JCJR wrote: ↑
Wed Oct 30, 2019 10:01 am
Apologies this question, not trying to grind axes just curious-- Though sometimes I use compression as a "pumping breathing monster" intentional sound effect, generally my "ideal compressor" or "ideal limiter" would work so good that ideally you can't even hear it working, except that too-extreme dynamics have now become manageable.
A process with negligible distortion or coloration.
Do many people desire "as unobtrusive possible" compression? Or more frequently want a signature dynamics mangling fingerprint added to tracks purely for aesthetic porpoises? Just because it sounds hip?
There is no approved answer. Just curious.
I don't know where my esteem for "compression so transparent that you can't hear it working" came from. Sometime long ago when I was hardware hacking homebrew analog comps, because those famous classic comps sounded too easy to hear working, to my ear at the time. Trying to make something more transparent, which was a fun hobby for awhile anyway.
This may have been a common aesthetic at the time? Think I recall ad campaigns in praise of compressors so transparent that you can't hear them working
Somewhat an unrealizable ideal, like tasty low fat low salt fried bacon, or the ideal spouse.
In the beginning...
Some bods were in a studio. No one had heard of the term 'compressor'. No one had need of what a 'compressor' does.
(please allow some artistic license here)
Ever since my BABY left me, I FOUND a new place to DWELL
And the need for the first 'compressor' was born.
The tape got ruined. It's one thing a bit of the old saturation but this was setting the needle in to the RED. The performance was perfect otherwise, but just unusable. They had to go back and do it ALL AGAIN!
Actually, I'm just making this all up. You can keep reading or go and read something else if you like.
Actually, actually, the need for 'compressors' probably pre-dates this little fictional scenario of mine. Ohh, maybe say when they first started making vinyl records for mass distribution. But I don't know about that either. And I really did just make it up, again.
Anyway, back to the fictional account -
Super-Duper Producah really loves the way the singer sings his 'Ever since my baby left me'
bit, but there is only so many times you can record or re-record a part on Iron Oxide before even the old magnetic particles themselves get fed up with the game and just decide to retire, probably ungracefully.
But do not fear! Captain 'Compression' is here!
Some bod figures out how you can take an electronic signal and balance it out so there isn't so many disruptive spikes, overloading the current technology of the day and just wasting everyone's time.
There was a real need for this tech. Whether it came about at this point or came about earlier, it came about out of necessity, which as we all know, is the Mother of Invention. Frank said so, so it must be true!
I don't know who invented the first ever 'Compressor'. I don't even know when the very first 'need' for it was. Would be interesting to know...
Anyway, said bod comes back with a 'black box'. All the other bods have been tearing their hair out. What is this 'black box' technology? How can it work? How can we ever take a signal and even it out so our converters and whatnot don't overload?
So desperate are they, they end up patching the box in.
They cry. Kind of. It's not perfect, but yeah, it definitely tames the wild signals just enough to not need to do another re-take.
And the 'Compressor' is born.
Is it 'transparent'?
Not by today's metrics.
Was it 'good enough' back then to provide a solution that no one else could provide?
And ever since, a whole new world was created which has been ameliorated and expounded upon. Leading up to just about where we are today.
Compressors, Limiters, Expanders.
Each finding their own particular niche at whatever time. Via broadcast technology for stopping Transformers burning out, or people living too close to Transmitters so they didn't get too much 'Sunburn' from the electromagnetic radiation (Limiters). Or...
Coming up to the modern day when that great classic was installed in SSL Desks (both on the channel and on the bus), just because they could, just about, and to sell it to just enough people, who could afford that kind of extravagant technology, just about.
And a thousand hits were born. And no one got burned alive in the process.
[I knew some guys in North London who some 'enterprising types' had installed a pirate radio transmitter on their roof - a few feet from their heads on the top floor - and they were seriously burned and sun tanned from the experience]
Expanders came about again when someone else had a 'dynamics' problem and asked 'what if?'. They just reversed the equation. And the Drawmer was born! They served a purpose. Did a job.
They made those that had access to this secret 'black box' technology seem like wizards. Of course it was a closed shop. But of course, they still were wizards, figuring out this kind of stuff and making it work and translate in to cold hard cash via international no.1 hits.
And here we are. At the 'end of history'.
Well, not quite.
Though sometimes I use compression as a "pumping breathing monster" intentional sound effect, generally my "ideal compressor" or "ideal limiter" would work so good that ideally you can't even hear it working, except that too-extreme dynamics have now become manageable.
People in the beginning did not use compression to Pump.
They used it to level, as absolutely transparent as possible. But it still Pumped. Pumping - BAD!
So they refined it so it didn't Pump. Just leveled. And they did end up doing a good job of getting that right. Fairchild Compressors caught transients within fractions of a second -
All positions offer extremely fast attack values, between 0.2 and 0.8 milliseconds. This was considered to be lightning fast at the time, and the figures weren’t beaten until a decade later, when solid-state units with FET gain cells (like the Universal Audio 1176LN) brought attack values down to a mere 20 microseconds. Given its primary purpose as a protective device in broadcast or vinyl cutting environments, in which the limiter was required to catch any unwanted signal peaks reliably, these fast attack times were one of the Fairchild’s most important features.
And so, that is why the unit is used as much as a 'Limiter' as a 'Compressor'. Never mind that some people just turn everything off on these units and just run David Bowie's or Freddy Mercury's vocals through it just to give it a bit of 'mojo'. Transformers or something. I don't know. I can't even wire a plug.
my "ideal compressor" or "ideal limiter" would work so good that ideally you can't even hear it working
That was the ideal!
And it has been achieved. Probably even more in software than it was in hardware (unless you have the cash to splash).
This has been talked about to death. One more time:
2: Toneboosters bus comp and also track comp
3: Voxengo bus and track comps
I'll just stop there. Many more examples. These are as good as it gets.
They are to all intents and purposes, invisible
. Pretty much. Just about. As much as you are ever going to get when messing with dynamics.
So these are your 'tools'. When one needs a bit of audio 'surgery' - these are your boys.
But that's not enough for some people.
Along the way, through the various design manifestations of these 'units', some people found that they liked the way they 'pumped' and 'sucked' the audio signal. Nowt wrong with that.
And so the concept of 'Character Compressors' was born.
Usually units that couldn't quite keep up, scientifically, but there you go.
Let's not get in to the various stages of Opto, VCA, Valve, FET...
https://www.hornetplugins.com/differenc ... -and-opto/
Imperfect technology ended up giving a vibe and creating the sound of the "60's", and the "70's".
When the first digital reverb was introduced late 70's (iirc) it was all over every top budget recording making a serious horse's arse of their mixes. Listen to Black Sabbath 'Sabotage' - 1975 - drenched in digital reverb and all the more greater for it! (though many disagree)
But let's not go too far off the beaten path here (too late!).
Character Compressors came in to play when they couldn't quite perfect the science, and people still love those units today, and all the more so for their perceived imperfections.
If you want invisible 'wave-shaping' then reach for your TDR or Toneboosters compressors.
If you want a bit of pump and suck then reach for your SKnote or Stillwell compressors modeling old units that "didn't quite get it right" - that will give some 'character' to your tracks.
"One never loves enough" - R.D. Laing.