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What are Audio Compressors and How do I Use Them?

What are Audio Compressors and How do I Use Them?

Updated 5 July 2023: Updates

What is Audio Compression?

Audio compression is a process used in music production to reduce the dynamic range of a piece of audio by detecting when it exceeds a specified level and then attenuating it by a specified amount. It is a fundamental task in the audio process that provides balance among the entire mix.

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.

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, 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 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 voiceovers 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.

FabFilter Pro-C 2FabFilter Pro-C 2

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.

Learn more

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!

McDSP SPC2000 Serial/Parallel CompressorMcDSP SPC2000 Serial/Parallel Compressor

Powerful Multi-Stage Compression! The SPC2000 Serial/Parallel Compressor takes the power and flexibility of the now classic CompressorBank plug-in by McDSP. It 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.

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.

SoundToys Devil-Loc DeluxeSoundToys Devil-Loc Deluxe

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 vocal compressor, 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.

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Posted by Michele

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