Got an email from a customer the other day.
He bought Understanding Compression. He loved it, but he was writing me to tell me that he thought I should have gone more in depth into attack and release, that my technical definition of how attack and release work wasn’t as in-depth as he would’ve liked.
He thought I oversimplified how the attack and release settings work when the signal is actually above the threshold.
I thought he made a GREAT point, and it makes for a good lesson for all of us.
Here’s my response: (more…)
Got this question from a reader:
My question is regarding the compression technique you seem quite fond of. This is where you set the threshold to such a low value that it is basically compressing EVERYTHING, but you keep the ratio really low just to even things out.
I was wondering, seeing as the compressor pretty much never goes above the threshold value does this mean that the release function is useless now?
If the release only acts when the volume reaches over the threshold – but it never does – surely this makes this function redundant, no?
That’s a GREAT question, Arman.
To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure how useful the release function is in that particular instance.
I would imagine you’re probably right. The release doesn’t probably do to much to the sound in that scenario, since the signal really isn’t ever dropping below the threshold. (It MIGHT have something to do with how quickly the compressor “let’s go” of the signal as it goes from a loud section to a quieter section, but I’m not 100% sure about that.)
However, while release times can be helpful, I find myself spending MUCH more time getting the attack times right when using a compressor. Changing attack times can drastically affect the tone of the source, much more so than release times in my opinion.
Changing the attack time alone can make a kick drum go from sounding dull to sounding punchy and in-your-face.
Granted, this doesn’t apply as well if you’re doing a super low threshold and low ratio, but the principle still remains. Keep an eye on release times, but spend more of your time getting the attack time right, and you’ll be in good shape.
If compression leaves you a little bit stumped, and you’d like to learn more, check out:
Once the signal drops below the threshold, the release setting tells the compressor how quickly to turn off the compression.
If you set the release too fast, there can be some unnatural “pumping and breathing” in the signal.