Initial compression

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Initial compression

Postby gcoudert » Sun Apr 20, 2014 3:43 pm

I was wondering whether anybody uses compression at the recording stage on guitars & vocals. I read somewhere that the steadier level makes it easier to adjust the gain, which makes perfect sense to me.

I was wondering, however, how much compression should really be applied at that stage, bearing in mind that more compression may be added during mixing. What is common practice? How much do you apply? Thanks.
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Re: Initial compression

Postby Cruel Hoax » Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:39 am

Yup, I definitely compress vocals (and bass) on the way to tape.

As a matter of fact, I got one of my first session requests (from a bass player) after using several compressors on his bass part in a session.

He requested me for a wholly separate recording session.

Ended up engineering the whole record.

That said, I'd be wary of compressing guitars, unless you've a flawless mental picture.

Vocals? I apply a LA-2 whenever I can. It just does The Thing. I have yet to experience a voice that can't benefit from this.

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Re: Initial compression

Postby Cruel Hoax » Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:46 am

Er, for context:

I used 6 dbx compressors in series, including the "over" limiter of each. It might have seemed stupid, but the bass tracks sounded great!

Got me more gigs, too, due to the bass player.

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Re: Initial compression

Postby moremagic » Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:50 pm

Cruel Hoax wrote:That said, I'd be wary of compressing guitars, unless you've a flawless Image

i never play guitar without it
aint since i bought it
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Re: Initial compression

Postby Stab Frenzy » Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:00 am

gcoudert wrote:I was wondering, however, how much compression should really be applied at that stage, bearing in mind that more compression may be added during mixing.

Keep in mind that if you compress 4:1 on the way in and then 4:1 in the mix the cumulative effect is 16:1, not 8:1. Compression multiplies, not adds. If you're being fairly gentle that's fine, but things can get out of hand pretty quickly. That said, as long as the end result sounds good nobody is gonna give you a fine for exceeding the comp limit or anything.
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Re: Initial compression

Postby c-level » Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:33 pm

gcoudert wrote:I was wondering whether anybody uses compression at the recording stage on guitars & vocals. I read somewhere that the steadier level makes it easier to adjust the gain, which makes perfect sense to me.


it really depends on the instrument being recorded and the context. i think the compressor setting steadier levels for your preamp might be a bit backwards. i would pick a good pre-amp level before applying any compression, mostly to smooth the high:low dynamics rather than a peak limiter, though both processes have their uses. i also dont use a lot of microphones, so theres that.

if your recording guitar, think about compression via distortion or other means. ive been using a linear power booster pedal on a lot of things right now. works as a great preamp/boost style effect (on bass/guitar, DIed or Miced) and also levels the range nicely. avoid overusing compression on distorted guitar amps. the preamp compresses by effect of distortion, your speakers compress the signal a little bit, your sluggish Sm58 dynamic mic definately compresses your signal.... you dont want a guitar track pegged at '9' (or do you?)

the vocals into a LA2A or UA610 is a time honored trick and id do it if i had the hardware. you can kind of do it with plugins but a post fade effects insert is much different than an in-line effect with your audio printed thru it...
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Re: Initial compression

Postby Cruel Hoax » Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:30 am

And, just a technique I often use: This may seem backward at first, but I've tried it both ways, and I like the results I get with this better:

Many people seem to like to put a limiter (or high-ratio compressor) last in the chain. I like to put it first. Well, not necessarily a super-high ratio, but a pretty high threshold, pretty fast response. Then, after that, a squishier opto-style compressor, with a soft knee and a low ratio, and a relatively low threshold.

My thinking is this: if you have your "gentle" compressor first, the high peaks are gonna hit it hard, and make it audible in a bad way, while your limiter will be limiting the already-compressed signal. And that doesn't sound great to me.

Oh, and moremagic, you're absolutely right that compressing in the electric guitar signal chain is an important part of many sounds; compressing before the amp has a great effect on the tone. I was thinking more about compressing the microphone signals used to record the guitar parts (coming more from an engineer's perspective than a guitarist's perspective, but your point is perfectly valid.)

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Whereas, I prefer to let the high-threshhold fast-ish compressor catch just the loudest peaks, which feeds the squishy compressor a slightly tamed signal. (Coincidentally, this is a bit how tape reacts for me: the peak-to-average ratio gets smoothed out a bit as the signal is recorded, then your compressor has less work to do.)
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