[LAU] OT: Dynamic range compression on classical recordings

Jonathan Gazeley Jonathan.Gazeley at bristol.ac.uk
Wed Oct 8 20:15:44 UTC 2014

This isn't strictly Linux-related but I hope someone here will have some 
helpful suggestions.

I regularly make classical and choral recordings in my local church. I 
use a pair of omnidirectional small condenser microphones in an A-B 
layout and after much trial and error, I am very happy with the sound.

However, I'm struggling a bit with dynamics processing on the recording. 
Naturally, choral music has an extremely wide dynamic range. If you 
normalise the infrequent loud parts to 0dB, the rest of the recording is 
too quiet, and people have complained that the CDs are "too quiet" 
compared to their other CDs. I know that people listen to these 
recordings on their iPod or in the car and if the quiet parts are too 
quiet, then they simply can't hear them.

We all know about the loudness war and I certainly don't want to 
compress the crap out of these delicate and beautiful recordings. But I 
think some subtle compression would help bring up the average amplitude 
without clipping the loud parts. I've experimented a bit but I'm 
struggling to get a "natural" sound. After compression, it sounds fine 
in the quiet parts but in the louder parts it sounds "lumpy" and the 
reverb sounds unnatural.

Does anyone here work with classical and choral recordings? I could use 
some advice on how to add compression with a light touch to make these 
recordings more practical for playback, without spoiling the natural 


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