So, it's already a given that most of the music I mix live, or in the studio has some compression on the individual tracks or channels as well as compression on the final output. What surprises people sometimes is when they see a scene I'm working on at a live show and it has TWO compressors on ONE channel, and they are always a) Immediately aggressive and attacking about why that much compression is wrong,, or b) Very intrigued, and ask me why. This is how it all began; when mixing sessions in the digital realm (Pro Tools or digital consoles), the standard built in compressors didn't ever sound as good to me as outboard. I found that when using two distinctly different units in the digital realm with two intentionally different settings, that it always just sounded better. And for me, I'm all about ears and not tradition or theory. What I stumbled on was something I like to call "complimentary compression". Two types of compressors doing two different things that both work together in a tandem audio soundscape. In mastering, engineers around the world do this everyday. The have an opto style compressor doing light compression either on mid/side or stereo, and then they use a limiter to bring up the overall level and tame the peaks. They are essentially using complimentary compression. Generally I will have one compressor set at an attack of around 15-50 ms depending on the source, with a release time of 15-50 ms and a 3:1 ratio. Then, on the second compressor, I will set it to be more like 1-2 ms attack (like a limiter) with a fast release of 1-5 ms at 10:1 or 20:1. The threshold of the limiter is set to just grab the loudest peaks by 2 or 3 db. I find that on any standard live digital mixing console that your mixes will always sound better if you can pull a little bit of compression from two units instead of trying to get it all out of one unit. Now I am fully aware that a lot of the newer budget friendly mixing consoles only have one compressor available on each channel, so then this option is out. If you find yourself in a situation where you CAN use two compressors, do it and let me know how your success was. I've never looked back. Disclaimer: ** My use of complimentary compression is generally more suitable for modern rock, pop, and electronic music. I have not attempted to use it in Jazz, Blues, or Classical stylings as to not steal from the natural dynamics I would want to hear coming from instruments in those styles **
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