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Improving Your Home Studio Recordings
by The Prophet X

Are you getting the best possible quality out of your home studio gear?

I learned something new recently that has made a MAJOR difference in my recording quality and since we are all in the same boat working to raise the level of our home studio productions, I felt it was my duty to share it with you.

I recently learned about Data Compression. Yea, you’re thinking... 'what’s Data Compression got to do with it?... got to do with it? (sang to the tune of an ol' Tina Turner song!)

Well, without going too deep into the explanation (if that’s even possible) let’s just say data compression is what makes a 50 megabyte .wav file (really big and sounds great) into a 5 megabyte .mp3 file (really small and sounds OK). And now for the scary part.... your recording software could be doing it as your recording into it and you wouldn't even know.... except for that slightly grainy, cold digital sound that pro engineers are always complaining about. By the way, the reason why old school engineers are always raving about analog recording is for this very reason... Analog gear records on tape not software and cannot compress data in any way, shape, or form. On Analog recorders what you record is what you get.

But, with digital or as we refer to it, "recording software" there is a whole lotta’ data compression going on behind the scenes... and what you put into it may not be exactly what you get out of it.

For the last, I don’t know how long, I have been using a recording software program called Logic. I started using it way back when they first came out with Logic Discovery (that's a long time) which was a simple 8 or 16 track version of the software, very scaled down compared to the Logic Platinum version which I have easily run up to 48 tracks of audio on.

See, as I was doing some very critical mixing on my own album, I noticed that the sound quality of the original "sound" was really drastically different when played back out of Logic then when played off of my keyboard or out of Reason. Logic seemed to be muffling or deadening the sound in some way. There was less bass frequency and less treble also...

About 3 days and countless website pages later... I learned about data compression.

So here it is.... my software program and a lot of the other very popular and successful recording software programs use a form of data compression that lowers the quality of the sound that is being recorded into and played back out of it to make smaller data files. This is most often found in software that boasts the ability to record above 24 tracks of stereo audio. Like some software which says it's able to record up to 144 stereo tracks... or an unlimited number or tracks... yeah, it does a lot of tracks... but at the significant loss of audio quality!

Here is a simple test you can do. Take a sound like a String or Kick Drum or Piano and play it in the program that created it like a Korg Triton or other keyboard or like Reason, which doesn't use data compression since it does not record files directly into it, and play it back at a set volume level. Then take the same file and record it into your software and play it back inside of your Recording Software at the same level.

Notice any difference? Is the volume of the original sound slightly lower now? Does it sound slightly more muffled then the original one? Well chances are your software is using Data Compression! Look into it, test it out, and don’t just take my word for it. You might not even be able to hear the difference but other people will when they compare your recording sound quality to the commercial CD releases of their favorite artists!

I had to search many pages on Logic’s Official website before I found the page where it "admitted" that Logic uses data compression. Since then I have switched to a WHOLE NEW software application which is as close to Analog recording as you can possibly get. Its Called SawStudio. This new program uses “Linear Non Compressed Audio” and is really capable of running 144 stereo tracks and edits video also. It even comes with some amazing plug-ins and mastering tools.

Unfortunately it also comes with the highest price tag of any Recording Software Program, next to Protools HD Systems, but once again you get out of it what you put into it. Check it out for yourself at

So, look into your software and read up on the 'specs' and see if it uses data compression. (If you’re already using ProTools your safe!) This little thing could be the difference between your album sounding like a MILLION DOLLAR production and a bunch of cool mp3s on a Cd.

Published: Sep 17,2008 18:48
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