Why Ugly Compressor Plugins Rock

I used to be that guy.

After using fancy, good-looking compressor plugins in various studios, I would get back to my home studio and stare blankly at the “DigiRack” compressor plugin that comes with Pro Tools.

It’s ugly.

It doesn’t have any fun colors or cute graphics.

It doesn’t look like an awesome piece of vintage gear.

It’s just a few knobs, a volume meter, and a gain reduction meter.

Psshh…

No way that thing could sound good. (more…)

Do you save plug-in presets?

This is one of those things that I’ve never done very well, but I think I’m shooting myself in the foot.

What am I talking about? Plug-in presets.

Now, if you’re starting out with recording, and you’ve never really messed around with an EQ or a compressor or a reverb, plug-in presets are your best friend.

Any plug-in that you get (any plug-in worth anything at least) will come with a fair  number of presets that you can use. This is wonderful because you may not know which frequency bands to be boosting or cutting or how long your reverb tail should be, and using plug-in presets allows you to pull up an entire setting without you having to know necessarily how each little knob in that plug-in works.

It’s a really helpful thing.

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How to Gain-Stage Plugins

Years ago, when working in an analog studio it was very important to make sure that you gain-stage all of your equipment properly. That simply means that the signal running from one piece of equipment to the next piece of equipment was at an ideal level, so that all the pieces of equipment were working together to give you the best sound.

If the signal was too low, you had problems, if the signal was too high, you had problems. You had to be constantly aware of this, because you were using a lot of analog equipment. You had a console, out-board equipment, effects processors, EQs, compressors, all of these things that were working together. Every time you sent a cable from one piece of equipment to the next, you had to make sure that the gain-staging was happening correctly.

You may think that if you’re using plug-ins in a digital environment you don’t have to do gain-staging anymore. That is not necessarily the case, especially when you are using multiple plug-ins on a single track.

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