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Understanding Audio Compression...

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TomEqulaert View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 Nov 2011 at 2:53pm

A little help here for those learning the role of the compressor...

Compression second only to audio equalizers is the most commonly used processing effect used during recording, mixing and making a song. It also remains one of the most commonly misunderstood processes for producers as a whole. Why is this you may ask? Well there are many factors to take into consideration, but I will try to demystify the subject of compression for you. Do not let the fact that many producers and online beat makers out there don't really understand compression scare you off. The key to understanding is knowing the basics first before you just dive in. What is music mixing without compression and effects? If you learn the basics of a compressor your tracks will surely improve as a result.


A compressor is a special amplifier that is used to reduce dynamic range. Dynamic range is the span between the softest sounds and loudest sounds in a song.

Did you know that each of us have a built in compressor in our ears? It is true. In fact when an incoming sound is too loud there is a muscle that contracts to help reduce the sound before reaching the inner ear. This human compressor allows us to hear a quiet whisper and a loud shout equally to some degree. It really is pretty amazing when you think about it. Well an audio compressor's goal is the same. The goal is to give the listener a more consistent sound level by boosting a lower volume sound and reducing a sound that is louder.


Most audio compressors are basically designed to do the same job. Sure there are different makes and models. Different designs and interfaces. They also don't all sound or work exactly alike, but the jobs of the compressor are the same. Yes jobs! In this economy we are lucky to have one job but the trusty compressor actually has four. So an easy way to understand compression is to understand these four jobs that are being done within the compressor. The tricky part about using a compressor is that each job greatly affects the next job in line. If you get one wrong then the next one will surely be wrong also. Think of it like an old fashion assembly line at a factory. So let's take a closer look at these jobs:

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