To Compress or To Compress

Compressing a plastic bottle
Unfortunately, the term compression is used in two very different ways in the production of audio. Learn the scenarios for Dynamic Range or Data Compression.

There are two types of Compression in audio:

Dynamic Range Compression + Data Compression

Dynamic Range Compression is an audio process that can reduce the peaks of an audio signal. Essentially, we are compressing the distance between the loudest and quietest parts of audio.

Data Compression is an audio process that aims to preserve audio quality while reducing data size.

Both types of compression are employed in every recorded audio you listen to everyday.

Let’s walk through two scenarios and learn which type of compression is used.

Scenario 1: There Are Too Many Channels to Mix at Once!

Live sound mixer

You’re mixing a live concert. You are responsible for mixing 12 mics on drums, acoustic piano, a string section, a very loud and out-of-tune oboe, acoustic guitar, dobro, 3 back-up singers, two lead vocalists, electric bass, rhythm guitar, a small choir and a obnoxiously loud cowbell.

In total you have 39 channels you’re mixing on your new digital console that requires you to page through screens to control all the settings you need to make a great live mix.

What can help you get a great and reliable mix?

Dynamic Range Compression is going to lend you a hand. A difficult aspect of mixing live sound can be the fact that musicians aren’t alway predictable – nor should they be!

You can set everything perfectly, but someone may decide to play louder, someone may bump a microphone or maybe the lead singer forgets to use good mic technique. All these issues can happen at any time – and even at the same time! By adding subtle compression or limiting on many of these channels you could help protect your listeners ears and also make a smoother mix.

Scenario 2: I’m A Cruise Ship Performer and My Internet Sucks

You’re blessed with the ultimate gig – you perform 6 days a week to mildly drunk yet appreciative audiences on the deck of a cruise ship in the Caribbean in winter, Italy in summer, and in dry dock during pandemics.

The audience loves you and wants to buy your album from your website (where you actually make money!). Unfortunately, the internet on the cruise ship is about as fast as the evolution of life on earth.

What can help my audience get my music downloaded?

Data Compression is going to be the solution for you. If you don’t use data compression you’re likely sharing an album that is 500 to 600 MB. This may be more data than the episode of Hell’s Kitchen your audience was planning on “trying” to stream back in their minuscule windowless state room.

Data Compression used on sites like Apple Music and Spotify may get you down to 50 to 100MB. But listening to various MP3/AAC CODEC settings you realize you can scale things back to 128 kbps (maybe even lower) and your audience is happy. You get the size of your album down to 38 MB!

0 replies on “To Compress or To Compress”