how does compression work. audio compressor


How Does Compression Work?

Ever asked yourself; how does compression even work? Compression is an essential tool in the arsenal of music producers and audio engineers alike. Its purpose is to reduce the dynamic range of a signal, making the quieter parts louder and the louder parts quieter. This can make for a more balanced, cohesive sound, and can also add character and color to a track.

1. The Early Days

In the early days of recording, compression was achieved using hardware compressors, which were physical units that were inserted into the signal chain. These units were expensive, bulky, and not always reliable. Today, we have the luxury of using digital compressor plug-ins, which are much more affordable and accessible. Yet a lot of professional producers still prefer outboard compressors over software plugins because of the richness and depth of their sound.

2. How Does It Work?

So, how does compression work? When a signal enters a compressor, the device analyzes the level of the signal and compares it to a set threshold. If the level of the signal exceeds the threshold, the compressor reduces the gain of the signal by a set amount, known as the ratio. This results in the quieter parts of the signal being boosted, and the louder parts being reduced in volume. The result is a more even, controlled signal.

3. Making Sound

Aside from its technical benefits, compression can also be used as a creative tool to add character and color to a track. By using different types of compressors and adjusting the settings, you can create a variety of sounds, from subtle warmth and saturation to extreme pumping and distortion.

hardware compressor vs software compressor

4. Subtleness

When using compression, it’s important to use it in moderation and with intention. Over-compression can lead to a loss of dynamic range and can suck the life out of a track. Conversely, under-use of compression can lead to a track that sounds weak and disjointed.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, compression is an essential tool for music producers and audio engineers, and can be used to achieve a variety of creative and technical goals. Whether you’re using hardware compressors or digital plug-ins, it’s important to understand how compression works and how to use it effectively in your tracks.

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