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Author Topic: Getting the Compressor 'just right'  (Read 8046 times)

Joe Long

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Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« on: December 29, 2010, 07:52:48 pm »

I've been on here before about setting up our Presonus ACP 88 compressor, with not much results that helped.

I'll try to explain everything in full

any questions feel free to ask and i'll explain further


Alright so we have it setup right now as follows

only 3 channels - using "insert" cables
our Board is a "Eurodesk sl3242FX-pro"

Channel 1 for Worship leader, we used default setup from the manual "auto button in, bypass out, link out, soft out, gate is usually at 0-Dbs , ratio 2:1, attack and release are auto. Threshold is where i run into problems...

Now i've heard that usually when you set in a compressor you leave it alone...?

My issues i'm having is i suppose im compressing to much because at times it sounds muddy.


Our other 2 channels we compress are our pastor and another wireless mic we have for speaking.

Our pastor has been an issue also...hes very dynamic so at times again when he gets quiet it sounds like hes muddy or u cant hear him or we get feed back when adjusting levels.

so basically get it to the point where its set where on slow songs we can hear worship leader without it being muddy sounding

as for pastor speaking, no feedback, echoy, and muddy sound.

Thanks, if i left anything out feel free to let me know...i'll check back in on this every few mins.

-Joe
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2010, 09:41:48 pm »

Joe Long wrote on Wed, 29 December 2010 19:52

I've been on here before about setting up our Presonus ACP 88 compressor, with not much results that helped.

I'll try to explain everything in full

any questions feel free to ask and i'll explain further


Alright so we have it setup right now as follows

only 3 channels - using "insert" cables
our Board is a "Eurodesk sl3242FX-pro"

Channel 1 for Worship leader, we used default setup from the manual "auto button in, bypass out, link out, soft out, gate is usually at 0-Dbs , ratio 2:1, attack and release are auto. Threshold is where i run into problems...

Now i've heard that usually when you set in a compressor you leave it alone...?

My issues i'm having is i suppose im compressing to much because at times it sounds muddy.


Our other 2 channels we compress are our pastor and another wireless mic we have for speaking.

Our pastor has been an issue also...hes very dynamic so at times again when he gets quiet it sounds like hes muddy or u cant hear him or we get feed back when adjusting levels.

so basically get it to the point where its set where on slow songs we can hear worship leader without it being muddy sounding

as for pastor speaking, no feedback, echoy, and muddy sound.

Thanks, if i left anything out feel free to let me know...i'll check back in on this every few mins.

-Joe

"Just right" has a lot of different meanings.  It depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the compressor.  Sometimes people expect certain things out of a piece of gear that simply cannot be done.

I disagree that a compressor should not be touched after it is set.  I would agree with that AS LONG AS the source does not change in its level.  But we are talking about live people.  

Compressors can help a lot and can help out quite a bit.  But it can't do miracles.  There are limits.

Proper mic technique is the BEST tool available.  Garbage in Garbage out.  Yes you can add some "smell 'em" to make it a bit more passable-but it is still garbage.

The best sounds come out of best mic technique.  It's that simple.
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Kent Thompson

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2010, 10:26:18 am »

I have to adjust my compressors every week. What usually happens is people practice one way and perform differently so the settings I came up with in practice will no longer work. You may even need to come up with 2 different settings one for slow songs and one for fast. Live sound is not set it and forget it. It is dynamic and constantly changing. I do believe though you can find a general setting that will work in both instances with a little experimenting.

Note: there are some compressors that just don't sound good when compressing a lot. It may be best to turn up the thresholds turn down the ratio to get the best sound.
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Gary Creely

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2010, 11:01:44 am »

Joe Long wrote on Wed, 29 December 2010 19:52

Getting the Compressor 'just right'


That would be a little bit like saying how do I paint a landscape and make it just right. There is a creative side to this part of sound, and there is a range of acceptable parameters to set. With-in those parameters is a good deal of personal taste.

What is challenging here for you is you do not seem to have a basic understanding about how the compressor works, which would indeed make it difficult to correctly set. My suggestion would be to try learn what is happening behind the scenes so that you can set it correctly, and then adjust it correctly as needed.

To get you started there are three main things to look at with the compressor setting.

1. Thresh hold - "when the compressor kicks in"  In the case of the pastor you do not want the compressor doing anything durring regular speech (likely the problem you are currently having is the threshold is too low)

2. Ratio - "how agressive the compression is"  This is a ratio that communicates that for X number of units the volume increases the compressor will reduce the gain by Y units.

3. Gain reduction meter - "More reduction = more mud" The more the compressor is working (evidence by the gain reduction met) the more you will hear it working. Now in some instances that is desirable, particularly with better sounding compressors. In those instances it is sometimes used like an effect.

In the case of a pastor speaking you would not want to see that meter moving until he was moderately loud. So to set it correctly you would need him to be speaking at different volume levels to accurately set the threshold.


There is more to it than this but this gets you started.
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Tom Young

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2010, 12:55:38 pm »

I agree with you and Ivan.

I would add that noise gates are even more prone to need continual adjustment. The best example is a drummer who plays one way during sound check, plays differently during the service and then becomes fatigued as the service goes on.

Other than very simple set ups that may be auto-mixed, mixing sound requires continuous listening, thinking "on your feet" and tweaking.

FWIW
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2010, 03:14:58 pm »

Tom Young wrote on Thu, 30 December 2010 12:55

I agree with you and Ivan.

I would add that noise gates are even more prone to need continual adjustment. The best example is a drummer who plays one way during sound check, plays differently during the service and then becomes fatigued as the service goes on.

Other than very simple set ups that may be auto-mixed, mixing sound requires continuous listening, thinking "on your feet" and tweaking.

FWIW

A couple of weeks ago I had to do the first rehersal at a church that we had just installed a new system.  It was also a new room.

When we started getting levels on the praise team the music director told the singles to give me performance level so I could adjust the console properly. GREAT (I thought).  We go through all of them and then they do a song.

It took about all of 10-20 seconds for every single vocal input to be into full clip. Shocked   And I had allowed a decent amount of headroom.

I stopped the song and explained to them what had happened-they all gave me the "dear in the headlight look".  And when I asked them to give me performance level-they each pretty much screamed into the mic.  OK fine-at least I got some level out of them Laughing

In most cases the musicians have no idea how their changing their levels affects everything.

The more the performers are "in tune" with what their sound does to the audience and the performance-the better the sound will be.

We can't just "fix it in the mix" all the time.
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Tim Padrick

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2010, 02:50:56 am »

Here's how I'd start:

Set the threshold at maximum.

Set the ratio somewhere between 4:1 and 8:1.

Set the attack at its fastest (.1ms on the 3630), and the release at say 50ms.

Set the output to unity (0).

Set the knee to hard.

Make sure that the gate is disabled.


While someone sings, gradually decrease the threshold until the compressor stars working.  Continue until the singer's dynamics are in check.

If the leading consonants of words are too soft, increase the attack time.  If you get to the point where the words start then the volume "sucks back", the attack time is too slow (or the threshold is too low).

Once you are close, you can experiment with the threshold and the hard knee/soft knee.

Keep in mind that if you have this inserted into the vocal channel, it will (in most mixers) also compress the signal that is going to the aux (stage monitor) sends.  This is not a good thing.  The solutions are to either send the vocal to a subgroup, and insert the comp on the group, or to wye the singer's mic into two channels - one with compression for the house, and one without for the monitors.

Joe Long

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2010, 07:12:54 am »

Appreciate the replys...

one more question would be
How do I adjust the gain of a certain channel on the board...say the pastors mice...adjusting his board gain and then the compressor gain?

keep in mind im using insert cables for certain channels i want compressed.

Also was curious..should i compress the main mix..guitars..acoustic guitars?

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Tim Padrick

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2011, 09:46:20 pm »

Joe Long wrote on Fri, 31 December 2010 06:12

Appreciate the replys...

one more question would be
How do I adjust the gain of a certain channel on the board...say the pastors mice...adjusting his board gain and then the compressor gain?

keep in mind im using insert cables for certain channels i want compressed.

Also was curious..should i compress the main mix..guitars..acoustic guitars?




Set the threshold all the way up and the gain at unity.  Adjust the channel gain as recommended in the console manual (commonly so that your peaks are around 0 on the PFL meter).  Now adjust the threshold for the compressor action you need.

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Re: Getting the Compressor 'just right'
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2011, 09:46:20 pm »


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