Compression 101 Compressors

Welcome to the third installment of the Audio Compression 101 series! In this post, we’ll explore the fundamentals of dynamic range compression, including its purpose, basic parameters, and the role it plays in shaping the sound of your audio.

Dynamic range compression is an essential tool in the audio engineer’s toolbox. It allows us to control the dynamic range of an audio signal – the difference between the loudest and quietest parts. By reducing the dynamic range, we can make the quieter parts of a recording more audible and prevent the louder parts from distorting or becoming too overpowering. This is especially important in modern music production, where achieving a balanced, polished sound is crucial.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the key parameters you’ll encounter when working with dynamic range compressors:

  1. Threshold: The threshold is the level at which the compressor starts to work. When the input signal surpasses the threshold, the compressor begins to reduce the gain. A high threshold might mean the signal doesn’t get compressed at all, while a very low threshold will mean that most of the signal is affected in some way by the compression circuit.
  2. Ratio: The ratio determines the amount of compression applied to the signal that exceeds the threshold. For example, a 4:1 ratio means that for every 4 dB the input signal goes over the threshold, the output signal will only increase by 1 dB.
  3. Attack: Attack refers to the time it takes for the compressor to start working once the signal has crossed the threshold. Faster attack times result in quicker gain reduction, which can help tame sharp, transient sounds. Slower attack times allow more of the initial sound through, preserving the natural attack of the source material.
  4. Release: Release is the time it takes for the compressor to stop compressing the signal once it falls below the threshold. Short release times can create a more transparent sound, while longer release times can result in a smoother, more controlled sound.
  5. Makeup Gain: After compression, the overall level of the audio signal might be lower. Makeup gain allows you to increase the output level to compensate for the gain reduction caused by compression.

Understanding these basic parameters will help you make informed decisions when using dynamic range compression in your projects. As we progress through this series, we’ll explore different types of compressors, delve into various compression techniques, and learn how to use compression creatively.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Audio Compression 101 series, where we’ll discuss different types of compressors and their unique characteristics. And don’t forget to bookmark this page and follow me on social media for updates on new content and resources. Together, we’ll master the art of controlling dynamics and elevate your audio production skills to new heights!

Happy compressing!


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