The fairytale of the bad compression

  Ask the DudeFrequently, I read comments on YouTube that it actually is impossibly to assess a sound of a pedal in demo video because of the compression.
I am in fact unable to understand these comments but nevertheless or even because of this lack of understanding I would like to dedicate this small article to this issue. 

Recording without compression?

Ever since the professional recording of music began, compression was also used. The old tape machines of the 60s were the embodiment of compression. Every single note we listen to besides the rehearsal room or the bedroom at home, has been compressed somewhere in some way. I don’t know a recording program which does not automatically compress a sound. And even live on stage it seems likely that the sound has been compressed in a certain way as soon as a PA comes into play.

Doubtless, not every compression is good and there is a good reason for musicians using the expression “compression to fuck”. This means, every single track has been compressed x times and, in the end, the whole mix will be compressed once again. Self-evident that this in fact torments the sound.
But at the same time, compression is able to emphasize certain nuances of a sound. Like always: it is all about the right balance.


Regarding the discussion about the compression of music, you might have heard of the so-called MQA (Music Quality Authenticated). In contrast to the current way of compression, the new kind of compression which is used in this technique folds the frequencies instead of cutting them. However, to unpack the data files, which have been created by MQA, you will need a special decoder.

Terminal devices and the human ear

Even if we do not assume the decoder utopia of the MQA technique, the question arises how the sound of a YouTube video finds its way to the ear of the listener. Generally, you watch YouTube videos on a personal computer, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Depending on the equipment of the respective end device, the speakers can be a pretty sound-limiting factor. And even if you are using high-quality speakers, the sound card of the terminal device can do a lot of harm to the sound.

At the same time, the frequency range that can be perceived by a human ear depends on numerous factors. The age of the listener, the fact, how often and how intensive the listener has been exposed to strong noises and the way an ear is used to perceive certain sounds will effect on which frequencies will be apprehended.

This is why I think that you should recognize YouTube videos as what they are: Videos that, sometimes good and sometimes less ideal show how a device may sound in certain circumstances.
And if a video was able to offer an incentive to take a closer look at a pedal, it is the best part to try it for yourself.