Understanding how a compressor works and knowing when and how to apply one to a track, mix bus or master are all key to achieving great sounding results. Without compression we wouldn’t be able to squeeze the dynamic range of audio, which is one of the fundamental processes we use to sit tracks together in a mix or indeed deliver a master. Compression can be useful in many ways. Apart from the obvious application of general levelling, compressors can also be used for producing creative effects or used for more surgical dynamic processing by way of multi-band compression.
Compressor plug-ins come in all shapes and sizes. Many are clean sounding and work in the traditional way, others are emulations based on legendary analogue gear with a raft of cool AI style plug-ins that sit somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter what your go to compressor plug-in is, if you don’t know how to get the most from compression your productions will suffer.
In this roundup we have collated several compressor tips and tutorial videos produced by The Production Expert Team and by our partners. Many of these tutorials are either DAW or plug-in specific but don’t let that put you off. The vast majority of the tips featured in the content below can be easily applied to any compressor plug-in or application in any DAW. Take your compressor skills from zero to hero today:
In the Production Expert podcast James, Julian and Eli talk about New York style compression, what is it, how do you do it and why would you do it? They also discuss studio cleanliness and share their finds of the week.
We all compress bass, it’s almost a rule. However no rule applies 100% of the time and in this free extract from his Mixing Jazz tutorials Fab Dupont demonstrates how using a high pass filter and some gentle boosts he evens out the performance without use of a compressor. Find out more by watching the free video extract.
In this free video tutorial Eli groups the backup vocals to a stereo bus, but also sets up a parallel mono bus for them. Using a slow compressor on the stereo bus to get an excellent thick, lush sustain to them. On the mono bus a faster compressor is used to bring out the attack of the consonants at the beginning of each word.
In this premium video tutorial, Julian Rodgers examines the common practice of using two different compressors on a single source with each doing something different and considers how much of an effect the order of these compressors has on the effect.
In this free tutorial Production Expert team member Julian Rodgers explores Sonnox Oxford Dynamics’ Classic mode, which some people say makes it sound like a DBX 160. While that isn’t strictly true, this general purpose mode doesn’t sound a million miles away from that, the big difference is that it can sound like pretty much any other compressor too.
In this premium video tutorial, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers considers five different mechanisms employed by hardware compressors to achieve the results they do. Each method belongs to a different period of the history of the developments of audio technology and each sounds different. Hear the differences in sound in in how they work.
In this Free Expert Tutorial for Production Expert, Technical Editor James Ivey visits Dax Liniere at North London's Puzzle Factory Studio to talk about how you don't just have to use dynamics processors on channels. They can also be used on your effects returns to shape the tone or a delay or reverb. Dax has an example to hand to demonstrate the process.
In this Free Expert Tutorial for Production Expert, Technical Editor James Ivey visits Dax Liniere at North London's Puzzle Factory Studio to talk about compressors and how to get the best out of them. Dax also demonstrates a novel use of a compressor to reduce the volume of one element in a track without affecting the groove or feel of the track.
In this premium video tutorial, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers demonstrates how automation can take the strain off your vocal compression and how using volume automation affects compression differently than clip gain. Luckily you can change your mind about which you use without losing your automation.
Mastering a collection of songs can be challenging, especially if there are a variety of musical genres to balance together. In this premium video tutorial, we show how Dan approaches balancing together songs together in his typical mastering workflow. We address loudness, tone and overall album vibe using a combination of a control surface, outboard EQ and compression along with the power of plug-in processing in Pro Tools.
In a new format we are producing videos offering tips and solutions to common problems in under a minute. In this free video tutorial we show you how easy it is to set up side chain compression in Pro Tools.
In this free video tutorial, brought to you with the support of Waves, we show you how to shape the dynamics of your lead vocal tracks in seconds using dual compression in Waves MV2 Plug-in. In a previous video I showed you a way to mix your lead vocal tracks with two compressor plug-ins, Waves CLA-2A & CLA-76, in this video we show you an alternative way to dual compressor your vocals using this, waves MV2.
In this video we demonstrate this popular vocal mix trick on a lead vocal track in which some of the notes in the performers lower register sink beneath the density of the mix where their loud notes poke out too much. Learn how two compressors together can really help to “spread the loud”
The Acme Opticom XLA-3 is a vintage style optical compressor which combines just enough control to be more flexible than some better known optical compressors with bags of character and old school vibe. In this free video tutorial, brought to you with the support of Plugin Alliance, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers demonstrates the XLA-3 on some drums, electric piano and bass.
Do you know the difference between ducking and side chain compression? They are different. Do you understand negative compression ratios? If you don’t, why not find out? Watch this!
Rather than reaching for an EQ when trying to problem solve in a mix, try a multi-band compressor instead. It gives you all the frequency-carving tools you're used in an EQ plus the ability to add punch and definition to the envelope of your track.
In this premium video tutorial, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers demonstrates a technique for level matched comparison of alternative parallel processing chains while experimenting with the results which can be achieved by processing the kick and snare in a rock track using Julian's version of plug-in chains typically used by Andrew Scheps and Vance Powell.
In this premium video tutorial, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers demonstrates some of the issues around managing gain when using multiple parallel processing chains, how to manage them using master fades and a handy shortcut to use when working this way.
In this premium video tutorial, Pro Tools Expert team member Julian Rodgers investigates the difference between the five different detector modes in Pro Compressor by listening to the difference and also by running test tones to see the difference visually.
In this video, I want to share with you what I consider to be a much underused and under-hyped tool in Logic Pro X. It works great when put to work on a parallel drum bus. I’m talking about Logic’s Phat FX. Added relatively recently, it is a multi-purpose multi-effects processor. But just because it is a multi-effects processor, that doesn’t mean you have to use all the multiple effects available all the time.
We see lots of articles on compression techniques and feature lists for both hardware and software refer to a blend mode or a control to mix the compressed signal with the dry signal as parallel or “New York” compression. The idea of parallel compression is that a blend of the sustain of the compressed signal and the attack of the dry signal combine in manner to give a result that is the best attributes of both signals. Prior to boxes with a dedicated parallel function, the technique to do this was to “mult” (split) the signals, and then mix them back together again on separate console strips. It is widely accepted that this technique was first used in one or more reknown studios in New York. The problem is that it isn’t authentic New York compression, there’s a missing detail that makes all the difference.