On Audio Compression

Ok, my synth MIDI controller is down, and now my piano MIDI controller is gone. So it looks like a few days of just talking.
Audio compression! Hoo, boy! This is going to be fun. Audio compression has nothing to do with mp3 or wav or file formats at all. It has to do with how the music is produced.
16-bit audio files (like a CD) have about 96 decibels of range from most quiet to loudest. It is sort of measured backwards -0db being the loudest possible; -6db is pretty loud; -40db is very quiet, and -80db is largely inaudible (I’m generalizing here… it is wrong but mostly not).
When I produce a track, there is generally exactly one “frame” of audio (like a single frame of a movie) that reaches up to the 0db mark. The process is called “normalization” and it ensures the greatest possible dynamic range for the music.
This sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to produce music. In general – music is not done this way… at least not in 2008, it isn’t.
There’s a few ways that people “cheat” the loudness into an audio track. If one turns up the gain, so it goes beyond the 0db mark – it can stay there for more than a frame. 2 frames in a row, and there won’t be any distortion of the sound. But more and more, people are running 8 frames or more at 0db. That causes distortion. But it does make it louder.
The other way to make something louder is compression. Audio compression is something like turning up the contrast on a photo. It makes the blacks more black, the whites more white, and you lose the subtlety of the things in between.
There are a lot of very good and reasonable reasons to use compression in audio. (I do use at least some compression in nearly everything I do.) But somewhere, things got carried away… and tons of music productions are now loud and blatant.
I have good speakers, if I want it louder, I’ll just turn it up.
Maybe it is FM radio, or Satellite radio, or bad TV speakers, or iPods with bad headphones, or $12.95 PC desktop speakers… I don’t know. But the master copy – the one you get on a CD should be dynamic and not distorted. Maybe there could be a button to convert quality audio to “louder” audio somewhere.
Please say “No” to excessive compression and zero-lining. Thank you.