You are here

Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Moderator: Moderators

Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby MDslammer » Sun May 09, 2021 11:47 pm

Hello,

I have a question regarding my drum mix.

I run all my mics into mic pres then into my DAW.

My question is, do any of you run the mic pre into a compressor before going to the DAW?

I'm thinking maybe the kick and snare mics might benefit from doing this, but have no experience doing so.

I'd like some advice before investing in more gear.

Thanks

Mark
MDslammer
Poster
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Jun 17, 2019 2:45 pm

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby James Perrett » Sun May 09, 2021 11:54 pm

I have done this in the past when I only had 16 bit convertors and limited processing power in the DAW but these days I probably wouldn't compress on the way in. You can do so much more with digital compressors these days - particularly as you can do things like start the digital compressor's attack before the sound itself starts.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 10792
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 10, 2021 12:18 am

MDslammer wrote:My question is, do any of you run the mic pre into a compressor before going to the DAW?

No. There's no technical need to, and there's much more flexibility when processing in the DAW.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 31081
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Aled Hughes » Mon May 10, 2021 10:12 am

As Hugh says, there's not technical reason to do so, but I still do it.

We have a nice collection of vintage outboard at the studio, so I often patch the compressors on the way in (1176s, LA3As, Avalon) because I know what they do, and I'm careful not to overcook it. They sound nice and I like using them, and there's no guarantee that I'll be mixing in that room, so that's why I use them on the way in.

I also do a variation on the 'mixing to pink noise' method that was covered a few years ago in the magazine to set up a quick initial mix - some mild compression on the way in can speed up that process slightly too, I find.
Aled Hughes
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 12:00 am
Location: Pwllheli, Cymru
www.stiwdiosain.cymru

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 10, 2021 10:21 am

Aled Hughes wrote:...I often patch the compressors on the way in (1176s, LA3As, Avalon) because I know what they do, and I'm careful not to overcook it.

Fair enough...

It's not unusual to want/need compression on some elements of a drum set, and/or across the whole drum bus, and if you know exactly what you need and how to achieve it from the outset then applying dynamics on the way in can save time and remove a time-consuming decision tree from the mix stage.

But once done it's impossible to undo, so this approach really does rely on experience, knowledge and a clear-minded approach.

Nothing wrong at all compressing on the way in if you know what you're doing... but whereas it was once an essential step due to the dynamic limitations of tape, it isn't any more, and recording flat obviously leaves options open and avoids potentially costly mistakes for beginners.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 31081
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby The Elf » Mon May 10, 2021 10:22 am

I have a few bits of nice hardware in the studio, but I would never use them as recording - it's less faff and safer to add them once I have a clean recording in the bag.

The main reason? Because setting the controls is much easier once I know what I have to work with - and I can adjust the controls during the FX pass to react to anything unexpected at the time, but now repeatedly predictable.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 16770
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby paul tha other » Mon May 10, 2021 12:41 pm

although as other have said here there is no need to compress on the way in(an i agree with them) but its a habit i cant stop...most of the time i compress the kick, snare and the room mic on the way in for a few differant reasons but its never done with crazy settings more a stop the level going above a certain threshold and its gentle on the way in.its a hangover from my 16 track days, when i only had 2 compressors
paul tha other
Frequent Poster
Posts: 681
Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2004 12:00 am
Location: scotland
http://www.myspace.com/onemanandalaptop

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby ronmac » Mon May 10, 2021 1:12 pm

I am in the “no need to compress on the way in” camp, I will sometimes apply some compression to the artist mix/fold back for their benefit.
ronmac
Regular
Posts: 231
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:00 am
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Turn the knobs 'til the music moves ya.

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby MDslammer » Mon May 10, 2021 4:00 pm

Thank you all for taking time to express your opinions and personal experiences.

I may try compressing the kick/snare mics just to experiment and see what comes out.

Much appreciated fellas.
MDslammer
Poster
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Jun 17, 2019 2:45 pm

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Mixedup » Mon May 10, 2021 4:29 pm

I get both sides of the argument. But for rock/pop stuff I often use gentle EQ and compression while tracking, knowing that I'll probably add more later. Mixing becomes WAY less hassle this way IMHO — quicker, and more about mixing; less about reshaping a bunch of sounds you didn't think hard enough about while tracking! But, obviously, you need to know your compressor and what you're aiming for to work that way.
User avatar
Mixedup
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cambridgeshire, UK

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby The Elf » Mon May 10, 2021 5:02 pm

Mixedup wrote:I get both sides of the argument. But for rock/pop stuff I often use gentle EQ and compression while tracking, knowing that I'll probably add more later. Mixing becomes WAY less hassle this way IMHO — quicker, and more about mixing; less about reshaping a bunch of sounds you didn't think hard enough about while tracking! But, obviously, you need to know your compressor and what you're aiming for to work that way.
I have no problem with everyone doing things their own way, but why do you say it makes mixing 'WAY less hassle'? I can't imagine what major difference it is making that can't be handled after the recording.

Honestly not being argumentative, but genuinely curious!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 16770
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 10, 2021 5:06 pm

I think its just a case of if you record the sound you (know you) want, you don't have to spend time building that sound before finessing the mix. Hence easy and quicker...

... if you know the sound you want and how to get it during tracking.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 31081
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby The Elf » Mon May 10, 2021 5:24 pm

Sure, I can see that, but all it would take is adding, before mixing, the same process that would have been added before recording. That doesn't seem such a huge task to me. I'm genuinely wondering if I'm missing something.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 16770
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 10, 2021 5:43 pm

I don't think you're missing anything at all... :D
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 31081
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Mic pre into a compressor to DAW?

Postby Mixedup » Mon May 10, 2021 5:53 pm

Yes, it saves time. And saving time allows you to mix quicker. And mixing quicker both reduces listening fatigue and allows you to focus on the stuff that matters... the music and the feel of the piece.

It also often leaves you needing fewer plug-ins to achieve a similar thing, which saves CPU, and thus potentially headaches further down the line on a big mix.

But it's mainly about mindset: I'm increasingly of the opinion that committing to decisions as early as is viable is a healthy, productive approach generally. It counters my tendency to procrastinate and go looking for that perfect plug-in... which invariably makes me take my, erm, ear? off the ball.

Oh... and some hardware still sounds better. Or requires less effort to make it sound 'right'.

This is my view, of course: YMMV...
User avatar
Mixedup
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4443
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cambridgeshire, UK

Next