Compressors and Gates


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Can anyone lend good explanations/definitions of gates and compressors? Most folks I have run into just tell me "fiddle with the knobs until everything sounds right." What are they actually doing to the audio signal?

A compressor is used to alter the dynamic range of an audio signal. The dynamic range is the range of intensity of the signal. The traditional role of a compressor is tolessen the gap between the loudest signal and the softest signal. Basically this beefs up the sound and makes it sound more punchy and stuff, depending on the attack and release settings. A common use of compression is to make a vocal track uniform in intensity. Make sense?
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Your compressor definition works very well for me. It makes total sense too. "Compressing" -- basically squashing the audio signal. Very cool.

Any thoughts on gates?

Thanks for the input, BTW.

I could be wrong, because I'm new to producing, but I think a gate rejects any signals under a preset level, to prevent unwanted "ambient" or other lower-volume sounds from being recorded.
Sonic thats a good defenition for gates....
Basically expander/gates cut of the signal when it falls below the set threshold , commonly used for drum kits to cut back on noise and ****....You can also use them for ducking for like voiceovers...They got key inputs so that signals going into the inputs will control when the gates kick in
I was totally lost with compressors, until an engineer friend pointed me in the right direction.
The simplest way to use a compressor, is by adjusting the basic controls in a certain order.
The basic controlsbeing ATTACK, RELEASE, RATIO, THRESHOLD. This is the best order to adjust them in.

Firstly, set the ratio as high as it will go, set the release as fast as it will go, run your audio through the compressor, and listen carefully to the attack. It will probably sound terrible, but concentrate on the attack only, adjust it until you are happy with the attack

Secondly, Adjust the release, generally the slower you can get the release, without it booming or pumping too much.

Thirdly, the Ratio, generally the higher the ratio the smaller the range of the sound, this is the part that "squeezes" the sound, play with this until you are happy with it.

Fourthly, the Threshold, this basically allows you to choose the amount of uncompressed sound that is let through, you don't want it to be compressing all the time, fiddle with this until you are happy with the balance of compressed and uncompressed sound.

This is only a rough guide that I use, and it works for me, but if you are in doubt use your ears, sometimes it's hard to tell what a compressor is doing, it's just a matter of training your ears.

Damn I hate typing.
Do any of you use compressors and gates on the individual "voices" (is voice the standard way of representing the individual elements of your song?) of your piece while editing, or does everyone hold off on using them until the final mix-down?

I've been playing around with this technique lately. Make a drum loop and a few variations as you normally would, then resample the whole loop through a compressor and use that sample instead of the individual elements. That makes your drum track sound really beefy. Then compress the entire mix again when you record. This is a good way to go if you don't have a bunch of spare compressors lying around (I just use the compressor effect on my sampler, for now).

good luck
I did say it was a basic way to use compressors, I don't claim to know exactly how they work, but I was shown this method by someone who has been in the audio engineering business for a few years, and has mastered a few releases, and this is the method he uses, besides, I'm always confused.:confused:
I asked this question a while back of someone and they passed me a URL to articles with great detail on various types of effects, including a compressor.

I'll have to dig it up, but if you don't hear from me in the next week or so, eMail me ( to remind me to find the link.

I think using compressors on individual elements of your songs is a great idea! Especially with drums, if you've put together a breakbeat using, say, a snare from one sample a kick from another, etc etc if you compress it before throwing it into the mix, it all sits better together, and sounds like one element, instead of different sounds played together.
(it's always so hard to get this stuff out of your head, and into words ;) )
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Tor said:
[B it all sits better together, and sounds like one element, instead of different sounds played together.


Also if you fool with the attack and release and minimize the threshold, you can get some weird breathy sounds out of your drums, this effect is used a lot in drum and bass or any music that has breakbeats. I love compressors. Hey has anyone used the Alesis 3630 before? what do you think?