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5 Different Types of

Compression and When to


Use Them
Its no secret that dynamic range compression is one of the most
important and versatile tools to an audio engineer. Heres
information on some of the ways that you can use the many
different types of compression to enhance your productions.

1. Multiband Compression/Limiting
Multiband compression allows one to affect the dynamic range of
multiple frequency ranges independently of one another. Want to
tame the beater of a kick drum without altering the low end? No
problem. Simply choose a frequency range, and then set
threshold, attack and release like you would on a normal
compressor.
Practical applications: Master bus for clearing up problem areas
like low-mid buildup, or on lead vocals to tame harshness in the 510k range.
Recommended plugins: FabFilter Pro-MB, iZotope Ozone 6,
Waves L3-LL Multimaximizer

2. Lookahead Compression
Lookahead compression essentially analyzes an input signal and

applies compression before the signal is audible, allowing one to


tame transients in a unique way. Lookahead compression can be
achieved with a standard compressor by duplicating the signal
onto another track in your DAW, moving the audio back in time,
placing a compressor on the original signal, and using the
duplicated audio as the sidechain input.
Practical applications: Really anything with prominent, fast
transients but especially effective on snare drum and vocals.
Recommended plugins: Softube FET compressor, Waves C1
Compressor with Sidechain

3. Brickwall Limiting
[Disclaimer] Learn how to mix before simply applying a brickwall
limiter to the master bus of all your productions.
Although arguably the catalyst for the Loudness War, which
stripped certain popular music of dynamics for over a decade,
brickwall limiting certainly has its place in music production, live
sound reinforcement and broadcast. Set the ceiling, and your
signal will never go above it. Alter the threshold to bring the lower
amplitude of the dynamic range closer to the top, allowing one to
reach professional-level RMS without understanding professionallevel mixing skills. [see disclaimer!]
Practical applications: Pre-mastering if used properly and
mastering. Use on sub-auxiliary tracks to achieve higher RMS
values before even hitting the master bus. Can be used on
individual tracks to tame transients or shape tone just like a
traditional compressor.
Recommended plugins: FabFilter Pro-L, Waves L2, PSP Xenon

4. Sidechain Compression or
Ducking
A staple of the EDM production toolkit, the sound of a sidechained synthesizer and kick drum is instantly recognizable.
Essentially, it involves using one signal to apply compression
upon a another. There are plenty of online tutorials for this
process, but the applications below may be ones youre less
familiar with.
Practical applications: Use the signal of vocals to duck drums or
guitars to allow the vocal to sit more prominently in the mix, use a
sample to replace or augment originally recorded cymbals, use a
cowbell or tick sample rather than the kick to duck synth (due to
the faster attack of the tick sound.)
Recommended plugins: Softube CL1B or Valley People Dynamite, Waves H-Comp or API 2500

5. Parallel Compression
Parallel compression (sometimes referred to as New York
compression) is great for keeping the original, natural sound of a
recording, while still enjoying the benefits of a compressed signal.
Simply route your signal to an auxilliary track (via the sends, not
output) apply compression, and blend in the aux track to taste. Be
aware of delay compensation settings in your DAW to avoid
unwanted phase issues.
Practical Applications: Very popular on drums or signals with
harsh transients. Also great on the master bus for achieving a

boost in RMS.
Recommended plugins: Certain plugins like Cytomics The Glue
or FabFilters Pro-C allow for a dry/wet blend which can achieve
similar results to parallel, but any of your favorite compressors can
achieve great results if used properly.