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Bootleg Compression - from Bill O'Neil

From: <email address not valid>
Subj: bootleg compression

 

Hello all --

 

While working today, I was listening to "Over the Garden," the new TDOLZ title from 6/13/77 at MSG. Whoever transferred this to CD added waaaay too much compression and really messed up an otherwise listenable tape. Maybe you're wondering "What is compression?" Compression is another audio tool used by recording and live sound engineers. I've talked about multi-tracks, I've talked about EQs, I've talked digital and analog, and now I'm talking compression. I should write a book, I swear to god.

 

Anyway...

 

Compression is achieved using (you guessed it) a compressor. In a nutshell, a compressor is used to limit dynamic range; that is, it is used to make loud parts quieter, thereby making quiet parts louder by comparison. Perhaps you've noticed that FM radio broadcasts are heavily compressed. The next time you hear "Over the Hills..." on the radio, listen particularly to Page's guitar work at the end of the song because this will give you a very clear idea of what a compressor does. As we all know, the ending passage of OTHAFA is very, very quiet. But on the radio, notice how loud it is relative to the rest of the song. Technically, this is an example of "limiting," but limiting is merely an extreme form of compression.

 

With a compressor, the recording or live sound engineer can help control volume fluctuations. Vocals are very well served by compression; the human voice has a tremendous dynamic range, and sometimes this range is too wide for the music being presented. Imagine that the PA is set up such that one of Robert's loud wails fits in nicely with the rest of the band. Now imagine what happens if he were to sing "I been workin' from seven..." This quiet bit would be lost. Enter the compressor. By compressing the vocal signal, Robert's loud scream is kept under control (volume-wise), which means that the overall volume can be adjusted louder, allowing the quieter passages to be heard more clearly.

 

Compression works well on every instrument: guitars sound thicker, drums sound fatter, and bass sounds bassier.

 

However, just like an EQ, a compressor must be used with care. Too much compression virtually removes dynamic range, which makes recordings sound extremely un-lifelike. "Over the Garden" suffers from too much compression. Most of you are familiar with 1977's segue from Black Mountainside into Kashmir. Obviously, in the actual arena during the performance, the arrival of Bonzo and JPJ would have brought quite a large increase in volume. This recording has been so compressed, however, that that enormous explosion of sound has been reduced to a whimpy little pop, no louder than the preceding quiet passage. Yuck.

 

If whoever is transfering these tapes to CD is a member of DG, please set that compression threshold a bit higher.

 

Any other studio toys anyone wants to know about? Or am I speaking into the void, here, and wasting your collective time?

 

Bye,

 

Bill O'Neil
Venice, CA, USA
Maker's Mark is mother's milk

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

May 31, 1948 - John Henry Bonham was born at Redditch, Worchestershire
May xx, 1969 - The band’s debut album enters the US Top 10
May xx, 1969 - Recording sessions for Led Zeppelin II begin
May xx, 1970 - The band works on new material at Bron-Y-Aur
May 03, 1971 - Richard Cole jams on Whole Lotta Love playing congas
May xx, 1972 - Houses Of The Holy recording sessions on location at Stargroves and Olympic studios
May 27, 1972 - Warm-up gigs kick off in Holland for an upcoming American tour
May 04, 1973 - Led Zeppelin gross nearly $250,000 for their performance in Atlanta, GA
May 05, 1973 - 56,800 attend the second show of the 1973 US tour at Tampa. This sets a record for the largest attendance for a one-act performance, previously held by the Beatlesfor their Shea Stadium show in 1965
May 10, 1974 - Swan Song Records is officially launched
May 11, 1974 - Led Zeppelin attend an Elvis concert and are thrilled when Elvis announces that Led Zeppelin is in the building
May 10, 1975 - Showco ships their PA system and video screens for the Earls Court shows from Dallas to London
May 23, 1976 - Page and Plant join Bad Company onstage at the LA Forum
May 21, 1977 - The Houston Summit claims $500,000 in damages to their venue caused by rowdy fans
May xx, 1978 - The band reunite at Clearwater Castle to rehearse
May 22, 1979 - It is officially announce that Led Zeppelin will headline at the Knebworth Festival in August
May 15, 1980 - After many revisions the European tour dates are finalized and the band is scheduled to open in Germany
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