#1
I've recently started taking more of an interest in modern metal (Meshuggah's music in particular).

I don't know too much about recording but I'm pretty sure that there's a hell of alot of compression in the songs.

Is it just bad headphones or is this just typical of the genre?
#3
Unfortunately, it's typical of modern music in general - not just a genre-specific issue. The typical listener just notices it more with metal because the music already sounds loud to people by nature of the content (fast and aggressive performances are typical, as are lyrics and vocals that are screamed or delivered with a lot of power), and instruments like distorted guitars have a longer sustain that, when compressed, is very noticeable as the loudness has a longer duration.
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#4
I'm pretty sure Misha from Periphery uses like 2 or 3 compressors...don't quote me on that, I am probably wrong.

EDIT: Yeah, I was wrong, he uses 2 noisegates, but he does use a compressor all the time(or at least he used to).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF8hBHok2xI&feature=related

I say this because periphery and Misha were heavily influenced by Meshuggah.
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Last edited by tyrogue at Sep 5, 2011,
#5
It kinda sucks, cos it takes away from the music. The songs themselves are good, but the dynamic staleness makes it feel like an assault of sound.
Plus it makes it much harder to hear the bass (although maybe that's how they want their bass to sound, or because the bass is playing very similar notes to the guitar) and feel the 'kick' of the bass drum.

In this day and age where we have £1000 headphones we've somehow managed to make music sound worse(?!?)
#6
Quote by tyrogue
I'm pretty sure Misha from Periphery uses like 2 or 3 compressors...don't quote me on that, I am probably wrong.

EDIT: Yeah, I was wrong, he uses 2 noisegates, but he does use a compressor all the time(or at least he used to).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF8hBHok2xI&feature=related

I say this because periphery and Misha were heavily influenced by Meshuggah.

Don't think that's quite what TS is on about, but nonetheless it doesn't really matter too much that a guitarist who uses amp sims exclusively (to my knowledge) on recordings uses a compressor all the time because pretty much everything in the typical modern recording is ran through a compressor at some stage.

I tend not to compress heavy guitars on their own though, as they are already heavily compressed by their nature. I sometimes compress a little to even out the volume if EQ and automation are tricky to sit right for it, but typically they only need the compression of the master output used in the mastering process (which is a relatively high-ratio for metal, mainly).


Quote by Crazyedd123
It kinda sucks, cos it takes away from the music. The songs themselves are good, but the dynamic staleness makes it feel like an assault of sound.
Plus it makes it much harder to hear the bass (although maybe that's how they want their bass to sound, or because the bass is playing very similar notes to the guitar) and feel the 'kick' of the bass drum.

In this day and age where we have £1000 headphones we've somehow managed to make music sound worse(?!?)

Well, it's kinda more of an opinion (though arguably one shared by many professionals), but yeah I see your point in some cases. When it isn't used like a weapon, compression can work wonders, but naturally things slip through the net when people get caught up in the damn loudness wars that big labels want their clients/roster to be victorious in.

As far as I'm concerned - as long as I can hear everything nicely, I don't mind if it's compressed heavily, as long as it suits the mix. One example is the last but one Unearth album (The March). The mixing on that is incredible, and I don't even particularly follow Andy Sneap's work like most metal engineers do, but there are a few times on that record (could have been in mixing or mastering so not necessarily Mr. Sneap or Adam D's fault) where the snare clips in a noticeably nasty way (the first few hits of the track Crow Killer, for example) and that is something that can be attributed to an over-eagerness to... ah, 'compress the living fcuk out of things'... leading to undesirable side-effects that sadly slipped past quality control.
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Sep 5, 2011,
#7
High Gain Guitars are naturally compressed by the distortion process anyway. I've never seen the point of compressing them again after the fact.
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Quote by DisarmGoliath
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#8
Quote by ChemicalFire
High Gain Guitars are naturally compressed by the distortion process anyway. I've never seen the point of compressing them again after the fact.



+100000000000
The symphonizer
#9
Every studio nowadays has a list 3 times as long and about 50 outboards of these:



Now you know why everything in mod music is overcompressed
Derpy Derp Derp Herp Derp
#10
I do comp most things, but unless it's bass I don't comp above a 6:1 ratio. *shrugs*
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
...It's the last place I was seen before I lost myself



Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
#11
Quote by ChemicalFire
High Gain Guitars are naturally compressed by the distortion process anyway. I've never seen the point of compressing them again after the fact.


Boomy palm muted notes
#12
Never had a problem with them. Ever.
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
...It's the last place I was seen before I lost myself



Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
#13
I've been slamming my distorted guitars with a limiter a lot lately for any sort of core stuff. If it works in the context of the mix, it's really not a big deal to have stupid amounts of compression; it's the people who don't know how to use compression properly (definitely more don't than do) that give it such a negative connotation.

It's also a possibility that you have low bit rate MP3s that your listening to that's making the song sounds extra compressed.
#14
Just make sure that you don't have a long release. I usually let the compressor react fast and you will hear the compression less.
#15
Quote by radkins2
Just make sure that you don't have a long release. I usually let the compressor react fast and you will hear the compression less.

That's actually almost the complete opposite - fast attack ratios increase the likelihood of audible 'pumping', especially when combined with fast attacks. Fast attack, slow release is arguably the least noticeable method of compression that still has any impact. Slow attack, slow release is the least noticeable but rarely worth using unless you're after a specific effect and trying to keep all the transients in tact.
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#16
Quote by DisarmGoliath
That's actually almost the complete opposite - fast attack ratios increase the likelihood of audible 'pumping', especially when combined with fast attacks. Fast attack, slow release is arguably the least noticeable method of compression that still has any impact. Slow attack, slow release is the least noticeable but rarely worth using unless you're after a specific effect and trying to keep all the transients in tact.

Not if you are trying to control low end from palm muting in fast metal music. If you have a slow attack and release then you are just going to be covering up the next riff.
#17
If you want an idea of metal that sounds dynamic and not compressed listen to just about any Death album. Preferably the original cd releases, not the remasters. Or vinyl if you roll that way.

Then go listen to like Mastodons Blood Mountain for an ear rape. It sounds like trash. Completely brick walled and clips all over the place.
#18
Quote by radkins2
Not if you are trying to control low end from palm muting in fast metal music. If you have a slow attack and release then you are just going to be covering up the next riff.

Yes, but it isn't the slow release doing that - way to reword what I actually said, and actually repeat what I said about compression settings
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#20
Quote by DisarmGoliath
Yes, but it isn't the slow release doing that - way to reword what I actually said, and actually repeat what I said about compression settings

Um..ok. How many metal records have you mixed?
#21
Quote by radkins2
Um..ok. How many metal records have you mixed?


Probably more than you...
Derpy Derp Derp Herp Derp
#22
I actually use Andy Sneap's C4 preset for cleaning out the low-mid boominess of heavy/palm muted to death guitars, and a little bit of post eq'ing on the lows/mids, nothing apart from that. Works like a charm imo.
*chugga chugga chuggity chug chug chug*
#23
Quote by radkins2
Um..ok. How many metal records have you mixed?

Glad lockwolf had my back, but anyway... quite a few, and currently still doing so, not to mention this is a bit of an unnecessary fact.

I'm sure someone could have mixed just one or two metal tracks, and spent six months to a year learning about recording and production, and if they really put the effort and time in end up being able to mix at a professionally-releasable level... the amount of projects someone has worked on means next to nothing, aside from major label work (which would be a sign of high respect in the profession).

The fact of the matter is that you gave a clear impression that slow release times are a bad thing and a fast release time is less noticeable. That is incorrect, and if you don't believe so, I suggest you go away and read up on compression - what it does, how it does it, and what the result is. Might be best for you to understand if you research classic outboard compressors first as they are well-documented and often much simpler due to the limitations of analogue circuitry.
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#26
There's compression and then there's clipping - I think a lot of people get these two confused with each other - that Metallica album sounds so bad mostly because its clipping. Clipping isn't really a byproduct of compression rather just something that happens when you try to squeeze even more volume out of something than is humanly possible (usually after compressing it to high hell mind) - but yes you can also compress or limit shit too heavily but that provokes a 'pumping' effect (sometimes desirable mostly not) - clipping is just when you raise that output fader too high.

Also going to squash some rumors about dynamic range and I'm going to go ahead and say it in rock or metal music dynamic range is vastly overrated. Now before the UG mixing cliché cowboys roll on in and give me smack for this think about it - rock music is all about controlled aggression and unity, take a bass player and think of that sound uncompressed - the open notes are louder and more wild than the fretted ones - in a mix this is an undesirable quality - you don't want some notes popping out more than others, no more than you want the snare to disappear at some points and reappear at others because the drummers changed his hitting velocity; this happens all the time btw - a drummers hands on a blast beat usually hit less hard because he's concentrating on his feet leading to the snare disappearing and if you've ever mixed anything you'll know how annoying this sort of stuff is.

No, compression is a brilliant and highly scorned tool amongst rookie mixers - people hear the word dynamics and want to protect it like transients are their offspring or something. Compression is really all about removing undesirable changes in volume like those above and adding more impact, it's about removing control of the volume from the different elements of the mix and giving them directly to you. If you want dynamics then the best then you can automate them in later at your own leisure - you get to choose were the dynamics go, instead of the letting the mix run riot.

But in your average testosterone laden rock song where everything is going all at once and its all fast - you want to be able to hear each an every element clearly - compression is vital. But don't take my word for it - some of the biggest mixers in the game Alge, Wallace et al use compression super liberally and these are the guys getting paid huge sums to mix nearly every major rock album coming out these days.
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Last edited by Beefmo at Sep 9, 2011,
#27
^I couldn't have said it better myself

The only thought I'd add to that is LEARN to use it right. Like Beefmo said, clipping can happen when you try and squeeze every ounce out of there. I may be wrong on this (please slap me if I am) but for me, I like to get everything mixed so that its clear but at a lower volume. Then, after bouncing everything down to a 2 track stereo mix, importing that and mastering from there to get everything to a desirable level that is loud, clear, doesn't clip but you don't have to fight with the volume knob when going between that and a mainstream CD.

Just a thought
Derpy Derp Derp Herp Derp
#28
Pretty much, yeah, but I'd like to point out that compression can and does cause clipping as well - not gonna speculate on what was the exact cause of DM's clipping, but in many cases it is the overcompression distorting the waveform to the point where it 'clips' off the top and leaves flat, squarewave-style signals that are made up of distortion (hence why outboard compressors are often obsessed over, because of how they compressed and distorted the waveform - like valves in preamplifiers).

But yeah, the worst sounding clipping is, to many ears, digital clipping and when it is caused by pushing beyond 0dBFS (the theoretical maximum of digital) and causing the wave to flatten out at the top with no softened edges, that would be present in compression-based distortion. A limiter essentially does the same, through heavy compression, but the difference is that limiters can be programmed to lookahead and analyse whether to start compressing early and softening the potential for distortion (which is aided further by soft-knee ratios).


Anyway, one things for sure - I use compression on every project I do, with the amount being based on the target genre. I do try not to go to quite the extremes some records have, but then I'm not being paid big amounts to make records compete with the other top-selling artists!
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Sep 9, 2011,
#29
Thanks for the replies, given me abit of an insight into how compression works.
I must admit, I thought clipping and over-compression went hand in hand as one of the 'Do Nots' of recording.

I tried attaching some recordings me and my friend made in college in the studio but the files were too large
The songs were both recorded without any compressor (although, I think our teacher said that the mixing desk/program compressed the channels anyway).

Come to think of it, is there any way of uploading MP3 files on UG?


BTW, I'm not very good with recording or studio work, so please don't have a go at me or anything if some of the stuff I've said may be wrong
#30
Quote by Crazyedd123
Thanks for the replies, given me abit of an insight into how compression works.
I must admit, I thought clipping and over-compression went hand in hand as one of the 'Do Nots' of recording.

I tried attaching some recordings me and my friend made in college in the studio but the files were too large
The songs were both recorded without any compressor (although, I think our teacher said that the mixing desk/program compressed the channels anyway).

Put simply:

Compression is the attenuation of amplitude by a specified ratio, once a signal's amplitude goes beyond a set threshold (simpler still: reduction in peak volume gain beyond a set point, by a set amount) reducing the peak volume of a waveform, so it can be pushed louder and/or variations in volume can be reduced. One thing it doesn't prevent quite so much, is a rise in RMS volume, which can be raised well beyond what it was despite the peak volume being kept below a set level if the compression ratio is high enough (referred to as 'brickwall limiting').

Clipping is a (usually) undesirable effect when a waveform's amplitude is pushed beyond it's maximum available headroom, and as a result the top of the waveform is 'clipped' off. The harder the signal is pushed, the more needs to be clipped, in order to keep the waveform within the boundaries of the medium's available headroom. When a loudspeaker tries to replicate this flat part of the waveform, it is essentially stopping in its tracks for the duration of the flat section, which is obviously different to if it continued flowing as it should for what the waveform began as (and due to the way the human ear processes what we physically 'hear', this sounds unnatural and distorted in what we mentally hear). This distortion can be pleasing in some cases, as is seen by the mass-love for valve circuitry (because when pushed beyond their clean headroom, valves begin to softly clip the signal passed through them, with a certain characteristic our ears have grown pleasantly accustomed to).

Unlike the distortion/clipping in valves, which create more even-order harmonics than odd, the clipping created in the digital realm tends to sound harsh (I believe down to an increase in odd-order harmonics) and at high levels (a la Death Magnetic) can be almost unlistenable due to the nasty tones it creates. The digital world can only exist with discrete values (while analogue/'the physical world' has infinite values that are only limited by the scale we measure them with) so once a signal reaches 0dBFS there is nowhere else for it to go - as a result, the waveform is flattened without any 'soft-clipping' or smooth compression. This is the noise that we grow to hate.

To finish up: clipping and compression are two different things, but clipping can be a by-product of over-zealous compression by a mixing or mastering engineer. In the case of Death Magnetic, I personally find it hard to believe they would have ignored the signal trying to go beyond 0dBFS as even drunk/drugged up monkeys could notice red lights flashing on the main meter bridge. Instead, I would say that during the limiting in the mastering process (brickwall limiting, which is essentially infinite-ratio compression) the waveform was pushed too hard and became distorted in the digital realm (with software limiting) to the point where it was rather noticeable... then somehow slipped past all the guys involved's ears. The question is, whether this limiting was done before or after the official mastering, as I believe I read somewhere that the guy who mastered the album claimed it was sent to him in that poor condition.


Hopefully I'm not too far off with any of what I said anyway - as it is 4:15am here!


Come to think of it, is there any way of uploading MP3 files on UG?

Yep, go to your profile; click on 'My Mp3s'; and you should be able to work it out from there.
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#31
Ye, in our recording classes we were told about clipping. I think I knew it quite well, but your explanation seemed to give me a better insight into it.

We'd have to sit there and watch the metres whilst a track was playing and if it clipped too often we'd turn the gain down slightly.

Compression is something we rarely used, the one time we did, it ended up making the drums sound boomy. For example: In the song which used the compressor, it begins with a clean guitar playing some chords, the sound was quite nice. When the drums kicked in, it sounded like everything had been squashed. We decided not to use it after that.

I'll upload the MP3's to my profile if anyone is interested in taking a listen.
#32
That's probably because you over compressed the drums.

You're meant to compress the whole kit in parallel anyway. As far as the kit goes I only really compress the kick and then maybe a bit on the snare.
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
...It's the last place I was seen before I lost myself



Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
#33
I compress most things, to a degree, unless I was doing a classical/orchestral recording where I'd make a conscious effort to use a lot less compression (not that I've done anything similar yet), but it's all about how you use it and how tastefully in particular. If you use compression well, you can get away with a lot more than just someone blindly playing around with presets and mis-understood faders.
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#34
Quote by DisarmGoliath
If you use compression well, you can get away with a lot more than just someone blindly playing around with presets and mis-understood faders.


This! HUGE THIS!

You can turn one knob on a compressor and completely kill a mix (Well, not really but still). Proper compressor use is key to a good mix
Derpy Derp Derp Herp Derp
#35
Quote by Beefmo
There's compression and then there's clipping - I think a lot of people get these two confused with each other - that Metallica album sounds so bad mostly because its clipping. Clipping isn't really a byproduct of compression rather just something that happens when you try to squeeze even more volume out of something than is humanly possible (usually after compressing it to high hell mind) - but yes you can also compress or limit shit too heavily but that provokes a 'pumping' effect (sometimes desirable mostly not) - clipping is just when you raise that output fader too high.

Also going to squash some rumors about dynamic range and I'm going to go ahead and say it in rock or metal music dynamic range is vastly overrated. Now before the UG mixing cliché cowboys roll on in and give me smack for this think about it - rock music is all about controlled aggression and unity, take a bass player and think of that sound uncompressed - the open notes are louder and more wild than the fretted ones - in a mix this is an undesirable quality - you don't want some notes popping out more than others, no more than you want the snare to disappear at some points and reappear at others because the drummers changed his hitting velocity; this happens all the time btw - a drummers hands on a blast beat usually hit less hard because he's concentrating on his feet leading to the snare disappearing and if you've ever mixed anything you'll know how annoying this sort of stuff is.

No, compression is a brilliant and highly scorned tool amongst rookie mixers - people hear the word dynamics and want to protect it like transients are their offspring or something. Compression is really all about removing undesirable changes in volume like those above and adding more impact, it's about removing control of the volume from the different elements of the mix and giving them directly to you. If you want dynamics then the best then you can automate them in later at your own leisure - you get to choose were the dynamics go, instead of the letting the mix run riot.

But in your average testosterone laden rock song where everything is going all at once and its all fast - you want to be able to hear each an every element clearly - compression is vital. But don't take my word for it - some of the biggest mixers in the game Alge, Wallace et al use compression super liberally and these are the guys getting paid huge sums to mix nearly every major rock album coming out these days.


Awesome post