As I write this, I’m in the middle of a rambling road trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC, and back. I always relish road trips, because they give me the chance to listen to music for hours on end without interruption -- a treat I rarely get back home, where there are always review samples to return, speakers and headphones that need measuring, and dishes to be done. Between Bend, Oregon, and Yakima, Washington, I put on a recent favorite, jazz saxophonist David Binney’s Lifted Land, which features Binney’s acoustic quartet. And as often happens when I listen to relatively pure recordings like this one in a non-ideal setting, I had to crank up the level to hear the soft parts, then turn it back down so the loud parts weren’t so loud.
I found myself wishing that Lifted Land had used more dynamic-range compression. Most of the times I’ve listened to Lifted Land, I’ve been in transit, either in my car or wearing headphones. Both of these situations are much more common for me now than the old paradigm of listening in the living room. In both situations, dynamic-range compression (DRC) would have improved my listening experience. If memory serves, I’ve listened to Lifted Land just once on my big Revel-Krell stereo system.
This experience made me think back to two blogs I wrote a couple of months ago, in which I reported on research that indicates that: 1) Except in extreme cases, focused listeners don’t necessarily dislike DRC; and 2) Extreme DRC is much less prevalent now than it was ten years ago.
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