How to add compression on input

I’ve been starting to record vocals for metal recently and I’ve seen tutorials saying to add compression “on the way in”. In their examples, they have hardware compressions so they route the mic to the compressors, maybe EQ, then into the DAW. I record everything in the box and have no external hardware beside the UR44C interface. I’m not sure how I would add compression “on the way in”? The UR44C has a program where you can add guitar FX or reverb, but I’m not sure about anything else. I remember long ago, when I set up a Cubase template, in the mixing screen there where input track, which I’ve hidden and done nothing with. and then there’s an audio tracks send function pre/post fader if compression and EQ was to be added as an FX track. How should I add comp and maybe EQ on the way in?

You can stick a compressor on an Insert for the input channel, or click the e button and use the one on the Channel Strip. That said lots of folks (myself included) try to avoid messing with the signal prior to it being recorded. The reason is that once that compression (or other processing) is applied and recorded there is no undoing or modifying it later. So if you get it wrong, you are stuck with the results whether you like 'em or not. So you better get those settings exactly how you want. But if you record flat then you can try all sorts of settings without being stuck with any of them.

There are 2 schools of thought about this. But if you are just starting to learn recording don’t fret about input signal processing until you are way more experienced and understand how to do it effectively. Record the audio flat, and have the signal peaking at about -6 dB (use then Input Channel’s pre-gain if needed for this). There is nothing compressing on the way in can accomplish that you can’t do after recording.


I wholeheartedly agree with everything @raino said in his reply above mine.


Now for my additional 2 cents questioning the wisdom and/or motivation of some tutorials.

Without seeing a link to an article that says that, I assume it means having a hardware compressor hooked up between the mic and the audio interface.

If the website in question is by (or sponsored by) a hardware compressor manufacturer, then you might understand why they might be motivated to say that :wink:

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I think @raino explained it pretty well.

But if you really want to you can record with the dsp effects of your interface. It has channel strip with eq and compressor.

Tx so much, Raino. That confirms what I thought. I’d rather record dry and have options for later.

Tx Nico5!
The tutorials were from Warren Huart at Spitfire Studios and Glenn at Spectra Studios. They were definitely talking about their setups having external rack comps between the mic and DAW. I just wondered how it might be done in the box only. . . knowing there could be many ways to skin the audio signal :slight_smile:

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Tx Misohoza!
It feels like it would be simpler to do nothing with the DSP and just deal with the DAW only.

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Currently, I’ve added a track using a track preset, for example, Male Vox Rock Lead 2, which is an audio track. I’d prefer it be an FX track that multiple audio tracks could go into so I end up making an FX track copying the details of the audio track.

Then, I use raw, unchanged, audio tracks to record the dry audio. Then, I’ll play with the FX track I’ve made to learn what each thing is doing to try and tweak it where I’d like it.

Besides an EQ, the inserts from the preset start with a compressor. So to recap, a dry audio track sent to an FX track, which uses the channel EQ and a Compressor as a first insert, is doing what the tutorials recommend?

And, if I left the preset audio track as is, the track EQ, then the sends would be affecting the dry audio signal AFTER the dry audio is recorded so it’s again still doing what the tutorials recommend?

I haven’t researched it yet, but I wonder if there is a way to save an FX track as a preset? Actually, I wonder if there is a way to save as a preset, a folder containing 1-2 blank audio tracks, 3 FX tracks and a bus track, which the 3 FX tracks are sent to?

Thanks for all your comments!!

I think you’d be better off setting it up the way you like and then saving the whole thing as a Template. Then any Project you create using that Template will already be how you prefer it.

One other point about using FX going into the recording - back in the magnetic tape era it made a lot more sense to do this.

First the dynamic range of tape is pretty limited when compared to a modern DAW. Generally you wanted a pretty hot signal all the time to avoid hiss. In this situation both compression and EQ are useful to ‘tame’ erratic signals. Heck, it wasn’t uncommon for folks to ride the faders while recording for say a singer that starts the song with a whisper and ends in a roar. With a DAW’s huge dynamic range we can record the erratic signal as-is and work on making it more even later on.

Second back then they were of course using hardware compressors. A studio might only have one or two high-end (i.e. super expensive) compressors. So they can’t slap it on a bunch of different Tracks during mixing. If you wanted to use that compressor on the guitars, lead singer & backup singers, the only way to do it is while tracking.

I think tape has a cache where folks feel if that’s how something was done then, it is somehow a more ‘authentic’ approach. When it is really just different circumstances.


I agree - it is due to the tape medium - where you should maximize your signal to noise ratio.

Yeah, I do have a template now. I’m an audiophile hobbyist and balancing money against desire leaves me recording everything in the box for now. So in my template I have a folder for “left rhythm gtr (Charvelle)”, with 2 blank audio tracks and three FX tracks. Each FX track has a gtr amp/mic/cab combo and I blend the 3 FX tracks to get what I want. They then go to a left rhythm gtr master FX track, then to a left rhythm master bus and finally to the the gtr master bus.

Since I have two physical electric & 1 acoustic gtrs, in the template, I have the above structure for each electric gtr for center, one gtr for left and one for right. Then I have that structure for a lead gtr, and one for clean gtr (which could be electric or acoustic).

For bass I have a similar type structure for a clean bass and distorted bass. Now, that I’ve learned enough to be dangerous and I’m getting “my sounds” down, I’m finding I will probably have other variations like my go-to “fast metal gtr”, “grinding metal gtr”, “grunge” gtr, etc. I thought having a way to save a folder with audio, FX and group tracks below it would allow me to keep the template simpler. Then just load a preset when I need it. I guess it’s like I’m creating various virtual instruments.

For now, when I learn something new about shaping sound, and realize I could apply it across the board to previous projects, so as to have an “album” sound, I save the new track settings as presets, open the older projects, create new FX tracks, load the presets, refer back the newer project for the blend levels or any other overall track settings to get the new overall sound. Or I open the older projects, import the newer tracks and move the recorded audio to them.

Who knows, there’s probably a better way :slight_smile: And who knows how many times I’ll actually do this in the future instead of just having ‘my sound’ evolve over time, like everyone else. I guess since I’ve jotted down so many ideas in various projects, while newly learning recording, and now being able to turn them into something; and having a certain genre sound, now I’m ready to do something with those ideas. So, I’m thinking through how I’m going to take a gtr or bass riff(s) in older projects (with much less evolved templates), try to remember how I played them and what settings I used for sound, then make something out of them in the newest version of the template.

Typing out loud, a better solution could be to import the older project riffs into the new template as my reference to make something out of it. Tx for helping me think through this. It’s helpful to re-think how we do things!

I grew up on tape and am more than happy to stay in-the-box. The less cabling I need to deal with, the better.