July 6, 2007

Open Thread: Compression Discussion...

by Chris Randall

One reader wrote me expressing a wish to have a discussion viz. the various plugin compressors available. Compression is one of those topics that can rapidly get over the head of someone new to recording, as it is an effect you learn about later rather than sooner, and more's the shame, as compression is as much a part of any recording of reasonable quality as is EQ, 'verb, and delay. If you have good recording techniques, you can even take EQ and 'verb out of that equation.

So, open thread topic: what's your favorite NATIVE compressor and why? Personally, I use the Waves SSL pack and the URS products; I've been hearing good things about the Waves API pack, but for the money you could damned near buy a 2500, which would be, IMO, a better purchase. One of these days I'll buy me a Duende, I suppose, but until then I'm in native land, so that's where we'll keep our discussion.



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Jul.06.2007 @ 8:28 PM
Nice thread. Enjoying the discussion. Since the release of Waves API and SSL, + the Channel Strip Pro I've seriously been considering investing in some of these processors. It's so difficult to know how to rate a compressor plug in. I'm going to suggest some criteria - please add yours also. In no order:

1. Metering: must be crystal clear. It must be easy to read the input level, the output level, the amount of compression introduced and the knee.

2. Ease of use: the scale of the pots must be practical so that small adjustments are possible to all parameters, ie adjusting the knee from soft to hard must make some difference! same is true for attack and release. some compressors pretend to give lots of flexibility in this area but in fact offer very little.

3. Artifacts: must be kept to a minimum. The logic compressor leaves terrible artifacts, and rendered unusable by this imo, despite being good on other fronts. At higher settings the noise makes everything you put through it sound completely awful. I wish I understood the technicalities of this better.

4. Harmonics and drive: in the analogue domain this is really a bi-product of the gain stage used. In the digital domain it should be subtle and musical imo, but I appreciate that this is completely subjective. Personally I prefer this to be built in to the inner workings of the compressor rather than added as a variable parameter.


Jul.07.2007 @ 1:15 AM
Chris Randall
I agree with you that it is quite difficult to find a native comp plug that is truly clean, in a "boy, that is smooth and nice" kind of way. I have in my head a compressor sound that is _just_ compression without all the vintage haze that companies put in to cover up the fact that there is so much artifacting (is that a word? OS X doesn't think so...) occurring.

I mean, the guys that made the SSL buss comp weren't thinking "boy, howdy! This is analog and PHAT with a capital PH!" They were thinking "how can we get the smoothest, cleanest compression possible with what we have at hand?" That being the case, when what we have at hand is clean as clean can be, why is there such a shortage of compressors that don't have a big hunk of DSP dedicated to adding even-order harmonics to cover up the artifacts? I mean, I can always distort a signal, but that's not always what I'm going for.

Of course, a lot of it is the fact that, in 2007, the word "smooth" actually means "distorted" in common production conversation. A compressor is on our Big List Of Things We'd Like To Do Someday If Only We Had The Time, but truthfully, delay is our area of expertise, and things that can be made with delays, and a compressor has nothing to do with a delay. So we'd have to learn New Shit. In that event, it's unlikely, but you never know, right?



Jul.07.2007 @ 9:12 AM
Jeremy Cox

You should really try some other compressors. The logic pro comps are really colored in a not so musical way. My mixes got WAY better when i decided to get away from the built in logic effects and start using waves stuff.
I agree with CR that the Waves SSL stuff is amazing. I've been trying out their API but the EQ is really the best part of that package. URS stuff is good too but I really like their EQ's the best also.
Waves is just extremely good at comps/limiters.


Jul.07.2007 @ 10:03 AM
I think AD is pretty good at filters, too.

I never really know what to look for in a software compressor. I have a bunch of free ones I use now and again that don't really cut it, but I mainly use Kjaerhus's GCO-1. It isn't really colourful, but it does a good job at compressing what ever I throw at it (shocking).

I would like a really excellent extreme compressor. I've been demoing the Sonalksis TBK3 a lot lately, but I'm on the fence. It makes some cool effects, but I'm not sure the preset-ness of it is for me. I usually prefer having a lot of control.


Jul.07.2007 @ 10:25 PM
Great comments. I think I'm going to have to finally buy a UAD-1 card...

I use vintage warmer on my master output usually - what do you guys think about that? I used to use the fast tape preset but now use a variation of the comp/limiter. I mix it about 50% so i don't lose too much of the dynamic range.

Sometimes I use the sonalksis stuff or blockfish for extreme compression (though now TBK3 may help with that)


Jul.08.2007 @ 12:44 AM
Chris Randall
I wish I could break this habit, but I use L3 on my two-buss; I use the "Extreme Analog" setting, and just bring it down enough to bring the levels up to -6 or so (I make up the rest mastering.) I tend to mix at a fairly low level, c. -20 or that neck of the woods, so I have to get some makeup gain in there, and that's how I do it. It actually is doing almost no limiting, when all is said and done.

I'm hoping to extend my rig to include a good 2-buss comp here in the near future; I have a soft spot in my heart for the 2500, but there are a couple other options I've been considering.



Jul.08.2007 @ 1:24 AM
Nobody uses Voxengo Marquis? I'm surprised. With a little work I've been able to get almost anything I want out of it. I like the Sonitus as well (does something nice to bass) but don't really use any of my others anymore.

Jul.08.2007 @ 7:12 PM
Oxford Limiter & Inflator & ff Liquid Mix are my plugs. PSP for brutish abuse.

Jul.09.2007 @ 7:56 AM
My goto comp is the massey CT4 (sadly only RTAS) and the Digi comp3. I haven't really found a good all round comp for vst or au.
It might be cos I'm from hardware land but sticking fairchilds and neve comp emulations on more then 1 or 2 tracks is overkill for me and mostly feel that very colorful comps "bogs" down the mix.
I mainly use comps to control sounds in the mix and often only use "coloring" comps on parallel and to make certain instrument stick out.
So far outside of native the Duende is the best software comp I've ever tried.




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