You are here

Compression, is it still relevant?

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:39 am

A bit of a statement I know, and of course, it’s still relevant.
But, I’m thinking, back in the days of analogue recording it was absolutely essential, but now with the incredible dynamic range we have at our disposal with current hi-res digital systems may be it’s not as essential as it used to be, and we are in fact reducing the dynamic range unnecessarily sometimes.
I rarely use compression at all, and only as a safety device when mixing, or "limiting" very occasionally while recording, and only when absolutely necessary, I never use compression creatively, as an effect. In fact, I could quite easily live without any compressors if need be.
Most of the time, I can’t hear the effects of any compressor, if I can, it’s not good, and I don’t want that.
And when I see compressors costing £20,000 and people waxing lyrical about them I can never hear anything in fact, regardless of price, and most of the time the music always sounds better when in bypass, this always applies to drums, switch the compression out, and all the dynamics and life return.
I have hardware compressors sure, but simply because I think I have to have them, but they rarely get used.
Some compressors though are a thing of beauty, and it would be good to have them if I could afford to let them sit around not getting used most of the time, and some, I have to agree, do give the music a lovely character even on very subtle settings, like the Summit, Avalon stuff, Fairchild.
User avatar
Arpangel
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3007
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Music Wolf » Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:54 am

I still find compression to be one of, if not the most, useful mixing tools available to me. Maybe that is, in part, down to less than stellar playing technique from myself and those that I record but I honestly can't imagine not having it available on something like bass guitar.
User avatar
Music Wolf
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1887
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:00 am
Location: Exiled to St Helens

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Zukan » Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:05 am

Tone, there are strong reasons why we still use compression. Gluing sounds, shaping sounds and narrowing the dynamic range to afford a more consistent volume within a mix.
I have just finished writing an epic article on a subject that relies heavily on compression.
User avatar
Zukan
Moderator
Posts: 8531
Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:09 am

Zukan wrote:Tone, there are strong reasons why we still use compression. Gluing sounds, shaping sounds and narrowing the dynamic range to afford a more consistent volume within a mix.
I have just finished writing an epic article on a subject that relies heavily on compression.

Yes, strange isn’t it, but it’s one of those things I’ve never got into.
It’s just a tool in my box for stopping overloads.
Could you let me know more about your article?

:thumbup:
User avatar
Arpangel
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3007
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:09 am

I use compression in the mix or on the master buss for subtle effect, and yes, if I can hear it working, then it’s probably too much. What I do hear is a warmth or gluing effect when A/Bing.

There’s a few exceptions. I do like what an LA2A does to vocals and an LA3A on kick or bass guitar seems to deliver the goods. I’ll often use a Fairchild on the master buss - even when I shouldn’t ;)

(Oh emulations of the above......... in case you’re wondering).

Bob
User avatar
Bob Bickerton
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4038
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
http://www.bickerton.co.nz

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:41 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:I use compression in the mix or on the master buss for subtle effect, and yes, if I can hear it working, then it’s probably too much. What I do hear is a warmth or gluing effect when A/Bing.

There’s a few exceptions. I do like what an LA2A does to vocals and an LA3A on kick or bass guitar seems to deliver the goods. I’ll often use a Fairchild on the master buss - even when I shouldn’t ;)

(Oh emulations of the above......... in case you’re wondering).

Bob

I suppose because of the type of music I make, I’m not your usual studio, where compressors are used from drums, vocals, bass etc, I don’t use any of those things.
This glue thing too, I can never hear it. Do you have an original Fairchild? I must admit, they do sound lovely, even as just a "pass-through"
The only time I ever use a compressor creatively is on electric piano sounds, in fact, it’s essential, I can’t play EP without it, it makes for a much more expressive and intimate sound, doeasnt matter what compressor you use.
User avatar
Arpangel
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3007
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Mar 15, 2020 11:16 am

Arpangel wrote:
Bob Bickerton wrote:I use compression in the mix or on the master buss for subtle effect, and yes, if I can hear it working, then it’s probably too much. What I do hear is a warmth or gluing effect when A/Bing.

There’s a few exceptions. I do like what an LA2A does to vocals and an LA3A on kick or bass guitar seems to deliver the goods. I’ll often use a Fairchild on the master buss - even when I shouldn’t ;)

(Oh emulations of the above......... in case you’re wondering).

Bob

I suppose because of the type of music I make, I’m not your usual studio, where compressors are used from drums, vocals, bass etc, I don’t use any of those things.
This glue thing too, I can never hear it. Do you have an original Fairchild? I must admit, they do sound lovely, even as just a "pass-through"
The only time I ever use a compressor creatively is on electric piano sounds, in fact, it’s essential, I can’t play EP without it, it makes for a much more expressive and intimate sound, doeasnt matter what compressor you use.

Well I record mainly classical and acoustic music and still use compressors, not always of course ........ but if I told you where, I’m afraid I’d have to shoot you :o

Used subtly, I believe I can create an enhanced, perhaps slightly larger than life version of an instrument or voice.

Oh and I definitely don’t have an original Fairchild (I’m sure my small studio would overheat if I did) - they’re all UAD emulations.

Bob
User avatar
Bob Bickerton
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4038
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
http://www.bickerton.co.nz

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby The Elf » Sun Mar 15, 2020 1:10 pm

Compression has become a gold trophy, reverently lifted from the shelf, carefully polished, then put back again and admired with a sigh.

To me it's just another spanner in the box, and it is very much needed in everything I do. I've just been mixing some rock vocals, and without compression they would be very lack-lustre and compromise the entire mix. The kick would have no bite, the snare would have no punch, the BVs would be lost on every other word and the bass would be flapping around like a towel on a beach.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13766
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:24 pm

Last year I took the plunge and bought a combination pre and compressor unit. I am usually the sole performer on my tracks and don’t play any instrument well but I’m good at working with my compressed abilities (pun intended).
The first time I used it on electric bass I had one of those OMG epiphany moments - the notes came out evenly played and the sustain was gorgeous! So I obviously over compressed but it felt great and worked in the track. I use mostly in the box instruments which are usually too perfect and mostly sound compressed so I rarely compress those unless I’ve played something badly or the samples are too aggressive for the mix.

I still have much to learn about appropriate compression but it is definitely in my toolbox and relevant.
User avatar
ManFromGlass
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2695
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:00 am
Location: In the woods in Canada
 

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Mar 15, 2020 6:46 pm

When you go to a movie and listen to the sound track in the theater, you are in a place with no noise and an ideal listening space.

But listen in your car with all of the background noise, and the mix has to be able to have everything heard in that situation or all of the music will be lost.

Getting a mix to sound good in a real world environment is always going to need some skilled use of compression and it will always be relevant. I prefer upward compression to bring the details up, but that is still compression.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1335
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Mar 15, 2020 7:11 pm

Arpangel wrote:A bit of a statement I know, and of course, it’s still relevant.

Seems like a pointless thread, then! :lol:

...now with the incredible dynamic range we have at our disposal with current hi-res digital systems may be it’s not as essential as it used to be, and we are in fact reducing the dynamic range unnecessarily sometimes.

Compression has always been -- and continues to be -- a necessity because domestic listening conditions, preferences, and technical requirements have always mandated a much smaller dynamic range than real life sources.

As always, it's a tool, and the various techniques, effects, and appropriate uses can be learned. The better the users' craft skills, the more effective it's application will be.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 26331
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Mar 15, 2020 7:27 pm

Music Wolf wrote:II honestly can't imagine not having it available on something like bass guitar.

Me neither - it makes a huge difference to the overall sound, evening it out and providing a wide choice of attack timbres depending on the make/model of compressor.


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 15168
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby MOF » Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm

As others have said re reducing dynamic range for technical reasons but also for ‘fattening up’ certain sounds e.g. bass and snare drums by increasing their perceived duration and as a consequence it affects their tone because after the bright transients you hear the mid and lower frequencies for longer, the same for bass guitar.
If your question is only in the context of recording digitally at 24bits without compressors then that is possibly ‘No, you don’t need compressors’ but some people still like to compress on the way in, notably UAD users with unison technology employed.
MOF
Frequent Poster
Posts: 680
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Mar 16, 2020 9:31 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Seems like a pointless thread, then! :lol:

Looks like I did a "Ratner" :D
I still don’t get it, compressed bass always seems to have well, less bass.
Drums sound lifeless compared to uncompressed, in fact, most things sound better without it.
User avatar
Arpangel
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3007
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Compression, is it still relevant?

Postby The Elf » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:23 am

Arpangel wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:Seems like a pointless thread, then! :lol:

Looks like I did a "Ratner" :D
I still don’t get it, compressed bass always seems to have well, less bass.
Drums sound lifeless compared to uncompressed, in fact, most things sound better without it.
Then you must not be choosing appropriate settings. For bass to have 'less bass' with compression doesn't make sense if the appropriate settings are applied. I often get bassists gobsmacked that their bass seems to have acquired another octave below when I apply processing to their raw sound.

The thing is, most people bandy around the term 'compressed' as if it is one specific effect. It very much isn't! Compression can reduce dynamic range, but it can also *increase* it - that's the bit people seem to misunderstand. There's been many a discussion about parallel ('New York') compression on these very fora, assuming it to be about 'bringing up quieter details', yet it can do entirely the opposite, all dependent on how the compressor is set.

So I don't see how compression can make things sound 'lifeless' when in reality it can create dynamics at opposite ends of the spectrum - as long as you understand what those settings are doing!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13766
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Next