If I wanted some compression on my acoustic before it hits my audio interface, could I put a compressor in between the mic and the interface? If so, what are the cons to this idea?
If your interface has an insert point you could put it in the path. If you are using your interface as the preamp then the answer is no. Generally speaking you would not apply FX in a studio recording while laying in the initial tracks. If you knew for sure the sound you were going for then you might add some light compression but again usually you would wait for mixdown. Most plugins are better than the low end compressors available.
My interface has no insert. But why can't I just put it between the mic and the preamp/audio interface? I am aware of the conventions of not printing effects, but I am naturally inquisitive, and wonder if it might be of some strategic use, especially for instruments that demand compression, like bass. In addition, my compressors are pretty good. I have an Ashley SC50 (blueface) that curiously came out of Second City Studios in Toronto. Most Canadians will know SCTV well. My other compressor is a Really Nice Compressor. No kidding, it's the FMR Audio RNC 1773, which is a highly regarded unit, regardless of cost.
The mic level won't be hot enough to make it work. There are basically three types of level of signal in audio-mic level, instrument level, and line level. The compressor wants to see line level. Without the mic going directly to the preamp the compressor won't even see there is a microphone there.
[caveat: unless the microphone has a really exceptional amount of output-most microphones would not fall into this category]
Some instruments (drums, bass, keyboard) have enough output to hit the comp before the pre.
I RARELY do this (really don't anymore), but if what you're looking for is taming transients that could clip your pre, it MIGHT work.
In this case, you'd be using it more as a limiter, allowing yourself a little more RMS level from the preamp w/o fear of clipping.
That's really the only slightly beneficial use of a comp in this manner, IMHO.
I do use my outboard comps (dbx 166xl, RNC) inserted as John described, or after the pre for some light comp during tracking (2-4:1 ratio, easy on everything else).
Just enough to make the mix a little easier when it comes to dynamic vocalists, bassists, and drummers.
A rounding of the edges, if you prefer.
One time where I will track with compression is capturing live performances to 2-track (or in my case, spoken word to 1-track) where you require compression for the live aspect or because you want (for example) 4 mics on drums winding their way into two inputs.
Don't listen to these jokers, dude ! I use a compressor all the time with my mics. Personally, I deplore dust and grime affecting my mics' performance, so I'm constantly cleaning them with compressed air!
I just take my gas-powered Grizzly Industries' high-powered air compressor and VOILA!!! I blast that dirt and grime outta ALL of my mics, even the Neumanns and the Brauner! You won'tbelieve how much cleaner and more "open" my mics sound after I've given them a good blast of that compressed air.
So, you go ahead and do your mics a favor: give 'em a good BLAST!!!
And it is so much more fun to sing into a large diafrag mic when you can see the audio engineer throught the little hole where this stupid gold membrane used to block the sight..lol..
JMM, how about a channel strip with build-in compressor? Here, from 3 grand to 300 bucks, you surely find the right one...
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