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References considered during RMS or Peak compression?

Could someone correct any of my thinking here, and answer my questions also? Please read carefully and make sure you
understand the question before responding. If I am not making myself clear, I can make a 5 minute video and post it on YouTube and post a link to the video with me demonstrating and asking the question.

When Mastering:
Idea/Thoughts and Question #1:
When choosing a threshold for compression, to get a certain number of dB gain reduction(to get a certain number of dB increase in headroom) using light compression(1.1:1)- Do you use the Average RMS value as a reference for the compression, or do you just look at what value most of the peaks are at, and judge a good reference point for the compression?

Know that I am aware of the mathematical formula for finding what threshold I would need to use, at a given ratio, in order to get a certain amount of gain reduction(increase in headroom)

And if I am using the Average RMS as a reference, I am sure I would put the Compressor in RMS mode of course?
I mean is this even a technique? Or is my thinking wrong on this?

Idea/Thoughts and Question #2:
But that brings us to the other form of compression-Peak compression

I mean, when you got Peaks here and there, and you want to just compress the peaks, to bring them closer to the RMS value I guess, so to speak, Im guessing you put the Compressor in Peak Compression mode, then come up with a threshold by observing/guessing/judging by observing the waveform values of the peaks. Like "Where are most of my peaks at?" And Im wondering if that is in fact what is trying to be accomplished.
Are we trying to bring the peaks down, maybe closer to RMS levels?
And what are you useing as a reference to come up with your compression threshold/ratio settings for peak compression, are you just taking an educated guess by observing where you think most of the peaks are, and using that value as your reference for compression?


Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 04/11/2007 - 20:11

Well I think you are approaching in backwards. A mix is fluid and dynamic, trying to achieve a level in calculation is missing the point. Each mix has it's potential for volume, you should approach it as "what serves the mix", not level. You set your compressor and eq to make the mix sound the best it can, then you increase the level until it topples. maybe tweak to help it from crumbling but your goal should be to make it sound good first and level second.

I never approach a master with level in mind as my first priority. my first order of business is to make it sound as good as I can, then i see how much level i can get out of it. of coarse you have to take all of the other mixes into account to make sure they have the same potential.

Once you figure out how to balance a mix, then level comes much easier.

Pick your threashold and ratio to what serves the mix, not level.

Michael Fossenkemper Thu, 04/12/2007 - 04:04

There are many techniques for using compression but it's best to start off, and keep it, simple. first just listen to the mix. decide what is wrong and right with it. Then decide how you want to approach the wrong things (eq, comp, or both). Ratio, thresh, attack, release etc... is a juggling act. each will react to the other and give you different results. As you are playing with these different settings, listen to what it's doing to the wrong things AND the right things in a mix. You don't want to kill the right things in a mix correcting the wrong things. remember, the goal is to keep it simple. try and correct the wrong things while retaining the right things.

It's important to remember how it's affecting the mix. Maybe the mix has a drive on the backbeat, or mabye the drive is on the one. A compressor can change the emphasis of the drive and it's your goal not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. If in your correcting, you alter the emphasis or drive of the mix to something else, you might be going in the wrong direction. IMO, this is what dictates how you decide on your settings and each compressor will sound and do different things. So throw out your preconceived notions about compression and start with a clean slate.

Listen, tweak, listen. not the other way around.