Compressor Plugins — Part 2 [Analyzing Mixing Effects]

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Compressor Plugins — Part 2 [Analyzing Mixing Effects]

Hey, guys.

This is Eric Tarr for

This is a followup video to a tutorial that
I made previously about analyzing compressor


In my first video, I demonstrated how you
could visualize and understand the basic parameters

of a compressor.

Things like the threshold, attack, release,
and ratio.

So, if you want to understand the basic setup
of what I’m working with here, make sure to

check out that other tutorial too.

In this video, what I’d like to do is take
a closer look, specifically at the release

characteristics of several compressors.

This is going to be very important in how
the compressor functions, and ultimately,

how it’s going to sound.

I’ll start out first by working with the stock
Pro Tools compressor.

What I’m going to do is send my test signal
over here through the compressor, and visualize

the output.

Specifically, I’m going to be looking at what
happens when the compressor transitions from

a time of gain reduction to a time of no gain

So I have part of the signal above the threshold,
and part of the signal below the threshold,

and I can look at how it’s going to transition
from the compression that’s taking place,

to when no compression is taking place.

[sine wave]

So, here’s the release of this compressor.

We have gain reduction happening here, and
it transitions to no gain reduction over here.

I would describe this type of release as a
linear release.

In other words, you can draw a straight line
from the point of full compression, all the

way up to no compression.

We can compare and contrast this, then, to
other styles of release.

I’ll go ahead and save this waveform and make
this plug-in inactive, and bring up another


This is the R-Compressor from Waves.

It has two different styles of compression.

One is the Electro release, one is the Opto

They’re both slightly different.

Here, I’m going to just keep the release time
to be fixed, and just be manipulating this

release setting.

I’ll start out and print the Electro.

[sine wave]

And next, the Opto.

[sine wave]

Now, I can switch back and forth between the
various waveforms that I’ve printed.

So this is the Opto.

Compare that then to the Electro, and then
back to my Linear style release.

So, again, I’ve got the straight line during
this part for the Linear, but then if I go

back to Electro, this one is more of a curve.

This is because for Electro style compression,
the release time actually increases it’s speed

as the gain reduction gets closer to zero,
or it gets faster.

The Opto is the opposite.

If I switch back to this one…

The Opto, it’s the case that the gain reduction
actually slows down, so it gets more drawn

out, where the release takes more time, because
as gain reduction approaches zero dB, essentially,

the compressor is going to take a longer time
where the release starts to slow down.

So, this can be very useful for certain styles
of compression.

For drums, bass, vocals…

You can experiment with how the release plays
an important role in how it’s going to sound.

What I’d like to do in the next part of my
video is move on from specifically looking

at the release characteristics of these compressors,
to talking about how these compressors are

going to respond to signals that are more
like what we normally work with in music.

Up to this point, I’ve been using a test signal.

It kind of has these stair-step characteristics.

Constant amplitude for one period of time,
and a constant amplitude for another period

of time.

There’s not that many signals that we work
with in music, typically, that have these

kinds of attack and decay characteristics.

What I’ve done is synthesized some other test
signals over here so we can look at how compressors

respond to these types of signals.

So instead of having an abrupt transition
from above the threshold to below the threshold,

what I’ve done is have more of a smooth decay
in the signal.

I actually have two different signals side
by side.

This one has a faster decay.

They both have a very sharp transient at the

Then we have a fast decay here, and a little
bit slower decay in this signal.

So you can think of these as kind of simulating
the envelope characteristics of maybe a drum

hit, or maybe the pluck on a guitar, or maybe
when a piano note is being struck.

So we can look at how these different kinds
of compressors are going to respond.

So to begin with, I’ll start out with the
stock Pro Tools compressor and see how it’s

going to shape the envelope of these kinds
of signals.

So I’ll go ahead and select this one, and
print through it.

[sine waves]

So, for these kinds of signals, you can see
that what a compressor is going to do, depending

on your attack and release settings, that
I’m actually accentuating the transient of


What I’ve done is reduce the amplitude then
of the sustain of the note.

I’ve turned it down here.

As soon as the attack kicks in, there’s going
to be gain reduction taking place, and the

sustain is going to be brought down.

We can look at, then, how other types of compressors
will behave with these types of signals.

Let’s bring up the dbx style compressor here.

It’s the one from Native Instruments and Softube.

Let’s look at how it’s going to respond.

[sine waves]

So, here we actually have a very fast attack,
and fast release.

What can end up happening is you’re carving
out part of the signal that’s loud, but then,

you allow for a very natural release where
you’re not doing any gain reduction on the

whole tail of the signal.

So, it’s going to produce a very different
kind of sound, so sometimes it’s useful, sometimes

it’s not.

Let’s look at, then, the LA-2A style compressor.

Instead of maybe one that’s typically used
for drums, like the dbx 160, this one is maybe

used more for bass.

So we can look at what it’s going to do.

[sine wave plays]

So, we have a very smooth transition that
ends up happening.

The attack kind of passes through initially,
but then we have a smooth transition, because

the release is longer, or for LA-2A, can even
happen in multiple stages where you have the

release happen over multiple seconds.

So compare this then to my last compressor
I’ll show you.

The FET style compressor.

I’m going to send these signals through the
FET compressor.

I’ve got a slow attack and fast release, and
see what ends up happening when I send these

signals through.

[sine waves play]

So, the interesting thing here is the compressor
grabs on initially, right at the beginning

of the signal, but then because we have such
a fast release, we can actually do some envelope

shaping to this signal, where initially we
had this kind of concave shape to the decay,

in both of the signals, just at different

However, with the FET style compressor, you
can actually almost elongate the tail with

this really fast release, such that it actually
starts being convex instead of concave.

So, just a different way that these compressors
are going to respond and process the kinds

of signals.

So if you’re thinking about, “how is this
processor going to manipulate things like

the attack and the decay of these types of
signals,” maybe drums or bass or piano,

think about what’s the difference between
a FET style compressor or an LA-2A style compressor.

So that’s all I wanted to demonstrate with
this video.

Thanks for checking it out, guys.

If you have questions, post them below or

I love hearing from you.

Until next time, take care.

Compressor Plugins — Part 2 [Analyzing Mixing Effects]

Learn compression:
Frequency ear training:
The Pro Audio Files:

A second video on analyzing compression. This one covers release characteristics of various types of compressors.

About The Pro Audio Files

Tutorials on mixing, mastering and producing music in Pro Tools with plugins from Waves, FabFilter, SoundToys, Softube, Sonnox, PSP, Slate Digital and more. Learn how to mix using EQ, compression and effects like reverb, delay, saturation and distortion on vocals, drums, guitar, bass and more.

Compressor Plugins — Part 2 [Analyzing Mixing Effects]

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