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Thread: Question on Daw compressors

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    Absolutepower is offline Senior Member
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    Question on Daw compressors

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    I have a question about built in Daw compressors, free plugin ones, and anything else that's considered very low end. Is it possible to get good or great results with these? I remember trying repeatedly to use the built in one with garageband, and it seemed every setting I put it on made the track much worse. Like for example how about the built in Reaper compressor. My issue is one of three possible things.
    1. I just don't know what the hell I'm doing and I should be able to get good results even from a low end compressor.
    2. The compressors I'm trying are just inherently bad, and no setting will sound good.
    3. Maybe my recordings just don't call for the use of a compressor at all so I need not worry about it?

    btw, I am not trying to ask what settings I should use. I realize that's a ridiculous question.
    http://soundcloud.com/alcoyot

  2. #2
    Steve Henningsgard's Avatar
    Steve Henningsgard is offline Engineer at Signaturetone
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    I can with certainty say that 1 is the primary cause. Rather than leaving it at that, I'd ask you: what are you using a compressor for? What about your recordings are you attempting to fix/enhance?

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    Bristol Posse's Avatar
    Bristol Posse is offline Okey Dokey
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    Quote Originally Posted by Absolutepower View Post
    I have a question about built in Daw compressors, free plugin ones, and anything else that's considered very low end. Is it possible to get good or great results with these? I remember trying repeatedly to use the built in one with garageband, and it seemed every setting I put it on made the track much worse. Like for example how about the built in Reaper compressor. My issue is one of three possible things.
    1. I just don't know what the hell I'm doing and I should be able to get good results even from a low end compressor.
    2. The compressors I'm trying are just inherently bad, and no setting will sound good.
    3. Maybe my recordings just don't call for the use of a compressor at all so I need not worry about it?

    btw, I am not trying to ask what settings I should use. I realize that's a ridiculous question.
    1) Not impossible
    2) actually most of the DAW free compressors do clean compression (ie not analog emulations) very well
    3) possible but IMO unlikely unless you are doing Classical or Jazz or you are looking to make a record that doesn't have the same kind of sound as anything made, popular music wise, in the last 40 years or so

    the thing about any FX is you kind of have to have an idea of what you want to accomplish by using it before you start applying or you are basically stabbing in the dark and hoping for a lucky hit

    with compression in particular what is your goal?
    taming peaks, enhancing the punch, enhancing ambience, leveling the track and so on. depending on the source a compressor could be the right choice or the wrong choice to achieve those goals. Vocal leveling for example is usually more natural sounding IME/IMO if the bulk of the work is done by fader rides, unless you have a singer with superhuman control

    figure out what your goal is for the track, think about how a compressor works and if it is the right tool for the job and then start messing with the controls to see how you get the sound you want.

    Oh and do a lot of level matched AB listening tests with the uneffected material to make sure the compressor is moving you in the right direction

    As always YMMV

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    rfahey86 is offline Dedicated Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Absolutepower View Post
    I have a question about built in Daw compressors, free plugin ones, and anything else that's considered very low end. Is it possible to get good or great results with these? I remember trying repeatedly to use the built in one with garageband, and it seemed every setting I put it on made the track much worse. Like for example how about the built in Reaper compressor. My issue is one of three possible things.
    1. I just don't know what the hell I'm doing and I should be able to get good results even from a low end compressor.
    2. The compressors I'm trying are just inherently bad, and no setting will sound good.
    3. Maybe my recordings just don't call for the use of a compressor at all so I need not worry about it?

    btw, I am not trying to ask what settings I should use. I realize that's a ridiculous question.
    Sounds like you need to take some time and experiment, learn how to correctly use compressors. Decide if you even need to use a compressor. Adding one to the vocals just because it is the "norm" isn't a good way to do things. As Steve Henningsgard said, "Decide what you are attempting to fix/enhance."After adding a compressor to your chain you should not be able to notice it unless you are going for a pumping effect. Some compressors are made to color the sound but the same rules apply there as well.

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    Absolutepower is offline Senior Member
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    Great, that's actually awesome news, because it means the problem is with me and I can still get some results without draining $ away for now. (it makes me curious if the same is true for reverb). As far as the vocal leveling, I'm going to try to do that with the fader ride option as you said, because I think that would be more natural and a better place to start from. I just figured out how to do that actually on my DAW, but when you're configuring the dynamics, I've found you really need to start with a fresh set of ears or else the result will be as warped as your sense of perception was at the time. Louds and softs will seem different depending on how sensitive you are to the various frequencies at that time.

    Anyways, once I get the dynamics leveled off that way I'll give it another go with the compressor. That's also a good question about what effect I'm trying to go for. The problem is I don't know other than getting it to sound a bit more like the great commercial recordings of the past 50 years. I'm still not sure exactly what that entails. And also I will definitely take your advice on the a/b testing, considering probably 99/100 settings I try will make it sound worse since I'm on the learning curve.

    Thanks
    http://soundcloud.com/alcoyot

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    gehauser is offline Dedicated Member
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    I have found the Reaper ReaComp to be a nice compressor, but it does darken/warm the sound a bit, so it is not transparent. The ReaXComp has level compensation, and also is multi-band, which allows you to shape the sound somewhat. It is fairly transparent if you don't vary the multi-band settings between bands.

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    arcadeko's Avatar
    arcadeko is offline Illuminatius Overlordious
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    Compression takes some understanding and practice, it's a lot more complicated then reverb

    Understanding Audio Compressors and Audio Compression
    Mea Culpa -:- What Blog? - Good Artist Copy, Great Artist Steal...

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    Bristol Posse's Avatar
    Bristol Posse is offline Okey Dokey
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    That's also a good question about what effect I'm trying to go for. The problem is I don't know other than getting it to sound a bit more like the great commercial recordings of the past 50 years. I'm still not sure exactly what that entails
    This is probably worth thinking more about before you even start messing with FX of any kind. What is your natural style? how do you enhance it, does it fit with what you are trying to achieve.

    for example if you are trying to make a really mellow, ambient sounding vocal track but have a very aggressive vocal style that is full of punch and dynamics. you could use a fast attack, low threshold on a compressor to try and compress the hell out of the transients/punch on the vocal and make more of an ambient sound, but in the end this will sound like an aggressive vocal that has been compressed to hell and probably sound like sh!t
    Much better to say "I'm trying to make a really ambient, melow vocal, I need to adjust my style and mic technique accordingly". once you record it appropriately for the end result you are trying to achieve, then you can use FX like compression, EQ, Filters, etc to enhance and bring out the recorded sound and make it slightly more than it was in real life

    Generally speaking:
    appropriately tracked material + well chosen effects leads to good sound
    inappropriately tracked material + trying to force it to be something it isn't with massive over use of effects leads to poor results

    There are some instances where you will want to over FX something to get a weird, unnatural effect because that is what the song calls for, but generally speaking the above will hold true.

    Ultimately it comes down to the performance, get that as good as you can, as close to the desired end result as possible, and then try not to screw it up in the mix. It took me 3 years of trying to fix things in the mix before I realized that getting excited about the chance to use tons of compression, EQ, Reverb, tuning was actually the wrong approach and I'd be better off trying to get the performance and recording part of things better if I wanted the end result to sound better

    As always YMMV
    Last edited by Bristol Posse; 06-15-2011 at 11:40.

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    Absolutepower is offline Senior Member
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    You guys have a good point. Not going to be as helpful to look at examples of other people's settings, I just need to experiment more.
    Last edited by Absolutepower; 06-16-2011 at 19:28.
    http://soundcloud.com/alcoyot

  10. #10
    Steve Henningsgard's Avatar
    Steve Henningsgard is offline Engineer at Signaturetone
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    The best thing you can do is experiment. Try strapping a compressor on your mix bus and just sit there and tweak with the settings until you can hear something happening. Lots of knobs, lots of learning, use your ears!

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