audio, compressor, presonus

How to Use an Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 2

Understanding what a compressor does can be helpful and interesting, so read up on the mechanical descriptions of what a compressor is doing to the signal.

Compressors are one of the most used audio devices in the professional world and least understood by most nonprofessional users.

PreSonus arranged the 16 presets by type of signal. We will use examples of the common instruments used in modern worship.

In the first article, which ran on Monday, December 18, we pointed out what an important role an audio compressor plays in almost every form of professional sound that you hear in today's media-rich world.

In the first article, we discussed how an audio compressor works, why you would use one and we walked through the connections and settings to use a compressor on your pastor's microphone. Please refer to the previous article if you missed it earlier this week.

I decided to simplify the presentation by using a very simple mono compressor designed around well thought presets, making its use very easy to explain. I included the parameters for the presets to help those that are familiar enough to take advantage of them.

As shown above is an image of the PreSonus Comp16 Compressor.

We will cover the presets that make using this compressor a breeze, but first wanted to share the instructions, because it is so easy to follow, that you will likely read on based on its ease of use.

1. Connect the Comp16 to the audio channel or source and select the appropriate preset from the list below.

2. Set the output to 0db.

3. Set the input all the way counter clockwise.

4. Send the signal to the Comp16 and increase the gain until the meter shows -5db to -7db.

5. Push the output to meter button and turn the output knob clockwise until the meter shows 0db.

In the remainder of the article, we will cover the Comp16 controls, the basic explanation of the preset parameters, and how the presets apply to the instruments and vocals in your worship space.

The Controls:

Input This knob controls the signal gain coming into the Comp16's line in on the back.

Bypass This button defeats the compression and allows you to check your final settings we will cover this again at the end of the process.

Preset This rotary knob selects one of the 16 presets, we will cover these in just a moment.

Output to Meter in the out position the meter shows the amount of compression taking place. When pushed in, it displays the level of output after compression.

Output The output control sets the amount of gain at the line out after compression.

PreSonus arranged the 16 presets by type of signal. We will use examples of the common instruments used in modern worship. I am going to include the settings that PreSonus used to create the presets. If you have a model that has threshold, ratio, attack and release, you can follow along and try these settings with your compressor. Please keep in mind you do not need this information to effectively use the Comp16.

You only need to choose a preset and follow the five steps listed above.

Understanding what a compressor does can be helpful and interesting, so I am including the mechanical descriptions of what the compressor is doing to the signal. It will also help to explain the presets where I included the settings.

Threshold: This is the point where the compressor effects the signal, usually listed in decibels. If you set your threshold to 10db, then the parts of the signal that are louder than 10db are compressed. The part of the signal or sound that is softer than 10db is not compressed.

Ratio: A mathematical formula of the amount the signal is compressed when the signal is louder than the threshold setting. As an example, If the ratio is set 2 to 1, then for every db of gain past the threshold the part of the signal that is louder than the threshold will be reduced in half.

Attack: The attack is how fast the compression reacts after the reaching the threshold.

Release: The release setting tells the compressor how long to hold after the reaching the threshold.

Here is the list of presets available in the PreSonus Comp16 including the threshold, ratio, attack and release settings that are programmed into the preset.

1. Vocal: Soft Easy compression. A low ratio setting for ballads allowing a wider dynamic range. Good for live use. This setting lets the vocal sit in the track.
Threshold -8.2 db Ratio 1.8:1 Attack .002ms Release 38ms

2. Medium: More limiting than preset 1, for a narrower dynamic range. This will move the vocal more up front in the mix and can be helpful to push a weaker vocalist up above the music without
Threshold -3.3db Ratio 2.8:1 Attack .002 Release 38ms

3. Loud Vocals: This setting uses fairly hard settings good for an extremely loud vocalist, especially one that is on and off the microphone a lot. This can put the vocal up front but with no apparent volume spikes.
Threshold -1.1db Ratio 3.8:1 Attack .002ms Release 38ms

4. Perc: Snare/Kick. Allows the first transient through and compressed the rest of the signal giving a hard snap up front with a longer release.
Threshold -2.1db Ratio 3.5:1 Attack .078ms Release 300ms

5. L/R Mono Overhead: A low ration and threshold gives a fat contour to even out the sound from the overhead drum mics. Low end is increased and the overall sound is more present and less ambient. More boom, less room.
Threshold -4.4db Ratio 2.6:1 Attack 45.7ms Release 189ms

6. Fretted Electric Bass: A fast attack and a slow release to tighten up the electric bass and give you control for more consistent level.
Threshold -6.3db Ratio 3.4:1 Attack 188ms Release 400ms

7. Acoustic Guitar: This setting accentuates the attack of the acoustic guitar and helps maintain an even signal level keeping the acoustic guitar from disappearing in the mix.
Threshold -6.3db Ratio 3.4:1 Attack 188ms Release 400ms

8. Electric Guitar: A setting for crunch and electric rhythm guitar. A slow attack helps get the electric rhythm guitar up close and personal and adds some punch.
Threshold 0.1db Ratio 2.4:1 Attack 26ms Release 194ms

9. Keyboards (Piano): A special setting for an even level. Designed to help even up the top and bottom of an acoustic piano. Helps the left hand be heard with the right hand.
Threshold -10.8db Ratio 1.9:1 Attack 108ms Release 112ms

10. Synth: Fast attack and release for synthesizer horn stabs and for bass lines played on a synthesizer.
Threshold -11.9db Ratio 1.8:1 Attack 002ms Release 85ms

11. Orchestral: Use this setting for string pads and other types of synthesized orchestra parts. It will decrease the overall dynamic range for easier placement in the mix.
Threshold -3.3db Ratio 2.5:1 Attack 1.8ms Release 50ms

12. Limit: Mono Limiter Just as the name implies. A hard limiter setting (brick wall) ideal for controlling mix down in mono or use two Comp16s.

13. Countour: A contoured setting for use on the mono output to fatten up a mix. Can be used on group send to an in-ear monitor system to even out the dynamic range in of the different channels included on that mix.

(Wayne DuCharme is a Studio Engineer, Singer/Songwriter, Worship Musician & eCommerce Director at CCI Solutions.)


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