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Favorite snare drum compressor?

Anyone feel like sharing their faveorite compressor for the ever painful snare drum? I'm at a point in my mixing career that I'm tired of the built in compressor in Adobe Audition. And I'm also no longer satisfied by my mixes, i don't really know why but I just don't like how they sound, mainly in the drum department. edit: THe snare especially just doesn't have that Punch and thwack to it, it's just kind of there, regardless of how much I change the attack so yeah that's my position, depressed audio engineer!

So I'm looking into purchasing a plugin to handle getting a real hard thwack from a snare - other than playing hard of course;)

So let me hear it from you guys what's your fave? Also some helpful settings taht you always rely on would be useful for me to get out of this rut too!
Thanks guys I appreciate all your input and help you've given me over the year I've been a member here

P.S. here is an example of a song with great "thwack" and i WANT IT!


drumist69 Mon, 10/15/2007 - 16:32

I feel your pain! Honestly, my snare started sounding like I wanted it to once I ran it through an ART Pro VLA compressor on the way in, and using an AT2020 to mic the snare. I never could get happy with an SM57 (only option at the moment), so I put up the 2020 in desperation. Its worked out well.

I positioned it aiming at the shell, about 2 inches or so away from it. For now, its a mediocre pair of overheads, a Sennheiser MD421 or MXL 2001 on the kick, and the 2020 on snare. I run the kick and snare through the VLA up-front. I found I have to do very little EQ or anything once in the box. I'll be experimenting more soon, as we are about to start writing the next round of songs.

As for software compression, I use all freeware, so all I can recommend there would be Blockfish (Digital Fishphones or what-have-you). Its about the only software compressor I've used on drums. Hope this was in some way helpful! Andy

RemyRAD Wed, 10/17/2007 - 12:19

I get that sound you like with a SM57 or Sennheiser MD421 on snare drum. No stinking condensers except on the bottom. Sometimes I'll use an 1176 followed by a KEPEX I, sometimes, no compressor nor downward expander. Sometimes I'll just highly compress the overheads while adding the snare drum without dynamics processing.

It's called good engineering technique. Something you are slowly learning. You didn't expect to be George Massenburg yesterday did you?

Not Lesley Ann Jones but
Remy Ann David

moonbaby Wed, 10/17/2007 - 14:32

My favorite compressor on the snare is a bit unusual, but here goes:
I take my trusty old Leedy (I know, it's an old rust bucket, but it's paid for) snare drum, and have it fitted with a 1/2" NPT fitting on the little "air hole" on the side of the drum. Then I take my Grizzly 3.0HP/6.3 gallon oil-lubricated air compressor with self-regulating valve and pressure gauge, which is ALWAYS at hand in my control room (where else would I put a 110-dB generating power tool?), and connect it to the drum via a 30-ft. high-pressure air hose with another 1/2" NPT fitting. I run the hose from the CR out to the Leedy and give the drum a good blast right before we hit "Record". Voila!!! Every drummer is blown away (pun intended!) and says the stick return is awesome! That Grizzly ROCKS, baby!

anonymous Wed, 10/17/2007 - 15:51

I have a serious question as a newbie to this whole digital recording thing.

I am no expert even with analog recording but there are things I know.

Why don't all the engineers I read about here and other forums use any compression on their drum tracks while recording them?

No EQ, nothing. They say it's all about mics and placement. I can understand that but under real world situations those things have too many variables and it's still no guarantee a good sound in the mix.

I was reading about Andy Johns and he uses the UA stuff like the 1176 as compressors and preamps, he uses the compressor as a pre amp and that's how he got that huge Bonham sound.

It seems to me if you get a tighter cleaner sound going in the less problems you have once you have made the recording. I'm not talking about a lot of processing, just enough to eliminate some unpleasant problems. A little gate to eliminate unwanted bleed, a little compression to tighten it up and limit peaks so there is no overdriving of the pre and a little parametric EQ to help with problem frequencies. All this before it gets recorded.

It makes more sense to me getting a good sound first and fixing it much less later.

Link555 Wed, 10/17/2007 - 15:57

simple answer:

You have more options later if you keep the tracks raw. You can't undo many processes, so the less you do, the more you can later.

Also nowadays you should have a lot of headroom, and low enough noise floor to be able to capture a snare with out having it peak out.

But its a level of comfort thing in the end, if you are comfy commiting to it, then go for it.

BobRogers Wed, 10/17/2007 - 17:48

bigdaddybluesman wrote: I have a serious question as a newbie to this whole digital recording thing.....Why don't all the engineers I read about here and other forums use any compression on their drum tracks while recording them?....

I think this is partially a generational thing. You probably are not reading enough posts by people who (a) grew up recording to tape (b) own really good analog compressors/limiters (c) know how to use these things well. (Read Remy's posts for someone who fits this description.) [EDIT: Last night I through a stray DOESN'T in there that made the sentence men the OPPOSITE of what I meant. Sorry.] If you started with 24 bit digital, you could always get the full dynamics of a drum hit recorded without compression so you didn't need to learn the skills (or buy the equipment) that was necessary to survive with tape or 16 bit digital. You can do everything after the fact if you record the

So why bother learning those skills and buy the equipment if it's not a necessity? Well, as you say, most people don't. But I guess you can gain in speed if you are laying down a "ready for prime time" track right at the get go. And since time is money...

anonymous Wed, 10/17/2007 - 18:04

I'm kind of talking about taking off the rough edges.

Not really processing it to the point that you can't go back and you're stuck with it.

I AM A DINOSAUR!!!!!! I admit it..... :roll: Call me a Bluesrockosaures

I've heard some semi professional recordings on the Internet and they had major short comings. Especially with the drums and vocals.

So I figure due to the lack of really high end equipment one could make up for it by getting the best possible clean sound. Wouldn't that make it easier to get a clean final mix?

I have read so much about mic and preamps, some say high end is bull some say the mic is most important some say the pre is more important. Some say cheap pres work fine......That I don't buy at all.

When I listen to my favorite recordings all done before 1980 I notice that considering the equipment they used it's a very warm clean recording. You would think with all this digital stuff even an amateur would be able to make recordings that blow them away....they don't.

So maybe that philosophy of fixing it after the raw recording might be flawed. It might be that everybody does it because everybody does it.

AudioGaff Wed, 10/17/2007 - 19:42

You have to get the sound you want as much as you can at the source first, and process second. Way to many people these days do half ass to poor recording and then expect to process it into something that can never really be achieved.

The mic, mic pre, eq and compressor are meant to ENHANCE the source recording, not be the magic or used to try and make a magic recording. The real magic happens by the musician and his instrument way before it is recorded.

Oh, and most pro's will tell you that the absolute BEST compressor is your fingers on a fader. That's old school and how we used to do it before compressors were popular or even widely available. And some of us still do it this way.

RemyRAD Thu, 10/18/2007 - 10:00

That's pretty funny patrick_like_static. I've had to ride faders for game shows and heated political shows for most of my television audio engineering career over the past 20+ years and I can/do react within 30 ms from an outburst. We did have a person at NBC, Washington DC, who was to become an "audio operator", who I had to train. She is a very nice and sweet person but she could never hit those faders fast enough. She always did a slow fade in which always "up cut" everybody. Needless to say, she basically now does Teleprompter and Robo Cam since she could never react fast enough to do audio properly. So, yeah, a lot of us are good at that.

Fast woman
Ms. Remy Ann David

anonymous Thu, 10/18/2007 - 10:11

I got pretty good myself doing live sound until I got lazy and started using feedback destroyers and compressors on each vocals.

I got tired of amateurs doing stupid things like pointing the mic at the floor wedges.

Once I got to use bigger boards I sub grouped them and that helped too. Made my job easier, since I had to drive the truck, move the equipment, do the show, pack up up and drive home. Even though I paid well I had trouble finding good help. Not to mention I did all this with a back condition popping pain meds. They wore off by the time I had to drive home, I'm not stupid. I did these jobs in incredible pain and looking back.....I wonder how I did it.

I would recommend anybody to watch the DVD about Tom Dowd to see what they did in the old days.

Cucco Thu, 10/18/2007 - 10:38

I love topics like this. Seriously, I do!

I'll agree that the best compressor is none (a good drummer with a tuned drum that knows how to use the stick, not just hits things...) However, most drummers (the VAST majority) do not fit into this category.

My general sentiment on compressors for both drums and vocals both is:
"The more compressor I have to use, the worse the performer is."

As for which comp is my favorite for snare...whatever I have handy. I don't find snare to be a difficult instrument to tame with a compressor. On the attack, there's a very obvious point in space where you move it too fast and the attack disappears. Obviously if you move it too slow, it either never kicks in (depending upon the threshold) or you get pumping from the snare (which just sounds damn funny.)

The same applies to the release - there's a point where you've gotten it too quick and then there's this weird effect of the sustain being louder than the attack but then there's the opposite where the drum begins to blur instead of gain focus.

I like to use any variety of dbx compressor (from dirt cheap to darn nice) for snare as well as most any plug-in that I have. I do prefer one with adjustable attack and release as most comps without just don't quite get it where I want it.

In general though, if I can avoid the use of compressors on the snare, I will sure as heck try.

multoc Thu, 10/18/2007 - 11:21

Wow I had no idea my topic took off like this! I never got any alerts or else I would have responded quicker! My whole problem i guess is just getting that attack to come through in the mix, I guess it's mainly because I've been playing alot lighter lately on the snare, I'll figure it out I always do, just first off have to get my computer repaired;) I had a client check his email to retrieve a midi file and then the next morning the damn thing wouldn't turn on, so who knows - f*cking Windows!

multoc Thu, 10/18/2007 - 13:14

bigdaddybluesman wrote: Get a Mac.

I think Windows was the biggest mistake. Sort of like the reverse of Tesla and Edison, we chose right with AC and Tesla. We chose wrong with Gates and Windows.

Ha I probably will just load OSX into my computer instead and buy a ProTools LE system and just use my firepods as well as the box Le comes with, though I am also considering maybe going HD though I would have to wait awhile for that to be in my range.

link555 wrote: You have more options later if you keep the tracks raw. You can't undo many processes, so the less you do, the more you can later.

I already record my tracks raw and use a plugin insert instead of destructive editing, or if i process the file i make a copy incase I regret my decision - like choosing milk on a hot day



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