Resources for the Recording Musician
May 4, 2010

Question regarding compression

Just a quick question regarding compression - in the DAW environment, is it better to use "more" compressors on a track or fewer compressors " but work them harder?

Theoretically, in the DAW world, you could have "unlimited" compressors on a track, but in a real studio, that is using hardware compressors, most of them, I imagine, would have a limited number of compressors.

By working a "larger number of compressors not as hard," do you achieve a "cleaner" or "better" sound than using a fewer number of compressors to do the same thing?

Thanks for your thoughts..

Even in the software world, most of the time I just use one compressor when mixing.  However, most of the time when I record, I'm also running through some of my nice hardware compressors and adding some compression at that stage.  So, I'm actually compressing twice on many tracks... once going in, and once during the mix.

There are several mixing engineers who like to use multiple compressors on a track during the mix, though, with either hardware or software, or even a combination of both.  Sometimes they will set up one compressor to do some overall light compression, with slower attack and release, and another one with faster attack and release to capture only the big peaks.

I've heard of several mix engineers who sometimes use three compressors on a vocal or other key element during a mix.

With multiple compressors you can certainly be more gentle with each one, or they could all be set up to control different ranges of the dynamics, or you may be simply adding one or more just for the color that it adds to the sound.

Then, of course, there are other famous engineers who don't like to use any compression at all.

No way is "better" than the other.  As always, you need to experiment and figure out what works the best for the particular track you are working with in that particular song.

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