SH Spotlight People always ask me: What does brickwalled digital compression sound like?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, May 23, 2003.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    It would look like this:

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  2. Pizza

    Pizza With extra pepperoni

    This is the first time I’m reading this. Brilliant description!
    Contact Lost likes this.
  3. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Such a great song, though!
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Once again, Ladies and Germs, this is important:

    COMPRESSION has been used in recording music, broadcasting radio and movie making since the 1920's. THIS ISN'T THE COMPRESSION I AM TALKING ABOUT.

    Let's not corn-fuse the issue. I am speaking of DIGITAL COMPRESSION; it has no pleasing sound of its own, it adds nothing to a mix except bad sound.

    Analog compression has a variety of uses (and over uses--Just ask Jeff Lynne). It's almost impossible to mix a record without using a limiter/compressor. That is what helps the instruments and voices "ride" in the mix. Nothing to do with the issue of this thread.

    A mix is DONE when it is DONE, it doesn't matter if it was mixed live in 1940 or mixed in 2003. It is DONE unless stated otherwise. Si?

    NOW, a mastering engineer comes along and has orders to TAMPER with this finished mix. A digital compressor adds no character to a finished mix. It shows no mercy and is just brutal in the way it kills music.

    If I was an artist who just spent 50 grand on mixing my album I would have a clause in my contract saying that my mix could not be tampered with by the record company after the files or tape left my hands.

    'Nuff said.
  5. David del Toro

    David del Toro Forum Resident

    So the person being shoved against a mirror would just be hotter?
  6. The Gomper

    The Gomper By Your Side?

    great example. It wasn't until I picked up the MOV vinyl remasters of their fourth and fifth albums that I really became a huge fan of those albums. Their sixth album (mastered at STERLING) also sounds much better on vinyl.
    Matisse and Pinknik like this.
  7. Chooke

    Chooke Forum Resident

    Perth, Australia
    I used to spin this record for days at a time back in the 70s. Lovely song but I hated the harsh sound quality of that mix/mastering.
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  8. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Am I incorrect to conclude the 2017 Sgt. Pepper’s remix CD is a prime example?
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  9. ashiya

    ashiya Forum Resident

    Yes this is the worst thing for me too - I have a feeling of suffocating almost, or maybe, if high humidity could be expressed as a sound, it'd be heavily compressed music.
    Not that I'm a big fan but a good example is Madeleine Peyroux's version Dance Me To The End Of Love. The instruments, if I focus on them separately, sound fine, the voice decent, but overall just suffocating. Oh and DR6 btw.
  10. Coricama

    Coricama Classic Rocker

    Marietta, GA
    I understand the analogy and it's a good one. What I don't understand is why mastering engineers want to smash my face into a window with 95% of their work. Why do artists, labels and engineers allow this to go on? I see no benefit to anyone.
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  11. The Gomper

    The Gomper By Your Side?

    Who do you think requests the smashing?
  12. Coricama

    Coricama Classic Rocker

    Marietta, GA
    Who? And why?
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  13. Granadaland

    Granadaland Forum Resident

    Can I ask, any insight into why the 2014 reissue of cosmo’s factory on analogue productions SACD is so loud?
    I can’t listen to it (redbook layer). The 2002, based on reading not hearing, seems to be less loud.
    Also, though I know it was mastered by another, Jimi Hendrix: Axis (redbook layer).
    2 of my most disappointing ‘audiophile’ CDs.
    Will never buy another AP product as they’ve done me for £80 on these.
  14. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    Keef would want to smash his guitar on such travesties. Analog masterworks like Sympathy & Exile with all the subtle instrumentation would get totally blown up with bad digital compression (have they been?!). That's why I have argued for years as to why my old warm subtly compressed analog vinyl is the best. Or tastefully remastered digital reissues (like those by Steve) are respectfully handled, and why I pursue new reissued remasters by who engineered them.
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  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

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  16. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing yes...both BAD!

    So the metaphor of my face pressed painfully into a pane of glass is perfect; a brickwall could be substituted for the glass, which might be even more painful. Hense "brickwalling". And I've been "brickwalled" quite a lot, it seems! Just as painful as it sounds.

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
  17. Blastproof

    Blastproof Forum Resident

    Mooresville, NC
    Got it. Well put. I visualize a camera with manual zoom and digital zoom. You get close to the subject with the manual, and then digital is only blowing up pixels = noisy picture.
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  18. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    Central ME
    As I understand it, it’s to make recordings heard over others, hence the ‘loudness wars’ and it really is an ongoing war that will only worsen as we all endure an increasingly intense barrage of media from all directions. Add to it that we live in a highly mobile society where people listen on inexpensive mobile devices through low quality earbuds and/or headphones. Music must be compressed (brick-walled) so that listeners can hear every aspect of the music in noisy distracting environments.

    I remember the first time I heard an excessively compressed recording of a familiar tune and thinking to myself, “Wow! This sounds fantastic! I can hear every instrument loud and clear! In fact, I can hear instruments and sounds I’ve never heard before! Wow!” In actuality, I was being bamboozled. What was happening is that through compression, all sound was being pushed to the forefront rather than being layered and properly placed within the recording. I remember thinking to myself after a few tracks into the album, “This is a bit much. My head hurts and my ears are ringing. Probably because the sound is so good it is overwhelming me.” I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit my ignorance at the time. I quickly realized what was happening and purposely steered away from such recordings as best I could. I began returning purchases to record stores explaining to them why I was doing so. While they grudgingly gave me refunds, most had no understanding of my reasoning for returning the defective products despite my best efforts to explain why. I forgive them though because they were nothing more than ignorant record store flunkies just trying to make ends meet.

    Thank God we have this forum and a brotherhood of folks who appreciate quality audio reproduction!
  19. Lownote30

    Lownote30 Bass Clef Addict

    Nashville, TN, USA
    Sometimes the band (who are likely deaf), sometimes a bad producer (thinks they're supposed to ask for that), but most often, it's some business guy in a suit that says it needs to be louder to stand out when it's playing in public (which is pointless).
  20. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident

    Back in the day, radio stations would use brick wall limiters and so the records didn't need to have the same.
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  21. Lownote30

    Lownote30 Bass Clef Addict

    Nashville, TN, USA
    Yes. A big reason the loudness wars started was based on the false belief that mastering your song louder made it louder on the radio. Radio already compresses things to be the same volume, so all that was accomplished was a serious degradation of sound quality due to double compression.
  22. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    Even before smartphones, you had a lot of people listening primarily on car systems (meaning stock factory systems), boomboxes, portable CD players with mediocre-at-best earphones, and even clock radios. I guess a well-mastered recording without the digital compression may have sounded kind of thin to the average person on those types of setups?
  23. Joseph LeVie

    Joseph LeVie Forum Resident

    South Florida
    It wasn’t really brick wall limiters used in radio back then. They were analog limiters that used heavy compression ratios to thoroughly limit the peaks, but, as fast as the attack was on those limiters, it was extremely slow when compared to lookahead digital limiting. The sound is not to my liking, but, a lot of people love that sound. Those limiters were reacting to the material being pumped into it and, because it was reacting in real time, still had transients and was still “musical” yet a little less than the LPs and tapes. The “brick wall” lookahead digital compression/limiting “looks” at the information prior to “hearing” it and has the ability and speed to anticipate the impending audio and compress the peaks much lower than any analog compressor/limiter can. This allows no peaks to be able to penetrate the threshold and the ability to get the peaks as close to the continuous audio as possible.
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  24. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident


    Sure. I thought the phrase "brick wall limiting" was an old one going back to analog days though. Don't know for sure, just had that impression. Set the compressor/limiter ratio to infinity to 1.​
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
  25. LouieG

    LouieG Forum Resident

    So, is analog compression the reason why some 60's Motown music has a level of distortion?
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