Compression VS Dynamics: Which Do You Prefer?

If you’re an “old school” listener and grew up with vinyl and cassette tape being your medium, you probably have more of an appreciation for recording dynamics than new school peeps do. Even if you have to constantly ride your stereo’s level to keep your auditory environment comfortable, I’d be willing to bet you prefer dynamic mixes to loud ones. 

If you’re a “new school” listener, the opposite is probably true about you. New school listeners have been listening in digital for many years, and this has changed the way Mix Engineers work. The modern use of compression makes everything loud and out front in a way that old school dynamics did not. Some argue that the use of compression in modern mixes makes a recording more exciting; it can be intense, pushing hard the level of a mix from start to finish. 

Both of these approaches have their strengths and fallbacks, but they’re both useful in ways that are often overlooked. And, your average music fan only understands that a recording sounds good. To them, there is no need to consider dynamics. But I would argue that “your average music fan” likes the way modern compression sounds – primarily because modern Mix Engineers are constantly feeding us mixes with very little dynamics. We get used to it.  

Have we grown to love the sound of modern compression because it’s what we’re used to, or does modern compression actually offer a better listening experience? Are you new school, old school,or both? why?

 Learn more: Understanding Compressors and Compression by Barry Rudolph, Mix Magazine

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