SH Spotlight Compression & limiting in recording, mixing & mastering process: What is it? The good, bad, the ugly

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Patrick M, Jan 30, 2002.

  1. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Very true, unfortunately. This forum is the place to celebrate the few exceptions.
  2. Claus

    Claus Restaurant Critic

    The rules today... Mainstream is brickwalled = Adele or Metallica. Old veterans get sometimes an audiophile remastering = Van Morrison, Yes, King Crimson. It's sad, but good mastering on new recordings is over and out.
    Grant likes this.
  3. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    I’m happy that the Beatles released the 2014 AAA mono LPs. Only wish they would release AAA stereo LP box set now!

    As far as digital goes, for ****s & giggles, I wish there was a program to add fake "ticks, pops & scratches" for nostalgia reasons.
  4. Mr_Vinyl

    Mr_Vinyl Forum Resident

    No compression or limiting was added to the stereo LP's, only the stereo cd's.
  5. Forget home taping....

    Excessive limiting is killing music
    (and it's an illegal level, according to the software!)

    On that note, we have bought less than 10 new CD's in the last five years (we used to buy an average of one per month!)(not including the fact we subscribe to AF's 24k/SACD line). But in the same period of time, we have bought at least 100 CD's. Also, in that time, we have bought quite a few new LP's too. We don't have the best music collection but we've got a damn good one and very little of it is brickwalled. Funny enough, our loudest CD seems to be Michael Jackson's "HIStory", although we do have many newer albums, including a couple of remasters from right in the middle of the loudness wars' peak period (2004-2010, IMO) .... ummmm... no pun intended!

    Our most treasured CD, by the way, is the DCC of "Hotel California" by The Eagles. I downloaded it (again, about 5 years ago) and when I played it, it was the first time my jaw actually dropped from how good it sounded. To this day, it is the only time my jaw has actually dropped, not just metaphorically, but physically I went :eek: and at that moment, I was determined to actually buy and own the darn thing rather than have just a download. I won't tell you how much we paid for it, but we own it! (There's two of us at this house and, honestly, the other person here bought it and we do consider it ours)

    Anyway, what I'm saying is, it is shockingly easy to not buy new CD's. There are millions of second hand ones out there, with just about everything. And then there's LP's. On the one hand, if you only buy second hand, there's no income there for the artists, but on the other hand there's no income for those stupid idiots who master everything so loud. There is also nothing stopping you from buying new material on CD or iTunes or wherever, if you really want it and want to support an artist. Our newest CD is still from 2016.


    And, finally, back on the topic of compression, "Elanor Rigby" would not sound the same without it.
    JLGB likes this.
  6. The problem most people have with the remastered The Beatles stereo LP's is that they used digital masters, not analogue. And only marginally better than "CD quality" digital (44.1kHz, 24 bit for the LP as opposed to 44.1kHz, 16 bit for the CD).
  7. monotubevibe

    monotubevibe Forum Resident

    Bingo Bongo likes this.
  8. Grant

    Grant A 60s, 70s & 90s Lovin' Musical Free-Spirit

  9. JLGB

    JLGB Forum Resident

    The loud mastering going on still today has most (sadly) young crowd (up to 30 more or less) used to it after so many years. Those over compressed, clipped, limited, brickwalled recordings have a "sound". Producers let it be done cause it sells. The kids like it! Take it away ( to even approach audiophile standards) and they find something is lacking or missing. I know what is missing. Crap! LOL...
    Front 242 Addict and Grant like this.
  10. Grant

    Grant A 60s, 70s & 90s Lovin' Musical Free-Spirit

    It's not just "the kids" who like it. I talk to older people our age who like it. Sad.
    Front 242 Addict and JLGB like this.
  11. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    monotubevibe likes this.
  12. Hermetech Mastering

    Hermetech Mastering Vortextual Waveform Projection

    Paris, France
    I master new music and on some releases use zero limiting, it's all down to the artist really. About half my clients want it "competitive", whilst the other half know I'm not into the loudness thing at all and are very happy for a dynamic sounding release. The last Padmasana album I did, for example: Padmasana II, by Padmasana »
    Mr_Vinyl and JLGB like this.
  13. Mr_Vinyl

    Mr_Vinyl Forum Resident

    Actually, it's because they've gotten used to it and don't know better. There's not only the Loudness War going on. There's also the Brightness War as well. Most recordings coinciding with the digital age have also gotten progressively brighter, in an attempt to better ''capture'' ones attention. It used to be, in the 80's, when you'd walk into a non-audiophile store and ask to hear a system, the salesperson would just turn up the volume along with the bass and treble and say, ''See how awesome this system sounds?''. Today, the salesperson doesn't have to do anything anymore because everything has been done in the recording. Notice how everyone in these forum always mentions how much clearer, as if a veil has been removed, from a remastered recording? As with the limited DR, we've just gotten used to ear-splitting brightness levels. I never heard anyone pulling out a Led Zep album in the 70's or 80's saying that it was too ''muffled'' or anything.
    Grant, Price.pittsburgh and JLGB like this.
  14. rick harper

    rick harper Active Member

    I'm amazed at how expensive these vintage compressors are. The new ones. There must be dozens of blatant copies of the LA-4. Wish I owned that optical patent! I've wondered what's been happening in Russia w/ good audio gear - if they're still making any or not.
  15. BZync

    BZync Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Agreed. I find bright mastering much more offensive to my ear than over compression.

    As to compression, I am no professional engineer but, having been doing home multitrack recording since 1980, I do have an opinion. I have done a lot of experimenting with compression after the final mix. What I find has been working for me is, if there are one or two crazy individual peaks that really bring down the overall volume of the recording I will use a limiter to tame them, outside of that scenario I don't find that limiting is necessary. (I have also noticed that the limiter built into Logic Pro requires a really light touch. Goes from taming peaks to brickwalling in a whisper). I almost always use about 2db of compression on the overall mix. To my ears it gives it a bit of cohesion. Particularly it allows the vocal to sit well WITHIN the mix, not ON TOP of it. I also find that, using that little bit of compression allows me to raise the level of the far left/right guitars just a touch, which is a sound that I like. If I go anywhere beyond 4db the mix loses it's air and sounds flat to my ears. If I get to that point I have to compensate with brightening up the EQ, so I don't go there.

    Just one guys ears, for what it is worth.
    Eric B. and ThirdBowl like this.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Sounds about right to me.

    This "really light touch" you speak of, have professional recording and mastering engineers forgotten what it means? I am afraid so.
    McLover and BZync like this.
  17. Hermetech Mastering

    Hermetech Mastering Vortextual Waveform Projection

    Paris, France
    Compression in mastering is usually very subtle, if done at all. It's the digital brick wall limiting and/or clipping that is often way overdone, particularly on reissues.
  18. Hermetech Mastering

    Hermetech Mastering Vortextual Waveform Projection

    Paris, France
    Don't know anyone using an LA-4 in mastering, they are usually used in tracking or mixing.

  19. Grant

    Grant A 60s, 70s & 90s Lovin' Musical Free-Spirit

    The jacking up the highs started in the 80s, probably in the attempt to make recordings stand out on tiny television speakers. If you notice, on many 80s pop recordings, there is a certain brightness on the music that really wears you down and causes you to lose interest. I certainly noticed this while listening to one of my homemade 1984 comp. The music was great, but the sound wasn't. It wasn't my fault, it was the way the music was EQ'ed back then.
    Mr_Vinyl likes this.
  20. BZync

    BZync Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    I have a (kind of far out) theory about that. I may be wrong but I wonder if cocaine has anything to do with the brightness of eighties recordings (I think that you are right that it started in the 80's). I spent about a year in a mid Manhattan 24 track as an assistant engineer. My observation is that the cocaine fueled sessions resulted in a really hyped sounding recording. Again, just one guys opinion.
  21. Grant

    Grant A 60s, 70s & 90s Lovin' Musical Free-Spirit

    Except that a lot of our most beloved 70s recordings were mixed under the influence of cocaine, and they aren't bright. I have to believe that it was about trying to make the music cut through TV speakers because of the music video (and car stereo) revolution.

    I also recall the stories from Steve Hoffman about how he often finds instructions on tape boxes of 80s music about where to boost the highs. When he reverses the EQ, or doesn't apply it, it all sounds good again.
    TokenGesture, Eric B. and BZync like this.
  22. telepicker97

    telepicker97 Got Any Gum?

    No 4 and SLTD are a revelation on the MOV reissues.
  23. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

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  24. monotubevibe

    monotubevibe Forum Resident

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  25. ThirdBowl

    ThirdBowl Have You Had Your Third Bowl Today?

    Santa Cruz, CA
    Great thread, and yes, we do care! Nice to see it getting a 2nd wind after it went idle initially...

    As a musician I find this topic very interesting, and in fact have some experience in mixing and mastering some of the original music that I have been involved with.

    I wasn't fully aware of the "loudness wars" as such until recently. I knew that *something* was going on, and things were getting 'louder' and more compressed, but hadn't really put 2 + 2 together about it. Now that I've been reading the forum for while, talk about the loudness wars is like an old friend. An old friend I wish would go away! ha ha.

    But back to the topics at hand here, compression and limiting in mixing and mastering. The OP framed the question about compression with an example of a trumpet solo being too loud compared to the rest of the music, and wondered if this is a case where compression would be useful. That part of his question wasn't addressed, (directly anyway).

    My 2 cents, and I am no expert by any stretch, is that any individual instrument needs to be properly mixed within the context of the track in question, before any compression or limiting is applied. Compression alone will not bring that trumpet solo lower in the overall mix, and in fact may do the opposite and make it (seem) louder.

    I've recently recorded some original band material and was actively involved in the mixing and mastering, and we didn't do any compression at all in the mixing phase (well, some of the drums tracks had some minor compression during mixing, and a little limiting, to tame a few transient peaks). But basically we just made the best mix we could.... after several passes we got the "final" mixes completed, and it was those mixes to which we then applied some very gentle compression.

    You can certainly limit and/or compress individual instrument tracks in the mixing process, but that isn't the approach we took.

    Anyway I wanted to mention that- if there is a specific instrument that is too loud (or too quiet), compressors and limiters would not likely be the the first approach. THAT issue is usually addressed in the mixing phase.

    1. Record all tracks; 2. Mixdown to final 2-track stereo; 3. Master the stereo tracks, with judicious use of limiters and/or compressors, as appropriate.

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