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With all this talk about compressors giving a "flavor" to a sound, I've begun to wonder about noise gates.

I've been tinkering around with 2 of them on Cubase. Am I actually hearing a difference in the sound or is it my imagination? The two are set to identical settings.

One is the included "VST Dynamics" gate included in Cubase, and the other is a free one called "G-gate".

I would think there should be no difference (esp. in software), but I swear I hear a difference.

Am I insane again?


anonymous Wed, 12/08/2010 - 21:04

My experience with gates is virtually non-existent, except that I once bought an ISP Decimator noise gate pedal that comes highly recommended. I thought it was abysmal. I toyed with it for days, and could not find a setting that worked. It would chop the beginning or end of a passage, no matter how subtle the settings. I returned it and was glad to be rid of it. I'll take a little 60 cycle hum any day over something that is going to torment my transients.

I have no experience with VST gates, but I have CUBASE SE4, and I have found practically all of the included VST effects to be inferior everything else, even free plug ins. Maybe newer versions of Cubase have better plug ins. It was surprising to discover this. I doubted my observations for a long time, because I am inexperienced at digital recording. It seemed so improbable that a free plug in could sound better than something offered up in Cubase, but I finally started trusting my ears.

Link555 Fri, 12/10/2010 - 05:37

A gate actually works in a very similar way to a compressor. The input signal is typically converted into a RMS sidechain signal, which is used to be a Key input to the gates switch. As the RMS sidechain signal rises the past the user set threshold the gate turns off. There can be attack and release control which control how fast the gate responds to the RMS signal. You can also use the unfiltered input signal to drive the gate switch (peak mode).

In a compressor the input signal is typically converted into a RMS sidechain signal which used to control the gain of the output. A threshold level in compressor controls how much sidechain signal is required to change the gain. You can also have attack and release controls affecting the response time of the gain adjustment. (Ratio controls the gain of the sidechain signal).

In simplistic view, they are the same thing, except one has an on/off type switch, the other has a gain adjust in the output path.

So just as a compressors come in many flavors, so too do gates.

Link555 Fri, 12/10/2010 - 07:43

The flavor would actually come from the following areas:

The input circuit (solid-state, transformer coupled)
Any circuit in the output path (amplifiers, filters etc…)
The switch itself (JFET, MOSFET, Tube. etc….)
The output circuit (solid-state, transformer coupled etc)
In some case a badly designed power supply will affect the sound.

Many gates use the DBX (now THAT) chips. These are nice chips, and depending on how you use them, they do have a certain sound IMO.

lambchop Fri, 12/10/2010 - 09:54

I've found that although it may take some more effort, I've generally achieved better results by just using automation to reduce the levels for the offending areas when mixing. That way you can subdue whatever signals you're dealing with to manageable levels without making the track sound artificial.

natural Fri, 12/10/2010 - 17:48

There is a difference between gates and compressors,
Compressors change the waveform of the sound you want to hear, which in turn impart a certain character depending on various factors,
Gates, (at least in theory) should leave the waveform intact and work on the area's in between the signal which is sound that you don't want to hear anyway.

For general cleaning up of tracks, Lambchop's system is probably a good way to go.
For something slightly more detailed, your software gate should do the trick, whereas automation would just take too long - and it shouldn't change the sound quality of the source. (unless it's just an inferior device)
For surgical issues, involving extreme attack and releases, I've found hardware gates to be much more effective. Naturally, they must be of a certain caliber to get the job done.