[vocal ride question.] Before or after compression

Vocal riding.

Because it’s my first project with vocals I am in a learning curve.

So I found out that when I automate the vocal levels by hand (drawing into the automation lane while keeping an eye on the meters), keeping it on a tight balanced level the vocals sitting tighter in the mix. I also do use a compressor for fast transients and a slow compressor to even it out.

My question is, is there a Rule of thumb regarding the signal chain?


Vocal ride into the compressor or vocalride the already compressed material.

Driving the vocals into a compressor makes more audible artifacts but maybe I am donig it to radical I don’t know.
Any pro vocal recorders want to chime in with their thoughts?

Greetz Dylan.

(First song on my soundcloud page is vocal riding into the compressors)

For me it depends on what I’m trying to achieve vith vocal riding:

  1. If I’m evening out inconsistent levels on vocal tracks, I put compressor post-fader
  2. If I’m riding vocals to change it’s level to match rest of the music, then compressor goes pre-fader

I love compressors, I usually only use fader riding to increase or decrease an already compressed vocal, but then quite often I may have 3 or 4 different vocal compressors for the one (Main vocal sound) vocal all on different channels then grouped so I can mix and match or even have them all going at the same time including no compression. which may or may not be sending a side chain to the guitar group or sub group… Hmm it can get a bit complex :confused:

So then I’m probably an after compression sort of guy :laughing:

This is obviously going to have a lot of genre specific issues to throw on top of the question. But, in my world view, vocal riding takes the place of compression. If you were going to have any, it would be VERY light post-fader. To me the words “vocal riding” = “instead of compression”. I know it isn’t that black/white. Just in general.

I’d say it’s very much not black and white, although I tend to automate after compression rather than ride (as it were) :laughing:

lol, from where I learned “fader riding”, that doesn’t qualify. That is just automating volume. Fader riding had/has a specific purpose. And, to my knowledge, it was to reduce or eliminate the use of compressors to retain dynamics in vocals in songs with drastic dynamic content shifts. That’s what we called it 30+ years ago, maybe the cool kidz have a new L33T definition.

Fair enough, but Fader riding (must find a better term) means (to me) sitting and wobbling the fader in real time with the track playing regardless of whether it’s to replace compression or complement compression. After all a lot, like me record most vocals with some compression before the AD. Any way it all depends I suppose on how we learnt and from whom and the way they understood it? hence the various shades.

I’m well accustomed, well I used to be, of sitting at a (non automated) desk and ridding faders throughout a mix and the resulting lets do that again and again etc :laughing:

You’re doing it the right way – use the compressor as an insert to even things out a bit, and then automate your levels as needed (either by drawing in or writing your fader moves)

(BTW – I find it helps if you get your recorded file peaking around 0 VU, or -18dBFS… preferably when you track the vocal, or after the fact by add/subtract gain if needed)

Hey no argument … I was joking about the definition thing. I was just pointing out where mine came from.

Back to the OPs question. In general I don’t like compressors. So, I’m going to agree that you are better served to only compressing to help with the transients. Something like an LA-2A to compress a db or 2 at the loudest, but is turned up enough to give that amp stage “sound” the rest of the time even though it isn’t officially compressing. But again, that is going to be very content oriented.

Waves actually has a fader rider program. Looks pretty cool. I’ve never tried it though.


I never thought I was arguing, anyway I love compression (depending on context of course)

Just I have a different and seems like almost opposite opinion, no worries :stuck_out_tongue:

I have a real La2a as well as the UAD stuff and things, and love what good compressors can do. Horses for courses I suppose.

A lot of good info here. :smiley: many thanks!!

One problem I had is when I automate levels by drawing the fader that the fast transients are hard to automate.
So I did that with compression. So level riding and compression are in that scenario two different methods that can work together.

A compressor reduces the signal above a certain threshold.
But I also want to bring up softer vowels. Sometimes the talent sings something and a word like "if’ or “the” or "am’
falls way back, I don’t want to compres the whole material down just for those words. So I’ll bring them up with the fader and use a compressor for the transients. The signalchain was my question, not wether to use a compressor or level riding.

But level riding has indeed changed during the coarse of time. 30 years ago you couldn’t draw the fader as precise as now with the mouse. So from an old skool perspective I can understand the difference in opinion.

Waves actually has a fader rider program. Looks pretty cool. I’ve never tried it though.

Yes! Really expensive plug in like more then 300 euro’s? I just purchased Melodyne editor, I am out of money :frowning:
But that would save me so much time.
I really hope for some competition in that area.

Greetz Dylan.

rrrrealy?..Of topic, what IS the difference betwwen a UAD LA2A and the ‘real’ thing?

One thing I’ve started doing recently, which may or may not be relevant was to compress on the way in. I never used to do it this way but I adopted this approach after seeing how it was done in a professional studio. In fact I was quite surprised how much front-end compression was actually used, (in this case it was via hardware compression). :astonished: The benefit though of doing it this way was a very even vocal take that was then very much easier to deal with, requiring far less work with level automation etc. I guess you could chain a couple of compressors and achieve a similar result? Just a thought…

The real difference is that every REAL LA2A sounds different to any other REAL LA2A. And, to me “better” than the UAD version that sounds the same every time. It’s weird, because the compression seems to be the same, but there’s somthing missing from amp drive. It could even be my imagination, or something a bit different in the chain when using the UAD version. The difference pretty much disappears in a mix though. It’s only on solo vocals that I might be able to pick it out … maybe … although I’d probably have to know I was listening for it.

In other words, there damned close.

Well… first thing is you can use it on the way in as Sherz points out, the other mainly noticeable difference is that indefinable thing of sound, it just sounds good!!! the software is good but it misses something, probably the Audio transformers and the actual Tb4 (the bit that does the optical compression) they are all a bit different in the “real” thing giving each one a slightly unique character!!!

Yeah, that … There is a mid high gooey/rich sound that I don’t hear using the plug, but jumps out at you when you bump the input of the real thing. No compression necessary to hear it.

Actually while I’m thinking about it, I’d go so far as to suggest quite a lot of the more sterile relatively characterless recordings that we here a lot of on the music page could be traced to a lack of various good front end stuff (pre amps, compression). Then we do like gear with character! along with the ever growing reliance on ITB generated sounds and samples. Hence the preponderance of plugins that try to put some character back in.

See, that’s where I experience the opposite. When vox and acoustic instruments have been compressed on the way in, they are a PITA to mix with the compressor on the 2buss. It almost never sounds right and you have to EQ the shit out of it to get it remotely back to a good “open” sound.

The high frequency response can be adjusted, but yeah it’s the transformers, probably the output transformer? that unit can put out one big signal!!!

I can’t really explain your experience and it hasn’t been and issue for me in the way you describe. When I had a bunch of tunes recorded professionally using the front-end compression method I mentioned there’s no doubt that the final mixes certainly sounded noticeably better than anything I’ve managed to achieve myself. AND I realise there are other variables in the equation too of course which may have nothing to do with compression. :sunglasses: