EnvelopeShaper vs Compression for drums

Having read a lot of (often conflicting!) advice on how to make drums stand out in the mix, I’m struggling to see the difference between using a traditional compressor vs Cubase’s transient-shaping EnvelopeShaper plug-in.

Despite some opinions to the contrary (which I must admit to finding a bit confusing how some audio pros seem to disagree with other audio pros when discussing the same thing!), the general consensus on compressor settings seems to me to be this:

  1. To add ‘punch’ - longer attack time (e.g. 30ms-ish) & longer release (100 -200ms?) to squash down the body of the drum so that the transient stands out more but with the compressor resetting in time to allow the next transient through.

  2. To add ‘body’ or ‘fatness’ - quick attack & release times (less than 10ms) to squash the transient but allowing the tail through, then using make-up gain to raise overall level.

  3. For dynamic control - attack & release times as required which can vary depending on lots of factors.

The EnvelopeShaper appears to do the above quite simply by allowing direct control of the transient & tail as required.

But I’ve come across YouTube ‘tutorials’ where producers use the EnvelopeShaper, & then a compressor to add ‘punch’.

I’m struggling to see why both plug-ins would be required - I (think I!) have a good understanding of the theory of compression & the EnvelopeShaper seems to be to be a fast-track method of adding both punch & body to drums without worrying too much about threshold & ratio etc.

I did chuckle at one of the comments that said “… a lot of this is audiophile nonsense spread by producers trying to sell their courses or plug-in manufacturers trying to sell their plug-ins”.

Admittedly I can relate to that a little since I struggled to see the difference between ‘before’ & ‘after’, although that’s possibly due to YouTube sound quality (I was using good headphones though). That said, when experimenting inside Cubase I can definitely hear the effect of both compression & EnvelopeShaper, just not both at the same time.

Any advice appreciated!

Compressors are input level/threshold dependent with a ratio control on amount.

Envelop Shapers in the simple form rely on a trigger-gate and apply a static volume curve every time that trigger is hit.

You can get both to sort of act like each other. But it’s hard to get a Envelope to work properly on a dynamic jazz drum part vs a compressor, and it’s hard to get a compressor to shave a transient on a single sample dance snare without making the transient worse.

There’s many plugs that breed both together these days, like Sonnox Envolution.

I think more plugins and workflows are heading in the direction of using something like Envolution, but a lot of time, compressors still do “just the right thing” quicker than what you would do tweaking an Envelope.

Hi thanks for that, apologies for delay replying. Interesting info - I guess I’ll use what sounds better!

Thanks again!