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Compression before or after?
Old 22nd February 2010
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Compression before or after?

So, I now have some good compressors that I like (Ashly CL-52e, Joe Meek MC2, and FMR PBC-6a) and I was wondering; is it better to compress upfront or after I record some audio? So far, I have really liked doing my compression after I record (gives me more control I feel). Other than time, I can't see any reason why I should do it up front. Any thoughts or anything I'm overlooking? Thanks
Old 22nd February 2010
  #2
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Iggy Poop's Avatar
 

I'd say whatever works really. But I prefer to compress mostly after recording. One exception is I'll throw a limiter on a lead vocalist if he tends to be all over the place with levels. If you record with compression you can't take it off later.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #3
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12ax7's Avatar
 

.
The only real advantage I see to using compression when recording is if you know that particular compressor won't be available later at mix time.

...Even then, I like to split the signal and print the raw track too (just in case).
Old 22nd February 2010
  #4
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If you know what you're doing I find it better to compress before recording, that way you can use that comp on something else during mixing and you'll also have a better rough mix.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #5
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a little going down seems to help me out a lot .. then a litlle later puts it in the range I want. If I hear too much comp going down i will not use it ..but generally I use a few db of low ratio 2:1 or less while tracking (throwback to tape days) .. I think that two passes at 2:1 sounds different (better) than on pass at 4:1
Old 22nd February 2010
  #6
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matskull's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerbrain View Post
a little going down seems to help me out a lot .. then a litlle later puts it in the range I want. If I hear too much comp going down i will not use it ..but generally I use a few db of low ratio 2:1 or less while tracking (throwback to tape days) .. I think that two passes at 2:1 sounds different (better) than on pass at 4:1
Yeah, a lot smoother.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
.
The only real advantage I see to using compression when recording is if you know that particular compressor won't be available later at mix time.

...Even then, I like to split the signal and print the raw track too (just in case).
+1 on this
Old 22nd February 2010
  #8
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gussyg2007's Avatar
i use a little bit of my 5015 neve on they way down, it's very transparent so still get to slam after if needs be !
Old 22nd February 2010
  #9
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Ben B's Avatar
 

If you're mostly ITB, there's the reality of having to do an extra DA/AD conversion when using analog inserts. For that reason, some engineers prefer to apply such processing in the signal chain prior to the initial ADC.

Personally, I don't worry about it. I'd never print something with compression solely out of the worry of having the signal go through an extra conversion, but I'm also not averse to committing to processing something "on the way in."

-Ben B
Old 22nd February 2010
  #10
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gussyg2007's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben B View Post
If you're mostly ITB, there's the reality of having to do an extra DA/AD conversion when using analog inserts. For that reason, some engineers prefer to apply such processing in the signal chain prior to the initial ADC.

Personally, I don't worry about it. I'd never print something with compression solely out of the worry of having the signal go through an extra conversion, but I'm also not averse to committing to processing something "on the way in."

-Ben B
+1 by the time i've added eq, **** loads of saturation comp'ed the life out of it , who would know !
Old 22nd February 2010
  #11
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decocco's Avatar
 

I like a little of both.

Just a little taste of low ratio compression during tracking to tame the transients. I am very conservative with this compression. VU meters might show only 1 or 2 dB of gain reduction while peak LEDs might show up to 5 dB of gain reduction on really loud parts. If I can hear the compressor working (pumping or breathing) then it's way too much compression (unless I'm specifically going for a super squashed sound).

During mixing I will also compress, but it depends on the music. Some stuff wants to be compressed a lot, other stuff just a little. Some stuff not at all.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #12
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in a blue field's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco View Post
I like a little of both.

Just a little taste of low ratio compression during tracking to tame the transients. I am very conservative with this compression. VU meters might show only 1 or 2 dB of gain reduction while peak LEDs might show up to 5 dB of gain reduction on really loud parts. If I can hear the compressor working (pumping or breathing) then it's way too much compression (unless I'm specifically going for a super squashed sound).

During mixing I will also compress, but it depends on the music. Some stuff wants to be compressed a lot, other stuff just a little. Some stuff not at all.

+1 on this, couldnt ahve said it better myself. i only like to use compression while tracking in order to keep the peaks in line, if i have a choice of compressors then maybe i make the decision based on if i feel the source material could use a tiny bit more weight or mojo, but if i can even hear it then it's too much, and will be a conspicuous obstacle to work around later in EQing
Old 22nd February 2010
  #13
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ianbryn11's Avatar
 

for me it depends on the source, and on who im recording... some things i dont compress at all... Some i like to track with compression, usually 2:1 ratio...
Kick and snare get a 2:1 ratio going in...

Bass usually gets some sort of compression gong in.....

On the last session i did i used two compressors in chain both on 2:1... The first with attack and release a bit slower than the second... I liked the results....

I rarely compress going in when im recording myself, simply because its too difficult to set the comps up while im playing in the next room. If i do end up using them, i track in the control room so i can be right in front of my rack... Tweek as needed....

I once heard UBK mention that he feels the compressor reacts differently on audio recorded strait from the mic.. Before it enters the box....

I think thats an interesting concept....
Old 22nd February 2010
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gussyg2007 View Post
i use a little bit of my 5015 neve on they way down, it's very transparent so still get to slam after if needs be !
yep thumbsup 5015 does the job very well .. just a little off the top
Old 23rd February 2010
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Very helpful! Thanks for all the advice so far. My only limitations right now is that I'm tracking drums in the same room as my monitors (and I'm playing too drums too). So usually trying to get that perfect sound in my in-ears is a little harder. That's the main reason I like doing it after. But, I am turned on to the prospect of using a little comp in my chain before. Thanks for the advice!!
Old 23rd February 2010
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
.
The only real advantage I see to using compression when recording is if you know that particular compressor won't be available later at mix time.

...Even then, I like to split the signal and print the raw track too (just in case).
I also concur ~ this is the highest reasoning on the matter and the way most "pro's" would do it, given the option. Which is what makes a pro in many cases. Options and the skill to implement them.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #17
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dysenterygary's Avatar
 

Good thread, definitely different answers then I was expecting. I thought compression on the way in was a must, but apparently some of you think differently. I saw a video of a big pop band recording vocals and judging from the waveforms on the computer it was very compressed on the way in.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #18
Rest assured that almost every "big pop band" that's being recorded by a professional receives a large dose of compression during tracking.

Every engineer I know would like to take pride in their tracks sounding like a record when you push up the faders. Some are more successful than others.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #19
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u b k's Avatar
 

I try to get things sounding as close to 'mix' as possible on the way in. There's something immensely gratifying about having a song evolve and sounding like a record the whole time; it changes the performances that go into each successive layer.

It's inspiring.

Vocals, especially, love compression straight off the pre, and in my experience so do vocalists. In my early days singers would always wince at their raw take, claiming it was too dry and asking for reverb/delay in the cue or in the rough mix. Over time I came to learn it wasn't the dryness they were wincing at, it was the uncompressed roughness of it, the extreme dynamics on the recorded track.

Generous squeeze lets them let go when they sing, and they love the way it sounds in the cans and coming straight off the tape. I do too, and I slam the piss outta my own vocals when I record myself. There are some limiters that are pretty much failsafe for this job, so I say find the right tool and work it for all it's worth.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 23rd February 2010
  #20
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CaptainHook's Avatar
 

I'm in the "getting it sounding like a record on the way in" camp.

I ALSO think there's something about adding EQ and compression before hitting an AD
that isn't the same once it's gone digital.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

+1 UBK. In the days of tape everybody compressed, er, i mean saturated. I pretty much kiss the vari-mu or 1176 slightly going in and depending on the material smash the living piss out of it in the mix. Not always though, sometimes a tad going in and just a kiss going out. It all depends on the singer's dynamic and the mic, how they take compression or limiting. I do like to hear the "it's a record" sound on playback, that is what most of the old school engineers did anyway. It worked for them, should work for us...



Nathan
Old 23rd February 2010
  #22
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
I try to get things sounding as close to 'mix' as possible on the way in. There's something immensely gratifying about having a song evolve and sounding like a record the whole time; it changes the performances that go into each successive layer.

It's inspiring.

Vocals, especially, love compression straight off the pre, and in my experience so do vocalists. In my early days singers would always wince at their raw take, claiming it was too dry and asking for reverb/delay in the cue or in the rough mix. Over time I came to learn it wasn't the dryness they were wincing at, it was the uncompressed roughness of it, the extreme dynamics on the recorded track.

Generous squeeze lets them let go when they sing, and they love the way it sounds in the cans and coming straight off the tape. I do too, and I slam the piss outta my own vocals when I record myself. There are some limiters that are pretty much failsafe for this job, so I say find the right tool and work it for all it's worth.


Gregory Scott - ubk

you have nailed it again, explained it way better than I can. especially for the artists/producer/engineer types. also the idea of committing to something early on is appealing in the world of too many options.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #23
Gear Guru
 

on the way in for many things

I'm not afraid to commit on vocals, acoustics, bass etc. I also use my tube EQs on the way in a lot.

an exception for me is kick and snare, when I am playing drums

If I am recording myself, I want to do as little 'engineering' as possible at this time, so it's set up the mics and keep it out of the red
if I am recording someone else, I will often hit the kick and snare with a little bit on the way in
Old 23rd February 2010
  #24
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Wanting your music to sound like a record is like wanting your sex partner to feel like porn.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #25
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
Wanting your music to sound like a record is like wanting your sex partner to feel like porn.
lol

This must be a porn site then.
Old 24th February 2010
  #26
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
Wanting your music to sound like a record is like wanting your sex partner to feel like porn.

Porn is awkward lighting, graceless staging, and non-existent narrative, all in support of cheeseball greasebags doing textbook moves with zero flair, originality, or soul.

What kinda records you listening to exactly?


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 24th February 2010
  #27
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steelyfan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
lol

This must be a porn site then.

And your quote offers even more lubricant to the subject. LOL.heh




steelyfan
Old 24th February 2010
  #28
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steelyfan's Avatar
 

[QUOTE]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
What kinda records you listening to exactly?
Old 24th February 2010
  #29
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Porn is awkward lighting, graceless staging, and non-existent narrative, all in support of cheeseball greasebags doing textbook moves with zero flair, originality, or soul.
My point was that it is a pale representation of the real thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post

What kinda records you listening to exactly?

I LIKE to listen to records that sound like music (not the other way 'round).

And despite advances in technology which make this more possible every day, the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.
Old 25th February 2010
  #30
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
My point was that it is a pale representation of the real thing.

In that case, we disagree. In my experience, records are as moving as live music.

To me, the phrase 'sounds like a record' means the music coming out of the speakers is doing so with emotional force, coherence, magnetism, and some combination of beauty and power. This is in opposition to music that sounds rough and raw, and not in the emotional sense but rather in the crafted sense. It's a marginally hewn hunk of granite waiting to be given shape.

My take is that you're splitting hairs where none exist; we all have the same agenda. Unless you refuse to compress and eq your tracks to produce a finished-sounding mix, you do the same thing as everyone else here, it's just a question of 'when'.


Gregory Scott - ubk
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