Compression stacking for up front vocal clarity

Discussion in '2488 and DP-24/32 Digital Portastudios' started by David Porter, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. David Porter

    David Porter Well-Known Member

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    A question for the experts.

    As some of you may be aware there is a practice out there - typically involving two long time very popular compressors - that involves stacking a fast acting (attack AND release) compressor (think 1176) in front of a slower more forgiving compressor (think LA2A). The result is a great, clear, out-front smooth vocal. I've heard these results and it sounds great.

    The idea is to grab peaks/transients with the 1176 using a fairly high ratio and fast attack and release settings without too much gain reduction (like 2-3 dB) and then sending the signal subsequently to the slower reacting LA2A set for "compression" which puts it's ratio at 3:1 - and set to taste.

    See here:

    https://www.uaudio.com/blog/chaining-1176ln-la2a-compressors/

    And here - same explanation:

    https://steemit.com/mixing/@fuzzbus...compressors-like-the-1176-and-la-2a-in-tandem


    So my question is this.

    As I don't own an 1176 - can't I substitute the dynamic compressor in the DP in place of the 1176 - set it roughly the same (fast attack and release settings - and a ratio of probably 8:1) - and then send that using the "mixer" send (zeroing the "mixer" level so I block that signal to the stereo bus) out to my WA2A and then back in to achieve the same effect?

    I'm still learning compression. I am not a believer that the larger subject of compression application is a cinch. It takes practice to understand how and where to use it.

    If this makes any sense - any suggested specific attack and release settings for the dynamic compressor? Or just play with it and use my ears?
  2. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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    David, this is a production technique I've applied successfully during a mixdown, using the same general DP-24/32/SD setup that I described in the stickies for applying the Dynamic Exciter. You would be inserting the WA2A into the chain, and (obviously) substituting the Dynamic Compressor.

    Some thoughts:
    I wouldn't do it during tracking because then your locked into the result, which, in the final mix, may not work the way you intended.

    I'm a strong believer in using my ears to tell when I've found the sweet spot. To get it right is more art then science, IMO, because every song is different.

    I suggest sending the original track out to your WA2A, and returning that signal to the on-board Dynamic Compressor.

    I would start with the default settings for the first compressor, tweak them one at a time until you hear what sounds "right"; then move on to the second compressor and do the same. Don't try working both compressors simultaneously. It will drive you crazy.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2020
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  3. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi David. Good questions. I sometimes use chained compression with good results. But it is an interactive chain, so adjusting one compressor may require you to adjust the other compressor and they sort of chase each other around a little bit.

    I think you have a solid procedure outlined. FWIW, I always used the 1176 in 20:1. Trust your ears.

    I understand what you want to do, but maybe you don't have to do it 100% in real time. I would do a mix down of just the vocal track so I could use the tri-band compression in the Mastering section to really zero in on that peak reduction that you need. The way you describe what you're trying to achieve is very much like Mastering where you do want to reduce the peak to average ratio, and you do want some overall squash but not lose the entire dynamic range of the music. I think if you were to use the tri-band compressor in Mastering mode and then run that track back through a mixdown using your LA2A you would get those results.
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  4. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    Good answer, Mark!
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  5. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

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    David, mj's approach is also a really good option. It's one of the steps in my SOP that gets me to commercial production audio levels.

    Match the tool to the job, not the job to the tool.;)
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  6. David Porter

    David Porter Well-Known Member

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    Excellent guys. Thank you! This gives me some direction that strikes me as a more logical way to work. Either way - I'm not locked in.

    With either one of these approaches - I can easily go back and tweak again - and I'm not stuck with what I've got in the big picture.

    Sweet - glad I asked. Thanks again.:)
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