A beginners guide to compression settings.
Many of us out there are just starting to mix audio. Understanding compression ratio’s, threshold’s and attack / release settings are almost always one of the biggest hurdles to jump at the beginning.
This serves as a quick beginners guide (by no means set in stone) as a starting place for your settings.
NOTE: Ratios will always vary from compressor to compressor, no two will be the same so experiment.
So you have a session open and need to find a place to start. I always start with drums so lets do that:
Drums need a fast attack and release in most cases to allow the transients from drum hits through the compressor:
Ratio 5:1 to 8:1
Now Bass Guitars most always need some compression to smooth out peak from harder picked notes:
Attack 4ms to 10ms
Threshold -2dB to -10dB
Ratio 4:1 – 8:1
Acoustic Guitars don’t always need compression so if they sound fine in the mix then they are fine. However some light compression can be good to lower peaks from strummed passages that are alongside quieter picked passages:
Attack 5 -10 ms
Ratio 5:1 – 10:1
Electric Guitars are mostly overdriven or distorted. Overdriven guitars can be smoothed out with compression. Distorted guitars tend to already be compressed so it isn’t always necessary to use compression:
Attack 2 -5 ms
Threshold -3dB to -8dB
Ratio 4:1 to 12:1
Note: Threshold settings will have to be raised or lowered depending on how strong or weak the original performances signal is.
At least when you open a mixing session for the first time and reach for a compressor you will have a guide where to start with each instrument using the settings outlined above.
Also my recommended free compressor at the moment is TDR Feedback Compressor II http://www.tokyodawn.net/tdr-feedback-compressor-2/
One feature it has is a button called Delta. This button allows you to bypass the uncompressed part of the signal and hear only the compressed signal hearing exactly what is being compressed! Great for a beginner. Also it’s very transparent overall.
I hope this will help with starting off your mixes.