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Thursday, 9 July 2015

Using Multiple Layers of Dynamics Processing

By now you're probably already using multiple compressors in your production, say a compressor on the channel itseslf, as well as maybe a group compressor on a drum buss or similar, and then a limiter on your master buss to add a final layer of compression. I've always found that using compression accross multiple stages like this is more beneficial than trying to overdo compression in just a single stage. Recently I experimented with taking this technique further, specifically using limiters. I was quite surprised at the results.

Using multiple stages of limiting can seem a bit heavy handed at first, but consider that you'll be using less limiting at each atage and in some though not all cases, depending on the source material, it can sound much more transparent to do this instead of driving you whole song into just one limiter peicemeal.

You could do this by simply lining up a few instaces of your faourite limiter on your master buss, however perhaps a more practical way of approaching this is to place limiters on several of your group busses.  As for which ones, this goes back to my earlier comment about the source material, generally I shy away from doing this on hi hats, cymbal type sounds and other percussive elements, as well as pads and leads. These sounds tend to be more fragile in responding to a lot of compression than others, though not always.

Where I do apply this is on my drum buss and my bass buss containing low, mid and high bass elements. I then buss these together again, adding a little more limiting until the levels are right. Finally these then go through to the final limiter on my master, along with the other elements mentioned before that do not respond well to multiple layers of limiting.

The effect this tends to have is that you end up having much more controlled and loud signals to mix with in before they go into the final limiter on your master. You effectively use up a lot more headroom without needing to push that one limiter on your master buss, and distorting or overcompressing your sound. Its a more transparent result. Remember to always use your ears with this technique.

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