Got this email from John, one of my VIP members recently:

I have a question about your Understanding Compression video. All of the tutorials make sense except one section…

In the Real World Examples video, you use a Waves Renaissance Compressor, and it looks like the compression is kicking in WAY BEFORE the threshold his being crossed.

My understanding is that the compressor kicks in after it reaches threshold.

John’s not asking a bad question at all, but in my opinion he’s asking the wrong question. He’s focusing on a seemingly important detail, when in reality it’s not all that important (and can lead to lots of unnecessary distraction).

Here was my response back:

Hey John,

I understand your confusion, and here’s my response:

When I set up a compressor, I really don’t care where the threshold is. I just move the threshold and ratio until I get the AMOUNT of compression I want. So, it really doesn’t bother me either way if it appears that the signal is being compressed below the threshold. That information really won’t help me get a better mix. What matters to me is how much compression is happening, and if I have all the settings right (ratio, threshold, attack, release, etc.)

I think this would fall under the “doesn’t really matter from a practical standpoint” category for me.

It’s a valid question, but I’ve learned that trying to answer these really technical questions almost never make my mixers sound better. 🙂

Hope that helps!


Please understand, I’m not trying to be rude. I’m trying to make sure John doesn’t get so caught up in the technical details that he misses the bigger picture.

It’s easy to be distracted by things like that. Things like:

  • Wasting your time researching the exact frequency response of your microphone (instead of spending time recording with it and finding out what it sounds like)
  • Spending a lot of time learning exactly what each button on a plugin does (rather than using it on a mix and learning as you go)
  • Browsing forums for hours, looking for the “best way” to mic a particular instrument (when what you should be doing is trying things and seeing what sounds best to you)
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
Always ask questions…but make sure you’re asking the right questions, and that you’re not simply hiding behind questions because you’re too scared to get your hands dirty and try something.
I’m not saying that’s what John is doing, but I can tell you that I have done that before…and it’s never helped me get better recordings. 😉
If you want to be cool, like John, grab your copy of Understanding Compression here: