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Old 05-11-2010, 07:02 AM   #1
caesura
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Default Compression??? I just don't hear it!!

Hi Folks,

Everytime i read something to do with essential basics of recording, compression comes up as being pretty big on the list of 'to dos' and i think i get the general gist of compression (ie make the loud parts quieter and thereby allowing the quiet parts to sound louder so that the whole track can have a fuller louder sound) but the problem i have is twofold.

1. Application of compression where and when (on every track individualy as standard practice? on selective tracks? or just on the finished rendered wav? or all of the above?)

2. I just don't hear it...every youtube tutorial i listen to i can never really hear the difference when compression is added and doodliing around with the compressor in reaper i don't notice anything (unless i do something really extreme with levels etc)

What i've often done with my tracks is i suppose a kind of manual compression which is using automation (i think) to go through the whole track and squeeze everything that peaks down to -6db or slightly below - and i can hear a clear audible difference for the better - but i do want to get a handle on compression since it seems to be so important.

Also does anyone know of a decent free compression VST that i could play around with a little (i downloaded the Spit/Block/Floorfish trio but again outside of going to extremes didn't notice much)

Help!!! Even if you can direct me to a decent resource to help clear this up it'd be great!

Thanks
C;-)
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Old 05-11-2010, 07:15 AM   #2
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Wow, that's a tall order. Really really listen to the vocals on a rock album, people don't sing that amazingly consistent volume wise. Listen to the vocal "Crazy on You" by Heart. It goes quite smoothly from whisper to pretty loud screams with very little volume change. A good compressor can keep the volume more consistent but doesn't rob the vocal of the intensity. There is no quick answer to being able to hear it, it takes experience hearing it over and over and over until you get it. Understanding attack and release on compression took me years and I'm still getting better at hearing the changes on their settings on different instruments.

The thing to do is try and get an LA2A type compressor that doesn't use attack and release and start using it on a vocal solo'd and really try and hear what it is doing as you turn up the compression. The bitch is that compression does different things on all instruments and you have to listen to different things to tell if you are helping the track or effing it up.

Another resource is http://www.uaudio.com/media/videos.html. Universal Audio makes some of the best compressors in vst form and have videos using all of them and maybe you can start hearing it better. The only way to get it is to keep listening over and over and one day it's going to click...there are no fast answers.
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Old 05-11-2010, 07:30 AM   #3
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Now days ReaComp is the compressor that I use most often on individual tracks, but here is a suggestion. Head over here http://www.jeroenbreebaart.com/ and grab the free plug in bundle. There is some really good stuff in there, but focus on the compressor PC-2. The reason I suggest this is at least for me the controls are very simple an it has an excellent visual representation of how the compressor is working. This really helped me 'get it' as far as compression goes. Hope it helps you too.
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Old 05-11-2010, 08:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
i downloaded the Spit/Block/Floorfish trio but again outside of going to extremes didn't notice much
Those are great tools, but for starters you better grab Endorphin from his website

Throw it on the masterbus and you can dial in some nice driving punch without really upping the volume

Works great on individual tracks (drums, vocals, etc.) as well.
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:48 AM   #5
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I read a book on mixing audio called.... mixing audio concepts practices and tools by roey izhaki. this book i found explain really well how the effects worked, what exactly the compressor is doing and what the attack and release controls and stuff like that are doing. after that you can get more of an idea s to what you should expect in hearing these controls affect your audio. sure making everything a level sound is a use for compressors but also you can use them for other stuff like adding punch and stuff like that, sidechaining which they use alot in house on their big kicks and it gives a real pumping feel accentuating the kicks courtesy of a quick release. i know at least some guys like to even put multiple compressors in a row which all have different characteristics and they put them on different settings, i'm not quite there yet though myself. but different compressors behave in different ways, and some have 'character' in their sound as well, such as you might expect in a tube amp or something, which kind of adds warmth and i guess grit or like analog sounding, basically imperfections, kind of like you'd get from hearing the pops and clicks from your vinyl record, old school effect, but less obvious than the vinyl sound. idk it's hard to explain sound with words, but you'll see some compressors really sound different than others.

you oculd also try to put the same audio on the same two tracks one compressed and the other not, make sure they are at the same hearing volume and then compare them.

i have come to find that often even subtle differences in mixing audio are quite key, and overdoing stuff is real easy.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
1. Application of compression where and when (on every track individualy as standard practice?
[...]
That's an awesome idea if you want to get that FM radio sound without the radio.

1.) A compressor compresses the dynamic range of a signal, so you use it when there is too much of that stuff. Acoustic instruments generally have a lot of dynamic range for example and may not fit in the mix because soft portions drop below the other instruments easily while loud notes cover them. That would be on a track. Other uses are matching the dynamic range of a mix to that of the target medium (none of your business usually)... that's all the "technical" side of compression, where "hearing the compression" would be more of a failure.

2.) A compressor can change the "character" of the signal/performance/sound when used with heavier settings, that's the "sound design" side of compression. Go nuts on anything that makes a sound. Classic examples are all those "bigger than life" rock drum sounds or sparkling country guitar licks...

Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
2. I just don't hear it...every youtube tutorial i listen to i can never really hear the difference when compression is added and doodliing around with the compressor in reaper i don't notice anything (unless i do something really extreme with levels etc)
Like everyone said, when it's not used for shaping sounds extremely, the audible effect is at most subtle and even harder to detect if you don't know how a compressor works and what to listen to. Sorry, I have to ask...did the tutorials explain the technical background and did you understand it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
What i've often done with my tracks is i suppose a kind of manual compression which is using automation (i think) to go through the whole track and squeeze everything that peaks down to -6db or slightly below - and i can hear a clear audible difference for the better - but i do want to get a handle on compression since it seems to be so important.
That's a great way to control levels (when done right) and the one with the least distortion. Combining automation (for the coarse stuff) and compression is great, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
Also does anyone know of a decent free compression VST that i could play around with a little (i downloaded the Spit/Block/Floorfish trio but again outside of going to extremes didn't notice much)

Help!!! Even if you can direct me to a decent resource to help clear this up it'd be great!
ReaComp is already there and has all you could wish from a compressor. It has a lot of additional controls compared to standard compressors but that doesn't mean you have to touch them before you have learned what they do.

'Audio compression tutorial' brings some stuff up on Google,
https://www.youtube.com/v/aXoMPEKcBn4 <= I'd say that's medium extreme/obvious, especially at the end, can you hear that?

http://www.barryrudolph.com/mix/comp.html is the next decent looking overview. The Wikipedia article is not that bad either. That and the proper material to try what the knobs do (they are hard to notice on slow attack string pad sounds for example) should sort that out.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
Hi Folks,

Everytime i read something to do with essential basics of recording, compression comes up as being pretty big on the list of 'to dos' and i think i get the general gist of compression (ie make the loud parts quieter and thereby allowing the quiet parts to sound louder so that the whole track can have a fuller louder sound) but the problem i have is twofold.

1. Application of compression where and when (on every track individualy as standard practice? on selective tracks? or just on the finished rendered wav? or all of the above?)

2. I just don't hear it...every youtube tutorial i listen to i can never really hear the difference when compression is added and doodliing around with the compressor in reaper i don't notice anything (unless i do something really extreme with levels etc)

What i've often done with my tracks is i suppose a kind of manual compression which is using automation (i think) to go through the whole track and squeeze everything that peaks down to -6db or slightly below - and i can hear a clear audible difference for the better - but i do want to get a handle on compression since it seems to be so important.

Also does anyone know of a decent free compression VST that i could play around with a little (i downloaded the Spit/Block/Floorfish trio but again outside of going to extremes didn't notice much)

Help!!! Even if you can direct me to a decent resource to help clear this up it'd be great!

Thanks
C;-)
what kind of music do you produce anyhow ?
youtube quality is shit, as the complete audio there is compressed

Some good compressors to play around with without having to spend money on them directly :

Jeroen Breebaart's Red Phatt Pro Demo Version : http://www.jeroenbreebaart.com/
Stillwell's The Rocket and of course Stillwell's Bombardier.
http://www.stillwellaudio.com/

ReaComp btw is also a very fine compressor !

I make mostly electronic music. Personally I compress the bassdrum and the snaredrum separately and I also compress every bus. (Drumbus, Bassbus, Keyboardbus, Guitarbus, Vocalbus)
I only use parallel compression ever,though.
I also use sidechain compression on the bass sometimes.

I also compress the master output (again only parallel compression), sometimes even several compressors in a row.

It may seem drastical to use that much compression, yet I only use it parallel, therefore it is not as extreme as one might think.

I never use multiband compression, I EQ a lot and feel I don't need it therefore.

There are many tutorials in the net, I love Kimlajoei's Blog a lot :
http://kimlajoie.wordpress.com/?s=compression&x=0&y=0

Add for example Red Phatt Pro Demo to your snaredrum with one of the drumpresets of that plugin... you will hear it ! It changes the character of the sound. If you think the effect is too much, mix it in only a little, reaper lets you do that with the mix knob if the compressor doesn't have that setting built in. ReaComp even has separate wet/dry faders, yummy. (That is called parallel compression btw, I think it is also called New York compression, dunno why exactly.
A subtle compression on every track or bus in the end gives the best results I believe, yet it surely depends on the kind of music one does.

I feel that EQs and Compressors are my most used Effects.

Yet hold in mind that I am by no means an expert, just a hobby musician. I might do it all wrong after all
If I posted something wrong, please feel free to correct me, I wouldn't want to tell somebody something that is not correct.

HTH

Last edited by ugh; 05-11-2010 at 03:18 PM.
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Old 05-11-2010, 03:00 PM   #8
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Its called New York Compression because a trademark of the East Coast drum sound (or whatever sound) was achieved by mixing a signal that wasn't smashed by a compressor with a signal that was. When the two are blended, the effect is that you are bringing the low points of the signal up and not squashing the peaks. People like it because it makes a denser sound without damaging the cut of an instruments attack.

Similarly, the West Coast had a system of recording an instrument, forgetting what they were doing, and taking In & Out burgers to the beach instead. Both techniques have a strong following.






I have no idea what the West Coast did, but I'm sure that's the one on Van Halen Records.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:22 PM   #9
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There's certainly a great deal of confusion surrounding compression. I know because I'm usually one of the confused.

I think Steindork's post clarified one of the main reasons for this confusion: At a really basic level, you could think of a standard compressor as being two totally different FX units in the same box, (1) it can smooth out the volume of a track, or (2) it can alter the character or tone of individual notes.

From the learner's point of view, it's unfortunate that both these functions have the same name, compression, because they have distinctly different effects on the sound.

Another thing that has confused me is that a lot of compression advice assumes that you're dealing with live instruments. These really need compression, particularly for smoothing out the volume level.

But, if you want to smooth out the overall volume level of midi-controlled samples and VST instruments, I think you'll get a more 'natural' sound by directly editing each note's midi velocity, instead of using compression.*

Compression is still very useful to adjust the character of individual notes generated by sampled/VSTi sounds, but don't forget that the samples may already have been compressed by the developer, so they could sound fine without additional compression.

*(Advice on more advanced level control techniques, like sidechain compression to create space for vocal, bass or kick drum, should apply fairly well to both live and midi recordings).



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Similarly, the West Coast had a system of recording an instrument, forgetting what they were doing, and taking In & Out burgers to the beach instead. Both techniques have a strong following.
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Old 05-12-2010, 03:40 AM   #10
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...What i've often done with my tracks is i suppose a kind of manual compression which is using automation ...
That's goood! I sometimes do that too if I want just a couple of sounds to be louder without changing the character. As it was written above, I recommend the UAD videos as well. The LA-2A presentations are quite in-the-face examples. Don't forget to check on the 1176 :-)
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Old 05-12-2010, 04:49 AM   #11
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Quote:
2. I just don't hear it...every youtube tutorial i listen to i can never really hear the difference when compression is added and doodliing around with the compressor in reaper i don't notice anything (unless i do something really extreme with levels etc)


I've read and studied and pretty much understand most of the theory surrounding compressors, but I too have difficulty 'hearing' the effects of it except, as you say, for extreme settings. As for different compressors adding 'colour' or 'warmth', don't think I will ever hear that.
I've just put it down to loss of quality of my hearing (old person), or lack of experience.
I must admit, not that I wish you anything other than 'golden ears', I take a little bit of comfort knowing I'm not the only one
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Old 05-12-2010, 04:49 AM   #12
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I had a similar observation about 'not hearing' compression. After reading 'mixing with your mind' it all became obvious. I truely believe that a compressor isnt necessarily about evening out volume (thats where a fader, or automation is more appropriate), but it is there to change the 'groove' of the sound (i.e the attack, decay, sustain, release). If the sound has too much attack, this means that you can not bring it up in the mix, but you can't hear the decay (the sound in the midle). If a sound dies out too fast, it lacks sustain, again a use-case for a compressor.

In mixing with your mind Stavros explains about how to dial in a compressor, dial by dial. He calls this the ARRT process. First you turn down the attack and release parameter (very fast attack and release), turn the ratio up full and lower the threshold until everything is compressed. This will probably sound awful, but the idea is to focus on one dial at a time. First is the attack. Turn the attack and focus only on the initial part of the sound. If you have a snare track you will notice that by turning the attack you somehow control the weight of the stick hitting the drum. Fast attack, small drumstick, slow attack, baseball-bat ;-) Once you are happy with that, move on to the release. Ignore the pumping and dial in a release that sounds groovy i.e. that allows the sound to bounce in some sort of relationship with the beat (not at the beat necessarily). Now move on to the ratio dial. Lower the ratio until you can still hear that groove, but the pumping doesnt interfere with it or goes away. Then move on to the threshold such that not all material is under the threshold all of the time e.g. a whisper or ghostnote can suddenly get through uncompressed, making the effect very noticeable. Then dial in make-up gain to get the same level of perceived loudness with or without compression.

Compression is an A-R-R-T ;-)

Yves
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Old 05-12-2010, 06:52 AM   #13
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I got the basics here :
http://lintrophx.com/irn/resources/compuncomp/
You'll have to spend a few hours to go through it, but it's worth it. The guy took the time to explain why this and why that.

I found compression to be very useful on vocals. Not only does it normalize the overall volume, but when you sing too close to the microphone, your voice loses all its resonance ,echo, reverb...whatever you call it.....and buy using a compressor you fix that problem ......but it then amplifies the popping sounds , so it's better not relying on it too much.

Now, could anyone explain the exotic ReaComp features to me ? I'm talking about Preview filter, auto make-up, Limit output and AA .
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Old 05-12-2010, 09:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caesura View Post
Hi Folks,

1. Application of compression where and when (on every track individualy as standard practice? on selective tracks? or just on the finished rendered wav? or all of the above?)

2. I just don't hear it...every youtube tutorial i listen to i can never really hear the difference when compression is added and doodliing around with the compressor in reaper i don't notice anything (unless i do something really extreme with levels etc)
Compression becomes very useful when you're dealing with recording real instruments (bass, guitars, drums) and vocals. Unless conditions and performance are close to perfect, you will get volume that's not consistent, some strings/notes not hit as hard, the vocalist moving a bit away from the mic etc. So when you come to put these elements together in one mix, you want them all to behave well and predictably. The compressor will 'solidify' the volume levels of these elements so that they can sit in a more consistent spot in a mix.

This is the basic use of a compressor, but not the only one of course.

If you're working with electronic instruments, the compressors are used for slightly different purposes (soundshaping, glue-ing). Because performance is not often a problem. You can guarantee consistent levels already from the midi editor for example.

If you have a mic, try recording an instrument with wide variations in volume. Like a tambourine, an acoustic guitar, a voice, something percussive that you hit with a spoon. Record it as you're moving closer and further away from the mic. That will be a perfect track to experiment with compressors and actually see results. Make sure you also be able to compare the waveforms before and after compression.

Oh, and don't forget: the threshold needs to go down, below your audio's peaks to actually have any compression kicking in
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:03 PM   #15
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The biggest thing to keep in mind is that a compressor simply changes the amplitude of a signal: http://www.mediacollege.com/audio/pr...r-graph-01.gif
You get more complicated than that graph is able to show when you add in attack and release timings, but all those really do is affect how long it takes for the compression to take effect (or go back to no effect).

Another thing I use a compressor for is on Vocal Percussion. Both live and in post. The trick there is to have a "long" attack time so that the compressor doesn't kick in till *after* the initial peak. Coupled with a smallish hold time and a quick release (and lots of post-gain) you get a nice "punchy" sound out of a guy who really can't punch that hard

As people have said before, if you can definitely hear the compression going on, you're using too much. It can be used on a per track basis (as in drums or acoustic instruments) or on the master (in the case of mastering multiband compression).

Another thing I use compressors for (although in this case it's more of a limiter) is on my two soprano vocalists. They get *extremely* loud when they sing in their extreme upper register and the only way to "get them under control" is to use a compressor (since I don't want to ride the fader at a live gig). In that situation I use a fairly large ratio with a higher threshold and almost zero attack and decay (but a little hold to keep it from pumping when they take a breath).
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:08 PM   #16
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Yet another place to use compressors is on a bass guitar but with the sidechain being fed by the kick drum. In this situation, the compressor is "listening" to the kick drum but applying the compression to the guitar. This makes the guitar "pump" or "duck" along with the kick drum and if done right can make the bass guitar sound super punchy and give the kick drum a sense of pitch - almost like combining the two instruments into one.


---

Disclaimer: I'm still quite a newb when it comes to this kind of stuff - I have little experience in the "real world" but I think I know more than the average joe who thinks he can run a mixer. So take my advice with a grain of salt (and listen to the guys like yep, schwa, and Jason Merrill)
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Old 05-13-2010, 12:59 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fly View Post
I got the basics here :
http://lintrophx.com/irn/resources/compuncomp/
You'll have to spend a few hours to go through it, but it's worth it. The guy took the time to explain why this and why that.

I found compression to be very useful on vocals. Not only does it normalize the overall volume, but when you sing too close to the microphone, your voice loses all its resonance ,echo, reverb...whatever you call it.....and buy using a compressor you fix that problem ......but it then amplifies the popping sounds , so it's better not relying on it too much.

Now, could anyone explain the exotic ReaComp features to me ? I'm talking about Preview filter, auto make-up, Limit output and AA .
Preview filter: What ReaComp listens to - e.g. if you're compressing a bass the detector input is listening to the bass - if that's what you've told it to "listen" to. If you adjust the high and low pass filters it adjusts what ReaComp listens to but as I understand not what it applies compression to. Set up a sidechain, and preview filter should show that it's listening to the sidechain

Auto make-up: I'm not sure if brings the signal back up to unity pre compression, but the compression lowers the signal gain and ReaComp's auto makeup brings it back up

Limit Output: Don't recall correctly if it limits output exactly to 0 db but it does what it sounds like - it limits the output post correction/compression - I don't know if that function is akin to a brickwall limiter or something else

AA: I believe has to do with anti aliasing and is beyond my scope of explanation as of the moment.

I've just been getting my feet wet with "studio" compression the last few months where I actually know somewhat what I'm doing - before it seemed just a mystery. I second Rhoey Izaki's book and Yep's awesome compression explanation/tutorial in WDYRSLA - other threads with great info and tutorials too. Experimenting with a single/solo'd track can reveal alot about the more advanced or even general settings. As I understand it ReaComp is a pretty advanced Comp.
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Old 05-13-2010, 09:06 AM   #18
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I find the beauty of ReaComp is that it is only as advanced as you need it to be. If you never touch the RMS, side-Chain, Pre-comp etc. Controls, then you're still dealing with what most companies would consider a perfectly acceptable compressor.

I think that the OP should realize: Don't sit and figure out what all of these do in one sitting. Take your time, and listen patiently. When you finally hear things like Attack or the Release there's no going back. You'll always hear it. So, don't give yourself 20 parameter changes to sort through.

The AA button should be way down on that list.
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Old 05-13-2010, 09:20 AM   #19
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Re: compression, I heard this metaphor long ago, and I've passed it along when apropos:

Think of compression like a referee at a sporting event. If it's doing its job well, you likely won't notice it working, but the game will generally flow smoothly, with extreme "infractions" managed smartly and efficiently so the game gets right back on track.

If compression (like a ref) is a noticeable presence, then maybe it isn't being used correctly.


---------

Obviously, that doesn't capture the whole story, particularly if using compression for its tonal coloration rather than to manage signal levels, but something about that idea clicked in my mind and has stuck with me. It's a subtle effect, and a little compression can go a long way.
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Old 05-14-2010, 08:00 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lowell Mather 5150 View Post
Preview filter: What ReaComp listens to - e.g. if you're compressing a bass the detector input is listening to the bass - if that's what you've told it to "listen" to. If you adjust the high and low pass filters it adjusts what ReaComp listens to but as I understand not what it applies compression to. Set up a sidechain, and preview filter should show that it's listening to the sidechain

Auto make-up: I'm not sure if brings the signal back up to unity pre compression, but the compression lowers the signal gain and ReaComp's auto makeup brings it back up

Limit Output: Don't recall correctly if it limits output exactly to 0 db but it does what it sounds like - it limits the output post correction/compression - I don't know if that function is akin to a brickwall limiter or something else

AA: I believe has to do with anti aliasing and is beyond my scope of explanation as of the moment.

I've just been getting my feet wet with "studio" compression the last few months where I actually know somewhat what I'm doing - before it seemed just a mystery. I second Rhoey Izaki's book and Yep's awesome compression explanation/tutorial in WDYRSLA - other threads with great info and tutorials too. Experimenting with a single/solo'd track can reveal alot about the more advanced or even general settings. As I understand it ReaComp is a pretty advanced Comp.

thanks .

I researched on anti aliasing last night and if I got it right, it uses more samples to achieve better quality. For me , it acts more or less as a very good cpu booster at the moment lol
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Old 05-14-2010, 10:21 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by bipedal View Post
Re: compression, I heard this metaphor long ago, and I've passed it along when apropos:

Think of compression like a referee at a sporting event. If it's doing its job well, you likely won't notice it working, but the game will generally flow smoothly, with extreme "infractions" managed smartly and efficiently so the game gets right back on track.

If compression (like a ref) is a noticeable presence, then maybe it isn't being used correctly.


---------

Obviously, that doesn't capture the whole story, particularly if using compression for its tonal coloration rather than to manage signal levels, but something about that idea clicked in my mind and has stuck with me. It's a subtle effect, and a little compression can go a long way.
ya, same kind of philosophy too for special FX in movies. if the special effect is good, you won't notice it's a special effect. that's really what you want most of the time with compression. but sometimes in a movie you'll want a special effect to be obviously a special effect, and sometimes in music you'd want the same. there are no rules, but generally you shouldn't really hear compression at all. but in an A-B comparison you should notice the difference. same with like reverb and lots of other effects. although sometimes you want the reverb to stand out, that's the sound you want, but also reverb is useful where you would never notice it really. like in real life, in most situations there is reverb on your voice in regular everyday life, but you might only notice it really in extreme cases like in a cathedral or something. but at other times it is there, you don't take note of it, but it is there, it is helping you orient yourself and stuff like that, adding realism i guess, meshing sounds together, reverb on your mix can do that too. someone just listening to it might not notice the reverb, but it is there doing it's job and if you bypass it you'll really notice the difference. compression i think often should be this way. you don't notice it necessarily but it is doing it's job, and on bypass you miss it. but they can be used for many things too like making your drums more punchy and all sorts of stuff where you really will notice it even without A-B comparison. I think in many cases if you do hear the compression it's because you've used it too much. but you should be able to tell the difference on an A-B comparison, which is sometimes hard or annoying because you need to get the average levels to sound the same in both comparisons.
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Old 05-16-2010, 07:21 PM   #22
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thanks .

I researched on anti aliasing last night and if I got it right, it uses more samples to achieve better quality. For me , it acts more or less as a very good cpu booster at the moment lol
The "Preview Filter" button makes the output of the compressor the same as what the compressor is "listening" to. This is so you can hear what the compressor is reacting to. If you set the Hipass and Lopass to a very narrow band and then hit the preview filter, you will just hear that small band and THAT is what the compressor is listening to. If you don't hear very much then the compressor isn't going to be very active (such as putting a very high hipass on a bass track).

The AA feature should actually *increase* your CPU usage as it uses more samples in a sort of overlapping window to make the changes seem more smooth.

Auto makeup uses some (probably unknown) algorithm to determine a post-gain setting. Use with caution since its not really easily defined, but all it does is set a post-gain increase.
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Old 05-16-2010, 07:51 PM   #23
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I read lots of discussions about compression but none about expansion.....

- are "we" all preoccupied with getting extreme and compressed levels onto our recordings?

- with mediums like CD available (which has pretty fair dynamic range) don't we want to exploit that?

- am I the only one who doesn't mix for mp3 or the radio?

Maybe my view is limited (hahahaha) but I like the idea of compression to balance the general body of the music, expansion to highlight the accents and limiting to control the peaks..... but then, I like the sound of vinyl and valves too ;-)
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Old 05-17-2010, 05:38 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
I read lots of discussions about compression but none about expansion.....

- are "we" all preoccupied with getting extreme and compressed levels onto our recordings?

- with mediums like CD available (which has pretty fair dynamic range) don't we want to exploit that?

- am I the only one who doesn't mix for mp3 or the radio?

Maybe my view is limited (hahahaha) but I like the idea of compression to balance the general body of the music, expansion to highlight the accents and limiting to control the peaks..... but then, I like the sound of vinyl and valves too ;-)
For a lot of kinds of music, having stuff all in a tight dynamic range can add a sense of "glue"; with a couple of caveats:
-we're not talking about ultrasquashed so that everything averages -1dB, there's still a dynamic range (like a K-14 mix, for example)
-not for all kinds of music; this would probably be a pretty dreadful way to mix classical I would think
But there is such a thing as too much dynamic range on some material; just because you have 1 million dB of headroom doesn't mean a good mix will utilize the full range.

The legends and pros don't use compression willy nilly because they can't think of anything else to do. It allows for very particular effects, as mentioned above, both in terms of transient shaping and setting+placing inside the main dynamic range.
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Old 05-18-2010, 06:51 PM   #25
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Wow...thanks guys, appreciate the time you've all taken on this and i hope the info is as valuable to anyone else reading this in a similiar situation as i am as it is to me. I've taken a while to reply as there is so much to get my head around here and every time i sat down to reply i'd read over one of the posts and go off exploring and experimenting. I'm gonna spread this reply over a couple of posts as i want to give each reply specific attention since you took the time to detail things for me.

So here goes:
Quote:
Originally Posted by camerondye View Post
Wow, that's a tall order. Really really listen to the vocals on a rock album, people don't sing that amazingly consistent volume wise. Listen to the vocal "Crazy on You" by Heart. It goes quite smoothly from whisper to pretty loud screams with very little volume change. A good compressor can keep the volume more consistent but doesn't rob the vocal of the intensity. There is no quick answer to being able to hear it, it takes experience hearing it over and over and over until you get it. Understanding attack and release on compression took me years and I'm still getting better at hearing the changes on their settings on different instruments.

The thing to do is try and get an LA2A type compressor that doesn't use attack and release and start using it on a vocal solo'd and really try and hear what it is doing as you turn up the compression. The bitch is that compression does different things on all instruments and you have to listen to different things to tell if you are helping the track or effing it up.

Another resource is http://www.uaudio.com/media/videos.html. Universal Audio makes some of the best compressors in vst form and have videos using all of them and maybe you can start hearing it better. The only way to get it is to keep listening over and over and one day it's going to click...there are no fast answers.
cam
Very true Cam and as you and many of the others have said it does seem to be a case of practice (even at listening) makes perfect...one thing though what's an LA2A type compresser?

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Originally Posted by bigwoody View Post
here is a suggestion. Head over here http://www.jeroenbreebaart.com/ and grab the free plug in bundle. There is some really good stuff in there, but focus on the compressor PC-2. The reason I suggest this is at least for me the controls are very simple an it has an excellent visual representation of how the compressor is working. This really helped me 'get it' as far as compression goes. Hope it helps you too.
Bigwoody - I've taken your advice and done that and that PC-2 is a great thing as are some of the others in that bundle - i'm playing around with it and i really hope it does help me 'get it' the way it helped you...Cheers!

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Originally Posted by technogremlin View Post
Those are great tools, but for starters you better grab Endorphin from his website

Throw it on the masterbus and you can dial in some nice driving punch without really upping the volume
Technogremlin - Had a look at the info on Endorphin and i'm gonna download it...it seems to be mainly for adding compression to finished tracks?

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Originally Posted by Sound asleep View Post
you oculd also try to put the same audio on the same two tracks one compressed and the other not, make sure they are at the same hearing volume and then compare them.

i have come to find that often even subtle differences in mixing audio are quite key, and overdoing stuff is real easy.
Sound asleep - Yeah i do think having a better idea of what i should be hearing would help - i'll be sure to grab that book if i ever come across it. I'm gonna try your idea of comparing two tracks one compressed and one not to see if i can notice the difference. Good idea!
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:27 PM   #26
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That's an awesome idea if you want to get that FM radio sound without the radio.
Hi Steindork...Eh...sorry to sound dumb here but are you saying that adding comp to every track in a mix would be wrong? (i know, i know but i am getting there ;-)

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Originally Posted by Steindork View Post
1.) A compressor compresses the dynamic range of a signal, so you use it when there is too much of that stuff. Acoustic instruments generally have a lot of dynamic range for example and may not fit in the mix because soft portions drop below the other instruments easily while loud notes cover them. That would be on a track. Other uses are matching the dynamic range of a mix to that of the target medium (none of your business usually)... that's all the "technical" side of compression, where "hearing the compression" would be more of a failure.

2.) A compressor can change the "character" of the signal/performance/sound when used with heavier settings, that's the "sound design" side of compression. Go nuts on anything that makes a sound. Classic examples are all those "bigger than life" rock drum sounds or sparkling country guitar licks...



Like everyone said, when it's not used for shaping sounds extremely, the audible effect is at most subtle and even harder to detect if you don't know how a compressor works and what to listen to. Sorry, I have to ask...did the tutorials explain the technical background and did you understand it?
Well i think so i mean i get everything your saying above and i'd like to think i've understood most of what the youtube tutorials were explaining (ie threshold/ratio/attack/release)...though this being my first real foray into compression i'm kind of eager to focus on using it to tidy the dynamic range, even it out so to speak, so that if for example i was recording a standard acoustic and vocal track i could get the best quailty sound and end mix...at least once i've gotten that down to an extent i'd feel i had some fundamental ability and understanding of compression.


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Originally Posted by Steindork View Post
That's a great way to control levels (when done right) and the one with the least distortion. Combining automation (for the coarse stuff) and compression is great, too.
Glad i'm doing something right...i hope ;-) Though i've had to limit the amount i do this as it tends to crash the system or cause playback to stagger.


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Originally Posted by Steindork View Post
ReaComp is already there and has all you could wish from a compressor. It has a lot of additional controls compared to standard compressors but that doesn't mean you have to touch them before you have learned what they do.

'Audio compression tutorial' brings some stuff up on Google,
https://www.youtube.com/v/aXoMPEKcBn4 <= I'd say that's medium extreme/obvious, especially at the end, can you hear that?
Actually i can hear that, that's one of the tutorials i viewed before and i notice it when he goes to the extreme levels and your right especially when he tweeks the release at the end - its very apparent...but some of the earlier tweeking he does sounds almost like reverb to my ears. Though i have to be honest here i don't have monitors and use very cheap headphones (keep trying to get new ones but the old €€€ situation makes it tricky)

Last edited by caesura; 05-18-2010 at 07:33 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:36 PM   #27
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Okay...so its heading toward 4am so i'll get back to this...tomorrow..cheers all!
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:49 PM   #28
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An LA2A type compressor is one that doesn't have an attack or release setting, it just has a knob for how much input gain(and compression) is happening and an output knob of how loud it ends up being after compression.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:54 PM   #29
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when you think about it, compression is not really something you should hear. it's often just a volume thing, sometimes a little bit of character added. but when you listen to songs, you don't notice that there is an effect on the vocals. but you might notice how the voice sounds nice and up front, and when the singer yells or sings more softly the volume is constant. as for compression on the master track, to me, this was immediately obvious sounding. this and a slight reverb really kind of blended everything together or gave it some kind of polish or something, a professional feeling sound. hard to explain, kind of like nothing at all and at the same time a huge difference.

like i said before if you can really hear the compression you probably put too much. you just want the vocals to sound present and in your face, which should generally sound clean and unmodified but still the volume is in such a way that it is always up front. i guess it's kind of more something you should notice than hear. I mean you can't hear EQ when you listen to a song, but you can hear the effect that the good EQ would have. the lack of interference and muddiness in the low end for example. but sometimes you can hear compression alot, like the pumping effect in house music. but like i said i think it should usually be subtle. just a volume thing. keeping the vocals at constant volume.
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:55 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by caesura View Post
Technogremlin - Had a look at the info on Endorphin and i'm gonna download it...it seems to be mainly for adding compression to finished tracks?
Short answer: yes indeed

Slightly longer answer:

Endorphin has besides compressor some other components that make it very suitable for mastering purposes. As Sound asleep says it can polish your mix quite nicely. However, it is very easy to overuse as well. Besides that an effect like Endorpin can sometimes do great things to individual tracks like drums and vocals as well.

I have Endorphin by default loaded on my master-buss but use it sometimes on individual tracks myself. There are many different compressors and there is no clear recipe for when to use which
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:14 PM   #31
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Hey guys, thanks again, due to internet issues i'm having (sometimes i have it sometimes i don't)i don't get a chance to reply often but i have been reading the tips and advice, so thanks again!

Anyway...to continue...
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:32 PM   #32
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Hey Ugh,

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Originally Posted by ugh View Post
what kind of music do you produce anyhow ?
Well i'm a songwriter mainly so whilst i've alot of 'my own things' which are me messing around with sound - the more experimental the better etc - I'm trying to get into as varied a market revenue stream-wise as possible so I could be trying to produce anything depending on what pitches are requested.
Ambient Sounds, Rock, Country, Pop, Soundtrack - the idea being to use the sellable stuff to keep me free from revenue/sale concerns with the less easily digestable stuff (if that makes sense?) Saying that now that i'm recording myself most of what i produce is turned to sh1t by the time i've finished mixing ;-)...electronic is something i'm hugely interested in myself but i have a long way to go before i can start producing anything in those genres (house, techno etc).

As i think i was saying in my last post..in terms of compression i'm mostly trying to get to grips with using compression with standard acoustic guitar and vocals or piano and vocals and also with some tracks i plan to license (midi instrumentals).
Quote:
Originally Posted by ugh View Post
youtube quality is shit, as the complete audio there is compressed
Get ya ;-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ugh View Post
Some good compressors to play around with without having to spend money on them directly :

Jeroen Breebaart's Red Phatt Pro Demo Version : http://www.jeroenbreebaart.com/
Stillwell's The Rocket and of course Stillwell's Bombardier.
http://www.stillwellaudio.com/

ReaComp btw is also a very fine compressor !
I've got that Red Phatt Pro Demo (it was with the bundle i downloaded. The Stillwell stuff looks great but i'm only able to get the free stuff at the moment €:-( €€€ Ahhh Recession.it hit me a decade before the rest of Ireland/Europe/World!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ugh View Post
A subtle compression on every track or bus in the end gives the best results I believe, yet it surely depends on the kind of music one does.

I feel that EQs and Compressors are my most used Effects.

Yet hold in mind that I am by no means an expert, just a hobby musician. I might do it all wrong after all
If I posted something wrong, please feel free to correct me, I wouldn't want to tell somebody something that is not correct.

HTH
Well all information helps me to build up a bigger picture and get a grasp on this so cheers and Kim Lajoie's Blog does seem to be worth a decent perusal - thanks for the link!

Ps. Parallel compression...i wondered what that was and what the dry/wet faders on Reacomp were all about...so is 'dry' in this instance the same as reference to dry when tracking (fx/room ambience/external factors)?
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:50 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Axonaut View Post
you could think of a standard compressor as being two totally different FX units in the same box, (1) it can smooth out the volume of a track, or (2) it can alter the character or tone of individual notes.
Nicely put Axonaut and i think to begin with its (1) Smoothing the volume - that i'd like to get a handle on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Axonaut View Post
Another thing that has confused me is that a lot of compression advice assumes that you're dealing with live instruments. These really need compression, particularly for smoothing out the volume level.

But, if you want to smooth out the overall volume level of midi-controlled samples and VST instruments, I think you'll get a more 'natural' sound by directly editing each note's midi velocity, instead of using compression.*
Compression is still very useful to adjust the character of individual notes generated by sampled/VSTi sounds, but don't forget that the samples may already have been compressed by the developer, so they could sound fine without additional compression.
I was actually wondering about that as i use EZ Drummer alot (along with a few other plug ins and in general i find midi easier to mix.

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Originally Posted by boka View Post
That's goood! I sometimes do that too if I want just a couple of sounds to be louder without changing the character. As it was written above, I recommend the UAD videos as well. The LA-2A presentations are quite in-the-face examples. Don't forget to check on the 1176 :-)
Cheers boka...there's actually a video covering the LA-2A and 1176 on the site. interesting combination and surprisingly i could just about hear the difference in the disabled/enabled cuts (the lower parts of the vocal sounded a tiny bit clearer/louder)
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:52 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by celfyn View Post
I must admit, not that I wish you anything other than 'golden ears', I take a little bit of comfort knowing I'm not the only one
Lol...glad to hear i'm in good company too celfyn!
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Old 05-26-2010, 07:26 PM   #35
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Thought i go for a few in a row here as seeing my own name on so many replies to a thread i started looks funny. So cheers in advance to all the following ;-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan View Post
If you have a mic, try recording an instrument with wide variations in volume. Like a tambourine, an acoustic guitar, a voice, something percussive that you hit with a spoon. Record it as you're moving closer and further away from the mic. That will be a perfect track to experiment with compressors and actually see results. Make sure you also be able to compare the waveforms before and after compression.

Oh, and don't forget: the threshold needs to go down, below your audio's peaks to actually have any compression kicking in
Cool i'll give this a shot with vocal work next time i'm tracking audio might see the how it affects my SE2200A against my SM58 as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imMute View Post
Another thing I use a compressor for is on Vocal Percussion. Both live and in post. The trick there is to have a "long" attack time so that the compressor doesn't kick in till *after* the initial peak. Coupled with a smallish hold time and a quick release (and lots of post-gain) you get a nice "punchy" sound out of a guy who really can't punch that hard
imMute i actually think i get the logic of that will try something like that out when i'm doing the vocal experiments mentioned above

Quote:
Originally Posted by imMute View Post
...It can be used on a per track basis (as in drums or acoustic instruments) or on the master (in the case of mastering multiband compression).
Ok i'm gonna read up a little on multiband compression to get a grip on this i think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lowell Mather 5150 View Post
I've just been getting my feet wet with "studio" compression the last few months where I actually know somewhat what I'm doing - before it seemed just a mystery. I second Rhoey Izaki's book and Yep's awesome compression explanation/tutorial in WDYRSLA - other threads with great info and tutorials too. Experimenting with a single/solo'd track can reveal alot about the more advanced or even general settings. As I understand it ReaComp is a pretty advanced Comp.
I've dipped into Yeps WDYRSLA and find it almost impossible to get to what i intend at the start...i just get caught up reading about so much that he's provided, it's a great thread but think i'm gonna have to print it out and highlight certain sections.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bls View Post
I think that the OP should realize: Don't sit and figure out what all of these do in one sitting. Take your time, and listen patiently. When you finally hear things like Attack or the Release there's no going back. You'll always hear it.
Agreed and - i hope so!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bipedal View Post
Re: compression, I heard this metaphor long ago, and I've passed it along when apropos:

Think of compression like a referee at a sporting event. If it's doing its job well, you likely won't notice it working, but the game will generally flow smoothly, with extreme "infractions" managed smartly and efficiently so the game gets right back on track.

If compression (like a ref) is a noticeable presence, then maybe it isn't being used correctly.


...a little compression can go a long way.
Nice way of looking at it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sound asleep View Post
...you should be able to tell the difference on an A-B comparison, which is sometimes hard or annoying because you need to get the average levels to sound the same in both comparisons.
That's exactly what i want to be able to do...tell the difference in A/B comparisons...i'm assuming the easiest way (levels wise) would be to save the same session in two different folders and just disable the FX on all tracks (if the only fx fr this puirpose is comp) then render both to MP3 or WAV and listen back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hercules View Post
- am I the only one who doesn't mix for mp3 or the radio?

Maybe my view is limited (hahahaha) but I like the idea of compression to balance the general body of the music, expansion to highlight the accents and limiting to control the peaks..... but then, I like the sound of vinyl and valves too ;-)
Aye but alot of what i'd be comparing in terms of tutorials or submissions to pitching sites or licensing sites would be online.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ngarjuna View Post
The legends and pros don't use compression willy nilly because they can't think of anything else to do. It allows for very particular effects, as mentioned above, both in terms of transient shaping and setting+placing inside the main dynamic range.
Here's to the day i can do just that!
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Old 05-26-2010, 07:36 PM   #36
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An LA2A type compressor is one that doesn't have an attack or release setting, it just has a knob for how much input gain(and compression) is happening and an output knob of how loud it ends up being after compression.
Sounds ideal for a beginner like myself...is that like Blockfish...though with that i just don't notice anything until its way too much, it probably just i need to adjust to it a little.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sound asleep View Post
as for compression on the master track, to me, this was immediately obvious sounding. this and a slight reverb really kind of blended everything together or gave it some kind of polish or something, a professional feeling sound. hard to explain, kind of like nothing at all and at the same time a huge difference.
On what master track?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sound asleep View Post
...but like i said i think it should usually be subtle. just a volume thing. keeping the vocals at constant volume.
Yeah thats my aim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by technogremlin View Post
Short answer: yes indeed

Slightly longer answer:

Endorphin has besides compressor some other components that make it very suitable for mastering purposes. As Sound asleep says it can polish your mix quite nicely. However, it is very easy to overuse as well. Besides that an effect like Endorpin can sometimes do great things to individual tracks like drums and vocals as well.

I have Endorphin by default loaded on my master-buss but use it sometimes on individual tracks myself. There are many different compressors and there is no clear recipe for when to use which
Cool so i'll start using it and see how i get on with it!

Thanks.
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:16 PM   #37
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the master track is like a buss but for all the tracks. you could technically make your own, but new projects come with a master track that is bigger in looks than the other tracks, and all other tracks are routed into it by default just by creating them.

in the regular tracks view, the default is for it to be hidden, but you can choose 'show master track' in options somewhere, i believe in right clicking empty space in tracks pane.

in mixer view it is shown on far left by default, but you can hide it or show it on far right with right click in empty area of mixer pane.

I find that this, sidechaining, and adding punch with longer attack on drums, are where i find the compression effect most apparent and easiest to hear. on some other things the difference is more subtle i find.
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Old 05-29-2010, 04:11 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sound asleep View Post
the master track is like a buss but for all the tracks. you could technically make your own, but new projects come with a master track that is bigger in looks than the other tracks, and all other tracks are routed into it by default just by creating them.

in the regular tracks view, the default is for it to be hidden, but you can choose 'show master track' in options somewhere, i believe in right clicking empty space in tracks pane.

in mixer view it is shown on far left by default, but you can hide it or show it on far right with right click in empty area of mixer pane.

I find that this, sidechaining, and adding punch with longer attack on drums, are where i find the compression effect most apparent and easiest to hear. on some other things the difference is more subtle i find.
Sorry, sorry...I misunderstood your post. I thought when you mentioned master track you were refering to something in the tutorials relating to a specific master...yeah i've actually got the master set up on reaper (though think it was always there for me)- thanks!
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Old 05-29-2010, 04:16 PM   #39
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Default Just to confirm one thing!

Just want to confirm that my assumption is that the reason adding comp to tracks makes them louder is because by bring the peaks down you can bringing the over all levels or the master up further.

That's right isn't it - i'm not missing anything here am i? (i'm actually about to put up a post on making tracks louder but don't want to drag this one in too many tangents as i think all the info you guys have provided will be of help to more than just myself)
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Old 05-29-2010, 04:45 PM   #40
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I use limiting (i.e. infinite or high compression ratios) to make overall mixes louder. My favourite is Voxengo Elephant on the master for this purpose. But I also quite like Kjaerhus master limiter as a freebie option.

Limiting allows the average levels to be increased, whilst preventing peaks going over 0dB. This increase loudness. But you need to be careful not to make things sound too smashed.

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