Does it bother you when a disc is mastered with extra compression to make it sound louder?

In the June issue of <I>Stereophile</I>, John Atkinson writes about the disturbing practice of mastering music releases with unmusical compression and limiting. Is this a big deal for you?

Does it bother you when a disc is mastered with extra compression to make it sound louder?
Drives me nuts
61% (214 votes)
Bothers me
29% (102 votes)
A little irritating
4% (14 votes)
Don't really care
4% (13 votes)
Not sure
3% (9 votes)
Total votes: 352

Renato's picture

Some hundred recordings on DAT with the compression factor zero changed my musical perspective forever...

Blue Mikey's picture

I wish I'd never learned to "hear" compression—or standing waves, or out-of-phase speakers, or . . . .

Blair's picture

I find that sometimes I hear a song on the radio that really captures my attention. Then I hear it on my home system, and I can't enjoy it because it is obviously dynamically compressed, which makes it sound fake and unmusical.

Al Earz's picture

This is why analog is so good. It can only suffer with time. Hopefully SACD will solve these issues.

Kit Hildreth's picture

What's wrong with a correctly functioning Volume knob?!

J Shuster's picture

The tyrany of the boom box over the audiophile system is frustrating. Once again the lowest common denominator wins over excellence. Too bad the record companies can't have a little faith in the consumer market. After all, if something better were supplied, the market might start expecting it.

Dave Aller's picture

Recorded music should closely reproduce live music and compression renders the sound unnatural.

Lawrence Slunjski's picture

Hate it! Then I note the disc manufacturer and don't buy any discs from that group for a while. Same with Regionally Encoded DVDs.

charlie's picture

That Rush disc that has been the subject of this topic starts out with a Neil Peart drum solo that either makes you run to the volume control or cover your ears.

Brandon B, Hawaii's picture

they need to realize not EVERYONE has a JVC KaBooM box!

Bubba in SF's picture

Yes, it makes CDs sound like hell. It makes them harsh and unbalanced. Just like records from the '70s. It is pitiful that the technology is there to produce a good product, but the recording engineers, producers or musicians won't do that. Refer to the Soapbox last week. The problems with the music industry are additive and this is one of the problems in the mix. They want a solution like CD copying to be the reason why their sales are dropping. Too simple. It's pricing, bad product, bad production, formulaic radio, absence of local music, inspired DJs, the computer revolution, DVD, video games, and last, but not least, a fanatic approach to going after the consumers they are supposed to be selling to. There are probably too many other reasons not touched on here, but which are just as valid. I jave no sumpathy. They need to do better and give more value or they will go out of business. They will lose their customers to something else and blame everybody but themselves.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.View, CA's picture

It bothers me, but it does not drive me nuts because I will not buy it. I have minimum musical and technical standards for my CD/SACD purchases.

Venus Flytrap's picture

It's good for business.

Mike Aspras's picture

When they do the opposite of what the disc was intended for, you bet it bothers me! I must admit, I had a feeling this was gonna happen; that's why I never jumped into it. And now that they've intentionally screwed up, it'll be a long time before they can regain public trust.

Douglas Henning's picture

We want to hear the truth, good or bad. I think it is a disgrace, especially on a classic like DSotM.

Rich's picture

Compressed mastering is the opposite of 'Hi-Fi'. Kinda makes one wonder if 'unfettered' recordings will ever be available again.

Dave M's picture

I don't mind some judicious use of compression to remove those peaks that you really don't hear. But when compression is used to the point of removing the air and dynamics from a recording, I get a bit upset. The Zwan CD is a perfect example. The meters on my CD recorder were almost at constant peak, and the music sounded like bad FM. I ditched that disc. A good example of the judicious use of compression are the new Jethro Tull remasters. They sound very good.

Al Marcy's picture

'Vertical Man' by Ringo has the dynamic range of a siren. I like it. Not exclusively ;)

C Charalambous's picture

If I want loud I'll turn up the volume! but if I want natural it looks like old fashion vinyl is the go!

Rainer's picture

Bought 'restored' versions of all The The (MAtt Johnson) albums, soon ended up looking for S/H originals. A/B'ing them showed; lack of dynamics and timbre on 'restored' versions. Criminal.

Bulldogbreed's picture

What's the point of buying good kit if the recording engineer messes up the recording beforehand?

TGD's picture

... especially when the same people have released a far better version in the past.

JRG in Ky's picture

All the great pop music from the 60's and 70's, guess what, compressed. Telarc Digital, somewhat compressed. The biggest problem in music is the talent and what 'talent' is nurtured. Not enough people care about music. A 2 year vinyl "surge" doesn't really count. What do we mostly buy, old record or new cuts of old albums. Old, highly compressed rock albums as a matter of fact. Properly used, it is a great help to playablilty, especially on the radio. Improperly used it is just part of the business.

Pete Montgomery's picture

Oh, they intend to do that? I thought some pranksters were breaking into recording studios.

Jim Tavegia's picture

There are more defects in recording and mastering engineering than in most of the gear we buy and sell. Audiophiles are more aware of "software" problems than the average consumer. They are more irritating to us. Most just don't care. MP3s are the proof.

Randolph Schein's picture

I have almost become reconciled to the fact that most recordings of popular music will be highly compressed, but I rarely buy pop music, except for the occasional jazz and some so-called "World Music." I just turn the volume and sigh when I get such a recording, and make a mental note not to buy another recording from the same artist on the same label. Wouldn't it be simpler to just put a compression circuit into every car radio or portable ("boom box")? Then consumers could add comprehension when they wanted (such as while driving, when it may be useful in overcoming road noise) and listen to uncompressed music the rest of the time! I remember that years ago NAD had "car" button on their tape deck that instituted a quick-and-dirty 20 dB compression for car listening. When I hear compressed classical music, however, I want to return the CD as being defective.

Travis Klersy's picture

By no means do I have golden ears, or know anything about recording, but rock albums in particular are sounding worse and worse. I am finding myself unable to enjoy much of what is released simply from the monotone effect all the LOUD has. Last time I checked, every audio system I own has a volume control, so why not let me crank it up if and when I want it that loud?

Tony P., Phoenix, AZ's picture

In the perfect world, I'd prefer if no one added extra compression, but it's not enough to stop me from listening to a recording if the music is good.

John's picture

So what's new? While a wide dynamic range may be accurate, wasn't rock music built on compression, so everything sounded LOUD? I thought all releases were compressed in some way.

Michael Hackett's picture

It used to be that a lot of CDs didn't sound great before, but now there are more and more that just sound horrible! For example, the latest two Rush releases are virtually unlistenable and a good number of new remasters are way worse than the original CDs. If the labels are worried about the (self-perpetuated) "loudness factor", how about releasing two versions: a general release and an audiophile version. Maybe farm the latter out to one of the specialty labels, to be released in conjuction with the standard release. I know we're a small market, but we do buy a lot more music per capita. Maybe this is how SACD will shake out: give the prissy audiophiles the SACD layer and then make the CD layer "rawk" (eg, the recent DSotM release). Seems like a fair compromise to me.