Whether you only like to pay attention to music, or else you create and record it, you will be best for being aware of what “compression” means. If nothing else, you are able to impress friends and family by knowing something geeky about audio;). At best, you will end up able to produce or listen to audio that is somehow louder and punchier without anyone the need to turn up the volume. But as with every tool, it is possible to drink too much with compression.
Okay, precisely what the heck is compression? Simply put, it is a trash-compactor for sound. Why can that help audio sound better? For one thing, it evens out the loudness of, say, a song containing really quiet passages with occasional really loud passages. Have you ever experienced a motor vehicle and a song started, and you could barely see it? So you turn the amount up simply to have your eardrums shredded once the loud elements of the song come in. You may have found yourself turning the amount along many times during a song to pay for your extremes in quietness and loudness. What you had been doing while turning it down and up would be a way of compression! Yeah, you are compressing the audio by turning the loudest parts down and also the quietest parts up.
Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just push the control button in your car stereo and still have that happen automatically? Well, you probably can! The factory radio/CD player within my 2004 car has a button that simply includes a “C” into it. I had no idea just what it meant until I looked it up inside the manual. Guess what the “C” represents. Yup, “compression.” Check your manuals; there might be something similar on your CD Player.
By just how I should mention that audio compression is not the same as “data compression.” For example, you might have seen something about mp3 or AAC audio formats being “compressed.” That’s referring to making the file size smaller so that it could be quickly applied to the net and is NOT the same task as what I’m talking so you know.
So how about the people recording or producing audio, or those that want to learn? How can you use compression? I have yet to meet the audio software, the open-source programs, that will not have built-in compressor tools. That’s how common and important it is in audio production. For example, when recording music, lead vocals virtually always take some compression. Pop music will put plenty of compression on a lead vocal. That’s because it is the most critical thing inside the song plus order to help keep it loud enough to become heard over the music because it gets louder, but not overpower the songs throughout the softer bits, a compressor can be used to automatically even out your levels in the vocal track. One warning here you overdo the compression on the vocal track, it will make the singer appear to be they’re lisping, plus some other odd things.
Another useful strategy to use compression is usually to increase the average amount of a complete song (or whatever form of audio you’re hearing). This is because the loudest audio file might be without distorting (you know that nasty buzzing sound you hear if you turn the TV on too loud for your speakers?), ab muscles loudest part of that audio file must not exceed a certain volume level. Many audio programs simply won’t let you turn audio up if your loudest amount of it will exceed that “distortion” ceiling. So if the audio isn’t loud enough, but you’ll be able to increase the volume because there are just one or two places where it got really loud, the ones are “bumping” facing that ceiling, you can just reduce the amount of ONLY those two places, leaving the rest with the audio alone. At that point, the loudest parts are much lower, and you’ll be able to turn the whole thing up much louder before any of it bumps facing that ceiling again.
That last strategy is often used when editing a full song to make it seem much louder. Louder can often be interpreted as “better” by many people. But be careful here too. The more you compress a final mix, the less dynamic range the song has, which basically means it’s not going to get softer and louder just as much. That can suck lifespan out some audio.
So now you realize what compression is. Cool, huh? If you want to test out recording and producing audio, there are various tutorials available on the world wide web. Of course, I think you’ll such as the ones at Home Brew Audio;). But I might be biased. Either way, go forth and either impress your friends, make the world safe for better audio, or both!