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Old 23rd May 2006
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pkautzsch's Avatar

compression of classical music

Of course one doesn't normally use a typical compressor for classical music. The main reason for this is IMHO the fact that classical music has a lot of variation and thus fixed settings can't be applied. This doesn't necessarily mean the full dynamic range of an orchestra is maintained on the CD. It can't, due to 96 dB (w/ dither it's actually only 90 dB!) CD dynamic range vs. about 120 dB orchestra dynamic range, plus some neighbours of the average listener. One has to get down to something like a 70 or 80 dB range. This is usually done by fader rides, so the engineer does the level adjustment by hand or by automation. This allows more subtle reactions to the music. Fixed attack and release times aren't good since this is what changes the sound most. Tape compression is, applied in a decent manner, better. I sometimes use Nuendo's "Magneto" plug-in in the 2-bus, since this gives a very tape-like dynamics reduction without that tape hiss.
As to other plug-ins: of course we use EQ if applicable (though not to change the sound as much as is done in pop - most of the time it's subtractive EQ only), and of course we sometimes add artificial reverb (even Freeverb sometimes!). If you don't hear it when it's there but hear when it's not there, then it's good. Old rule. It's not about reality, which just isn't there when listening to symphonies in your living room, but about plausibility and illusion.