Bob Katz Extras

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Bob Katz on…

“Decompressing” his listening psychology…

There’s another phenomenom going on…I’ve found myself mastering three loud CDs in a row, followed by a nice CD with dynamic range, even in the rock medium, and I’ve found myself pushing up the rock songs, because you get into a reflex action and you ask yourself, is it loud enough? Are they going to accept it? And I sent in this dynamic rock type of CD to the client, and he said “Bob, you made the soft song too loud,” and here I am, one of the experts on trying to adjust levels, after working three days with hypercompressed material, to help pay the bills, to tell you the truth, I found that I had to decompress my own psychology, my own listening! I fell into this thing…

If I, one of the people who have long stressed dynamic range, can fall into a trap where I have to personally decompress, I think, how can any mastering engineer who isn’t even as self-aware as I am not fall into the trap? It’s a lot easier to compress too much and just let the levels from one song to the next just sort of fall into one another than it is to let the song breathe and adjust the volume controls manually. We’re falling into a whole new generation who thinks that having bus compression on the mix bus should be the norm, rather than the exception, and that a compressor should be patched before you even begin your mix, as opposed to using the compressors after you’ve gotten your basic balance. So fewer and fewer engineers are being trained the way we used to work, number one, and number two, they’re listening to so much current hypercompressed and/or overcompressed recordings to begin with that they end up emulating it.

Does Loud Equal Lucrative?
There are many A&R people believe that to be the case, some believe better on radio, which is a myth incorrect, but some of them are concerned about CD changers, jukeboxes, playback in bars, also feel that PD at radio decisions who make decisions about playing music, will pop in a CD for five seconds, then pop the next CD in, and if it’s too low it won’t attract their attention; these are all potentially legitimate arguments, except radio. The only way we could solve that would be to make a special issue of the record meant for playback at low to medium levels in bars and clubs and so on.

A few dynamic discs?
Afrocuban All-stars, Step Forward. It’s moredately compressed—louder than I would have liked to make it—but still has danceability and dimension to it. Six Degrees, anything on that label.

There is a recording that Bob Ludwig mastered, it’s the SACD/CD hybrid of the Rolling Rtones re-issues; Hot Rocks: 1964-1971. Bob Ludwig established a level there, so that in the rock field, if a client comes to me I can say, why should your record be hotter than the Rolling Stones? They love it and they say, why can’t my record be as good as this? And I say, it can, if I make it 6 dB lower than I’m making it now.