In this series of blogs around mastering topics and mastering jargon, we take a look at what these practices are and why they are done.

In the first one we covered headroom, which is directly related to our good old friend, compression.

How is it related? It’s one of the most common mix mistakes; adding compression or limiting to the master bus, never a good idea. But, compression is a wonderful tool when it used correctly.

We’ve done a nice little vlog on the topic of headroom and not ‘crushing your mixes‘, you’ll see there is a nice mention of compression in there too. So make sure you check that out if you’re a visual kinda person.


Compression, what is it and why do we use?


In short, it helps balance levels. By compressing the peak of the signal (the loudest bit), it means that we can can increase the output gain without exceeding dynamic limits.

Compression makes the ‘difference’ between loud and quiet parts of a signal less, and allows for these quieter parts to become clearer within a mix or master.

A few things to know about compressors –

Higher ratios such as 4:1 give a much ‘harder’ hitting type of compression. These kind of high ratio compression settings mean you need to be wary of ‘pumping’ and other side effects of this type of compression.

Lower ratios, such as 2:1 give a much ‘warmer’ sound and ‘thicken’ the sound a bit more, with much less chance of causing any issues.

From just knowing the different types of ratio settings, you can understand why it is such a versatile piece of hardware.

As mastering engineers, we use compression to help balance levels, and make the tracks sit nicely alongside each other. Compression is a brilliant tool, whether you’re in the mix or at the mastering stage.

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