What is an audio compressor

  • By: AudioLeet
  • Time to read: 3 min.
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What is an audio compressor? An audio compressor is a device that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal. It essentially squashes loud parts of a sound and brings up the softer features.

What does an audio compressor control?

Threshold

This determines how much sound needs to be going through before compression is applied. If its threshold is high, compression isn’t applied at all. But if the sound gets above this threshold, it will begin compressing the sound. The level of compression used will be different for sounds above and below the threshold, essentially making it, so softer sounds aren’t affected by the reduction. If the threshold is just below the volume of your snare, it won’t be compressed at all.

Ratio

This determines how much compression is applied. For example, if you set the ratio to 2:1, anything that goes over this threshold will be compressed in its loudness by a factor of two.

Output

What this does is determine how loud your signal is going to be after compression is applied. The output to a level that is lower than your original signal, then the louder parts of your sound won’t be amplified to that new lower level.

Attack

What this does is determine how long it takes for the compression to be applied. The longer it takes for the reduction to be applied (i.e., a lower number), the more natural it will sound. Still, the softer sounds may be affected.

Audio compressor vs limiter

What’s the difference between an audio compressor and a limiter? Well, while compressors do bring up the softer volumes, limiters are more extreme. They don’t just bring up the quieter sounds; they essentially make them as loud as possible while stopping the louder sounds from getting too intense. You will put a limiter on drums, it’ll make the kick drum as punchy and loud as possible, but it’ll stop the drums from getting too high in volume.

It’s a bit like an audio compressor; however, while a limiter makes softer sounds just as loud, it’ll stop the more audible sounds from getting too intense. If you put a limiter on drums, it’ll make the kick drum as punchy and loud as possible, but it’ll stop the other sounds from getting too high in volume.

How do you connect an audio compressor?

What you’ll see on most compressors are a line input and line output. You can take a signal from another source (e.g., your sequencer) and send it through the compressor. Still, you won’t be able to take a signal from the compressor, the compressor’s output, and send it to some other destination like your computer speakers.

Do audio compressors work on mac or pc?

Whether it’s an audio compressor or any other kind of processor, the type of computer you have will determine how well it performs. Nothing is stopping you from using a compressor on a Mac or a PC.

Conclusion

If you record your audio in an uncompressed format, there’s no point in having a compressor that only works on compressed formats since you’re not going to be able to use it.

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