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Monday, July 11, 2011

Compression in Mastering (Part 3)

Welcome to Part 3: 'Compression' of the new video-blog series in which Jonathan Wyner of M-WORKS Mastering will be discussing various aspects of the mastering process. Let us know your thoughts, questions and opinions! Stay tuned for a new video and post next week.

Part 3 – Compression

How much compression to use?

Mastering engineers generally don’t use a lot of compression. If any compression is applied during the mastering process, it is usually very subtle. Low ratios (1.2:1 to 2:1) with high thresholds that yield around 2-3 dBs of gain reduction – at most – is common.

Compression and audio fidelity.

In an absolute audiophile sense: compression never sounds good! When compressing one loses depth, gains noise and loses dynamic range, all of which make a recording sound worse. To learn to use compression effectively, one should focus on whether it makes the music sound better. One needs to be able to differentiate between the music and the recording.

The idea of using compression – usually – is to reduce the dynamic range so as to make the different elements in an arrangement sound more clearly to the listener.

Should the mix engineer send a compressed or uncompressed 2-Mix?

If you are a more experienced mix engineer and/or you feel like you’ve got the compression sounding just how you want it, then print the mix with the compression and send it to the mastering engineer (M.E). Every compressor behaves and reacts differently, and those characteristic nuances that you (the artist and/or mixing engineer) have learned to love in the mix may not be so easily replicated by the M.E.

However, if you’re nervous that your compressor is ‘misbehaving’ or you are unsure whether you are using too much compression, it is a good idea to send two versions of the mix. Send the M.E the uncompressed mix and the compressed mix so that the he has it for reference. This way, the M.E will be able to decide if he can improve the uncompressed mix or work with your compressed mix and take it a step further!

Hope you enjoyed this. Please let me know your thoughts, and what you may like to see in future here on the blog.

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