Show 186 – Multiband Compression and more!

This week we discuss the use of multiband compression.

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16 thoughts on “Show 186 – Multiband Compression and more!

  1. I like how I get a mention on every show for being the token female engineer haha!
    I think on forms there should be a gender box for engineers to tick rather than just male and female 😛

  2. Cool show! I often use reaxcomp for sibilance control instead of a dedicated de-esser. That way I can fix the harsh esses and control the mid range all in one plug in. Speaking of sibilance, how do you guys go about fixing lispy sounding sibilance? I’ve dealt with harsh and loud sibilance, but it’s always tricky when it sounds like lisping. It actually sounds better if I boost some of the high frequencies, but that makes for piercing vocals.

    I also wanted to mention that the barter system is awesome sometimes. My buddy has been bugging me to record his crappy metal band for quite some time now, but I never had the space to do it. They have a dedicated practice space now so I’m giving them three days to finish three songs. (I really hope that pushes them to practice. God I hope they can play to a click too.) The best part is I told them I would only do the recordings if they bought a Shure SM7b. They agreed, but the mic remains to be seen. Hopefully it will work out. I love me some of that SM7b sound.

    I’m just going to take this opportunity to thank you guys for a great show, and also the commenters. I learn tons from the questions alone. Have a good one!

  3. Thanks for finally doing a segment on multi-band compression. I’ve found that most people are afraid of it, and then when they use it in a mix they find the “crap” presets that are in almost every one I’ve ever used. When are manufacturers going to learn to give us presets we can use, {even as just a general starting point} and not just try to impress us with the maxed out stuff. It goes for hardware as well. Ever been able to find more than two or three usable presets on a BOSS multi-effects pedal? Damn dudes, is subtlety dead? Anyway..great shoe keep up the good work

    Don’t punk the poultry..

  4. Hey Guys,

    Great great show. Got hooked a few months ago and have told many people to listen. I am newbie to recording and this show is a huge help. My questions is regarding the Mackie Onyx 1640I. My buddy just purchased this mixer a few months and all is well except when recording via firewire into Logic. All PFL’s have been set correctly but the input signal I am getting into Logic is very weak. I have tweaked with just about knob, button, and fader on the mixer and very confident my DAW is setup correctly. I did record a vocal yesterday and while the input level was very weak it did record. I am lost because when I record using my maudio interface the signal is so much stronger. Any advice is much appreciated.

  5. I’ve become keenly aware of digital headroom lately – specifically in terms of getting proper input levels when tracking. For years I was fooled by manuals for my digital interfaces that urged you to “get the hottest signal possible without clipping”. I now know better and try to keep things in the -20db to -10db range. I choose to record at 32-bit floating point and at 88.2 when possible.

    One thing that’s tough to get used to is seeing such small peaks on the waveform. I don’t typically normalize the individual tracks. Do you? There’s something satisfying about seeing those fat sine waves filling up a lane. Does normalizing a track completely defeat the purpose?

    Do you apply some makeup gain through individual track plugins (ie compressors or eqs) or save it completely for the master buss? A friend needed me to track a quick acoustic version of “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People last night. I tracked with my highest input peak at -10db, used Fab Dupont’s 3-reverb method for some space, and then the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor and API 550B on the Master track for some glue and enhancement.

    I then dropped a Waves L3 to get me up to acceptable levels for normal playback. I found I was needing to push the threshold WAY down to get the volumes I needed.

    Last question: do you find you’re potentially introducing MORE noise into the track with this method? Will the makeup gain at the end produce a cleaner, less noisy end product?

    Thanks guys, I appreciate the hard work and consistency you put in every week. Now I’m off to Monoprice to buy some more cables.

    • You should check out Bob Katz’s writings, ‘Mastering Audio’ is an excellent from-the-ground-up plain English explanation of digital audio.
      Some of the content can be found on his website: here’s an article on dither that talks extensively about quantization distortion, digital headroom and so on that should help you figure out how to maximise your studio’s SNR, in and out of the box:

      You should also read up on your DAW’s internal headroom, and that of any digital outboard you have, to make sure you’re making the most of those bits.
      In my experience, if you’re working with audio recorded at 24bit, in a DAW with internal headroom of 32bit upwards, you’re not going to be hearing the digital noise floor, especially when, as the guys said, any room, mic, preamp etc. noise is going to be much more of an issue, if super-clean is your aim.

  6. Mad! I just stumbled over you guys on Youtube. Bizarre!
    Sorry I’ve been out of touch with you guys for a while. Since the interview my recording world exploded and I’ve been working constantly ever since! I’ve been working with some incredible artists and had the chance to record some amazing music. I’m hoping to make NAMM this time around, so will be in touch!…

  7. GSAA,

    Yall are amazing with timing, I was just looking into multiband compressors to fart around with, but kinda wrote them off cause I figured they were for mastering. Maybe I’ll have to grab one of those free ones and play.

    Off topic; I was listening to some locally produced music and realized there was something that made it sound like an amature mix… Then promptly realized I did the same thing in my mix. Basically it was some unnecessary panning automation. What would be some other common things like this would be good to avoid?

    Tonight I dine on chicken soup

    • @’the ginger’ (spelled backwards!): On the subject of common things that amature engineers get wrong, I would just say reverb and most applications of it as one of the main things people get wrong. We all get it wrong sometimes, but reaching for a huge hall on a lead vocal (and a bad sounding hall at that), that must be the thing that has put me cringing more than anything else out there. Its endless instances of trying to find affordable studios to work in and finding that kind of thing on their sample tracks that drove me to start engineering and mixing my own stuff. Luckily I think the standard has come up somewhat as online resources have started filling a gap for gaining knowledge…certain podcasts and such help accellerate the learning process…mentioning no names of course!

  8. Ok guys, I am sold on multi-band compression now even more than before. I have been planning to add it to my bag of tricks for a while but this segment has convinced me even more. Unfortunately as you already know, Pro-Tools does not come with a multi-band compressor stock. Some day I hope to have a few extra bucks and can maybe pick up Ozone or some of the plug-ins from Melda Productions, which are the mastering plug-ins Ian Shepherd recommends. But are there any free multi-band compressors out there that will get the job done? I know Reaper makes available their plug-ins for free but they are only available for Windows users, the best I can tell. Are there any decent and free multi-band compressors out there for Mac? You can’t ride the chicken. But you can roll it in glitter!

  9. Hello chaps, a late-coming listener and first-time commenter from the UK here. I mention the UK so that you can increase your scientific count of our total population up to 7. Somehow, I haven’t yet bumped into Katie Tavini in the village shop whilst collecting milk and the Sunday paper, nor does she attend the local bowls club, and the vicar hadn’t heard of her. It’s almost as if there’s more than one dwelling place over here… must look into that.

    My question is a quick one. Toward the end of show 186, Jon offers some reassuring words about how there are all sorts of naysayers about inappropriate applications for multiband compression, but if it works, then use it. In the next breath, he says that it shouldn’t be the first thing you try. What I’m wondering is – why not?

    A bit of background – on a whim, I took reaxcomp for a spin a few months ago when trying to reign in some troublesome low-end and increase the clarity of guitars/vocals on footage that’d been grabbed with an Olympus LS-3 field recorder thingy in my band’s practise space. It worked unbelievably well compared to the never-ending balancing act between EQ and a single band compressor that I’d been growing to loathe up until that point, so obviously I’ve kept on with it. I’ve also started using it in multitrack mixes now though, primarily on drum buses, acoustic guitars, dirty electric guitars, bass sounds if I want to avoid pumping and… oh… hang on… that’s everything I work with actually! In most of those cases, it has become my first port of call over a single band compressor if I know I’ll want to follow that up with an EQ or I can already hear the processed sound I’m shooting for in my head, because I find it quicker to tweak one plugin and get most of the basic shaping done rather than two or three.

    I’d really appreciate some clarification on what he meant and the drawbacks of what I’m doing now if Jon has time. This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve found what I thought was a shortcut to producing sounds that bring me so much joy, only to realise that actually it’s a bad habbit that’ll land me in shit further down the line. Last time, the scenario was chicken related and turned out to be quite illegal, hence my caution.



    • Haha! Only just seen this!
      Can the UK really be so big that we haven’t met? How can the local vicar never have heard of me? Surely I’m infamous!
      Next month I’m invading America, watch out engineers!
      Love from ya fave audio princess 🙂 x

      • Ah, all that infamy probably explains it. He likes the quiet life you see. Tall stories about princesses don’t tend to get much airtime on the wireless here in London (not since everyone got all panicky about a brave young chap who went to explore the north – I heard he fell off the edge of Hertfordshire).

        BTW, cheers for providing the clarifications a few shows along the line fellas. Ryan’s tip about cutting with an EQ placed pre single-band helped a ton. Seems stupid now, but I got told at some point that compression comes first and just never thought to challenge it. Rule successfully broken 😛

  10. Jon talks about changing the tone of a track with single-band compression. Multi-band compression is typically considered as dynamic EQ.

    • true, it can be if you play with the gain for each band. I didn’t address that because it’s not how I use Multi-band compression.

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