When doing parallel compression, I know can I just use the mix knob on a compressor plug‑in. But are there advantages to using the compressor fully wet on another channel, and feeding it with an aux send from the first track?
SOS Reviews Editor Matt Houghton replies: There’s nothing inherently wrong with using a compressor’s wet/dry blend control for parallel compression if you’re sure that it does what you need. But it’s much less versatile than putting your compressor on a second, dedicated channel and I almost always choose the latter approach. Why? Well, with separate signals on two channels/faders, there are several potential advantages, which include the following:
- 1. You can chain multiple plug‑ins on the wet channel, for example to filter or EQ the compressed channel, or add saturation as well as compression (and if you haven’t tried that you really should!).
- 2. You can use more than one compressor (or more complex signal chains) in parallel, each on a different track. That could be useful if you wished, for example, to recreate a Michael Brauer‑style multi‑bus or vocal compression setup, or to put different aspects of the source sound on different faders (eg. one channel might give you control over a kick drum’s sustain, another might provide more click) and so on.
- 3. It’s possible to automate the wet signal up/down in level, but without bringing down the dry at the same time, which would happen if automating a single wet/dry blend control. For instance, the dual‑channel setup could offer a way to ride up the energy/density in a chorus without also pulling down the transients.4. You can control the sound from your DAW’s mixer or arrange page, with no need to open any plug‑in GUIs once the compressor is set up as you want it.
...some plug‑ins do offer separate knobs/faders for the wet and dry signal path, and this allows you to automate the wet level without affecting the dry.
It’s probably worth mentioning that some plug‑ins do offer separate knobs/faders for the wet and dry signal path (Reaper’s ReaComp, for example), and this allows you to automate the wet level without affecting the dry. But all the other points I’ve listed still apply, so I’ll generally set parallel compression up on separate channels.
There are exceptions, though, and that’s usually a case of looking for the path of least resistance. For example, if I want to use two‑stage compression (ie. parallel compression followed be regular downward compression) and I know I’m not going to want to automate the parallel compressor as described above, I might be happy using a wet/dry control. But the only advantage is that the routing is less complex than for separate channels, since I’d need to route the source and parallel channel to a subgroup and perform the second stage of compression there.