Meeting Topic: "So You Wanna Use A Compressor"
Moderator Name: Anthony Kuzub — CBC; Vice-Chairman Toronto AES
Speaker Name: Frank Lockwood — Lockwood ARS; Toronto AES Executive Committee; Adam Robinson -- Vice President of Operations for Ron Paley Broadcast and DJB Radio Software; Bryan Martin — Sonosphere; Toronto AES Executive Committee.
Other business or activities at the meeting: Toronto Chair Alan Clayton welcomed everyone to the meeting. He thanked the sponsors and supporters. Non-members were encouraged to join. He brought attention to the election of Executive Committee officers. He encouraged everyone to attend the next meeting May 28 on Immersive and 3D audio noting it required pre-registration. He briefly mentioned the June event.
Meeting Location: Harris Institute - Toronto, Canada
Anthony introduced all the presenters at this event.
He referred to the first presenter, Frank Lockwood, as an 'information sharer'. Frank's presentation was an introduction to compressors. He gave a background and history while displaying images of various compressors. He also included personal reflections and what he felt were the most important parts of a compressor: the Attack and Release controls.
He played back before and after comparisons in Pyramix (a high-end DAW) of test samples to show the effects of compression. The results were also played through a spectrum analyzer to illustrate the distortion effects a compressor can have on a signal.
He offered his samples for download so attendees could study for themselves (thru various links available near the bottom of this page - https://www.torontoaes.org/so-you-wanna-use-a-compressor/).
Mr. Lockwood continues to "listen and learn". He realized the difficulties beginners face in hearing compression noting that evolution hasn't provided a necessity to hear compression for survival.
He shared a book entitled "Sound FX" by Alex Case, stating that, in his opinion, the chapter on compression is the best that's currently out there.
After a brief Q & A, and before the next presentation, Anthony asked the audience to share anything unique about compression that others may not possibly know.
Next, Adam Robinson, Vice President of Operations for Ron Paley Broadcast and DJB Radio Software, discussed the topic Compression in Radio. He explored both hardware and software used in the industry. He began with a background of his business and credentials.
Starting with the basics, he went through the processing chain illustrating what gets processed first while highlighting the fact radio likes to make everything sound the same. His talk provided a history of the tools used over the decades that made radio sound the way it does, and what processes were used on the voice compared to music material. He talked about what AM radio stations did in the sixties and seventies to compete for the loudest signal and the technical challenges they had to overcome. Bob Orban's Optimod-FM processor was a central part of his presentation.
He also discussed the effect newer storage methods (ie: hard discs, and .mp3 formats) had on the industry, as well as how audio quality has suffered during the Loudness Wars. This was done with before and after displays of waveforms of various songs from different eras after going through typical radio processes. In his view the key factor in how radio deals more successfully with today's audio is the look-ahead limiter which "knows" when to back off on a file that has already been "processed to the hilt".
His final thoughts: music in 2019 is being mastered too loud and with too much processing. FM processing is now about creating clarity (via smart algorithms) rather than loudness. "Isn't it time we roll back compression and let the audio breathe again?"
A brief Q & A followed during which he mentioned a free "radio plugin" from stereotool.com that allows one to hear what their music might sound like through radio processing.
At the end of the talk, Anthony presented Adam with a Toronto AES Certificate of Appreciation, notebook and coffee mug.
After a socializing and networking break, Bryan Martin, president and owner of Sonosphere, gave an overview of classic compressors and their sound. The presentation included displays of different schematics and block diagrams of classic compressors, as well as Bryan discussing the various ways different compressors processed audio to achieve their classic sound, and how building and design methods changed over history.
A highlight of the evening was his extensive waveform comparisons of original hardware processing versus various companies' software emulations of steady state test tones and bursts. Some of the software used included emulations by McDSP, Fabfilter, and UAD. In his opinion, UAD offered the best emulations overall, pointing out their design probably had more to do with actual circuit recreation as opposed to algorithmic recreation. A Q & A discussion closed his presentation.
At the end of the evening, Toronto AES Chair Alan Clayton thanked everyone again for attending and reminded them about next month's meeting.
Written By: Karl Machat