All compressors work in the same way, a threshold is set and as the input rises above that threshold, gain reduction is applied. We have control over how quickly this happens (and stops happening) via the attack and release controls, knee and ratio controls affect by how much the gain is reduced when it starts to exceed the threshold and we can even change the measurement of the threshold between peak or average level and put a limit on the maximum gain reduction but the threshold is always a fixed value around which the input level fluctuates.
The problem with this, is that compressors are often used to manipulate the level fluctuations within individual notes, drum hits or words in a vocal performance. This is very difficult to set up with a single threshold setting when the performance is dynamic and the level of words within different sections of a vocal performance might vary wildly. You can automate the threshold but isn’t there an easier way?
Adaptive Compression in POWAIR has been designed to address exactly this issue. In this example from Free of Your Love by Jess Hammond we have an uncompressed vocal which would be very difficult to compress using a single setting.
With the compressor set to respond properly to the loud section the quiet sections wouldn’t reach the threshold and wouldn’t get compressed at all. With the compressor set to respond to the quiet sections the compression would be way too much on the loud section. To hear this, listen to the next example with POWAIR set to compress the verse appropriately. POWAIR is designed to be very transparent and it’s hard to make it sound bad but this really could sound better when things get loud.
Compare this to POWAIR with the same setting but with adaptive compression set to 100%. What adaptive compression does is use the same loudness analysis found in the leveler section to intelligently tailor the compression to allow a consistent amount of compression between the loud and the soft sections.
For comparison here is the processed vocal in context with the track. Compare the difference with the first video.
If you haven’t tried POWAIR head over to Sound Radix’s site and get the demo. You might have favourite compressors but this does something they don’t.