written by
Ziga Rezar

How to easily set compression parameters

Tips 2 min read

While scouring the vastness of the internet for useful audio production content, I've come across this little gem (video below); the way the principle of compression is explained is so applicable and so well structured that you can use it on every compressor out there! It forces you to listen and not only look at the numbers, and that can make all the difference!

To recap, this technique goes like this:

  1. Set the attack and release to fastest, lower the threshold substantially and crank the ratio
  2. Lengthen the attack until the transients sound the way you want - be it sharp, a bit tamed or completely unharmed and natural
  3. Adjust the release until you get the desired amount and speed of "pumping" (slow settings) or leave the decay and reverberation unharmed (fast settings)
  4. Adjust the ratio to decide the "hardness" of the compression character. At the same amount of gain reduction, a higher ratio will act mostly on sharp peaks while a lower ratio will work on a broader range of signal levels.
  5. Finally, adjust the threshold to decide the amount of the "flavor" you've just cooked up.

Additional controls

Some compressors feature additional controls to further tailor their sonics, with the most prominent additions being the knee control (usually for digital compressors) and the sidechain filters.

The knee control works in conjunction with the ratio and is perceived as the "hardness" of the compression character. Harder knee means a more sudden onset of the compression and a softer knee setting means a more gradual onset of the compression and consequently a more transparent, "gooey" character.

The sidechain filters allow you to tell the compressor how to react to either the lowest or highest frequencies (or both). The most common application is to high-pass the sidechain signal to make the compressor ignore the otherwise powerful kick drum hits.

UA Universal Audio 1176 compression. Music studio gear.
Universal Audio 1176 Limiting Amplifier | Photographer: Caught In Joy | Source: Unsplash

Want to know more about compression?

It's easy to apply this technique to all the compressors that are available on mixanalog at the moment. The easiest one to test the whole procedure on is probably the GoldCan VCA that's included in the Rack1.

But if you still struggle to make it work for you, join the chat on Discord or ask away in our Facebook Community group and ask away - I'm happy to join the discussion and help you out!

And lastly, if you're old school like that, you can also drop us an email down below:

tips compression howto setup ratio attack release threshold