Thursday, 23 February 2012


Hi again, After today's blog I’ll be putting up a Q&A blog about compression. So if you have any questions regarding compression contact me on @krecording on Twitter or Krecording on Facebook.

Also as you may or may not know I will be teaching a weekend course in The Sound Training Centre, Temple Bar, on March 3rd and 4th. If you want to learn more about what we’ve discussed and how to record individual instruments then call Maggie on 01-6709033.

The course fee is refundable should you decide to do any of their diploma courses!


So compression is seen as a bit of a dark art. It’s nothing to be afraid of but it does take a bit of getting used to.

What a compressor does is squash the loud parts of the sound to give you a consistent volume level. For example if I was to whisper into a microphone that was running through a compressor and then shout loudly the overall volume of my voice shouldn’t get much louder. If it’s set right of course.

In its most basic form a compressor is like having someone control the levels for you. But of course it’s way too hairy to just leave it at that.

There are 5 main elements to a compressor.

Typical software compressor (Pro Tools)
Threshold: That’s the level that compression starts at.

Ratio: The amount of compression

Attack: How quickly compression starts

Release: How quickly compression stops.

Makeup Gain: Overall volume.

As a mixer I would use compression on 90% of tracks if not more. It’s a great way of getting levels to remain consistent and to beef up a track.

As an experiment, set up a microphone in the room that a drum kit is in and put a compressor on it. Set the threshold low and the ratio high. Set the attack reasonably fast and the release really fast. All of a sudden the drum kit sounds really beefy and dirty. You’ll probably get tons of cymbal wash too.
Waves CLA series compressor

When you do set up a compressor, don’t be afraid to be brutal with it. If you can’t hear what’s going on then crank it. You’ll soon start realising how the compression is working and therefore you’ll back it off to make it give a more subtle effect.

That's it for compression. Remember to ask me questions and I'll answer as many as i can.
Andy Knightley

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