If you asked a room full of audio engineer students what a compressor does, you’d probably get a wide range of responses. “It’s the thing that makes tracks louder!” one may claim. “It’s that plugin David Guetta uses to make his synths pump!” another might say. Is there a single answer? Technically speaking, compressors simply reduce the dynamic range of a signal. Depending on their settings and application, however, compressors can be incredibly useful in a variety of situations. For this tutorial, we’ll be using Ableton’s stock compressors, but any basic software compressor will do. Here are 5 common uses of compressors:
Multiband compressors and dynamic EQs are some of the most useful tools available to audio engineers. They allow for dynamic control of defined frequency ranges, providing some of the functionality and benefits of both EQs and compressors. Their ability to correct “problem” frequencies in a detailed and generally transparent way makes them extremely helpful for balancing a single sound or a full mix.
Useful comparison from iZotope to help us choose between these somewhat similarly behaving tools.
Many people don’t realize there are two types of expansion. Downward expansion is a popular choice for minimizing low-level noise like hiss and hum. It’s the opposite of a compressor: compression progressively reduces the output level above a certain threshold, while a downward expander progressively reduces the output level below a certain threshold. For example, with 2:1 compression, a 2 dB input level increase above the threshold yields a 1 dB increase at the output. With 1:2 expansion, a 1 dB input level decrease below the threshold yields 2 dB of attenuation at the output.
‘[Compression: When and How to Use It in Nectar, Neutron, and Ozone](https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/compression-how-to-use-it-in-nectar-neutron-and-ozone.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Compression_Nectar_Neutron_Ozone)’
In previous articles, we covered different types of hardware compressors and why their behavior matters in this hybrid/digital world. We also covered typical mistakes engineers make in using compression. This article expounds on compression in a specific way: we are diving into the various compressors available in the iZotope ecosystem and relating them to real-world applications.
by Nick Messitte, iZotope Contributor December 9, 2019
Compressors and limiters are used to reduce dynamic range — the span between the softest and loudest sounds. Using compression can make your tracks sound more polished by controlling maximum levels and maintaining higher average loudness. Here are some compression basics, different compression types, and some tips to try on your tracks.
Mason Hicks does an excellent job of describing compression, compressors, and why do it at all.
Note that the stock compressor in Logic Pro X can be used for each of the compressor types – tube, optical, FET, and VCA. The “Platinum” compressor in Logic is really none of the types listed, maybe more like a Distressor?
by Nick Messitte, iZotope Contributor September 18, 2019
In an earlier article called “Expanding on compression” I covered unusual forms of dynamic processing, including upwards compression. Neutron 3 offers the ability to implement upwards compression, so I thought it would be useful to cover it further.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had some experience with parallel compression, the process of blending a compressed track or submix with an uncompressed copy. Getting this balance right allows us to enhance the punch and power of a signal without altering the original transients or eating up lots of mix headroom.
Logic’s built-in Compressor plug-in includes a range of different circuit types. In this tutorial, we illuminate the original compressors they’re based on, and the best ways to use them.
Always good to visit the progenitors.
Here are three hypothetical audio issues. Because they only present themselves some of the time, regular compression or EQ often don’t fix them satisfactorily. Do you use a multi-band compressor or a dynamic EQ to fix them?
I have dynamic EQs and multi-band compressors. I should know the difference and when to use them.
Set internal (or external) triggers on drums
Mixing drums is one of the bigger challenges in a song because we expect them to be many things at once: loud, groovy, punchy, cohesive, clear, etc. Compression and transient shaping are a big help here, but dynamic EQ proves useful when carving a unique space for each drum hit. For example:
If the overhead mics picked up too much snare bite and this conflicts with the close-miked snare sound, use the main snare to trigger a momentary cut in level in the overheads whenever it’s played.
Is your snare struggling to shine because of masking with the hi-hats? Place one node on the snare harmonics and another on the lower end of the hi-hats, then set the sidechain to duck the hi-hats when the snare is present.
Unpitched percussion with considerable low end can conflict with the lower frequencies of a kick drum. To keep that pulse but prevent sloppy collisions from occurring, get your dynamic EQ sidechain to high-pass the bassy parts of the perc only when the kick comes down.
I need to check to see if each node in the Neutron 2 EQ can have a separate side chain. The side chain choices are internal – all the bands – and external (the one set in Logic as side chain). It looks like I can only side chain one external track.
I can do something like side chain the overheads from Logic and set the nodes in N2 to side chain from the different bands…that will have to do.
Also see “7 Tips for Mixing Drums”
A dynamic EQ is a powerful tool that combines the precision of an equalizer with the musical ballistics of a compressor.
I have dynamic EQs – a couple of different ones. I find that I don’t add compression to tracks in a lot of situations.
Some instruments, when compressed, lack “sparkle” if the stronger, lower frequencies compress high frequencies as well as lower ones. This is a common problem with guitar, but there’s a solution: the Compressor’s internal sidechain can apply compression to only the guitar’s lower frequencies, while leaving the higher frequencies uncompressed so they “ring out” above the compressed sound. (Multiband compression works for this too, but sidechaining can be a faster and easier way to accomplish the same results.)
This handy hint should work similarly in Logic Pro X. I will have to try.
We’ve stressed the importance of mixing vocals time and time again! Because lyrics are what average listeners immediately identify with, making a singer sound great should almost always be a priority. Amongst other tools, the perfect vocal compressor for the job can really elevate the overall sound of your mix!
Video is “Mixing Vocals to Sit Properly in the Mix”.
With high and low level compression controlled by a streamlined interface, the MV2 is the simplest, most flexible way to control your sound. With intuitive dual faders for quick dynamic optimization, it’s never been easier to maximize your volume
Equal time for Waves MV2. The catalyst to my “upward compression” search.