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Dynamic range compression of classical music.

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by xenophon, Nov 24, 2014.
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  1. bfreedma
    LOL - now we can add hubris to the list of issues.

    Bigshot and Gregorio, you'll never get another job in this business :rolling_eyes:
  2. bigshot
    You try to record a symphony orchestra at the same time cannons are going off and try to get it all to sound good without clipping on the cannon blasts. Since you're an EINSTEIN yourself, you know basic math, right? You've got an orchestra that is putting out 100dB peaks. A cannon puts out 180dB. Assuming you can find a mike to capture 180dB clean, f you lower the cannon enough to fit within a CD dynamic range, then the orchestra will be down around -60dB. Of course the cannon is clipped and/or mixed down. You wouldn't be able to listen to it otherwise.

    You've offered three suggestions of what it might be... peak limiting, tape saturation or clipping. It isn't tape saturation because this is a digital recording. It isn't peak limiting because the attack on the blast is so fast. Guess what? There aren't microphones designed to capture a cannon blast without clipping. It isn't intentional. It is a technical limitation. But it doesn't matter, because your ears can't hear 180dB without incurring damage.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  3. TheSonicTruth
    I have news for you - and it surprised me to - the recordings on that Telarc 1812 CD were originally from the 1970s! I don't know if they include the cannons, but the CD, which I and many others own, is just a reissue. The labels "CAUTION: Digital Cannons" are just marketing fluff. Of course they're "digital". ALL the audio on a CD is in digital format!
  4. bigshot
    More news! Those Telarc discs were recorded digitally and released on LP around 1980 before CDs became ubiquitous. I have this album on both LP and CD. It is definitely recorded digitally.
  5. TheSonicTruth
  6. SoundAndMotion
    Hi @TheSonicTruth

    I'm no fan of @bigshot or @gregorio , but I am a fan of the truth (like you, as your name implies). When they write the truth, I must agree with them.

    So let's be clear and truthful about the Telarc recording:
    Telarc_Page11.jpg Telarc_Page8.jpg

    Also, although I agree with your intent, and wish recordings would employ realistic dynamics, I also reflexively play devil's advocate. Consider this argument (even if I might not fully agree with it): We shouldn't argue that Monet is too blurry and he should have fixed that, or that Picasso paints like he's on acid and should have fixed that. If I hate country music, I should not complain that each and every Garth Brooks CD sounds bad to me; I should simply not buy them. What you buy on CD is the creative output of the group of people responsible for the creative content. Actualize your views with your purchases.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
    bfreedma and castleofargh like this.
  7. gregorio
    1. When used for sound effects and something like the 1812, a cannon would typically be used with a quarter charge. The resulting sound output would depend on the specific cannon but is more likely to be in the range of 150dB or so. That doesn't negate what you've stated though, it's still essentially the same problem. At the time, as the consumer distribution format was LP, most of the overture would be below the noise floor of the medium if the actual SPL ratio between the cannon and orch were maintained.

    2. As the recording was made in the late '70's, I assumed it was an analogue tape recording. It is possible that it was an early digital recording though.

    3. Indeed! @TheSonicTruth is convinced he knows everything, including what "severe peak limiting" looks like but in fact, he doesn't even know some of the basic laws of physics and what a beginner engineer would know. He can't even get a simple analogy about the sun right, let alone understand how sound/music engineering works! For everyone else: A compressor or limiter works by detecting when a set amplitude threshold is exceeded and then responds by lowering the level. Obviously, this takes some amount of time and also obviously (according to the laws of physics) you cannot respond to an event before it has happened. In the real (or analogue) world then, a compressor/limiter cannot compress or limit the first part of a transient peak, the compression/limiting doesn't kick-in until several/many milli-seconds AFTER the peak has occurred. Today, we can get around this problem (in the digital domain ONLY) with RAM buffering, sophisticated plugin software and sophisticated channel, plugin and system wide (DAW) automatic delay compensation but the technology to accomplish this (what is called a "look-ahead compressor/limiter") didn't exist until the mid-late 1990's, nearly 20 years after this recording was made!

    The simple fact, which has been mentioned numerous times in this thread, is that compression in classical music recordings is avoided and when necessary, is only applied lightly and with compressors/limiters designed to be as audibly transparent as possible. This is completely different to the popular music world, where compression is a required constituent of a performance/mix and coloured (rather than transparent) compressors/limiters are employed. There is no loudness war in the classical music recording world and there never has been. Many different music engineers and producers from different parts of the world and at different times in history have clearly stated this and the data/evidence has already been presented in this thread which backs-up that repeated assertion. Anyone is free to ignore the proven facts and instead believe their interpretation of what they think they're hearing or looking at but this is the Sound Science forum and if you're going to contradict the facts you're going to need some compelling evidence. Bizarrely, it's apparently not obvious to some that the approach of: "I know virtually nothing about the subject in question but I'm right and everyone stating the facts is wrong", is about as far from "compelling evidence" as it's possible to even imagine! In this forum at least, the ONLY conclusion from the repeated use of that approach is that the person must either be a complete imbecile, chronically deluded, a troll or all three!!!

  8. SoundAndMotion
    Nope, see post above yours.
  9. Indiana
    Of course there is no "Loudness-War" in Classical Music like Pop/Rock. Thanks god. The topic here is Classical Music and compression. I never bought Rock music my entire life, cause I just don't like it. I listen nearly all the time to Classical Recordings anyway and like I stated, some are to loud for me, and I don't keep them. Many are ok. The statement about sound engineers "all around the world" say this or that seems a bit strange to me. Some are orthodox and just use their hands and other use compression/limiting. All fine.
    I am from Zurich, Switzerland (I grew up a few blocks away from our Opera, and I worked there too) and I met a lot of people in this field. And I hear all kind of opinions about music production. And this is normal thing.
    Like I said, I don't compare Classical music to loud Pop music. I just like the sound of a record or not. Loudness is just one criteria which can be unpleasant. As an example. Take the label "Deutsche Grammophone". As far as I know they compress anything for 10 or 15 years now. And, again, not like Pop etc. But for me its an uneasy listening.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  10. Indiana
    Please folks, can we just have a polite discussion? It's just a topic about music. Please respect each other. Thank you.
  11. gregorio
    I didn't see your post until after I'd posted my last message, although I did state that it could have been a digital recording and accepted that it was. At the beginning of the 1980's, the only digital mixing that was available was level/volume balancing between of the recorded tracks, no other digital audio processing and certainly no digital compression, which didn't arrive until the latter part of the 1980's and wasn't generally of good/usable quality until relatively recently. Compression, when/if it was employed, required coming out of the digital domain, into an analogue compressor/limiter and re-digitising again. This round trip/looping through converters wasn't possible transparently until the 1990's, another reason why it was avoided in classical music.

    1. Interesting, thanks for posting that info. I very much doubt it will make the slightest difference to thesonicthruth though, he's thoroughly convinced he knows what he's hearing and looking at and no amount of facts or evidence is going to sway him (or at least it hasn't in the past). He'll just dismiss it as false marketing or some conspiracy by the professional music engineering community against him personally, as he has repeatedly in the past.

    2. What realistic dynamics? The realistic dynamics that blew windows out "several hundred feet away" and would certainly rupture your eardrums if you reproduced it in your sitting room? Fortunately, you cannot reproduce it and what sane person would want to? I've asked this before, with no answer but still the cry goes out for "realistic dynamics". We, as music recording engineers, producers and labels/distributors are making entertainment products, products for people to enjoy. How many people enjoy listening to classical music recordings which are uncomfortably loud, cause pain or worse still, causes their eardrums to explode? The classical music recordings we produce are therefore bounded obviously by what can be reproduced and secondly by what is "comfortable", and to achieve that *sometimes* requires the use of some compression.

    1. The loudness war in popular music is caused by compression (the over application of it). I entirely agree with you that "Of course there is no loudness war in classical music" but unfortunately, you walked in on an argument with thesonictruth who it trying to assert that there is, that "severe" compression/limiting is applied to classical music recordings as it is in popular music recordings (which causes the loudness war).

    2. Like bigshot, I'm having trouble understanding exactly what you mean. Compression reduces dynamic range, which means you can turn the volume down on your speakers/HPs and still hear the quiet parts. If a recording is too loud for you, that implies you have to set the volume level quite high in order to hear the quiet passages, which makes the loud passages too loud. If this is the case, then the problem (for you) is not too much compression but too little!

    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  12. Glmoneydawg
    i have been listening to music for about 45 years and still have decent hearing.I have always avoided loud listening levels and find extreme dynamics to be the enemy of reasonable listening levels.I love great recording quality,but dont want to be turning the volume up and down every 10 seconds.Our recording engineers seem to have the dynamics thing right...for me at least.
  13. Indiana
    I usually try to avoid any exaggeration. Sorry if I used the wrong words. Not a lot of experience with forum discussions from my side. And when I said "big problem" this was maybe not the right term. Please read my statements as my independent and subjective view. I am not a right or wrong guy. I never was. I am just a normal, boring and curious person. Always nice to learn somethings new and I learned always from people who where smarter than me. That's why I love good books, they are always smarter than me.
    I have read some of your posts on other topcis in this forum and it's obvious for me you have a good understanding how audio works. In my humble opinion I would say so do I. In my youth I build a lot of analog stuff, then I went over to DSP. But I did not work that long in the audio domain. I worked many years for the graphical industry (image processing). And no I never made rocket science :)

    No, I turn the volume down and it still sounds loud and unpleasant, till you reach a point, where the sound just collapse.
  14. castleofargh Contributor
    despite several warnings, TheSonicTruth keeps failing to follow even the most basic rules of the forum. I'm tired of having to come clean after him everyday so he will take a break from this thread.
    please try to discuss compression on classical albums, or whatever the issue seems to be, instead of each other. so we can limit the clashes of egos and hopefully have more civil conversations.

    I'll second @bigshot in asking for examples of albums with issues, whatever they are. maybe uploading a short sample of the tracks? to give us a subjective idea without having to go purchase a reportedly bad album ourselves.
  15. SoundAndMotion
    @Indiana seems to have a healthy, unassailable approach: he buys and listens. If he likes what he hears, he keeps it, otherwise he returns or sells it.

    He mentioned Deutsche Grammofon. I don't have to buy anything because I have lots of classical CDs. I can't today, but I'll rip some DGs and upload anything interesting.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
    castleofargh likes this.
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