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Month: May 2012

Guest Post: How to Use Compressors

This guest post comes from Barry Gardner, mastering engineer at SafeandSound online mastering services

How to Use Compressors

One of the most common tools that will be found in music production studios is an audio compressor. I will initially make distinction between dynamic range compressors and for example an MP3 compressor, here we are dealing with the control of audio dynamics not lossy audio formats. Compressors have been used since the 1950’s initially in radio broadcasting and also in the creation of vinyl records. An audio compressor is a device which could be described in it’s simplest form as an automatic level dependent fader. A compressor has a number of uses in a music mix and we will explain what those uses are and the basic controls. Audio compressors can be used for both practical and creative purposes. Practically a compressor can even out the loud and soft levels within a piece of audio, creatively we can affect the sound tonally and alter the transients (peaks) within the audio. You will find both analog and digital audio compressors and the controls found on them are largely the same so either will be suitable for practicing the controls.
Compressors have a number of controls which may initially be confusing for a new user. We will outline and discuss each control. It can be useful to have a plugin instance open when you go through each control. Please note not all audio compressors will have all controls.

  • Threshold – The threshold on a compressor determines the signal level at which the onset of compression begins.
  • Ratio – The ratio relates to the amount of compression that is applied once the threshold has been exceeded. The higher the ratio the more more compression. For example a ratio of 5:1 means if the threshold is exceeded by 5dB the output will rise by only 1dB
  • Attack – This time constant determines how quickly the compression will occur at onset and relates to the transient peaks in the audio. Often stated in milliseconds. Occasionally scaled 1-10.
  • Release – This time constant determines how quickly the compression action will return to a state of no compression. Often stated in milliseconds. Sometimes scaled 1-10.
  • Make up gain – Compression reduces overall level of a piece of audio by bringing down the level of the peaks, however by using the make up gain (normally adding the same amount as indicated on the gain reduction meter) you can bring up the overall perceived volume.

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Review: TC Electronic Flashback Delay Pedal

TC Electronic Flashback Delay PedalOverview
The TC Electronic Flashback is a digital delay pedal with 9 distinct delay styles; a looping function; and Tone Print, an extra mode that can be loaded with downloadable artist preset. The pedal has stereo in/out, buffered or true-bypass and controls for FX level, Decay, feedback and mode plus a 3 way toggle to divide the timing.
The pedal is powered by 9V battery or standard DC pedal power. The bottom of the pedal is removable with one screw revealing the battery compartment and a pair of DIP switches. The first switch activates the buffer circuit which helps keep the signal strength consistent in a large pedal board. The second switch mutes the dry signal for use in a parallel signal chain.

Delay time can be set in two ways. First by using the delay knob, the time range is from 20 ms up to 7 seconds, except in slap mode which goes up to 300ms. Having this very long delay time available takes some getting used to, coming from analog pedals. Basically anything past 12 O’clock will be too long for anything but special effects.
The other way to set tempo is with the unique audio-tap function. Push and hold the bypass button, strum the guitar, lift your foot and the delay is in time. This is a very fast and intuitive way of setting tempo.
The toggle switch takes your delay time from 1/4 notes, to dotted 1/8th notes or 1/4″ + dotted 1/8th. When the pedal is used with dual outputs, most of the modes will have a mono output unless this third toggle position is selected.