Can we increase dynamics?


It might be a silly question, but since recordings have compressed dynamics (to work on average systems) is there anything to expand dynamics back to normal (or at least close) - either in form of hardware "expander box" or software I could batch convert my files with?
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Look for a dbx Dynamic Range Expander
Thanks Brf, I'm reading about them. I wonder if there is software for that. It would be cheaper without expense of second interconnect. Even if 16 bit doesn't have enough range I would purchase some music in 24 bit.
I think companies like Behringer make a expander to use in the digital domain.
I Googled Behringer and yes, in the 'compressor' lists most of the compressors-limiters can also expand dynamics.
I am certain there are otthers..
Look at pro equipment companies lineups.
Be careful of your settings If you end up with a DBX Dynamic Range Expander. I had one years ago and it took out a woofer on a pair of JBL's I had.
Hi Kijanki,

Sony Sound Forge Pro 10, which is a high quality professionally oriented audio editing program, includes a "graphic dynamics" effect, which allows the user to arbitrarily define a curve of output level vs. input level (the curve actually being a set of straight lines between as many break points as the user wants to define). Attack and release times and other parameters are also user definable.

It is a Windows-based program costing around $375. There is also a Mac version that is available, as well as a consumer oriented version at a far lower price, but my suspicion is that only the Windows version includes that particular function.

In principle, I'm sure that function would provide what you are looking for, aside from the fact that it won't do a batch convert of multiple files. However, I would expect that determining a curve and other settings that would give good results would involve a lot of trial and error, and I would imagine that different curves and settings would often be required for different recordings.

You can download a trial version of the program. If you choose to do that, before doing any editing of an audio file that is of any importance to you BE SURE to first use the program's "File/Save As" function to save the file under a different name. Otherwise you would risk making changes to the original file that you don't want and that can't be undone.

I have extensive experience with slightly earlier versions of that program, and I've always been extremely pleased with it, but I haven't had occasion to use the "graphic dynamics" function.

Best regards,
-- Al
Al, thank you. I will check version for the Mac. I could always install dual boot. I'm a little worrying about dynamic range limitation of CDs (96dB) unless filtering (that increases resolution) is involved. I will investigate hardware digital domain Berringer that Elizabeth mentioned (thank you), but Sound Forge is a program I can have fun with.
Markpao, thank you for the warning. I will be very careful especially because Hyperion Sound, manufacturer of my speakers, pretty much bankrupted - no replacement drivers.
There are a number of plug-ins for Audacity. Haven't used them myself. From what I've understood so far, there are two basic types, peak and full spectrum. The latter makes louder louder and quieter quieter but is also associated with what's called "breathing". Compression algorithms have gotten complex over the last couple decades. Restoring to origional is overly optimistic.

http://forum.audacityteam.org/index.php
What type of files are you trying to improve the dynamics of? If you are dealing with "lossy" files such as MP3 what you may want to do is some form of "compressed music enhancer" to help replace the music info that was thrown out during encoding, not just increase the dynamics (although I will admit that most new pop recordings have next to no dynamic range).... BTW you do not need to worry about a CD's 96 db dynamic range because in real life a listening environment has around 70 db between the noise "floor" of your room and max volume level that most audio systems can produce.
What type of files are you trying to improve the dynamics of? If you are dealing with "lossy" files such as MP3 what you may want to do is some form of "compressed music enhancer" to help replace the music info that was thrown out during encoding, not just increase the dynamics (although I will admit that most new pop recordings have next to no dynamic range).... BTW you do not need to worry about a CD's 96 db dynamic range because in real life a listening environment has around 70 db between the noise "floor" of your room and max volume level that most audio systems can produce.
Ngjockey, Looks like it might be more complicated than I anticipated. Perhaps it is not worth to invest a lot of money in hardware but rather play with programs (keeping original file intact, as Al suggested).
It's very possible that the reason the JBL speaker blew out was due to lack of amplifier power which caused severe clipping distortion causing the woofer to distort.

In other words, the more dynamic range you have the more amplifier power you need... every time you increase volume just 3dB your amp has to double the power delivery to play without distortion or clipping. If it can't then you'll be blowing your speakers.

And as the dynamic range increases the average level decreases... so in order to maintain the same average level the volume will need to be raised... again necessitating more power.

I bet you thought this was going to be easy! Good Luck.
Plato, I don't listen very loud but it is important observation. I will be careful with expanded files. I will likely only experiment but can see some other applications for "Sound Forge", like removing noise from few old recordings. I learned something new today.
There are any number of hardware or software expanders available. The software ones are typically far more flexible. However, an expander can never truly undue the compression/limiting applied to modern recordings. You will be able to gain a few dBs in dynamic range, but it's unlikely that it will sound any more natural than before processing.
Onhwy61, Ngjockey also mentioned that compression is pretty complex. It explains why expanders are not that popular. TV concerts are the worst - so overcompressed that it becomes a joke. Perhaps it is intended for TV set with the smallest speaker. Even less than perfect decompression would be good but it would have to be SPidif-in SPdif-out (I use Toslink to DAC).
Although this is not exactly a solution to the intentionally compressed dynamics problem, the space age/ new age products from Machina Dynamica do create a subjectively greater dynamic range (among multiple audible improvements) in good recordings without seeming to tax the capabilities of an amplifier.
I simply mention that this alternative audio medicine is available with results clearly audible to anyone who has implemented these inscrutable tweaks.
I am not affiliated with Machina Dynamica, but always try to promote interest in products I have used which enhance musical enjoyment. In this case the enjoyment is easy even though any "explanation" is not.
I've tried to use the dynamic expander in my Behringer, but have only met with very marginal success at best. Although it is in the digital domain and essentially a full-range expander (unlike the DBX which I owned back in the day and which has to split the frequency band up into the 3 hi,lo and mid adjustment bands), the problem I had with it (and with all such expanders) is that they only work not by increasing the level of the peaks, but instead by lowering the quiet parts of the music. So OK, you just turn up the volume once that adjustment has been made and you're in, right?? Well, not exactly...or even though that seems like a good idea on paper, in practice it turns out to be rather problematic and possibly for a number of reasons...but, the main one being that when you artificially reduce the quieter portions of the music (and it's the music I'm talking about here, not the signal, per se, but the sound) the experience can rather quickly become one of the sensation of 'throwing a portion of the sound away'...that is, if it is done at all too much, little or no amount of increasing the volume afterward seems to enable the effective recovery of those quieter parts to the whole picture...what I mean is, even beyond properly dialing in all the proper parameters, there's still only just so much impact a dynamic expander can have on CD or better, or vinyl, or even analog tape (although the latter seems to benefit the most...but then, even there, we're talking mainly about reducing tape hiss to just below audibility). I think it may not be appreciated in general (except by their owners) just how narrow the range of benefit to dynamic range such expanders actually are. To those outside of ownership looking in, it may seem as though there is a rational enough promise to them and that one could reasonably expect to begin to solve whatever sonic problems with them. But, the advantage I think is relatively small, in fact, all but inaudible, even regardless of their cost altogether, actually. I agree with what I think Almarg is likely referring to: that some recordings suffering from narrower dynamics to begin with may benefit a little more so and that most, if not all, of what we would consider as more nominally good or excellent recordings end up benefiting something less. And yes, in effect, there may be different ideal settings for different recordings.

FWIW, when I started building my current system almost 25 years ago (my, how time flies when you're broke...), I considered dynamics near the top of the list...still do. But, I ended up finding much more success with all the other factors influencing dynamic range in system building in everything from amp choices, to cabling, to power conditioning (big gains there) and down even to things like removing the brass binding posts on my speakers and hardwiring to the crossover boards. Taken altogether, I've since seen far and away much bigger strides in dynamics than I ever could have hoped for with an expander of any kind I'm aware of alone, all of which has been very satisfactory. Unless there's some magic bullet out there I've never heard of, I would think you could generally afford to let go of the idea of dynamic expanders when it comes to your overall pursuit of dynamic range. Other options may hold better rewards, IMHO. Regards. John
Jjrenman, Just 16/44.1 CD files.
John, I found so far that compression is far more complicated than just squeezed dynamics while your experience proves it to be difficult to properly set. I think I might play with software but will definitely avoid investing in hardware.

Thanks to everybody for posting.