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Compression Techniques
Old 15th May 2004
  #31
Thanks Charles, I was beginning to wonder if I had placed a really crap post.

I found that alot of the UK producers favour a more 'obviously' compressed sound, where the energy is in this brick wall sound. Our pop music is not particularly dynamic, but it has this very different artistic statement to what you guys do stateside.
I think we like to print sounds early on, and work with the 'problems' almost in a way that becomes embedded in the 'cuteness' of the final mix.

When we compress drums here we use alot early attacks and work alot in the 2-5 ms, with longer release times so as to hold the sound in place.

I noticed that some US presets I had for the same tasks were the complete opposite. Starting at 50ms for drums with almost a disregard for the release time (I know thats not the case by the way)

I guess the effect of this is that the UK produce thinner sounds, but at the same time have quite a cool, - listen to it and enjoy the tune - screw the production, punk attitude.

On the other hand US records have a mission statement to be bigger and better than the last. Absolutely incredible sounding records, with big open sounds, chunky rhythm tracks and usually featuring, highly trained and experienced musicians and performers.

BTW - anyone else here agree that Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the dead, was an incredible sounding album?

I'm not a metal fan, but jeezus this album is so gorgeous to listen to.
Old 15th May 2004
  #32
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Obviously this thread is about compression but I thought it might be useful to mention the SPL Transient Designer...Sometimes no amount of messing about with attack and release shapes the sound the way you want. There's still no thump, or you need a bit more tail end etc. Equally you may only have limited compression options, and your particular compressors just aren't quite right. The transient designer can save you. It can have stunning effects on the 'power' of percussive sounds. What's more, its cheap!!!! If you go for the 2 channel version you will need to budget for a direct box to convert to -10 unbalanced and back again if you want it as an insert effect. Its very good in parrallell too.

Sorrt its a bit OT but it may just give you that extra oomph that you cant find in your compressor rack.

J
Old 15th May 2004
  #33
Thats worth a mention. I was looking into adding that into my rig after a horrendous time trying to get a kick drum to have that substantial body.
I agree, sometimes, no amount of EQ or compression can really give you the shape your after, its really that good huh?
Old 15th May 2004
  #34
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Yeah it is.

The most obvious thing to do with it is just add punch to the front a slightly wooly kick, but actually the sustain control is just as useful...You can kill off ring, or, on a slightly 'short' sound, you can extend it a little to give your compressor or eq more to act on. I sometimes find that with very short kicks, adding low end eq doesnt seem to give you any weight. If you extend the sound a little then add the eq, it gives it more to work with and you feel it much more. Does that make sense?

J
Old 15th May 2004
  #35
Quote:
Originally posted by GRiFF
Thanks Charles, I was beginning to wonder if I had placed a really crap post.

I found that alot of the UK producers favour a more 'obviously' compressed sound, where the energy is in this brick wall sound. Our pop music is not particularly dynamic, but it has this very different artistic statement to what you guys do stateside.
I think we like to print sounds early on, and work with the 'problems' almost in a way that becomes embedded in the 'cuteness' of the final mix.

When we compress drums here we use alot early attacks and work alot in the 2-5 ms, with longer release times so as to hold the sound in place.

I noticed that some US presets I had for the same tasks were the complete opposite. Starting at 50ms for drums with almost a disregard for the release time (I know thats not the case by the way)

I guess the effect of this is that the UK produce thinner sounds, but at the same time have quite a cool, - listen to it and enjoy the tune - screw the production, punk attitude.

On the other hand US records have a mission statement to be bigger and better than the last. Absolutely incredible sounding records, with big open sounds, chunky rhythm tracks and usually featuring, highly trained and experienced musicians and performers.

BTW - anyone else here agree that Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the dead, was an incredible sounding album?

I'm not a metal fan, but jeezus this album is so gorgeous to listen to.
The secret "compression" thing here in the states is not to rely on compression for punch lets say and to use compression more as an EQ rather than as level control device(when mixing).

I think that's what most young guys don't understand, they think the more they compress things the bigger its going to get, but then their tracks end up sounding small and dull.

I personally use compression mostly these days as an EQ, for changing colors more than dynamic gain.

I do more use of automation for that.

Heck i rarely compress the mixbuss anymore and i rarely track vocals with a compressor.
Old 15th May 2004
  #36
Gear Addict
 

How about where you all put your compression in the insert chain for various mix sources (vox, drums, inst). I always thought compression before EQ so any EQ adjustments wouldn't effect the compression (espessially low end).

Tim
Old 15th May 2004
  #37
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GRiFF,
I have recently found a good starting point on OHs with McDSP CB1 and the "brit comp 1" preset. Most times I only adjust the output. Sometimes the release/attack if it is really not working with the bounce of the tune.

It is a moderate to slow attack and quick release (<100ms I think)
It makes OHs jump and pump and sound kinda crazy on thier own but, in the mix it sounds fantastic.

Up until recently, I had always went for a natural OH sound but, I am thinking that was why my mixes sucked!
Levels were always so important. I would find myself making .5 db adjustments just to egt them to sit right.
Since I have started using this approach I find the range in which I can set th OH level is 10 times wider and they sound good at many different levels, opening it up for me to place them with the song not in it.....if that makes any sense at all.


In fact, I have been noticign that when I get a comp set right for the sound/song this opening of the level tolerance seems to follow.

YMMV. I smoke a lot of crack!

This is a cool thread.

D
Old 15th May 2004
  #38
Quote:
Originally posted by Timsplace
How about where you all put your compression in the insert chain for various mix sources (vox, drums, inst). I always thought compression before EQ so any EQ adjustments wouldn't effect the compression (espessially low end).

Tim
It works great on different sources.

My rule of thumb when mixing is EQ before comp on vocals and guitars, EQ after comp for Bass and drums.

For the mixbuss most of the time its EQ-comp-EQ.

Now once in a while i might switch it up, but this works for me 98% of the time.
Old 15th May 2004
  #39
Quote:
The secret "compression" thing here in the states is not to rely on compression for punch lets say and to use compression more as an EQ rather than as level control device(when mixing).
Thrill great post!!

I guess I had not thought about it much because it is just how I work but that is how I use compression as well. I like to start with a slow attack and quick release and tweak to get the tone I want inside the track then do fader rides to set level. Lets not get into a DAW's suck thing here please anyone tutt One of the main reasons I like ITB mixing (at least with ProTools) is I can use the rubber band automation to do fader rides even on individual notes if I want and set the compressor for tone not level.

Took me a long time to realize this and make it work but it did help (my mixes still suck though… )
Old 15th May 2004
  #40
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by thethrillfactor


I personally use compression mostly these days as an EQ, for changing colors more than dynamic gain.

Thrill'.....i've read you say this a few times and it puzzles me.....not trying to be cheeky (you know i know you know more then anyone else on this board).....BUT.....if you're using compression as an EQ.....why not just use an EQ?
heh
Old 15th May 2004
  #41
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Thrill, do you mean that you are using different boxes for their inherant colour, or that you are compressing in certain ways to highlight specific frequencies?

Thanks

Jack
Old 15th May 2004
  #42
I am not trying to speak for Thrill (did I mention that my mixes still suck?) but from my side….

Quote:
if you're using compression as an EQ.....why not just use an EQ?
I still do use EQ don’t get me wrong. The compression I try to use is more like shaping the tone to get more or less attack from the transient of the instrument. I know this is the simple answer but because the compressor works on the amplitude of the wave in linear time you can do different things with the “quality” (if that is the right term for it) of the sound (you know this, I get the impression that you are a kick a** ME!!! Sorry to sound like I am preaching just clarifying). The right compression used with the right EQ can do more than EQ or compression alone, at least to me. It is kind of like trying to describe why I like the color red. Well it looks like this and it makes me feel like that errr…. In the end it just suits my taste. Will everyone like red??? Try it an see but I can’t tell you if you do, ya know??

Quote:
Thrill, do you mean that you are using different boxes for their inherent color, or that you are compressing in certain ways to highlight specific frequencies?
Again not to speak for thrill but yes to both here for me. I am just getting to the stage in my journey that I am getting the tones for different boxes down and how each has it’s own attack and release characteristics that give a specific flavor to the track. So in this case each box has it’s voodoo, good or bad, that imparts a sound to the track. I would have to assume that is why we all have favorite compressors for different things, each box does it’s thing a little differently. Me I LOVE an 1176 on vox and snare, magic. Others think it is too fast or too slow or too this or too that, again colors.

I like to use the compression to highlight specific frequencies but this is directly tied to the compressor you are using (see above). So really it is the former in your question that dictates the latter and the latter is really the goal.

I will defer to Thrill for a better explanation, just my humble take on the process, I am still learning even after all these years.
Old 15th May 2004
  #43
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

I think thrillfactor, likes colored compressors (color=eq) as far as I understand. and maybe, he likes the eq (or color) on compressors better than some actuall eq boxes. I totally see what he is saying.

As far as the UK sound vs. America. One main difference I tend to notice, is the use of room tone. Crank those overheads, crank the room mics, lets find the best room for this instrument kind of attitude. When I listen to UK recordings, I feel the band is playing in my living room, not sense this in new american recordings.
Old 15th May 2004
  #44
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
tee boy,

The original question began with the assumption that different engineers approach the same problem, but come up with different solutions. And that these solutions seem to center themselves on different regions of the world. As I said in my previous post, this is an extremely interesting question + there's no better place to discuss it than here @ gearslutz.

In case there is any doubt on this topic, experienced engineers do not insert a compressor and then begin to randomly rotate the knobs until they happen upon a sound they like. When I place a compressor on an instrument or vocal I have starting point settings I begin with, clearly they don't yield the sound I want at first, but when I begin compressing I always have an idea of where I want to go + how I want to get there.

I'm sure many of you do as well. I'd love it if you would please share your starting points + why you prefer them.

Thanks.
Charles,
Like several others it seems I caught the wrong end of the stick with this thread. I made the fatal mistake of jumping in half way through, and submitted a post which in hindsight was far from constructive. My apologies for contributing in the hijaking of what should be a very interesting and informative thread!

As i posted before, for snares i tend to use a 4:1 ratio, 2 - 10 ms attack and short release. I usually aim to get around 6db's of reduction. However, this really is only a rough starting point and I often stray greatly from this template. If I was trying to get a more US sounding drum, I'd probably go for a longer attack and higher ratio with more reduction. I find US rock drums tend to more 'crack' than in the UK.
Old 15th May 2004
  #45
Quote:
Originally posted by jazzius II
Thrill'.....i've read you say this a few times and it puzzles me.....not trying to be cheeky (you know i know you know more then anyone else on this board).....BUT.....if you're using compression as an EQ.....why not just use an EQ?
heh
Hi Jazzius,

Well if you know me by now you know i am big on minimizing phase shifts when mixing(to get a wider image and an immediate punch), so i find using the comps and certain effects as "coloration devices" less brutal than using certain EQ's.

Certain comps because of the electronics,compression design and sometimes just because theay are damaged give me a certain sound that i can dial in quicker than an EQ(with minimum phase shifts of course).

This goes for the effects as well.

Hey you want to warm up a synth pad or synth bass really quickly, throw an old ADR Panscan on it.

You want to "dumb down" a pair of modern digital delays(like plug ins maybe) try running them through pair of SPX90's.

There lots of stuff you can do without touching EQ.

In my racks i got ton more compressors and effects than EQ's.

Hey i am always on the hunt for some new cool EQ's, but unfortuantely there aren't many.
Old 15th May 2004
  #46
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

cheers, Thrill.....did you try an Ibis yet?.....if so, whadayathink?
Old 16th May 2004
  #47
Quote:
Originally posted by Timsplace
How about where you all put your compression in the insert chain for various mix sources (vox, drums, inst). I always thought compression before EQ so any EQ adjustments wouldn't effect the compression (espessially low end).

Tim
I was trained by a guy who was into eqing before the compressor, I did this initially, but just naturally gravitated towards the post compressor EQ. It makes sense to me to level things off and then EQ a spark back in.

I suspect, those that eq before the compressor have a more informed idea of what these processes do. ThrillFactor gives the impression that he's done it each and everyway and now the EQ/Compressor world is his for the taking!

Think I'm gonna re-visit this eqing before compressor idea, real soon.
Old 16th May 2004
  #48
Quote:
Originally posted by dpasch
GRiFF,
I have recently found a good starting point on OHs with McDSP CB1 and the "brit comp 1" preset...
Your talking about OHs - overhead mics?? Sometimes I'm not sure if this is an americanism, or a pro-tools-ism.
Assuming I understood you right, this sounds cool, so your just pumping the ambience and giving the drums a trashier, more wild vibe??

Sweet
Old 16th May 2004
  #49
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by GRiFF
I was trained by a guy who was into eqing before the compressor, I did this initially, but just naturally gravitated towards the post compressor EQ. It makes sense to me to level things off and then EQ a spark back in.

I suspect, those that eq before the compressor have a more informed idea of what these processes do. ThrillFactor gives the impression that he's done it each and everyway and now the EQ/Compressor world is his for the taking!

Think I'm gonna re-visit this eqing before compressor idea, real soon.
Griff...you remind me of me a few years ago!.......i (too) used to be always looking for "rules".....trying to find "the way" to do things.....compress before or after eq?..........compress UK or US styleee?.....the most important thing i learned was to just listen...i know this sounds a bit trite but it's worth saying......

.....if you're mixing, listen to your sounds and change them according to what you hear....if something shouts "EQ me" first and later says to you "now compress me", do it that way...

...or maybe you think "hmmm, that needs some compression", then after you compress it you think "that's good but now it needs a bit more top-end", then do it that way round.....do you see what i'm saying?...

....your pre-occupation with finding "rules" or "ways" is probably preventing you from listening with an open mind. Do stuff based on what you hear, not based on what you heard so-and-so does it or 'cause your teacher used to do it that way....

...all that stuff is valuable information, and can point into the right or new directions, but don't let yourself become paralized by all the options.......

The hardest thing to do right is just to listen
Old 16th May 2004
  #50
LTA
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LTA's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by GRiFF
Your talking about OHs - overhead mics?? Sometimes I'm not sure if this is an americanism, or a pro-tools-ism.
Assuming I understood you right, this sounds cool, so your just pumping the ambience and giving the drums a trashier, more wild vibe??

Sweet
I'd seen <--OH--> being written on consoles even before protools became a household name. So it would have to be an americanism.

The result you are describing (to me at least) seems to be something you would get from squishing the room mics, rather than the overheads.

Compressing overheads tends to bring out the cymbals, unless you make the compressor pump. Perhaps i'm not thinking of the same mic position as you? To me, an overhead is something maybe within 3-8 feet of the kit, either in front of, behind, or over it. Room mics would be something farther away, well past the critical distance for the room (thus picking up as much or more diffuse room sound as opposed to direct drums).

Maybe your question is systemic, and runs much deeper than just the approach towards compression.
Old 16th May 2004
  #51
Quote:
Originally posted by jazzius II
Griff...you remind me of me a few years ago!.......i (too) used to be always looking for "rules"

....your pre-occupation with finding "rules" or "ways" is probably preventing you from listening with an open mind. Do stuff based on what you hear, not based on what you heard so-and-so does it or 'cause your teacher used to do it that way....

...all that stuff is valuable information, and can point into the right or new directions, but don't let yourself become paralized by all the options.......

The hardest thing to do right is just to listen
Jazzius, I'm not looking for the rules, I'm looking for the TECHNIQUES.

I'm not paralized by what I learn, I am freed by it.
Knowledge is power - power is freedom.
I follow nobodys rules, but I'll try out their techniques.

OK?
Old 16th May 2004
  #52
@LTA - Overheads here (UK) describes the positioning of a stereo mic placement above , in front, or behind the drums also.
I don't know why, but I just thought the poster could have been talking about something else with the way he described it to me.

I like the overheads with a mike on the kick drum sound. Its so pure and rawk n roll. I like how its recording on the edge, adds a certain kind of authenticity to a bands attitude.
Old 16th May 2004
  #53
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

geez, didn't mean to offend ......actually, only trying to help........


Quote:
Originally posted by GRiFF

BTW - anyone else here agree that Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the dead, was an incredible sounding album?

I'm not a metal fan, but jeezus this album is so gorgeous to listen to.
I don't think this production translates well on a lot of systems.......
Old 16th May 2004
  #54
I'm just not sure how you decided that I don't listen or that I'm trying to find a pastry cutter way of working.

Sorry but I am going to stick up for myself, I work everyday as a producer, mixer, engineer and I see an important way to improve my skills and ability is by talking and sharing ideas with people like you Jazzius.

I listen to what people say, try out their approaches and work them into my own mixing style.

I'm getting cranky at the amount of responses that accuse me of posting a question like it was some sinful act against the creative mind.

I'm all for breaking the rules and going by feel, Exactly!
But we need to know what the rules are first, you agree?


RE.Queens of the Stone Age, I thought it sounded pretty good, but then I was listening on my Mackies. The best record for 'travelling' across systems, I thought, was The Chilli Peppers - blood, sugar, sex, magic (sometime ago I know!) no matter what that was played on the bass and drums always sounded cool.
What recording changed your life Jazzius?

peace/love upwardly vibes
Old 16th May 2004
  #55
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

Griff......again, i wasn't trying to offend.......only sharing some personal experiences....in the past i've tormented myself over some things that seem blindingly obvious and utterly simple to me now......i guess i got that impression 'cause you asked a few times "should do it x or y"......anyway, i guess it's a mis-understanding....

QOTSA:

there are a few good sounding tracks on it but track 1 for instance sounds very dark and closed in....maybe this was the intention, but i also noticed there's a lot of digital ticks and clicks on this track (try shelving up 6db at 5k to see what i mean) and that's why it was left sounding so dark....but for me the overall sound is too sub-bass heavy and dark and doesn't communicate well on many systems....

.....an album that (IMO) translates great everywhere and has an amazingly well balanced sound is the Aussie band Jet (i forget the album name).....for me this translates much better then QOTSA and just sounds way better in general (i know it's a very different style/intention....i'm just talking purely about balance of sound, translation and communication)
Old 16th May 2004
  #56
I've heared some horrendously over compressed records recently, Snow Patrol - heared of them? Indie, Poppy.
Although I think its over processed, I don't think this would sound as good any other way, the almost claustrophobic tightness of the record makes it more credible.

They do have some good songs tho, albeit too poppy for me.

-appreciate the honesty with the self tormention thing, I always think experienced and successful engineer/producers don't like to admit that they have struggled in the past. Could it be that they think this makes them look weak and un-confident?
Damn, I struggle, I'd hate to let my clients see me have a mixing breakdown. And again your right, usually the problems are right in front of your face and pathetically simple. I find it takes months to work out what it is and about a second to 'get it' when you realise that...well, you kind of knew all along in a strange way...

Old 16th May 2004
  #57
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@ GRIFF :

imho opinion SONGS FOR THE DEAF ( DEAD ? ) is a killer record !



to the thread itself , how many pages is it already ? and i can hardly see any advice at all . i watched this phenomen happen some times on this board and i wonder WHY is it ?
someones having a question , the next 10 answers are " do what you like " ( which helps absolutely nobody ! ) , the next 100 posts are about people getting pissed and the next 100 are about saying sorry .

this board in my opinion isnt about competition . so nobody should be scared of even asking " a stupid question " ( which doesnt exist anyway ) . music & gear is a complex & complicated field . so lets share ideas & all can learn and improve the quality & the fun of their work ... including myself

heh heh heh
Old 16th May 2004
  #58
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Really great posts jazius II + GRiFF! Thanks.

When I'm working I'll go whatever direction my ears take me for sure, but I do enjoy looking for patterns in my work style + then trying to distill them down to guidelines of when I prefer certain techniques over others. I've found that most of the things I do while mixing can be broken down this way. There always will be a time that I don't follow my own guidelines, but that just puts me on the hunt for the pattern that I follow for that exception. Eventually that will show up and now I have a new and useful guideline. Guideline number one is: Above all else trust your ears.

About the EQ -> Comp v. Comp -> EQ question. I've found a pretty consistent guideline that works for my approach to be that EQ post compression works very well for enhancing an already good sounding track. The EQ has the ability to bring out the frequencies I want it to bring out without the compressor flattening them back out. EQ post compression sounds sparklier.

I use EQ pre compression as a corrective tool. If the track's EQ sounds dramatically different than how I want it to end up, usually it doesn't make sense to compress it first. The compressor will be reacting to all the frequencies that I don't even intend on using. I first "fix" the sound to the way I would like it to sound, then compress it, and if I then want to enhance an aspect of the compressed sound I will place an EQ @ the end of the chain.

For example, I find compressing a sound with excessive low + low mids and then EQing it to fix the excessive frequencies results in a very flabby compression sound. Fixing with EQ first and then compressing yields a much tighter compression. One time when you've had to do a lot of surgical EQ to a track try placing a compressor on each side of the EQ. One at a time, set each compressor up and then switch back + forth between them to see if you hear it. A perfect example of this is an acoustic guitar that was recorded with an excessive amount of low end. I place a HPF pre comp to get rid of the lows I don't want, then compress, then EQ to enhance.

I hope this helps.
Old 16th May 2004
  #59
Gear Nut
 

Hey,
In most cases i like to use eq after compression, but there are occassions when I go before. For example, if i had a thin sounding snare and i wanted to give it some real snap, I might boost lower frequencies before compressing. I find that in these cases the extra low enegy enables the compressor to get really stuck in and helps me achieve a more brutal effect.
Old 16th May 2004
  #60
Quote:
Originally posted by jazzius II
cheers, Thrill.....did you try an Ibis yet?.....if so, whadayathink?
Hi Jazz,

There are 2 Eq's that i definitely want to check out this year.

One is the Ibis and the other is the Great River EQ.

I am hoping the Ibis can supplement my GML 8200 for vocal sweeting duties(after the MP EQ/compressor combo).

I am donating my GML 8200 for mostly kick,snare and the occassional bass(which is what i use it mostly for these days anyway).

I am hoping that it can do the "air" thing well. That is crucial for me if it will stay in my rack.

But before that i am looking at picking up a Mil Media NSEQ-2(with the detents and tube options).

I like how tight it is on the bottomn and can see where i will use it on bass and the occasional mix buss EQ.
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