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Old 11-26-2022, 10:46 AM
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Default How to tell from compressors

Rather that hijack the Black Friday compressor thread, Iíll open this one.

What level of experience, refinement, or discernment does one need to reach to be able to hear the differences among compressors? Do some provide the elegant, silky finish while others ruin a song? Something in between these extremes?

I use Studio One, which has two native compressor plug-ins: one that emulates three classic formats and the other that just ďcompressesĒ according to infinitely adjustable threshold, ratio, knee, attack, and release choices. I can hear how both of these plug-ins permit me to dial in a consistent volume for voice, bass, and guitars, or punch up a kick or snare. Is this not enough?

I donít get it.
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Old 11-26-2022, 11:16 AM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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Most of the ďvintageĒ hardware compressors change the character of a sound in a way people like. But theyíre terrible for actual gain management. The ones that do good gain management are often the comes-with plugins in your DAW. They really should have their own category.
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Old 11-26-2022, 12:02 PM
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What level of experience, refinement, or discernment does one need to reach to be able to hear the differences among compressors?
In my case, it took a lot of hours just sitting, listening, and focusing on one particular aspect of a track: transients, tone, punch, proximity, dynamic control, peaks (no doubt there's something I've left out). I'm sure there are people with much more experience that I have can sit and focus on all of those aspects at once but I usually have to take 2-4 passes to hear the differences and decide what I think works better.

That's what I'd recommend though. Spend some hours just listening. First, just concentrate on learning what one of your compressors can do. Take something you've recorded and twist knobs. Learn what each control does and how it effects the various aspects I've listed. Do that with a few different types of compressors, then spend some time doing the same thing but comparing the compressors side-by-side on the same tracks.

For a long time, I was awful and way too heavy-handed with compression. Doing what I just described made a huge difference for me.
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Old 11-26-2022, 01:25 PM
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I found that it was advantageous to work with my source material, apply a plug-in, and listen to the pre-sets supplied with the plug in. All of them don't have presets, but if they do it can give you a good idea of what the different parameters and adjustments do.

This works with different types of plug ins other than just compressors.
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Old 11-26-2022, 02:11 PM
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I found that it was advantageous to work with my source material, apply a plug-in, and listen to the pre-sets supplied with the plug in. All of them don't have presets, but if they do it can give you a good idea of what the different parameters and adjustments do.

This works with different types of plug ins other than just compressors.
Yes, this would be helpful in getting to know where to start the settings for male/female voice, acoustic picking/strumming, electric lead, bass ó and what sounds youíre trying to produce with them. Lots to learn, a lifetime. Add that to upstream EQ and the choices bump up an order of magnitude. And thatís just with native plug-ins.

But on the subject of how this or that compressor affects tone, that seems like an entirely different thing.
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Old 11-26-2022, 02:46 PM
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As always, I like to say Iím not an expert -I just like add to these threads after Iíve had a lot of coffee!

But I think a good way to understand differences between compression types and approaches is to go crazy and exaggerate all the settings on a piece of audio. Maybe like with with learning photo editing software, if you really max out things like sharpness, saturation, etc, the photos will be awful of course, but you get very clear about what those things are really doing. To that and I saw this video recently https://youtu.be/8XBkQ91Q06U which I thought did a pretty good job of demonstrating something I read about in Mike Stavrou's great book, Mixing with Your Mind .

Since this is the AGF, and one imagines a certain amount of people are on here wanting to make solo instrumental acoustic guitar recordings, Iím thinking that something Doug Young said that really stuck in my head: He wrote something here about that with solo guitar (or Iíll add even duo guitar albums) that weíre not really doing much real mixing here, rather weíre really doing something more like mastering. That -along with a recent big bill from a mastering engineer- has really focused me of late on try to learn a lot more about how a mastering engineer approaches, EQ, compression etc. And although I donít use Isotope products beyond just RX for the occasional repair, their YouTube channel really is a pretty impressive resource. This series ďAre You Listeningď in particular is pretty great. Hereís his episode from season one on compression in mastering, which I think might be useful after youíve done the first experiment of exaggerating all the settings on a piece of audio. https://youtu.be/IyjlRiNiLBg
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Old 11-27-2022, 11:14 AM
DupleMeter DupleMeter is offline
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Default How to tell from compressors

You can ruin a mix or any source with any compressor, if you don’t set things right.

You can also get good results on any mix or any source from just about any compressor, if you know how to set it. Though, some compressor may be overall better or worse for the source.

Like anything else, experience is the best teacher. The more you use different compressors, the more you get comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of each & how those idiosyncrasies can be used to your advantage.

You also learn what YOU like & YOU don’t like, which may be the most important lesson. For instance, I know that I don’t like VCA compressors. They’re just not what I want from a compressor. That doesn’t mean they’re bad. It means I know I want something different than what they provide.

It might be interesting to do a shoutout on just acoustic guitar.
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Old 11-27-2022, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b1j View Post
Rather that hijack the Black Friday compressor thread, I’ll open this one.

What level of experience, refinement, or discernment does one need to reach to be able to hear the differences among compressors? Do some provide the elegant, silky finish while others ruin a song? Something in between these extremes?

I use Studio One, which has two native compressor plug-ins: one that emulates three classic formats and the other that just “compresses” according to infinitely adjustable threshold, ratio, knee, attack, and release choices. I can hear how both of these plug-ins permit me to dial in a consistent volume for voice, bass, and guitars, or punch up a kick or snare. Is this not enough?

I don’t get it.
Well it's an interesting question . I have been using a DAW for 20 years and a compressor for maybe 15 or 16 ... But I would not claim to have enough discernment in my hearing to be able to accurately say ---Oh that's an Optical, or VCA, or FET, or Veri-Mu --compressor

Now it may certainly be the case that If you are comparing Hardware Compressors that it might be easier hear a difference between types . ??? Just a guess
But as others have said what is far more important than knowing the type is to just listen and decide if you like the result

What I can say is I definitely like my one Tube Hardware compressor (a modern Vari -Mu type) as a whole mic (mix bus) compressor. But I do also typically use a couple of different plugin comps as well and both are the Pro Tools Bundled comps.
One is a Fairchild emulation ( Tube vari- mu ) on guitars and instruments
And the other on vocals is the comp in the Avid Cannel Strip ( not sure but guessing an FET, VCA or Optical emulation )
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Old 11-27-2022, 05:07 PM
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I see a lot of people trying to learn audio processors backwards. They ask their buddies what to use, buy it, slap it on, and then try to figure out how to get a good sound from it. The bottom line is that you need to study and use compressors to understand the differences and be able to analyze them. Find a course and study the theory, design, and applications of compressors. Enjoy!

Bob
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Old 11-27-2022, 06:08 PM
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Pardon me if I've posted this before. "Compression is for kids" - Bruce Swedien
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Old 11-27-2022, 08:29 PM
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Pardon me if I've posted this before. "Compression is for kids" - Bruce Swedien
Ha! He and I shared a concert at the AES in New York - The Eighth Air Force Glenn Miller Orchestra. We both enjoyed swing and this band was hot! Of course, the PA was fantastic.

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Old 11-28-2022, 08:48 AM
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Pardon me if I've posted this before. "Compression is for kids" - Bruce Swedien
Except according to Erik Zobler who worked as an assistant to Swedien

Erik:: "He used an absolute minimum of outboard gear to record. The only thing he would regularly use was an 1176 on the vocal. And he used the 12:1 compression ratio. So it was actually a little bit more like a limiter than actual compression because Bruce did not like compression. Or at least not, shall we say, compression from electronic gear. He loved, and he was a master of using tape compression as part of his sound".

If I remember correctly ( questionable) I believe that quote In context was from an interview or discussion about the issue of the the "loudness wars"

Honestly I do not think there is a simplistic general concept of compression -ya or nay-- I think like most audio elements it is a tool,,,, and it all and totally "Depends"
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Old 11-28-2022, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Womack View Post
I see a lot of people trying to learn audio processors backwards. They ask their buddies what to use, buy it, slap it on, and then try to figure out how to get a good sound from it. The bottom line is that you need to study and use compressors to understand the differences and be able to analyze them. Find a course and study the theory, design, and applications of compressors. Enjoy!

Bob
I learned by assisting, watching what the engineers used, and then going in after hours, putting up someone's multitrack I had no business messing with, slapping things on, and then trying to figure out how to get a good sound from them. That was my "studying and using." "Find a course" is okay, but don't feel like you have to do that before you get hands-on.
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Old 11-28-2022, 07:29 PM
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Default How to tell from compressors

In donít know that you need to study compressor design & understand the topology to learn to use them.

Hands on is the best teacher. Thatís how we all used to learn. Work as an assistant, watching how experienced engineers handled things. Then emulate when no one was on the clock & it didnít matter if you screwed up.

Also, I firmly believe that digging yourself into a hole & then figuring out how to get out of that hole is one of the best learning experiences. You learn what not to do (and why), but you also learn how to fix your mistakes. After a while you become confident knowing that you can fix whatever comes at you & you end up with a bag of tricks to pull from.
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Old 11-29-2022, 06:59 AM
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In don’t know that you need to study compressor design & understand the topology to learn to use them.

Hands on is the best teacher. That’s how we all used to learn. Work as an assistant, watching how experienced engineers handled things. Then emulate when no one was on the clock & it didn’t matter if you screwed up.

Also, I firmly believe that digging yourself into a hole & then figuring out how to get out of that hole is one of the best learning experiences. You learn what not to do (and why), but you also learn how to fix your mistakes. After a while you become confident knowing that you can fix whatever comes at you & you end up with a bag of tricks to pull from.
When I was first hired into an audio studio back in the '80s I was employed by a place that had two Neve 8058s with 32264 compressors, a Neve 8024 with the earlier 2264a version of the same compressor, and an Auditronics 501 console, as well as all sorts of outboard gear. When my sessions were over I squirted every type of signal I could through the EQs, compressors, and other outboard gear to learn them. After studying the technology in college, this put the meat on the bones of my knowledge.

Besides anything else, I also learned to visualize in my head what I was doing before there were any visualizations. People forget that everything was knobs back then - no visuals. That was also very useful.

The college study made it less hunt-and-peck, but the actual use was the flesh.

Bob
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