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Podcast: Sonic TALK089 - Deep Thinking and Light Compression
  19-Jun-08
9 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Marc JX8P    Said...

I enjoyed the podcast - but I'm despairing at having to wait another two weeks for a new one! :-) Maybe you should get a system of guest hosts for the weeks that you're off. ;-)

19-Jun-08 04:15 PM


Nick B    Said...

Glad you enjoyed it - me too. Sorry about the breaks, it's coz I'm having a series of short breaks rather than one long one, I'll post the Sir Ken talk either next weds or the week after.

19-Jun-08 04:53 PM


beej    Said...

Compressors and limiters are both schemes for adjusting the dynamic range of a signal, and both work in very similar ways.

In essence, a limiter has a very high, or infinite compression ratio. This means the affect on peaks which cross the threshold is very severe - because of this, you typically have fairly high thresholds so you own clamp down on the very loud parts. Hence the term "brickwall limiting" which is where the peaks which reach the threshold go no higher - the high/infinite compression ratios basically stop the waveform getting any louder.

This is what's typically done at the end of a mix to crush the peaks, and thus raise the average level of the mix.

Compression is more general in that you usually can select a wide range of ratios from 1:1 (no compression) up to hard limiting. Sometimes you can also go into expansion ratios too, which actually increases the dynamic range of the signal.

While with limiters we are usually only affecting the loudest peaks, with compression, although we can do this (high thresholds, high ratios), this is often too severe for evening out say a vocal.

What we do instead is use lower ratios and lower thresholds. So instead of just hard crushing the peaks, we are gently squeezing/reducing the entire signal, which is much more subtle, depending on the settings. In this case, we don't want the vocal to sound like it's heavily compressed, we want it to sound natural, but make it easier to fit in the mix.

So basically, limiting is very high ratios to severely limit the audio, and is typically used with high thresholds on just the loudest peaks (that's not to say it can't be fun smashing the crap out of a drum bus, for instance!), and compression is generally used with lower thresholds and lower ratios for a more transparent general squeezing of the signal.

But again, you can choose your settings to smash the crap out of your signal too, if that's what you want.

It's important to note that compressors/limiters can be both used as a studio tool to control dynamic range, and as a creative tool to change the character of your signal, with aggresive compression and shaping the sound with the attack and release controls.

These are different uses - and Nick, for what you say, you are mostly using compression for the creative shaping and changing the character of the sound.

This is great (and I love this too) but is not necessarily the right thing to do if your piano solo is a little too dynamic - here you'd want some more invisible compression - you don't really want to notice there is compression in this case, not changing the character of the sound.

Hope that helps - great podcast, thanks once again!

19-Jun-08 05:35 PM


beej    Said...

And yes, I want a Korg Nanopod. Like, now... ;)

19-Jun-08 05:43 PM


Dave King    Said...

Great show!

Really enjoyed the discussion on compressors and limiters from the "pros."

Best to all (including Rich) !

19-Jun-08 10:19 PM


Oliver Davis - The Circuit Symphony    Said...

I was going to say exactly what Beej said.... : ) : )

20-Jun-08 08:13 AM


akaono    Said...

two weeks??? ;((

20-Jun-08 08:15 AM


Dan Austin    Said...

Great show. Thanks for the discussion on compressors and limiters. It was very informative and cleared up several questions I had. I also appreciate the advice on how, when, and where to use them. And special thanks to Rich Hilton, who was kind enough to share is experience and knowledge with us.

Also, nice talk on the creative process. It's good to consciously be aware of it.

20-Jun-08 01:51 PM


user    Said...

regarding nicks comment that he doesn't like the smal 2 octave controller keyboards: the yamaha cbx-k1 is really THE small key 3 octave controller. i know quite a lot of people that keep two of these in case one breaks since they are not made anymore. together with a tiny in-wire-midiinterface it beats all two octave keyboards. i never understood the fuzz about "real size keys" if we are talking only two octaves anyway. after some time you will get very used to the small keys and they feel good even. cheers, user.

02-Jul-08 12:07 PM


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