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Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

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Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:02 am

We're all constantly bombarded with stuff that basically says 'You're not a proper engineer if you're not using the second banana coloured iteration of the XYZ654 compressor made in Patagonia from the wings of an extinct butterfly...".

And we're told we have to use a different model/emulation of some old 50s/60s compressor on all our different sound sources otherwise we are lesser human beings and should hide our heads in shame.

So how many of us here in the real world pick and choose our compressors (or more likely compressor emulation plugins) like a connoisseur choosing fine wines?

Personally, I concentrate 95% on the performance and 5% on Dicking About with plugin choices, so I like stuff that's as simple as possible to set up and use, with the minimum of knobs and controls.

How about you chaps and chappesses*?


*Incidentally ARE there any women who visit this forum? My suspicion is that there aren't?
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Luke W » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:25 am

I'm not too fussed really. I don't own any hardware compressors at all, so I lose points with all those sorts straight away. I do have some nice emulations of sought-after old units that I use from time to time, but really when I'm reaching for compression then 99% of the time I just want some transparent control over dynamics (who'd have thought it?) and Fabfilter Pro-C2 usually does exactly what I want very quickly, and like all of their stuff, the interface is great.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Dave B » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:49 am

+1 for 'Fabfilter C2 in 90% of all cases'

The whole esoteric thing is garbage anyway - I know of a forumee who sent some guitar parts to a well known artist whose engineer was desperate to know which {insert rare hardware units} he used (there was a list of things he thought it was ... I can't remember it now), only to inform said engineer that it was his playing plus stock Logic (7? at the time?) plugins...


For compressors, I've recently been playing with dynamic eq on nasty frequency peaks and that seems to retain more of the original tone.

However, in the good old days of the Liquid Mix (when we had convolution versions of lots of lovely gear), I was able to shape the tone with certain gear slightly easier. Whilst I miss the concept of the LM, I find that I still am able to get similar results with a few plugins rather than spend hours wading through a whole load...
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:50 am

For general, transparent level control stuff I just ReaComp (got it set up on my BCR as part of the channel strip). For master bus 'glue' stuff I tend to use one of the free Klanghelm ones (IVGI2) because it seems to do that thing better - almost as if it's less astute?
If I'm definitely after a coloured sound I'll sometimes use another free Klanghelm (MJUCjr) or a free Tokyo Dawn one (Molotok) because they add a bit of colouration.
I've also just bought Acustica's Taupe but haven't had a decent play with the compressor side of things yet.
Then there's the deliberate crushing job, for which I use Creative Intent's Temper or SoundToys' Devil Loc (if I'm getting really carried away).
So I guess I've got a couple of options for each job, which gives me enough in the way of choice but doesn't lead me to spend half an hour choosing flavours when I really want to be eating. He says, mixing metaphors a bit.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby The Elf » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:05 pm

I have to admit that I am a bit choosy about the compressors I use, both software and hardware.

SSL channel comp for bass/vocals, 1176 comp for vocals/guitar, SSL buss comp for mix buss, Renaissance comp for drums, H-Comp for side-chaining... They do all do something slightly different that I've found to work for each situation.

Admittedly I am now using the built-in compressor in Cubase a lot more than I used to, particularly since they introduced the 'vintage' option that gives me the 'bitey' feel of an 1176, with which I'm most familiar. If I took the time to compare the stock options now I dare say I may drop the familar old tools and find everything I need in there, but I never allow myself the time, and old habits die hard.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby desmond » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:05 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:And we're told we have to use a different model/emulation of some old 50s/60s compressor on all our different sound sources otherwise we are lesser human beings and should hide our heads in shame.

Not in Sound On Sound you're not. Maybe on GS... ;)

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:So how many of us here in the real world pick and choose our compressors (or more likely compressor emulation plugins) like a connoisseur choosing fine wines?

Different compressors have different behaviours, and thus are differently suited to particular tasks. If you're the type who uses a little bit of light compression for transparent level control, then the various behaviours of compressors are not going to be that apparent, because the processing is very light.

I'd say I probably use compressors as much for their ability to shape and colour sounds as I do for level control. For example, if you want an aggressive rock drum sound, you need a fairly fast acting compressor, so expecting to get that sound from an inherently slow one isn't going to happen.

As an idea of the kinds of applications and compressor types I might choose:

- Logic's compressor has a bunch of the most popular compressor types, and it's easy to switch between them so that's a good start to help identify the "sound" of a particular type

- If I want a fairly aggressive, or fast, or distortey sound, I'll reach first for an 1176-type (fast, aggressive)
- If I want a smooth, coloured levelling that's simple and fairly transparent, I'll go for an LA2A-type (slow, thick), or sometimes Wave's RenVox/RenComp
- If I want a smooth compression that's less coloured, I'll favour an LA3A-type (I use this on bass quite a bit)
- If I want a hard, firm, tight compression I'll maybe reach for a dbx-type, or possibly an SSL-channel compressor
- If I want a smooth coloured compressor, or vintage feel on pianos, where I don't really like LA2A's, I'll probably try a Fairchild or Neve 33609 as I quite like that sound on pianos
- If I want a smooth, glue-type compression on my mix, I'll often go for the SSL buss compressor

All of these things sound different, especially when pushed, and it's more easy to identify characteristics at more extreme settings, but after a while you get used to the sound, and the types of things you prefer to use a particular type on. The above are just some typical starting points, sometimes you don't like a particular compressor on something and will try something else - but an understanding of the inherent "sound" (which is really it's behaviour) of each type will help guide pick the appropriate tool for the task at hand.

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:*Incidentally ARE there any women who visit this forum? My suspicion is that there aren't?

Not enough - this forum, and I suspect, the SOS readership skew very male heavy, alas.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:17 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:We're all constantly bombarded with stuff that basically says 'You're not a proper engineer if you're not using the second banana coloured iteration of the XYZ654 compressor made in Patagonia from the wings of an extinct butterfly...".

Only if you frequent certain other recording technology forums.... and we all know it's utter bow-larks, don't we?

Personally, I concentrate 95% on the performance and 5% on Dicking About with plugin choices

Good plan! :lol:

The sensible route is to decide why, and then how, a track needs to be processed and select a compressor which has the appropriate characteristics.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:27 pm

Only if you frequent certain other recording technology forums.... and we all know it's utter bow-larks, don't we?

And if you frequent YouTube or read any Facebook advertising!
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby desmond » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:39 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:And if you frequent YouTube or read any Facebook advertising!

You can always come back here for a dose of sanity... :tongue:
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:48 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:And if you frequent YouTube or read any Facebook advertising!

Oh no! You don't want to be doing that! Very bad places for sense and sanity... :silent: :crazy:
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:58 pm

You can always come back here for a dose of sanity... :tongue:

Well as Desmond has just said he might typically use at least six different vintage-modelled compressors on a mix I'm not sure about that!
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby ore_terra » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:03 pm

The Elf wrote:Admittedly I am now using the built-in compressor in Cubase a lot more than I used to, particularly since they introduced the 'vintage' option that gives me the 'bitey' feel of an 1176, with which I'm most familiar.

the "punch" option in that one is really... punchy! I also like it a lot.

all plugins in my case:

- level control, when a lot is required or I don't feel like editing that much: either cubase standard compressor if I happen to have the channel editor open or Fabfilter C2 otherwise. I prefer the latest, also because the built in one you dont "see" it in the inserts list.
- when there are no big dynamics issues, I'll go straight to the Console 1 SSL channel emulation, or a distressor if I'm not using the C1 plugin.
- parallel compression for drums and vocals is normally a 1176
- drum bus and vocal bus usually have a fairchild fully open
- master bus, I bought a few weeks ago the SPL Iron plugin and I'm still learning it. before that it was the SSL bus comp.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby desmond » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:03 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Well as Desmond has just said he might typically use at least six different vintage-modelled compressors on a mix I'm not sure about that!

But not for arbitrary reasons, or for every project. I could do fine without many of those flavours.

Some people have a Les Paul, a Strat, a Gibson SG, a Telecaster etc etc. In essence they all do the same thing, but people reach for them because they do the same thing with different flavours, different feels, different colours.

Such is painting with sound. You don't need to use my colours, or have my colour preferences...
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby CS70 » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:16 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:So how many of us here in the real world pick and choose our compressors (or more likely compressor emulation plugins) like a connoisseur choosing fine wines?

To me it'd fairly simple:

Transparent, fine-tuned compression: FabFilter-C in clean mode
Intimate vocals, smacked drums parallel, bass: 1176
Parallel compression for kick: RoughRider, Distressor
Bass, snare and kick: Distressor
VOX, soft bass: LA2A (often on vocals the 2A goes in parallel with anything else)
Rock drums: SSL style compressor
Glue: Density mkIII, but it happens very seldom that I have a compressor on the master bus.

On the way in, I often use the hardware LA2A on the 610 strip and the MC77 if I want an intimate voice.

I may deviate sometimes and try different stuff if I don't get the sound I'm after with a particular recording, but it's seldom.
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Re: Compressors: do you use more than a couple?

Postby The Elf » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:28 pm

I almost forgot - the SSL channel compressor is almost magical on drums - it KNOWS what I want! :lol: :shocked:
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