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Compress And Sustain

Paul White examines 3 different tips & tricks to help with vocals, guitars, and MIDI production. By Paul White
Published January 1994

Being one of those guitarists who uses either a dedicated recording preamp or speaker simulators in the studio, I'm always looking for ways to improve the sound that eventually finds its way to tape. Modern speaker simulators can produce excellent results, but often the sense of energy that you get when miking a real amplifier is missing. To some extent, this can be compensated for by patching a compressor after the preamp or simulator to emulate the effect of speaker compression. The actual compressor setting depends on the effects required, but a good starting point is to set an attack time of 50ms, a release of half a second and a ratio of around 6:1. Set the threshold level to give between 10 and 15dB of noise reduction on the signal peaks and then fine‑tune by ear. This really smooths out clean, chordal sounds, while sustaining lead sounds can be created using less overdrive, which often helps them cut through a mix. Compression is especially effective on mildly distorted guitar sounds, as these can tend to lack sustain or sound uneven otherwise. Paul White