Big compression problems

I’ve only recently started mixing my own music and I’ve run into problems using compression. Everybody talks about how it can add punch to drums e.g. and generally make sounds bigger and better but whenever I use the Compressor built into Cubase on a drum loop e.g. I never get any of those things. I just get a reduced volume. The make-up gain is definitely not making up what’s lost, so it’s pretty big problem. If I then turn the auto make-up gain off and turn it up manually it’s still not as loud as without compression even when I go above the clipping level. I just don’t get it.

I’m obviously doing something wrong and if anyone can shed some light on what it is, it would be very cool

For drums try peak detection (not rms) set attack to slow and release to fast. Don’t think about making things louder. listen to what it is doing to the attack of the drums. Try starting around 4:1 ratio and about 6 to 8 dB of gain reduction.

These are just some rough starting settings. Obviously you will need to tweak to suit. Not all drums need compression. If using loops then they may well be compressed to hell already!!!

A bit of limiting after may help too?

thanks for the help, I’ll try it out.

Maybe a limiter is the key. I was just under the impression that you could squash the peaks and then be able to turn up the overall volume with the make up gain, that’s what compression tutorials tell me all the time.

Compression inhibits the initial attack and therefore will not give you more punch. Using a slower attack will only expose what natural punch you already have. Compression does squash the peaks but in doing so, it allows you to use more total volume without clipping. If that gives you more punch then compression will work for you. My suggestion for more punch than your original track has would be EQ. Find the frequency where the punch is happiest and boost the gain to your taste. But like Split said, if you’re using loops, your track may already be squashed. At that point, it will be harder to bring out the frequencies that were taken by compression.
That would relate to initial punch but if you also want fat, use a stereo field effect or gated reverb.

For more “punch” you would actually be letting the peaks through with a slow attack using a compressor, using a fast attack will catch more of the initial peak of the drum sound thus producing that squashed “smack” kind of sound!!!

A limiter after will obviously stop any large transient from a slow attack set compressor from peaking too much.

I asked the same question over at Gearslutz and someone replied that with a typical built in daw compressor it’s hard to get punch or character in general. They’re better at controlling volume and not much else. Whereas if you want the punch or character you’ll have to upgrade to a Waves SSL or API or CLA type or something along those lines.

And I did have the opportunity to try an SSL yesterday and I was actually very easy to get a higher volume and a more full and pro sound on some various samples. So what I think I’ll do in the near future is to pick up the SSL bundle from Waves. (even though it’s a little overpriced I guess, I think it’s money well spent)

Have you tried some of the preset settings for the included compressor? You can spend as much money as you want, but the included tools are not bad, especially if you are not very experienced with compessors in general they’re fine all-purpose plugins.

I have tried the preset but with very little success. Just now I recorded a clean guitar, no amp simulation or anything and applied the Clean Rhythm Guitar preset from the Compressor’s list of presets.

I get a gain reduction of 15,5! which of course is a significant drop in volume. The make up gain is on but it’s very far from adding back what’s lost due to the compression.

Without the compressor the Out meter says -2,6 db and with the preset I mentioned on it, the Out is at - 7,1.

If I then turn Make up gain off and set a level where the Out peaks at 0, 2 db it’s still way lower than without the compressor on

It’s crazy, who can work with that? I’d love to hear some success stories with this compressor regarding volume if they exist

Unless clipping within the compressor is ok, then I can make it work. But we’re all taught that any kind of clipping anywhere is bad so I don’t think thats a good solution either

Did you really think anyone at GearSnobs would recommend you to experiment with stock DAW compressor instead of buying the most expensive add-on one?

That’s way too much. Tweak threshold knob to get required amount of gain reduction.

Now … pople here have given you a lot of good advice, but using compressors is an art. You won’t learn it in one day. It needs some time to master. Well … I haven’t learned it in 25+ years! But, I’m slow to learn new things :stuck_out_tongue:

Real clipping is bad! But driving signal above 0dBfs in floating-point mixing engine’s intermediate stages is a non-issue. Just make sure your mix buss output doesn’t clip.

You need to remember that an individual track peaking that high is not going to be very “mix friendly”. I’ve generally been trying to keep my tracks’ peaks below -10 and my master out during a project buildup between -6 and -12 just as a general rule.

Compression can be a difficult thing to grasp early on. It’s not so much about adding “punch” and volume as it is about cutting the initial attack and producing an overall smoother and more unified level. Okay, maybe that’s only one example (and probably not the best explanation).

You can’t focus on loudness of individual tracks. Try to experiment with different settings to figure out what the effect is actually doing. A drum track would be a good test subject. Something with a variety of tones and attack levels.

I know everyone seems to think loud=good, but try to focus more on the overall sound and dynamics until your project is complete. It’s easy to make up for lack of overall volume at the “mastering” stage.

Back the threshold off till you get a more reasonable amount of gain reduction!