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Compressor and gate together

Whether to use the noise gate before the compressor, or the compressor before the noise gate.

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The gate is often thought of as a companion to a compressor.

Compression always has the effect of increasing the noise level. This is because the peaks of the signal are brought down in level, bringing them closer to the noise floor. Then make-up gain is applied to bring the overall signal level back up again, raising the noise floor at the same time.

Even if there were such a thing as a perfect compressor, this would still happen.

The obvious answer is to use a noise gate to remove the noise, providing the signal meets the criteria for gating as outlined above.

There are two schools of thought among engineers as to how the two should be connected:

  • Some think that it is better to put the gate after the compressor, since the compressor will generate some noise itself, in addition to the noise emphasized by the compression process.
  • Other engineers will say that since the signal has a greater dynamic range before compression, it is easier to set up the gate for reliable triggering if it comes before the compressor.
By David Mellor Friday March 7, 2003
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