3 Band Compressor: How to use

Discussion in 'Compressors / Limiters (analog)' started by Puff-E-Mike-T, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. I am completely familiar with a normal single band compressor and have used one many times (for an amature). I would love to get some advice from some of the more experienced members of the forum on how to approach using a three band compressor. I have attempted using one on Kick and Bass and had some good results, but do not really know what I'm doing other than approaching each band and attempting to get a good sound.

    How do you know where to set each band in the compressor?

    If you compress each band differently what sort of sounds can be acheived?

    (For those of you who seem to say this in every post, I have searched and read what I found but I haven't been able to find anything that really explains this particular topic in an educating sort of way.)

    (Also, I am not looking for a specific use for a specific file I have. I am more interested in how to approach the tool, and when I consider using one instead of a normal single band compressor.)


    Mike T.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Using a multiband compressor is something frequently used more for automatic dynamic spectral equalization, such as in a broadcast situation just prior to the final limiter before the transmitter. It's also excellent to use for selective spectral processing. Much in the same way as a 3 way speaker works. Because it's so variable, changing the crossover frequencies for the mid-band both on the upper and lower side will give you a vastly different tonal quality while also be able to dynamically equalize the frequency spectrum. So it's really a selection du jour and you adjust to taste as there is no particular right or wrong way to approach it. It can however take a real chunk out of the dynamics which in an overall effect may not be desirable? But when used as an effect, the sky's the limit.

    Selectively processing my underwear
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. Thanks Remy, I appreciate the enlightenment!
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Am I way off?

    Pardon me if I'm off course here. I would have thought the obvious use for a multiband compressor to be when perhaps you have a band of frequency which peaks and potentialy could clip but if you were to compress the entire signal would only cause the entire track to "soften". Also changing the tone of your track. So, say, you have a guitar track with great tone but at one point the track really peaks in the high mids due to string gauge or whatever. You don't want to compress the entire track so by using a multiband compressor you are able to prevent that band of frequency from getting out of hand without affecting the overall tone of the track. I suppose that would be more like using it as a limiter of sorts. Would this not be a common application? I honestly don't know. I try to stay away from tools I'm not familar with. Any light on this?
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Hueseph -

    You are more or less correct, as is Remy.

    However, most engineers shy away from the Mutli-band comps because -

    1 - most do more harm than good (notice, there aren't any GREAT multi-bands out there)

    2 - you can do the same with a standard compressor by varying the attack and release times to taste.

    I just personally picked up the UAD-1 with the Precision Multiband Limiter/Comp/Gate/Expander and I find it most useful for a function which most probably never use it for -

    Noise gating.

    I don't use it for anything else, and I bet that I probably never will.

    But, when I'm mastering a classical album and there is a delicate flute or harp solo that is not assisted by any other instrument and the AC is rumbling away in the background, I can have the expander gently remove the low frequencies as the solo comes in and then as the whole orchestra picks back up again, the full sound of the orchestra kicks right back in. No artifacts if it's set correctly.

    That's really the only real use I've ever found for one.

    Just some thoughts.

  6. Would the Avalon VT 737ST be considered a multiband compressor? I occasionally use it in side chain trigger mode to make it a de-esser.
  7. Cosme

    Cosme Guest


    I have to say that i've found that great multiband compressor plugins like Linear MB or C4 (both from waves) are very usefull if you want to give your masters a bit more level and pump, because it doesn't act the same way in every frequency, giving your final mix a bit more freedom in dynamics and grandure. If you use it right (respecting the peak level in every band and using the right attack and release levels) it can help you enormously to get the best out of your master. I only use it in the mastering stage, for everything else single band compression does the job perfectly, specially Wave's Rcomp, that's my total favorite.
  8. Costy

    Costy Guest

    I sort of agree with everyone above, but more so with
    Cucco (hi J.). To my knowledge the multi-band comps
    are used mostly during mastering. Essentially it's a
    poweful tool to fix screwed up mixes.
  9. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    Last resort, when all else fails. I was asked to use the waves MB comp on something ages ago which was badly recorded. I was almost in tears as I realised it had sorted out the problem I'd been asked to fix while sounding completely disgusting. I had no choice, they made me do it. They made me do it!!! Nooooooooooooo!

    I will never have to use it again now, hopefully. It's a bit like bombing civilians - by any means necessary, eliminate the enemy. I feel shame for having ever used it.

    As far as using it to enhance mixes - ouch. Jesus no...not the entire mix...please...remix it instead of killing it... No way can it give your "final mix" more dynamics, or, er, "freedom". It will instead destroy the tonal balance and reduce it to mush. Free the mix, bypass the MB, I say. Each to their own lol.

    For me it's the last resort, when what you're applying it to sounds utterly dreadful in the first place.

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