics I am trying to portray in the music, is the sense of bringing attention to a task at hand. An experience is enhanced by bringing our limited resource of attention to become completely engrossed in the thing in front of us. However, doing so, takes effort. We have to clear the distractions and then present our mind, ready to learn.