Adventures In Audio

Are you compressing too much? Here's how to tell...

LEARN AUDIO ONLINE ► FREE TRIAL ►

Do you ever look at your compressor's gain reduction meter? Actually, it should be called a level reduction meter but 'gain reduction' is a term that has been handed down by history, so I will continue to use it.

Gain reduction meter Switch to G.R. to show gain reduction

Obviously, you should judge compression by ear, but it is helpful to have a visual indication of what's going on. If you want to hear more compression, then you need to see more segments on the gain reduction meter lighting up (or the needle going down more deeply), and faster movements.

But here's something you should look out for - while the instrument is playing (or singer singing), does the meter always show some degree of gain reduction? Even in the quietest (but still playing) sections?

If so, then you are indeed applying too much compression, through setting the threshold too low.

You will hear the effect of this in the transitions from not-playing to playing. Just after the gaps in playing in other words.

When the instrument comes in each time, the compressor suddenly has to leap into deep compression and this leap, though momentary, will probably sound ugly.

But if you set the threshold so that the gain reduction meter reads only a decibel or two in the quietest sections, the compressor never has to compress more than it needs to. The transition from not-playing to playing will be much smoother.

Of course, if you use a compressor for warmth, such as a variable-mu compressor or digitally-mimicked version, then deep compression might give you the sound you are after and you might accept a little roughness in the transitions.

Other than that however, it is a good guideline to set the threshold so that at the very quietest part of the recording, the amount of gain reduction drops almost to zero.

Wednesday September 30, 2020

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

FREE TRIAL

Ready to take your recording to the next level? Take a 30-day FREE TRIAL of the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course - Our most popular course.

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Audio Masterclass gives you all the technical knowledge and skills to bring your musical dreams to life

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

Get the most from your studio with the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course.

Learn more...

Learn Pro Tools with our amazing range of video courses

Pro Tools video course catalog

Browse Pro Tools courses...

Learn Logic Pro with our amazing range of video courses

Logic Pro video course catalog

Browse Logic Pro courses...

Learn Cubase with our amazing range of video courses

Cubase video course catalog

Browse Cubase courses...

Audio Masterclass gives you all the technical knowledge and skills to bring your musical dreams to life

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

Get the most from your studio with the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course.

Learn more...

More from Adventures In Audio...

Making a perfect sine wave and animating it

Graphic equalizer demonstration using the Waves GEQ Classic

Harmonic enhancement: In the master or individual tracks? (Can you hear the difference?)

What will happen if your snare drum clips?

EQ demonstration HF bell boost

How much bass can a Bluetooth speaker produce?

One weird trick for monitoring your mix on a Bluetooth speaker

Can a preamp's pad work as a pop filter

Get the sound you want from the tools you have

What is the phase button for on a microphone preamplifier?

Choosing studio monitors - Is it your most important buying decision?

What is a channel strip? Why should you use one?

Audio effects explained - A quick guide for beginners

How to choose the best key for your song

The amazing stereo effect that no-one can hear

What is the best studio microphone?

Bad Audio Diary BAD 9: What's wrong with this picture?

Weird and wonderful sounds using the Air Music Tech Chorus plug-in

The end of latency?

An investigation of the pre-delay parameter of the Lexicon 480L reverb plug-in

Add reverb to your recordings using the natural echo chamber technique

Why you should ventilate your home recording studio

Q: What is your main concern if your interest is voice over?

Why do microphones sound different?