Compressors and limiters explained – Introduction

What will we cover in this tutorial:


– Controls on a compressor
– How to compress

A compressor is basically an automated volume control. You set a certain maximum volume and give the compressor instructions to turn it down if it gets louder than that.

An example of how you can use this: If the volume of a sound gets too loud during recording, it will simply start clipping. Put a compressor on it that automatically attenuates the volume just before it starts clipping and you will avoid a lot of problems.

Another example in which you might use a compressor: Suppose your recording has some very loud peaks here and there, but apart from that the rest of the recording level is very low. If you just turn up the volume, those peaks will start clipping. A compressor can attenuate the peaks and turn up the volume of the whole recording after that, making it a little louder.

But besides these practical ways of using a compressor, a nice side effect of it is that you can also color the sound with it. You can make a voice-over sound fuller and fatter with a compressor, or you can give music a little more ‘punch’. Each compressor sounds different. And if you know the sound of a certain compressor, you can choose exactly the right one to make your mix sound better.

In the tutorial ‘Picking the right compressor’ we will discuss the sound of various (very well known) compressors. In this tutorial we will have a look at how to control one. In this video you’ll learn all the basics: