Different Compressions and Uses


Dynamic range compression (DRC) is an effect commonly used in recording. It reduces the sound’s volume and increases quiet sounds with the use of plug-ins. What’s usually done is that the dynamic range of an audio signal is compressed or narrowed. This effect is so important that it’s hard to find an audio engineer that does not know his way around DRC.

If you are a beginner in the field, then there are several types of dynamic compression you can use to enhance your music mixes.


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Keep the Track’s Originality with Parallel Compression

Sometimes called the New York compression, parallel compression is used to keep the natural sound of the track but have the benefits of compressed signal. This technique refers to duplicating the signal, compressing it, and blending it together with the uncompressed signal.  This is best used with drums and other audio that contains severe transients.

To do this, set your delay from the DAW, route a signal towards an auxiliary track, use the compression, and blend compressed and uncompressed signals. Some of the compressors have mix knobs that you can use to blend the signals together. If you like, you can use plug-ins like the FabFilter’s Pro-C to achieve the same result as the parallel.

Adjust Dynamic Range with Multiband Compression

This compression allows you to adjust the dynamic range of your track’s multiple frequency individually. It also allows you to have a longer or shorter attack time of a band. Use this if you want to personally tailor the compression of different elements in your track.

Most multiband compressors consist 3 or 4 different bands. Set crossover frequencies through revealing what each band contains. Getting the right crossover frequencies can have a great influence on the compression. If you want to set the release and attack time, adjust the transients to a desirable shape. Recommended plug-ins for this includes Softube FET compressor.

Give Vocals a Kick with Sidechain Compression

Side chaining is using the output of  a track to have control over the compressor of a different track. You use this like a paintbush or sandpaper and make the vocal become more prominent in the mix. This was first started by Alesis, FMR, and dbx in 2000s.

To do this, use the signal from the vocal and use in to the guitars and drums. You can also try use a preset sample, like cymbals, cowbell, etc. Another techniques include dialogue ducking, vocal mixing, pumping the compression, and punching the pad. Nowadays, a great DAW allows you to add a sidechain to almost all compressors.


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Tame Transients with Lookahead Compression

A compressor that has a lookahead allows you to duck the sound faster than when the trigger peak appears. It analyzes the input signal and uses compression long before the signal is heard. This way, you can tame the transients effectively. Use this if you want to have prominent transients in your vocals and snare drum.

This is done when you delay the signal, which should be compressed, and sidechain the compressor using the same signal. You can also do it if you duplicate the signal, put it on another track, move the audio time backwards, compress the original signal, and use the duplicate as a sidechain. Lastly, you can use plug-ins like Waves C1 compressor with Sidechain.

Shape Tone with Brickwall Limiting

Brickwall limiters are the last level of control. You use it to ensure that there are no longer any clippings and overs. You can also use it to add extra punch to your track. Hence, you can only use brickwall limiter to your production’s master bus when you fully know how to mix.

To do brickwall limiting, load and play the untreated track. Insert the limiter to the signal route to have a gain in the circuit and reduce it to 3dB. Do not push everything too much as you would only create an unpleasant sound.

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