What I’m describing is after but before is also valid for another reason.
When you put the compression after the delay, depending on the ration it’s going to sustain for a while and then quickly fade out once it goes below the compressor’s threshold.
Putting the compressor before doesn’t achieve that but what it does achieve that I use relatively often is if you have sounds with a sharp attack and short sustain like a banjo or mandolin (or synth sounds with a similar type of envelope), running those through a delay without compression usually means you mostly get the attack, a bunch of annoying clicks and very little of the actual note ringing out.
When you add compression before the delay, this equalizes what gets picked up and goes through the feedback path. It doesn’t necessarily destroy the clicks but the tones are much clearer as there’s more of that content going into the delay.
It also balances out the effect you get where louder notes get more delay than quieter ones, this may or may not be desirable depending on the effect you’re looking for.
My favorite compressor is the Inward Connections Brute, I believe an updated version with ratio control is now sold by Tree Audio. It just makes everything sound more “like a record,” I basically run everything through it that’s mono for a slight gain reduction. It’s particularly special on vocals and bass.
I often prefer to have multiple stages of less compression for general control. I’ll get a little compression first hardware on the way int to the box, then a little more for mixing for further control or vibe. But of course I also love to slam the hell out of something sometimes too and the Brute with both knobs all the way up is a special sound.
In my modular I love both the SSF Autodyne and WMD MSCL. They sound very different and function rather differently too with MSCL having attack and decay controls and Autodyne capable of parallel compression, but both work great in the modular and processing external sources in the mixing process. The Autodyne for drums is just fantastic, and the MSCL as a bus compressor is impressive for sound, size, and rice. If you are into eurorack, it’s hard to find a better deal for a pro sounding compressor anywhere than these too. There are compressors a lot more expensive that these compete with sound quality wise.
I find myself using the UAD classic emulations quite a bit for mixing and while tracking if I need a certain sound as well that my hardware can’t get, and for general control of course too. For example, the 1176 to push things forward and create presence in a way that only a FET style compressor does, or the La2a to do some further smoothing to a legato part if my Brute is occupied. Also love the Goodhertz Vulf for vibe, UAD API 2500 for all around versatility in function and sound and especially for the stereo de-linking capabilities. Recently got Acustica Gold and I’m loving the compressors on there for busses and color, and their El Rey is pretty damn magical as well for a very vibey sound, another that’s great on most vocals.
I don’t compress synths unless the envelopes aren’t up to snuff. Sometimes you gotta go with a nice mid-length decay on the VCA and then just squash the sustain up and use the compressor attack to dial in the “real attack”.
I would need to experiment to actually create a patch like this but the way I see it, you’d need to emulate the knee of a compressor, the point in which the compression takes hold. Once the signal passes the knee, it gets reduced to a certain ratio.
The way I’d do this is probably with a VCA where the output of the VCA gets fed through whatever sets the knee (could be some type of comparator or a rectifier with an offset, it depends on what you have), this “knee’d” signal is then fed back negatively to the VCA, so its pushed back down. I suppose you could use a slew to dial it in too but for CV I’m fairly sure it could fare without.
I haven’t tried this patch though so I can’t tell you if it works or not!
As someone who knows very little about how to use compression (but still uses it frequently), this thread is very interesting! I am not ashamed to admit that I use n00b compression tools aimed at those of us who are not skilled: mostly Klevgrand Korvpressor, Izotope Neutron (the automatic channel strip tool is way better than I am at setting up multiband compression & EQ), and Izotope Ozone (limiting 4 dummies).
Thanks Gregg, an interesting read. I’m going to print it out. Really appreciate this kind of recipe with a logical order of how to tweak one parameter at the time. I tend to “tweak til it sounds good”, but really I’m a bit in the dark most of the time. Obviously mixing/mastering and working a compressor is about developing a good ear – but I believe it really helps to learn what it is you should listen for.
I find it fascinating that compression can be have so many different functions. Sound design, groove, audibility, energy, power, detail etc.
My modular rack ends with a Vermona TIA-4, which is connected to an Alesis 3632 (the more refined cousin of the 3630). It’s there mostly for its limiter, but I like having the sidechain option, patched into my old Electribe ER-1, since my Eurorack gets its clock from the Elecrtribe as well.
But what I’m really excited about these days was setting up a hardware bus with an HHB Radius 3 “Fat Man” tube compressor and an old DOD 830 equalizer. I built a calibration template in Ableton Live using pink noise and a spectrum analyzer to set the pair to neutral gain-wise across the spectrum. It requires that I let them both warm up for about 20 minutes and I still have to tweak the EQ a bit to get the compressor back to neutral before each session. But when it’s dialed in, it provides the sweetest glueing effect I’ve ever heard. Absolutely fantastic on drum machines, sampled electronic drums, and glitchy percussion.
I haven’t tried it on the master yet, but since I tend to mix into an opto-compressor plugin, I’m looking forward to giving it a try there too.
In the past, I’ve used the Fat Man on my ER-1, especially the kick, and my BassStation Rack to add incredible tube-y crunch. Found mine for around $100 on eBay.
How do you like it? I got one in a package deal (two patchbays, two old Roland reverb racks and the 3632) and haven’t had time to figure out how to use it or how to connect it. I probably should use it for effect, right?
I really like mine! Such an incredible feature set in a 1U package. It’s like having a three-compressor chain on each channel.
Since I’m using it with my analog-heavy Eurorack rig, having separate noise gate and limiter sections makes it really handy. You can get great pumping from the compressor section via sidechain depending on your musical genre (rumor has it that Daft Punk uses this compressor for that particular effect).
Overall, it’s fairly clean/transparent unless you crank up the threshold and ratio. It’s not as precise as a high-end FET compressor and doesn’t have the character of an opto or tube compressor, but I think it makes a great workhorse compressor, and as you’ve seen, you can get them ridiculously cheap.
I think people tend to overlook them because the 3630 gets such bad press. The 3632 was engineered to fix those issues, but still gets passed over.
Thanks, interesting to know. I should look into it. It’s a bit intimidating with so many parameters and switches. (turns over to read at the front panel for the first time) Oh, Expander/Gate + Comp + Limiter - almost like three in one, I suppose. I’m thinking, maybe it’s easy to get carried away with the “mythology-GAS” of the classic models and their clones and forgetting that compressors in many ways is a very practical utility-device.
But wow, there’s actually quite a lot of things I could do with this. I’m familiar with sidechaining-techniques ITB but haven’t really thought about the possibilities of using the 3632 for this. I have some homework or sketchwork to do I think.
oh well, I just spent slightly more time than I’d like to admit reading up on 3630-techniques in French house over at gearslutz. It’s interesting that the technique people seem to use is virtually the same as how the lofi-hiphop heads use the SP-303/404 Vinyl Sim compressor. They slam it on the masterbus and by boosting the kick they achieve the pumping. Actually not through sidechaining, according to the “experts”.
That makes a lot of sense. I hadn’t thought about it, but that would be the more traditional way to get most compressors to “pump”. Good catch!
For me, I guess it’s more about ducking. I can run a bassline or a pad through the 3632, and by routing the kick from the drum machine into the sidechain, I leave plenty of room for the kick to come through.
love hearing how madlib., dilla, flying lotus, samiyam, and others used the sp303 mfx #12 (comp). its aggressive and hyper sensitive. throw it on the master and experiment mixing. its what goodhz designed their vulf plugin from ; - )
here’s something from an anonymous beat-maker we released 5/6years ago that implements this compression effect quite masterfully. the sp404 has a very similar compressor on mfx#12, but the 303 sounds a little less metallic , , a bit more round and warm comparatively.
Cool compilation! It’s interesting with the SP-303 having both the Vinyl Sim Comp and the MFX12 compressor. The later 404sx has no comp in its vinyl sim, instead there’s a knob called RNG which mimic some kind of hum? Oh well.