Skip to main content

Is it a MUST to use a compressor for vocal recording?

Member for

21 years
My recent signal path for vocal recording is:

Rode NT-1A --> Grace Design m101 --> MOTU 828mkII --> PC Sonar

So you can see,
without any compressor.
Actually, some clipping occurs during tracking, but not always.
I will decrease the gain in m101 to prevent clipping
(it will squeeze the dynamic range, right?)

I want to ask,
is it a must to buy a compressor in this path?
if yes, please give me some suggestions in my tight budget(USD400-500)

Thanks a lot~~


Member for

21 years

Member Sat, 08/23/2008 - 11:39
You have some nice gear there. You should have plenty of head room without a compressor. If you saturate your pre amp a little (gain up trim down) you can soften the peaks a little and may get a little more headroom. What are your typically getting for dynamic range?

I have never used a compressor when tracking, I just run about 12dB down. Same as you, if it clips, I bring the gain down. If I have to use a take that clipped, I use BF clip removal tool.

edit: Everything has benefits and draw backs, and depending on the situation, sometimes you would want a compressor when tracking, sometimes you don't. Very rarely do you "need" "have to" or "must" in recording. So the simple answer to your question is "no"

Member for

15 years 7 months

Spase Sat, 08/23/2008 - 13:20
GM is right. You don't HAVE TO. You can if you like it, and it can be a good thing. Just remember, though, you can't remove it if you track with it. So either you better get it right, use less than you need, or you will have to retrack it (or live with it).

Personally, I track without and add it later.

Member for

16 years 9 months

Reggie Thu, 08/28/2008 - 23:09
Some singers sing their performance better when they hear themselves sound "good" in the cans. Compression and light reverb can be tools to coax out a better performance by smoothing out the little bits of unevenness thereby bolstering confidence, and the singer can even begin to sort of subconsciously interact with the effects in a way that enhances the performance. They are more likely to belt out a tune properly if they can sing loud and powerful if they want to without hurting their ears, while still being able to hear themselves properly on the quiet gentle parts.
Of course you can still record dry and just put effects on their monitor feed. Then you can tweak things up later. But really, if you have a decent compressor, and you know how to use it properly, I don't see why you wouldn't just compress on the way in so you don't have to worry about it so much later. Plus you can impress your client with how even the sound is on playback, even before you have had time to mix it. :lol:

Member for

13 years 8 months

BrianaW Sat, 08/23/2008 - 21:33
I agree. The singer I am recording now doesn't need a compressor, she has fantastic mic technique and is classically trained. I tried adding one and A/B'ing it afterwards and I couldn't hear a difference at all.

My experience has been that I can get a slightly hotter/warmer signal to tape when I use a compressor first (sometimes at the cost of added noise depending on the components used), but the versatility of a completely dry track is very much worth the absence of those qualities to me... at least lately anyway. Just another opinion. :)

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sat, 08/23/2008 - 22:19
I love compression. I always compress vocals. I compress vocals while recording them. I may also cut a dry track? If I can't record with the compression, I'll do it in software after-the-fact, or, rerecord through it. Can be just as effective but I don't like it as much. When you have good compressors that impart a certain color like 1176's you track with it. That's the whole idea. Sure, you can feed the track out after recording and patch through that device and re-encode. Why? If that's the way you like to work, then do it. I deliver a superior product that everybody likes.

Brain compression is next
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

13 years 3 months

hackenslash Fri, 08/29/2008 - 03:56
Absolutely, but the compressor can do damage to a dynamic performance by a good singer. A good singer can play the mic like an instrument, because that's what it is. When a singer really knows how to hit the spatial sweet spot, and can properly control the dynamic input to the mic, I think it's better to leave it alone. Sure this doesn't apply much of the time, because those singers are increasingly a rarity. Most of the singers I record these days have no live experience whatever, in which case I OTB compress on the way in to avoid clipping, though I try to retain as much of the dynamic as possible, as the dynamic can be useful. A really good singer can follow the dynamics of the piece, though, and compression isn't necessarily conducive to that. Why limit your options?

I never compress my own voice on the way in, and tend not to need much compression after the fact, as I know how to keep the performance even while moving through the dynamic range. I also use different vocal textures to retain a consistent level while altering the 'apparent' loudness.

Member for

13 years 9 months

Codemonkey Sat, 08/30/2008 - 10:33
Oh I heard some hip hop earlier today, drifting out of someone's open window.

My first thought is "where's the bass!"
I mean hip hop is bad enough but without head-thumping bass, it's an empty shell of failure.

Unless their room has lots of bass trapping and the air was being particularly dense so as to prohibit the movement of sound molecules...

Member for

17 years 8 months

jonyoung Mon, 08/25/2008 - 07:49
If clipping occurs, a compressor won't help since it's after the pre in the path, so you have to reduce the pre gain anyway. I always print dry vocals, sometimes with a really dynamic vocalist I ride the gain on the pre during tracking to avoid clipping on the hotter phrases.

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/25/2008 - 08:37
jonyoung wrote: If clipping occurs, a compressor won't help since it's after the pre in the path, so you have to reduce the pre gain anyway.
Right, pre amp clipping will not be prevented by the compressor. The clipping I was revering to is at the analog to digital converter. The compressor will prevent clipping there. As we all know, digital clipping is much harsher than saturation clipping that occurs on a pre amp.

terryko, are you suggesting a signal path similar to:

Rode NT-1A --> Grace Design m101 --> COMPRESSOR -->MOTU 828mkII --> PC Sonar

That's what I AssUMed when I read "buy a compressor"

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:41
thanks all,
ar.... that shocks me

Rode NT-1A --> Grace Design m101 --> COMPRESSOR -->MOTU 828mkII --> PC Sonar

I only think compressor should be placed before the micpre... I never focus on "Digital clipping", thanks Gecko~

but in my practice,
I always get mic-pre clipping instead of digital clipping when going thru 828.

anyway, thanks for all of your info~~