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. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    When it comes to vintage recordings, I more or less prefer to hear them as they were originally presented. This can be a double edged sword, as it's not always the case that the best limiting and compression maneuvers were executed during initial productions and mixing. As of late, many reissues are beyond disappointing with ample compression being applied far beyond what the original performers and producers ever intended!
    32XD Japan1 likes this.
  2. tremspeed

    tremspeed Well-Known Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Not really. There exist "Expander" devices but they don't really undo heavy compression, they just automatically lower the quietest parts or raise the loudest parts, so in theory you could recover some dynamic range, but if everything is already super loud it's not going to do very much that a volume pot won't.
  3. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Those expanders also create artifacts. One obvious result is a disturbing "breathing" effect.
    McLover and Jrr like this.
  4. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    Keep in mind that a limiter IS a compressor with a higher compression ratio. Some devices can be used for either function, though there are most definitely dedicated limiters.
  5. Lance Hall

    Lance Hall Senior Member

    Fort Worth, Texas
    What about post mix compression done digitally?

    Years ago I did some MOGG-based remixes and they sounded lame and limp. The balance and panning was a great improvement over the old stereo mixes but the mixes had no energy or snap.

    Then I added some mild 3-band "compression" on the WAV and now they sound great, very alive.

    Are modern digital multi-band compressors a decent stand in for a vintage Fairchild stereo compressor?
  6. eric777

    eric777 Astral Projectionist

    Ok, I have a really stupid question so please forgive me for asking. I'm sure its been answered thousands of times on here but I really don't want to go pouring through countless threads.

    Ok, I understand (after reading Steve Hoffman's posts) why compression can be a good thing. One of my biggest pet peeves is when the vocals are too loud in the mix. I guess brickwalling might help fight that. My question is why are they sometimes so compressed that the music sounds distorted and it sounds like it is playing out of a tin can? Is it simply because they want it as loud as possible? Louder is one thing, but so loud that it doesn't even sound real anymore.

    The album that comes to my mind is Pantera's remastering of Cowboys From Hell. I am fine with many of the louder remasters ;however, sometimes it's taken so far it sounds fake. Is simply being louder the only reason they do this or is there more?
  7. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

  8. eric777

    eric777 Astral Projectionist

    How does that make you money? Cash Ins can be done in all kinds of ways. How does louder make more money?
  9. Dino

    Dino Forum Resident

    Kansas City - USA
    It is often posted on the Forum that modern recordings are compressed/limited in the mix and there will never be more dynamic versions, for this reason.

    I am wondering if this is actually true or if is it stated because it has been repeated enough to become a truism.

    (I sometimes hear LPs of modern recordings that sound more dynamic than the CD/Download masterings to me. This leads me to believe that, at least some of the compression/limiting is in the mastering.)
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
  10. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    The modern compressed digital mixes are done mostly for the money as sounds characterize trends.
    Front 242 Addict likes this.
  11. Omnio

    Omnio _ _ _ ____ ____ _ _ _

    That's a wonderful thread indeed! One reason I stay away from remasters: they are mostly overcompressed DR-wise and will not sound better on a high-revealing system. Of course, there are exceptions, thank God! (And I've found most of them on this forum)

    That said, my first edition Reign in Blood has a very respectable DR12 or 13! (Can't remember exactly)
  12. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    In your face recordings designed to sound fairly similar on any listening device from a car radio, earbuds to a nice stereo listening rig are the devil's product designed to make $$$ not a quality listenable product.
    Front 242 Addict likes this.
  13. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    I recently heard someone use the term "close-mic'd" to describe the sound of what I thought was a highly compressed vocal. Is anyone here familiar with the term, and what does it mean exactly? This effect heard in most pop music today is unlistenable IMO. It feels like people are literally cupping their hands over my ears and singing very loudly into them. It causes the ridiculous vocal-fry trend to be even more noticeable and annoying!
  14. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Google "proximity effect."
    Joy-of-radio likes this.
  15. danielbravo

    danielbravo Forum Resident

    Caracas. DC
    Hi Steve, I've always had this concern; when an engineer makes a remastering job in his concept of work has some influence his "love" for music of a particular artist? You must like the album to better understand the artist's vision? Or it does not matter in your case? Undoubtedly the knowledge of the basics of engineering and recording process are vitally important, but it is important that you like or not the album that is the subject of work to do a satisfactory job?

  16. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    The OC
    If you record a vocal with distance on it you will not have to use as much (if any) compression. When the mic is close, small changes in the distance from the source to the mic will hae much more dynamics than if the mic is far.

    For example, if you are 2 inches from a mic and move an inch closer when singing, your level will get a lot louder. If you are a foot away from the mic and move the same inch closer, the difference in level will be much less.

    This is why when you see a professional singer, they will move farther from the mic when singing loud notes, and move closer when singing soft notes. This is self regulation and it's not the easiest thing to do. Compression will help insure that the level will stay more level when the singer changes his level or distance from the mic.

    The proximity effect mentioned upstream is quite different. What it means is that if you are closer to a cardoid pattern microphone, there will be an increase in bass response. somewhat similar to a 'loudness' control being engaged. This was very popular with radio dj's who like that bass heavy sound you get when you 'eat' the mic. If you use an omnidirectional mic, there is usually no proximity effect to speak of regardless of distance from the mic.
    Sordel, Sneaky Pete, Endymion and 3 others like this.
  17. Riccardo2

    Riccardo2 Forum Resident

    The very first USA CD sounds even (a little bit) better.
  18. Grant

    Grant That really swings!

    United States
    My favorite example of this is Elton John's "I Want Love". They wanted the vocals loud, and front and center, above the loud, compressed music. I hate that, and I think overly-loud vocals was a fad that is mostly over. You can't contain overly loud vocals in a finished mix by compressing it more. One tool is to use mid/side processing, something I haven't even mastered yet.
    eric777 likes this.
  19. Grant

    Grant That really swings!

    United States
    Artists/producers/labels want loud recordings because they believe it sells units. If one mastering engineer won't compress, there's always someone else who will. Guess which one makes more money. People point fingers at the culprit, but the truth is, everyone is complicit in the compression game, right down to the consumers.
    Billy Infinity, eric777 and Muzyck like this.
  20. willie john

    willie john Forum Resident

    Worst example must be McCartney 's Memory almost full.
  21. mikaal

    mikaal Sociopathic Nice Guy

    Which brings us to the up coming Pure compilation and whether tracks from M.A.F. have been at all salvaged.
  22. Well, yes and no...but mostly no. :) There are some of us bakers out there that have taken it upon ourselves to do something about it. I coded a software, that is on its second iteration, which can reverse the situation a bit, without using EQ, a loss of original bits or frequencies. What it can't do, however, is get rid of clipping in the original audio. There is supposed "de-clipping" software out there, but I've found that alters the original sound. I mean, how could it not?

    Take Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full, for instance. I've been able to squeeze the following DR values out of the recording, which is tremendously easier on the ears:

    1. Dance Tonight - DR10
    2. Ever Present Past - DR10
    3. See Your Sunshine - DR10
    4. Only Mama Knows - DR10
    5. You Tell Me - DR10
    6. Mr. Bellamy - DR11
    7. Gratitude - DR9
    8. Vintage Clothes - DR9
    9. That Was Me - DR10
    10. Feet In The Clouds - DR11
    11. House of Wax - DR10
    12. The End Of The End - DR10
    13. Nod Your Head - DR9

    Here are a couple of wav files for comparison:

    "Ever Present Past" - Before

    "Ever Present Past" - After

    "Gratitude" - Before

    "Gratitude" - After[​IMG]

    Of course I can't give away my "secret sauce," but for you math-heads I use spline interpolation, almost in reverse, where there is no deviation, or oscillation, between the original wav file and the new one, as it first upscales, and then downscales back to 16/44.1 (or whatever the sample size is to begin with). Therefore, you've lost nothing from the original signal. The results, on the other hand, sounds identical in tone/EQ, etc., yet with more natural dynamics. There is barely even a change in original volume. :)
  23. KinkySmallFace1991

    KinkySmallFace1991 It was great, so great...young and innocent days

    I'm very interested in this. I'd love to get some more DR out of the 2011-2014 Kinks Deluxe Editions and the 2015 Faces box set...
  24. I'm working up to a retail version. I'm not even sure if I would charge or not if it helps in the battle against the Loudness Giants. The only thing is there's me and a few other people who have a friendly competition to the finish line. It would be a plugin to any DAW, including Audacity.

    There are still some things I want to check out in some pro studios. I want to get this working with some quality ADCs, wholly in the analog domain, but I'm afraid that's going to color the sound. The point is, I'm looking at studio applications.

    Edit: BUT... if anyone wants a listen, to compare against the CD I'd be happy to oblige.
  25. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident

    Midlands, UK
    It'a a term I've used (perhaps wrongly!) but what I'd mean by it describes vocal presentations such as Tori Amos's where every detail especially the breath sounds are highly audible to the listener. You have to have the mic close to pick that up, and you also would probably need a lot of compression to tame it in the mix.

    I also associate close-mic'ing with pianos when people go for that sound of being 'in the piano' (not in the Zappa sense but in the sense of hearing pedal noises and damper movements along with a wide stereo image), or with a nylon string guitar when you want string squeaks and fret chatter. Basically close-mic'ing is, for me at least, counter-intuitive because it aims to capture the very sounds that 'classical' mic'ing was supposed to help you avoid, although the actual sonic results can be very pleasing.

Share This Page