Parallel compression is a popular, everyday studio technique. It guarantees a transparent mix by retaining the audio characteristics of uncompressed signals.
Using this method, also known as New York compression, you can avoid overcompression while still having instruments sound powerful and dynamic in the mix. First we’re going to look at:
Parallel compression a drum loop
Step 1: Our drum loop is on track 1. Create an AUX bus below it (Menu > Track > Insert New Track > New AUX Bus) and load “Dynamics” in the plug-in slot.
Step 2: In the AUX section of the drum track we’re going to send the drum loop signal to our compression bus AUX 1 with the send level set at 0.0 (unity gain). Open the context menu by right-clicking then change the send signal to Pre Fader. Now the send signal and the drum loop track fader are independent.
Step 3: Start the drum loop and open the mixer view.
Set the “AUX 1” channel to “Solo” if you want to make adjustments that only affect the parallel compression settings.
Step 4: Now we’re going to focus on our New York compression settings. Set the “Dynamic” plug-in mode to “Compressor”.
You can be more extreme when setting the “Threshold” and “Ratio” parameters than you would be with regular compression because parallel compression only serves as a mix effect for the original signal.
Our drum loop’s threshold is set at -40 dB and has a ratio of 6.40:1. We’ll keep the attack quite short at 0.3 ms and the release time in the middle range, at 120 ms.
By itself the compressed channel can easily sound overcompressed.
Step 5: Next we’re going to mix the “Drums” and “AUX 1” channels together. When you’ve found the right mix levels the drums will sound powerfully compressed, yet transparent and dynamic.
Parallel compression of combined drum tracks
Step 1: When each individual drum sound has its own track you need to create a subgroup track (Menu Track > Insert New Track > New Submix Bus) then route each drum instrument output to the newly created group. We’ll call it “Drum Group”.
Step 2: In the AUX section of the drum group send the signal (just like before) to our compression bus AUX 1 with the send level set at 0.0 (unity gain) and change the send signal to Pre Fader.
This allows you to adjust all drum instruments using one send controller when compressing.
Step 3: As a rule this level of parallel compression will affect everything from the bass drum to the snare proportionally. Try changing the compression level of the kick or snare drum indepen-
dently. Take the kick or the snare out of the drum group and route its output directly to the stereo mix.
If, however, you’re looking to achieve a really natural sounding cymbal don’t compress the overhead channels.
This way you can modify the entire parallel compression sound image quickly and effectively.
Compression without Kick:
Step 4: We can include the parametric equalizer in the AUX channel strip if we want to further manipulate the parallel compression. Because we want to make changes to the frequency levels before compression, we should adjust the effect routing accordingly. Press the “FX” button on the “AUX 1” channel.
In the effect routing window use the arrows to move “Equalizer” above “Dynamics”,
then save the effects sequence. We’ll call it “eq_before_dynamics”
Step 5: Open the EQ window by right-clicking on the corresponding button in the AUX channel.
Step 6: Now we’re going to experiment with the equalizer’s frequency response. A high pass could make the sound image more transparent, and changing the bandpass settings could improve the overall audio characteristics.
Compression with bandpass setting:
Alternatively you could use an extreme narrow-band notch filter, and accordingly adjust the attack and release times in the compressor to create a pumping effect.
Good luck and have fun with New York compression!
The Samplitude Team