The Motivation Behind the Use of Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) in Music Production and an Analysis of its Sonic Signatures

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Dynamic range compression (DRC) is a much-used process in music production. Traditionally it was implemented to control the dynamic range of program material to minimize the risk of overloading recording devices. However, over time DRC started to be used as a creative effect in addition to its traditional role as a preventative measure. In a professional recording environment, it is common for engineers to have access to several different types of DRC unit, each with their own purportedly unique sonic signature.

This paper sets out to investigate the following:

Which are the most commonly used types of DRC in popular music production?

Which are the most common music sources to process using these DRC units?

How do music producers describe the sonic signature of DRC?

What are the most common reasons to apply DRC in productions? Is it for
dynamic range control or something else?

The research used a mixed methodology of grounded theory and content analysis to extract qualitative and quantitative data from a sample of
100 interviews spanning 14 years. The data came from a series of articles by mix engineers and producers in the magazine Sound on Sound. Content
analysis was used to extract data relating to the popularity of compressor types and specific DRC units. Grounded theory was utilized to generate an overarching theory that would help to explain the motivation behind the use of DRC and also to gain insight into how producers described the sonic signature of the DRC process.

This study is part of a larger research project that investigates non-linear processing in music production with a focus on DRC and the 1176 FET compressor.
Period2 Dec 2016
Event title11th Art of Record Production Conference: The Spaces Inbetween
Event typeConference
Conference number11
LocationAalborg, DenmarkShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational