Beginner’s Guide on How to Use a Compressor

In this blog, we will discuss how to use a compressor and how to compress an audio file.

Reduction is one of those studio techniques that are all too often overlooked and underutilized. Today’s producers have no qualms about placing compressors on every channel of their DAW while mixing, but old school engineers had to learn to make the most of just a few units of compression—which forced us to master them thoroughly. So, let’s start with how to use a compressor meticulously.

What Is Compression in Music?

Compression is the technique of reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal’s loudest and quietest sections. This is accomplished by amplifying quieter signals and attenuating stronger ones. Typically, the controls used to configure a compressor are as follows:

Threshold – The minimum volume required before compression is done.

Ratio – The amount of compression performed. For instance, if the compression ratio is set to 6:1, the input signal must exceed the threshold by 6 dB to raise the output level by 1 dB.

Attack – The rate at which the compressor begins to operate.

Release – The time interval between when the signal drops below the threshold and when the compressor stops.

Knee – Controls how the compressor responds to signals that reach the threshold. The signal is immediately clamped with a Hard Knee setting, but with a Soft Knee setting, the compression kicks in more softly as the signal approaches the threshold.

Make-Up Gain – Enables you to increase the strength of the compressed signal. Since compression often results in severe signal attenuation.

Output – Enables you to increase or decrease the compressor’s signal output level.

Types of Audio Compression

Before knowing how to use a compressor let’s start with its type. Compressors come in a variety of configurations. Engineers employ them for various purposes, and some sound much better in certain conditions than others.

1. Tube

Likely the most seasoned sort of compression is tube compression. Tube compressors will generally have a slow reaction – slower attack and delivery – than different types of compression. Because of this, tube compressors show a particular hue or “vintage” sound that is almost difficult to accomplish with other compressor types.

2. Compression using the VCA algorithm

Voltage Controlled Amplifier compressors provide very fine control through an integrated circuit. They are less colourful and have relatively few undesirable side effects like distortion, making them excellent for various jobs. The dBx 160 is a variable compression amplifier.

3. Compression Optical

Opto, which means optical, refers to the light-sensitive circuits that regulate the amount of compression in Opto compressors. They often respond more slowly than other compressors, although this might be advantageous. The legendary Teletronix LA2A optical compressor is a favourite of many producers for voice and mixes bus compression.

4. Compression using FETs

Field Effect Compressors use transistors to imitate the valve sound more faithfully while maintaining a greater signal to noise ratio. They are often used by vocalists and are excellent for drum compression. The Urei 1176 is a field-effect transistor compressor.

5. Compression of the valve

Valve compressors operate in one of the three modes discussed above but use valves in the amplifier circuit to get the ‘creamy’ sound. The LA2A Opto compressor employs valves.

Compression Tips & Techniques

The following are a couple of ideas to make you ready with compression. These are surely not rules, yet ideally, these procedures will assist you with feeling more certain while utilizing this incredibly strong, yet effortlessly abused recording device. Have a fun time and analysis.

  • It is a typical practice and suggestion to apply “gentle” compression at various stages all through the recording/ mixing/mastering process, as opposed to applying extreme pressure at only one point.
  • Listen continously and be careful while adding compression. Compression can negatively influence the tone of an instrument. This can be because of the type of compressor being utilized, yet frequently it’s the distinction in tone between the peaks and the troughs of an instrument (assuming you lessen the peaks relative to the troughs, the tone will change). Fast audio compression on instruments with wide vibrato will show this impact.
  • Try starting with a moderate to the medium proportion of somewhere in the range of 2:1 and 5:1. Set your attack time to a medium-quick setting and your delivery time to a medium setting. Now, gradually raise the threshold until you’re getting somewhere near 5 dB of gain decrease. Then set your result gain to make up for the 5 dB attenuation. Finally, accelerate your attack time bit by bit until it gets perceptible and afterward eases it off.
  • Try different things involving dramatic compression as an effect. For instance, it can sound truly cool to utilize a compressor to really “squish” a spotless guitar track, or “clamp down” a snare drum to make it stand out.


The contrast ratio is a critical component of the identity of any sound. Furthermore, the level balance of parts throughout a track is critical for mixing. Consequently, dynamic audio processors such as compressors, safety systems, expanders, and gates are essential tools for any producer or mix engineer. Withthese four, you should be able to modify the dynamics of a sound in any way you choose.

We hope your doubts regarding how to use a compressor are clear. Write in the comments how did you like this post? You can also pick audio mixing techniques for yourself. If you find this blog helpful, you can read more about mixing and mastering tips and the best mixing plugins.

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