Over the past few nights I've been powering up the Mac Mini and letting the tunes flow as I enjoy my new found freedom as a bachelor, but something was off. I could crank the crap out of the volume and yet the sound seemed so flat and lifeless-- like all of the dynamics of the music had been squashed. And why was it that I had to set the volume as much as 12 dB higher than I used to to get to what sounded "loud"?
I checked the volume control within iTunes and that was fine, I went into iTunes preferences to see if I had sound leveling on, checked to see if the input level in the AVR was low, checked the Audyssey EQ settings, and everything seemed to be as it was supposed to be.
I was just about to do a CPU reset on the AVR, when I noticed a little light on the face of the unit that read "night".
Yup, a while back I had engaged the nighttime dynamic compression feature for my wife and totally forgot about. Dug through a few of the set-up menus in the AVR until I could find the night mode function. Turned it off and all is well in the world of audio again.
Looking back on the sound quality with the night mode engaged, it is surprising the effect that dynamic compression has on the sound. All of the musical information is there, but the bass has no impact, the highs sound muffled and lose all "sparkle", the mids have no bite, and the sound stage is two-dimensional.
Funny that even after 15 years in the hobby, that my system can be brought to its knees with just one small thing out of place. There are so many functions / variables in performing set-up of a modern sound system that it is no wonder that so many people struggle to get it all firing properly.
Anyway, just a funny little story that I felt like passing along.