Compressors/Limiters

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Compressors/Limiters

Post by mista guest » Tue 25 Jul, 2006 6:53 pm

Ok.
Here's the thing.
I'm currently doing a track, and the main composition is about three quarter's done.
The problem is; in about a week or so, I'm gonna have to sit and do a mixdown of it.
My question is this:
When one makes a track on a DAW, and the main composition is all done, should I add a compressor/limiter to every track in the mixdown stage, or at some other time?
Should I also be compressing/limiting the entire track when the final mixdown is done; i.e. after each track is (maybe) compressed or limited, or both?
If any of the above applies, can some kind soul out there tell me how to operate a compressor and a limiter.
I have Steinberg's onboard compressor in Nuendo, and I've also got a couple of Waves plugins (L1, etc for limiting).
I just don't have a clue when (and if) I should be using these badboys, cause I don't really know what they do. Actually, that's a fib, cause I know the VERY basic principals of limiting, but not really exactly how to use them. I actually know a tiny bit about compressors as well i.e. they compress things :P
I'm dead serious, that's as much as I know.
How do you use these things?
Any help guys, would be really, really cool.
I've been looking all over the web, but I just can't get my head'round these things. Can somebody please explain in plain English, how (and when) these apply.
I'll dance at your wedding if you help me with this.....

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Post by chuckcogan » Tue 25 Jul, 2006 11:10 pm

cant say i know that much about these things either...
i use em but i dont have a real plan when doing it....
if it sounds good then im happy....if it dont, then i dont use em
simple as that hahahah :D

but i would think someone here will know a bit more how to use these tools in the proper manner :D
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Post by ian k » Thu 27 Jul, 2006 12:13 pm

Ok here goes...
A compressor is used to attenuate signals when they get above a certain threshold. So for example if you have recorded a live drum kit and have got a track with a snare on it, you can set up a compressor to attenuate the snare hit if the drummer occasionally hits the drum a bit too loud for your track. You can also use gain to boost signals that are below the threshold so that the snare is evened out over the track. That way it will sit better in the mix. When setting up the compressor on a snare you will need fast attack and decay times, so the compressor operates quickly to attenuate the signal and then re-sets itself as soon as the snare hit is finished. As opposed to when you're compressing vocals where you might want a slower attack and release time. Typically you want to use a higher compression ratio for things that have big transients like drums and a lower one for vocals, strings etc.
The problem with compression is that it reduces dynamic range so too much of it can remove the 'feel' from the performance. Also if you are compressing vocals you want to set the threshold to aim for roughly -3db of attenuation on the compressor to avoid pumping and breathing effects but if you're compressing drums you might want more to get that pumping effect so you can have a lower threshold to get more attenuation. A limiter is just a compressor with a very high ratio, usually with quite a high threshold, typically used to protect equipment when you're recording or doing live stuff e.g. to protect speakers from blowing up when someone drops the mike on stage.. Hope that helps :P

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Post by darlo » Thu 27 Jul, 2006 11:45 pm

for things that have big transients
Now there is a word that gets banded about quite a lot in muso fields. WTF does it mean :?:

mista guest

Post by mista guest » Fri 28 Jul, 2006 12:23 am

:?

Thanks for help guys.

I am totally and utterly lost in this. I cannot tell you how much I don't understand the workings of these things. I do know that compressors/limiters either boost or cutoff certain frequencies, but why not then just use limiters and set them at lower ratios? Why (and how) does a person know when to impliment them into their tracks. I'm sure my stuff needs them all over the place, but how can you pinpoint a certain frequency, then know what part of a compressor to use?

I'd love to be able to do this, but I'm really struggling.

:?

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Post by ian k » Sat 29 Jul, 2006 3:44 pm

Sorry if I've thrown you a curve-ball there!

A transient is just a big spike in the amplitude - If you were looking at a waveform of a kick drum you'd see a big transient.

Compressors and limiters just reduce amplitude (or volume), they don't cut off frequencies, that's done by EQ. Limiters and compressors are the same thing really, a limiter is just a compressor that has a high ratio which gives lots of compression (which equals lots of gain/volume reduction). You are limiting the amplitude of a signal so you're setting a threshold or a ceiling that it can't go above. I've never used a limiter for mixing down a track but compressors can be very useful.

To give you an example you could put a compressor on an audio file of a vocal that has some quiet bits and some loud bits. You could set the compressor up (by changing the threshold) so that the volume of the loudest bits is reduced by say -3db, making it sound more even throughout the track.

Hope that makes sense!

mista guest

Post by mista guest » Sat 29 Jul, 2006 6:49 pm

Thanks, Ian.

My track's now done, so it's now just a case of trying to even everything out. I'm gonna try and compress some of it that I think could do with it, and see what the end result is.
I'm also having some trouble with eq as well. I'm honestly starting to believe that I may be tone deaf, as I just can't seem to get my head around certain frequencies.
It'll be up for Monday anyway, and you can (if you would be so kind) let me know what needs what.

:)

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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by Steve Sole » Sat 20 Jun, 2009 5:41 am

Sorry to dig out an old thread, but I didn't want to start a new one, and I thought there was already this - laying around somewhere on these pages...

Anyway, my new query is this:
can anyone give me good advice on hardware eq and hardware compressors? I'm looking to purchase a rackmount comp and eq and I'd really like some help!

Cheers,
:D
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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by chuckcogan » Sat 20 Jun, 2009 1:37 pm

hopefully mark can help you here....cos im lost when it comes to technology hahahah
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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by darlo » Sat 20 Jun, 2009 10:08 pm

Can I ask why the hardware compressor?

Have you ever thought of something like this:- http://www.musicradar.com/gear/all/comp ... 485/review

Also have a look through the site as you may be able to pick up some tips on compression.

Cheers

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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by Steve Sole » Mon 22 Jun, 2009 3:57 am

Hi people.

The reason I'm looking for a hardware solution is I'm slowly (VERY) beginning to get my head around production, and I'm definitely moving from software over to hardware - completely against the grain at the moment!
I'm now at the beginnings of a very bare setup (hardware), and I'm also trying to keep the old CPU load as far away from the music as possible.

The little box looks great, but I'm trying to focus now on individual racks that do individual processing.
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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by darlo » Mon 22 Jun, 2009 7:34 am

Hi Steve,

The SSL unit will offload the processing to the "little box" and save some of the CPU. As for the outboard compressor, will this be a master bus compressor or are you going to use this for individual tracks?

Be mindful on how you will route the audio signal out of the PC through the compressor and off to it's final destination.

I not an hardware expert so perhaps bug/pm someone how uses a hardware mixer *cough* mark :wink:

Cheers and good luck!

Darlo

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Re: Compressors/Limiters

Post by Steve Sole » Mon 22 Jun, 2009 5:27 pm

Thanks, Darlo.

I've come to the conclusion now that processors are an absolute when it comes to helping/making your tunes sound the way we all want them too. I'm really looking at a compressor that will take care of individual tracks at the moment, and as I said earlier, I'm really trying now to keep the CPU load down to as low as possible. I think I've cracked the final compressor/processor here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... tsupported but that's really for the very end stage. I really want something that will do the job for each track. I'm gonna sit and have a good look at your wee box again. Cheers for all your help.
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