Compression – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Audio Mixing and Mastering Glossary

What is Compression?

Compression is an audio processing technique used in mixing to control the dynamic range of a signal. Dynamic range refers to the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a sound. Compression reduces this range by attenuating the peaks of the signal, making the overall sound more consistent and easier to manage.

How Does Compression Work in Audio Mixing?

Compression works by automatically reducing the level of a signal when it exceeds a certain threshold. When the signal crosses this threshold, the compressor kicks in and applies gain reduction to bring the level back down. This helps to prevent clipping and distortion, while also making the signal more uniform in volume.

When Should Compression be Used in Audio Mixing?

Compression can be used in a variety of situations in audio mixing. It is commonly used to control the dynamics of vocals, drums, bass, and other instruments. Compression can also be used to add punch and presence to a mix, as well as to glue together individual tracks and make them sound more cohesive.

What are the Different Types of Compression?

There are several different types of compression that can be used in audio mixing. The most common type is peak compression, which reduces the level of a signal when it exceeds a certain threshold. Other types include RMS compression, which responds to the average level of a signal, and multiband compression, which allows different frequency bands to be compressed independently.

How to Set Compression Parameters in Audio Mixing?

When setting compression parameters in audio mixing, it is important to consider the threshold, ratio, attack, release, and makeup gain. The threshold determines when the compressor kicks in, the ratio controls how much gain reduction is applied, the attack and release determine how quickly the compressor responds to the signal, and the makeup gain compensates for the level reduction caused by compression.

What are Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Compression in Audio Mixing?

There are several common mistakes to avoid when using compression in audio mixing. One of the most common mistakes is over-compressing, which can result in a lifeless and unnatural sound. It is also important to set the attack and release times appropriately, as using too fast or too slow settings can negatively impact the dynamics of the signal. Additionally, it is important to use compression in moderation and to always listen critically to the effect it is having on the mix.