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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


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September 07, 1968 - The band fulfills some old Yardbirds dates in Scandanavia
September xx, 1969 - Jimmy Page is reported saying the second album will be harder than the first
September 19, 1970 - Led Zeppelin gross over $100,000 for two performances at Madison Square Gardens on the same day
September xx, 1971 - Jimmy Page is furious over a live Yardbirds release. It was forced off the shelves
September xx, 1971 - The band vacations in Hawaii
September xx, 1972 - Discussions to play various countries ends with a decision to play Japan again
September xx, 1973 - Jimmy Page considers a live release of material before releasing a new album
September 14, 1974 - Led Zeppelin and CSN&Y jam at an after party
September xx, 1975 - Jimmy meets up with Robert in Malibu, where he is staying on a tax exile
September 12, 1976 - Page and Bonham return to Switzerland and record a drum piece title Bonzo’s Montreux
September 08, 1977 - Page takes to the stage with other well knowns at a WEA records sales conference
September 15, 1978 - Zep road manager Richard Cole and Bad Company’s Simon Kirke get married in a double ceremony
September 17, 1979 - Promoter Fred Bannister forced into liquidation over Knebworth Sales with Led Zeppelin
September 18, 1980 - Jimmy reviews a new stage set up and technical details for the Eighties Part One tour at Swan Song offices
September 25, 1980 - John Bonham is found dead in Jimmy Page’s Windsor mansion by sound technician Benji Le Fevre
September 12, 2007 - It was announced at a press conference by Harvey Goldsmith that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin would reunite with Jason Bonham on drums.
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