Friday Dream Projects Week 7: Audio Compression Edition

1 minute read

I have been learning about audio level compression (sometimes called DRC) to understand why some music has little dynamic range (highs and lows seem soft or muffled). Keep in mind that I’m not talking about mp3 data compression, but rather the audio range of the music. It is amazing, once you start paying close attention, how studios are over compressing music, making it harder to enjoy what was intended just so that they can achieve “loudness”.

So, I want to know if my readers are aware of a project that can determine the dynamic range of an mp3 or mp4 audio file. I would love to be able to determine, and possibly graph, the dynamic range, of my music collection to find the tracks that have the most (or leave) dynamic range. This may be more of an informational exercise, but I’m curious which artists are being over compressed and which are not within my collection (without listening and tracking this by hand).

For an example of different types of dynamic range, check out Anji Bee’s Chillcast Episode 79 and notice how some of the music seems muffled or flat, while others are rich and vibrant. This shows how each of the artists, all talented, are being compressed on their CDs and mp3s. Also, compare the dynamic range of artists such as Dire Straits and Norah Jones to many of Joss Stone’s over compressed CDs. While I like all three of these artists, it is harder to enjoy the potential beauty in Joss Stone’s music due to the high compression. Many thanks Anji for a great podcast, especially from her band Lovespirals and her special Brasil Chill episode.

Finally, here is a great YouTube video that explains over compression: