How Does a Compressor Work? Compression For Beginners

Each of the knobs does something important.

  1. The threshold is when the compressor starts working.
  2. The ratio tells it how much it should compress once the track’s volume goes over the threshold.
  3. The attack tells how fast it should start compressing.
  4. The release tells how fast to stop compressing.
  5. The gain, or makeup adds volume to the track to make up for the decrease in volume during the loud parts.

But where do I start?

When you want light, constant compression:

  1. Start by setting a ratio around 3:1.
  2. Adjust the threshold until you see around 1db-3db of gain reduction.
  3. Adjust the attack and release to taste.

When you want the compressor to only compress the loud parts:

  1. Set the ratio to around 4:1 or 6:1
  2. Adjust the threshold so that the compressor does nothing until those loud parts.
  3. Adjust the attack and release to taste.

What is Compression?

If you don’t exactly understand what compression is or why we use it, take a look at this article on compression.

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