From what I hear about compression, “if you don’t know how to use it correctly, then don’t us it at all”.

So, what the heck is “soft-knee” compression? While using this on a track, the compressor’s output meter is clipping, does this mean it’s doing it’s job? Or should I turn down the output and/or adjust the threshhold? What the heck is “Inverted Dynamic”? Sounds like the Kama Sutra to me.

Is there a “n-Track Compressor’s Guide for the Non-Tech Minded” available?


Try AudioMinds. Though it isn’t 100% N specific, it’s mostly if not all N-track users that made the site. Good stuff on there, including information on compressors.

Also checkout the excellent “How to use a compressor” by Jezar, an n-Tracker many moons ago.

You don’t want to start out with inverted dynamics.
The compressor is easy in theory but hard to get just right in practice :)

Yes indeed, are teryeah says, it sounds simple but it takes some time to figure out. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it at first – I’ve only gradually come to get a feel for compression over the course of a long time, and I would consider myself to be somewhat “tech-minded”. But don’t let that stop you from trying, either! Compression is a valuable tool and it’s one of the things that separates pro-sounding from amateur-sounding.

“soft knee” just means that compression fades in gradually rather than simply turning on when the signal goes above the threshold. That is, if the ratio is 3:1, there’s a band over the threshold where the ratio ramps from 1:1 to 3:1 rather than going directly to 3:1 over the threshold.

While “hard knee” seems intuitively to be a bad idea, as you come to understand compression you realize that the result still isn’t a “slam” kind of thing. Still, some folks believe smooth knee gives better results. I use smooth knee but frankly, I can’t tell you whether I can hear the difference or not.

Inverse dynamics makes quiet stuff loud and loud stuff quiet. A total flippo. This is an effect that’s only used in special cases, and usually for intentionally strange results. Probably works best with VSTi’s. Generally has to be used along with a noise gate, or else on a signal with no background noise between phrases (unless you really want to hear the noise in the gaps for some reason).

My totally off the top of my head reasoning is that the more different things in a track the more it should use soft knee. On tracks with a single instrument I prefer the track to be untouched until it’s over the threshhold. If it’s a submix or even a full mix, and I’m using compression because I want it to change the sound intentionally, I’ll go for soft knee with a larger range from none-to-full-ratio.

Teryeah is a great second set of ears to let me know when I’ve overdone it…and I over do it a lot. Compression is less subtle than EQ (at first) but it causes the same kinds of ear fatigue issues, where if you listen long enough to something, it sounds right no matter what it REALLY sounds like. It’s very easy to loose perspective when using effects of almost any kind.

For distorted guitar tracks I often fiddle with a comp plug-in and I always end up removing it. A Marshall at full tilt is already compressed, the amp does it for you. Plug-ins? Bah! Fugeddabaoutit. EQ it to fit and leave any compression to the mastering stage :laugh:

OK, that’s a gross generalisation, but nevertheless… :)

phoo likes limiters. A lot. He can remove any air, life & snap from any snare drum you care to mention if left to his own devices :D

Seriuously, though, finding the balance between loud (which we all like) and too loud (which we sometimes like but won’t admit) is one he1l of a juggling act. It’s very, very hard to get right for us hacks, IMO.

Re phoo’s remark about perspective, check out our take on Hey Bulldog
Listen to how the track sort of blooms when the ‘You can talk to me…’ theme comes in. Or is it just on my playback systems?
I didn’t really notice it before leaving it alone for a long time…
A hard limiter at work, right?

BTW, how many of us own or have access to a good stereo system with great dynamics to evaluate our stuff with? And a good room for it? Heck - I certainly don’t…


A hard limiter at work, right?

Not at that spot. It’s something else. Think James Bond overdubs.

Yeah, but you hear it starting to bloom & then it hits the roof…

We’re stealing the thread here but sod it. Jimothy’s been absent :)

Quote (phoo @ Jan. 31 2007,20:11)
A hard limiter at work, right?

Not at that spot. It's something else. Think James Bond overdubs.
Errrm, please explain "James Bond overdubs". Ta.

What the arpeggio guitars, that come in at that point, play isn’t entirely unlike 007’s theme song :)

Quote (teryeah @ Feb. 04 2007,17:33)
What the arpeggio guitars, that come in at that point, play isn't entirely unlike 007's theme song :)

Ahhhh... ok, thanks. Now I feel enlightened.

Ok, I got a guilty confession to make…

I use Classic Compressor, and I almost always just stick to the presets. The presets on the classic plugins are very well designed, and on the compressor, it’ll end up sounding pretty good without doing a lot of fiddling. Of course, you never learn the theory of how to work the thing this way, so you’ll need to brave messing with it at some point, but if you’re like me and know you need some compression, but don’t want to take hours figuring it out and can’t really hear the fine differences anyway, sticking with the presets will do find for individual tracks (usually).

By the way, go with the classic plugins. Some of the best sounding free plugins available online.