Dynamic Range Day: How Could I Forget?

Over @Stereophile, we received a tweet from follower Henry Gessau:

Henry Gessau. Henry Gessau! Who is this mysterious chap? He must be some time-travelling, sound-saving avenger! Color photography was not widely available until the 1950s, so based on his profile picture, Henry must have lived sometime between the years 1850 and 1950 and then tweeted into the future! But forget the man. What about his message?

“Friday is Dynamic Range Day. Spread the word.”

Dynamic Range Day is a day of awareness of the evils of the Loudness War and a celebration of dynamic recordings. Organized by mastering engineer Ian Shepherd, with support from Allen Wagner at TurnMeUp.org and a handful of sponsors, DRD aims to shoot down over-compression in modern recordings and emphasize that “Dynamic music sounds better”—a message all audiophiles can get behind.

The folks at DynamicRangeDay.com note increasing awareness amongst the general public in regards to the importance of dynamic recordings. A passion for better sound quality is slowly creeping into the consumer audio market, propelled by the growth of headphone and computer audio, expanding computer bandwidth and memory capacities, and a siren heard around the audio world from Neil Young proclaiming his disdain for MP3s, a file type who’s intrinsic limited dynamic range complements the evil wiles of blurry-eyed mastering engineers forced to believe that squashing dynamic records is good, but the heroic and dapper Henry Gessau will not stand for that. And neither should you.

In their “Open Letter to the Music Industry”, DRD claims that less people are buying music because the increased use of dynamic compression deters them from purchase because they do not like the way it sounds (see the The Yin and Yang of the Loudness War). A part of me thinks that online file sharing and piracy has way more to do with the failing music business and why people no longer purchase music. The proper rebuttal by DRD may be that computer and headphone listening originally complemented lossy-over compressed recordings, thus perpetuating the problem and encouraging more lifeless recordings, but this would not explain why people stopped buying music. People stopped purchasing because computers and portable music players complement the free exchange of files. Had recordings not been squashed, its difficult to assert that people would have still bought music with the file-sharing capabilities of the technology around them.

Steve Guttenberg feels differently from DRD as well, as he wrote in Stereophile’s March 2012 issue’s As We See It, stating the decline music purchases is directly related to the increase in multi-tracking capabilities where record producers run their sessions through a “deflavorizing machine” emphasizing the perfect take track by track rather than the perfect performance by a group of individuals in one room all at the same time. This leads to an emotionally disconnected Frankenstein-pieced recording.

Regardless of DRD’s contestable claim, Dynamic Range Day is still something I can get behind.

So what can you do? For starters you can enter the 2012 Dynamic Range Day Competition, where all you have to do is follow three simple steps and answer three easy questions (correctly) for your chance to win any of many awesome prizes including but not limited to an SSL Buss Compressor, B&W CM-1 speakers, and TC Electronic LM-6 Loudness Meter. The contest ends at 8PM GMT, March 16th.

But the best way to show support for Dynamic Range Day is to accept the Dynamic Range Day Challenge: Can you commit to making your next recording with at least 8db dynamic range? After doing so, post your recording somewhere online and link back to DynamicRangeDay.com.

So @Henry Gessau, whoever you may be with your soul-piercing stare and sepia toned skin, thank you for reminding me about Dynamic Range Day. I hope I have done your bidding.

Now go back in time before it’s too late.

dalethorn's picture

If you google nearly any music track you want in lossless format, you get only pirates. Only pirates. The music "industry" complains, and then doesn't offer the music anyway. Is there a karma at work there or am I missing something?

sommovigo's picture

Nikola Tesla. 

Ariel Bitran's picture

Wow. I'm sorry for myself that I did not know that, but it also gives a new appreciation to the situation. A time-traveling sound-saving Nikola Tesla!

Ariel Bitran's picture

Nikola Tesla:

10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943

John Atkinson's picture

See my essay at The Spaces Between the Notes. The music resides in those spaces.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile