Hypercompression – Concerns of the Epidemic

Bob Katz Leave a Comment

From: Danny Leake

So am I right? Is the epidemic of inappropriate hypercompression almost totally traceable to incorrect assumptions about the end user experience and a flawed listening procedure engaged in by artists, producers, and record label executives?

Part of it. The rest can be attributed to the following adding up together:

1) Louder sounds better, even .2 dB, so a little push in each step seems to be the thing to do. Everyone wants to sound better, so they turn it up.
2) Many (if not most) listeners are pretty insensitive to crest factor and the impact of transients, so they don’t notice the degradation. If the RMS is loud enough, they don’t notice the loss of peak clarity.
3) Combine that with the invention of digital audio and severe digital processing, which permitted average levels to be almost at the peak level.
4) Combine that with the widespread practice of peak normalization

I had an artist call me about an album I had mixed for him. We had
kicked it back at least once because we thought some cuts were a tad
overcompressed to gain level. After we were happy with everything I got another call. He was wondering why his CD was a tad lighter than a CD I had done for another artist. I told him aside from the fact that his record was a well recorded Jazz
record and the other track was an Urban influenced, machine driven
track; to raise the level of his CD would mean “crushing” the dynamics again
and compromising the sound of his music. In other words, “Just turn up
the amp and call it a day!”
We had agreed after the mix that level was not going to be an issue
for his CD, that we wanted the dynamics that he had worked so hard for to
come through…however, when the old CD changer came into play, he
panicked and forgot what we were trying to do.
I had to remind him. What if he hadn’t called me? Some artists will
but most Record Executives don’t.

Danny Leake
Urban Guerrilla Engineers
I’m so sorry to hear that, Danny, happens quite often. You’re lucky you were able to remind your client of your “pledge” or it would have been another screwed-up record. We have to get out of this mess.


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