Compression Versus Art – the Loudness War on BBC Radio 4

compe versus art

At the end of last year I was interviewed by the makers of a new BBC radio documentary called Compression Versus Art, talking about the Loudness War, mp3 compression and their effects on audio quality.

We talked for well over an hour, and I really enjoyed the discussion – but couldn’t help wondering how the final show would turn out ! Presenter Trevor Cox and producer Nick Holmes were determined that it should be detailed, nuanced and accurate – but they only had half an hour to do it in.

Also featuring contributions from Dynamic Range Day award-winner Steven Wilson, legendary producer Steve Levine, members of the BBC Philharmonic and Dr Bruno Fazenda, I was left wondering how they would manage to fit everything in, including an introduction to some quite complicated issues for a general Radio 4 audience.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The show was accessible, clear and comprehensive – really excellent. They packed in an amazing amount of detail – but not at the expense of accuracy. And it was entertaining to boot!

It covered both types of compression (dynamic and data) without confusing the two; it explored both the benefits and the problems of both; it even covered the impact that loudness normalisation on YouTube and elsewhere is having – without needing to dumb the subject down, and including useful demonstrations along the way.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about the loudness war and/or mp3 compression, this is a great way to get up to speed quickly. And please tell your friends !

I did have a couple of minor reservations – I disagree about the idea that we only like compression because we’ve been conditioned to it by listening to so many recordings over the years. I think the reason is more subtle and interesting – but I think that might have to be a new blog post in it’s own right ! And, I was a little concerned that people might miss-interpret the comments about the benefits of high-quality audio being “masked” by our listening situation. It’s true you won’t hear the differences the show was discussing on small, cheap speakers or in noisy environments, for example – but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter, as I discussed in this post.

These are very small quibbles, though – overall the show was excellent. Congrats to Trevor and Nick – this was Hi-Def Journalism at it’s finest. For a limited time only you can listen to the whole show on the BBC website, here. I’m genuinely proud to have been part of it.


Apple Music versus Spotify – who are the REAL bad guys ?

evil apple

I recently wrote a post called Apple Music – will indie artists get their share, which prompted some interesting discussion. But the same questions can and should also be asked of Spotify.

Taylor Swift made this point recently in a Vanity Fair interview, and as a result Spotify​’s VP of Content and Distribution Sachin Doshi, got asked some tough questions in a new post on the Music Business Worldwide site.

He answered some of those questions, and carefully avoided answering some of the others directly. You can read the full post here:

Taylor Swift thinks Spotify is a “corporate machine”. You be the judge.

But here are a couple of quotes that jumped out at me:
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A $300 home studio? REALLY ?

I didn’t expect my last post to get me in trouble.

But it did.

It seemed simple enough – I was just letting you know that Graham from the Recording Revolution website had been interviewed on Pensado’s Place.

I included a brief intro to Graham, for people who didn’t already know him, and I mentioned that he recently set himself a challenge – to record a song using a home studio setup costing only $300. And that’s where the trouble started.

Because it turns out, some people don’t like that idea !

They don’t believe that you can get great results using affordable gear, and they think Graham is deliberately misleading people by saying so. Telling them what they want to hear, rather than being realistic and honest.

So, what’s my opinion?

It’s a nice idea, sure, and Graham’s mix sounded pretty good – but can you really get good sound in a home studio costing only 300 dollars, especially when you put it under the microscope for mastering ? REALLY ?

I decided to find out. Watch the video above to hear the results for yourself, and let me know what you think in the comments…