Burning Question: What are Audio Compressors and How do I Use Them?
Updated 19 April 2018: New article, new freebies. New items are marked as new and sale prices have been updated.
Audio Compression Basics
Dynamic audio compression, as it is often called, balances the magnitude between the loudest and softest parts of an audio recording in a designated range. Learn more at Sanford-Brown Blogs What is Audio Compression and Why is it so important?
Also, check out the article Multiband Compression: It Doesn’t Have To Be Confusing by Rob Mayzes at Musician on a Mission. New
Mike Russell explains the basics of audio compression, including how to set an audio compressor for maximum effectiveness. He’ll show you when to use a compressor vs when an audio limiter. He explains terminology like attack, release, and attack times, ratios, and multi-band compression. He uses Adobe Audition in this webinar.
Compression 101: How to Use a Compressor
The Pro Audio Files is a great website full of audio production resources. See also: 16 Free Resources for Learning to Use Compression
Mastering Your Compressor: Attack & Release Settings
SonicScoop.com is another great website for in depth audio information. Justin Colletti dives deep and tells you everything you need to know about attack and release. If you’re something that explains the terminology clearly, this video is easy to understand.
What Does Audio Compression Sound Like?
Dan Salvato gives a few examples of compression artifacts.
Compressor Ratio Explained For Beginners
The Recording Solution explains the compressor ratio knob.
Multiband Compression and how it works
Waves have an article on their website about Multiband Compression and talk a bit about the compression ratio.
Tony Maserati talks about using Multiband Compression on vocals. Tony has worked with Black Eyed Peas, Jason Mraz, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé. He’s mainly talking about the Waves C4 Multiband Compressor, but it also applies to the Waves C6 Multiband Compressor.
Compression for Voiceover
Mike from Booth Junkie gives some tips on the basic settings for compressors on voiceovers.
Pro Tools Tip – sidechain compressing music to make voice overs sound better
Pro Tools has great built-in compression tools and supports third-party tools as well. This tutorial is about the built-in sidechain compressor.
Third-Party Audio Compression Plug-ins
There’s a vast range of audio plug-ins available for a variety of uses. Here are a few at Toolfarm.
A high-quality compressor plug-in for the most demanding engineers. Whether you need subtle mastering compression, an upfront lead vocal, that magic drum glue or deep EDM pumping: Pro-C 2 gets the job done with style!
Eight different compression styles, of which five are new in version 2: Vocal, Mastering, Bus, Punch, and Pumping.
More from FabFilter
FabFilter Pro-MB – Multiband compression and expansion are powerful tools, but notoriously difficult to set up and control. Enter FabFilter Pro-MB: making multiband dynamics processing intuitive yet powerful at the same time. Handles any form of dynamics processing, from highly transparent compression, limiting and expansion to pumping upward compression and punchy gating.
FabFilter Pro-DS – Not a compressor but it can fix problems with compression. Even when using the best mics, pre-amps, and converters, sibilance in vocal recordings can easily get over-accentuated during post-processing like compression or saturation. But don’t worry, FabFilter Pro-DS comes to the rescue!
Powerful Multi-Stage Compression! The SPC2000 Serial/Parallel Compressor takes the power and flexibility of the now classic CompressorBank plug-in by McDSP and offers two, three, and four stage configurations with serial and parallel routing combinations, unlike any dynamic processor. Couple this routing capability with the ability to emulate any other compressor, and it’s clear the SPC2000 is a serious audio tool.
More from McDSP
McDSP Classic Pack Bundle – This bundle contains McDSP Analog Channel, CompressorBank, FilterBank, MC2000 Multi-band Compressor. There’s a McDSP Classic Pack HD Bundle and a Classic Pack Native Bundle too.
McDSP 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip – The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip has everything you need to make your mix sound great. All the modules from the award-winning 6020 Ultimate EQ and 6030 Ultimate Compressor plug-ins are included. Additional modules include gates, expanders, signal saturators, and specialized filters.
With both “feedback” and “feed forward” compression types, the API 2500 boasts a wide range of incredibly musical parameters which have made it a favorite of engineers the world over.
Learn more – Sale Price $29 (Regularly $299.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $29 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves sale items – Waves always has several items on sale so check out their goods here!
Other Compressors from Waves
Waves C6 Multiband Compressor – For years, the C4 has been a favorite of studio engineers the world over, and in live sound, it’s quickly become a must-have for front-of-house and monitor professionals as well. To create the C6, we took the tried-and-true functions of the C4, and added two additional floating bands plus a sidechain feature, for one-stop vocal and instrument shaping. Equally at home in the studio, live, and in post production, the C6 lets you zero in on problem frequencies with surgical precision.
Sale price: $69 (Regularly $299.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $29 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor – H-Comp combines the modeled behavior of transformers, tubes, and transistors, together with the power and precision that only a plugin can provide.
Sale price: $49 (Regularly $179.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $49 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves OneKnob Pumper – Designed for achieving an instant ducking effect, OneKnob Pumper simulates sidechain compression, saving you the need to route the kick track to the sidechain input of a compressor.
Sale Price $29 (Regularly $49.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $29 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves Power Pack – With everything from reverb, delay, and equalization to compression limiting, and level maximization, Power Pack is a perfect introduction to the Waves experience. Whether you are just getting started or you are expanding your production palette, NPP gives you the processing power you and your mixes just can’t do without.
Sale Price $79 (Regularly $199.00). Limited time offer.(Note: it may not be $79 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves H-Series Bundle – A Waves H-Series Bundle consisting of H-Delay, H-Reverb, H-Comp, and H-EQ!
Sale Price $79 (Regularly $599.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $79 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
Waves dbx 160 Compressor / Limiter – Considered one of the best drum compressors ever, the original dbx® 160 stands tall among its peers, boasting a very clean sound with minimum THD. The fast-acting dbx® 160 compressor was used in almost every major recording in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s, and later models in the 160 series also became industry standards.
ale Price $49 (Regularly $149.00). Limited time offer. (Note: it may not be $49 if you see this later, but it will most likely still be on sale!)
The evil analog level destroyers are here. Devil-Loc and Devil-Loc Deluxe are a SoundToys twist inspired by the classic Shure Level-Loc mic limiter. These plug-ins add huge sucking compression, grit, dirt, distortion, and take drums (but try it anywhere) to a wonderful hellish nightmare. It’s not for the faint of heart.
New Free Compression Cheat Sheet
Get Compression right every time with this crib sheet from Musician on a Mission.
New AdHd Leveling Tool
Windows VST 64/32 bit | Mac AU/VST 64/32 bit
AdHd Leveling Tool is a perfect compressor for vocals, moderating the peaks and giving character. It’s a “Tube Leveling Amplifier inspired by the legends” and was designed for all of your compression needs.
Posted by Michele Yamazaki