TikTok audio music production compression explained

TikTok’s audio compression compresses the details of the audio added via the TikTok app, below is a hack to avoid this happening.

When TikTok first started becoming popular following its introduction in September 2016, users seemed happy to use the stock audio provided in the social media network’s library.

However, in recent years, with the rise of TikTok-specific content creators, this has slowly changed. This is because we see more content creators incorporating their own audio clips into their videos.

As a result of this, users also learnt how to compress audio, which eliminates the dynamics of the song. While there is a hack to solve this, it does not completely eliminate this effect.

What is compression in audio?

Compression is a term popularly used by musicians without further explanation about the meaning of the word. The term differs from other music related terms like “revered” and “delay,” in that they are self-explanatory when you are listening to music.

Compression is more difficult to understand as it refers to a detail in music creation that is less audible to a non-discerning ear.

Compression is the process in music production when louder details of a song are made quieter and quieter elements are made louder in an attempt to normalise the amplitude range of the song.

TikTok audio music production compression explained

When using TikTok on a desktop or PC, the audio gets capped at -1dB. The implications are that the audio of the uploaded video will not change much from that of the actual video before it was uploaded.

However, not many TikTok content creators use their desktops or PCs to post their content. The concern is that when uploading a post on TikTok using your phone, the original video’s audio and that of the one shared on TikTok sound different.

This is because the app does not have loudness normalisation settings or equalising settings that users can manipulate to achieve their desired audio quality.

Instead, the app uses in-built volume compression and limits the sound through volume peak normalisation, which ensures that all audio sounds the same on the app.

The in-built normalisation settings for songs with ranging dynamics compresses the sound so much that these dynamic details are not heard at all.

Moreover, research shows that TikTok audio settings compress the song more as it continues to play, which results in over-compression of the song. Currently, there is one hack used to avoid over-compression of audio.

Hack to avoid TikTok’s overcompression of audio

Currently, one of the hacks to try and avoid having your audio overly compressed on TikTok is to manipulate the audio before uploading the video.

This is currently the most effective way to avoid the compression and eliminate details from the sound – mirroring what the compression on the social media platform would sound like.

The idea is that if your sound is already compressed and limited to TikTok’s audio settings, the in-built settings will not work, since you have uploaded a video that sounds perfect.

Steps to follow to avoid TikTok’s overcompression of audio

Below are the steps to follow if you are trying to avoid having your audio overly compressed on TikTok:

– Mix your video as you normally would.

– Ensure that it sounds good on your smartphone.

– Upload the video on your preferred audio-mixing platform or edition software.

– Add a limiter to your end bus before all the reference plugins.

– Lower the output level of the limiter and increase the volume until you find the TikTok compression settings and turn it up until it sounds perfect.

– Add a Master EQ to combat TikTok overly compressing the sound.

– When you are satisfied with the sound, remove or mute the plugins for TikTok mix reference and export the audio.

For a tutorial on how to do this, here is a video.

A word of caution

It is important to understand that the provided hack does not eliminate the compression of your audio by TikTok. It merely shows users how to try and avoid having audio that is so compressed that it eliminates the dynamics of the sound altogether.

The hack ensures that your dynamics are within TikTok’s parameters which, in turn, ensures that the audio is not overly compressed by the app, so that your desired audio details are still audible or pronounced.