Compression and "Transient Snapping" - Need more information about how to compress things properly.

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Topic Starter
80 posts since 28 Feb, 2010

Post Sat Feb 04, 2023 8:48 pm

So, I've been producing for most of my adult life now and I am kind of ashamed that I don't know the best practices surrounding this topic. I am aware that compression reduces dynamic range and all that, I completely get the fundamentals of what a compressor is doing and I've got a pretty good ear when it comes to fine tuning my compression settings. And as a preface, this post is concerning compression on fully mixed drums and/or drum loops (I'm not mixing individual OH/Room/Close drum stems).

One thing that always kind of bothered me stems from abusing really heavy gain reduction: Using really low thresholds (-15 to -35, even less if I'm feeling dangerous), anywhere from a 1:5-1:10 ratio, and as fast of an attack I can dial in. I really like the sound of completely slamming my drum tracks to the wall. Occasionally I'll dial back the mix knob NY style to bring back some of the original transients and punch. I just really like that hyper-compressed sound, and I find myself using compression more as a sound design tool.

I've noticed that with compressors that don't have some kind of look-ahead, or the absence of a really fast attack setting, you are greeted with extremely loud snapping as the compressor engages the transients of your source material. I just call this "Transient Snapping" because I really have no better terminology to describe it. It's very apparent on many different zero latency compressors and It's raised a few questions that I wanted to ask the community.

Here's the original drum loop that I'm going to use for the sake of this discussion: ... al_sharing

Here is the same loop run through a few compressors at some pretty heavy compression settings:

NI Solid Bus Comp ... al_sharing

Analog Obsession COMPER ... al_sharing

bx_console SSL 4000 G ... al_sharing

bx_console SSL 4000 G (Fast Attack Engaged) ... al_sharing

You can hear the transient snapping to varying degrees across all examples above. I think COMPER has the most noticeable snapping.

So here are my questions:

1. Usually I just throw a limiter (Pro-L2) immediately after the compression stage and adjust to taste to just flatten the rogue transients to the same general amplitude as the rest of the loop. Do any of you do this as well? Is this a viable way to deal with this problem? Mostly it works pretty well and I just move on, but for some material you can still hear the "snap" even after limiting.

2. Do hardware units act this way as well? I'm ashamed to say I've never used an actual hardware compressor so I have no clue if this is a thing. The Brainworx console emulations are supposed to be pretty faithful to the original units and I've used other emulations that do the same, so I'm guessing the answer is absolutely yes.

3. The version using NI Solid Bus Comp is the most compressed of the bunch, and doesn't appear to have any large transient spikes, but you can still hear the snapping despite everything being uniform in amplitude. It's not as terrible as the COMPER example, but it's there. I'm at somewhat of a loss as to how to correct this other than just using a different compressor.

Due to the above issues, I've been seeking out compressors that have extremely fast attack times, or a look-ahead feature. For instance I own the free Acustica Arctic compressor and the result is absolutely beautiful compression at extreme settings. But the zero latency version of the same compressor introduces the same "transient snapping" I'm talking about.

I also own DMG TrackComp 2, and it's able to handle this problem pretty well at very fast attack speeds (DMG Algorithm), but doesn't sound as "smooth" as other compressors when maxed out. Maybe it's the algorithm I'm using.

So I guess my final questions boil down to:

1. What are the best compressors (Source material: Drums) that have a high tolerance for abuse?
2. What are the best compressors that have extremely fast attack times that produce minimal snapping?
3. What are the best compressors that incorporate look-ahead to minimize snapping?

A side note to add - I've noticed that transient shapers can actually do a pretty good job repurposed as a compressor with no snapping at all - just lower the attack and max out the sustain. Elysia Nvelope, NI Transient Master, and SPL Transient Designer Plus all give some great results.

Am I doing it wrong? What are your favorite ways to absolutely slam a drumloop into squashed deliciousness?

VST recommendations are very welcome! As well as any sage wisdom from y'all.

Thanks so much for reading.

240 posts since 17 Oct, 2020

Post Mon Feb 06, 2023 1:52 am

1176 is known for being fast. You could also try clippers.

2302 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Post Mon Feb 06, 2023 9:58 am

Fircomp can do very fast attack times and lookahead, and sound remarkably clean while doing it. Try the free version, if you like what it does then buy Fircomp2 for more options!

It does sound like parallel limiting or distortion is closer to what you are trying to achieve, though.

38 posts since 2 Jan, 2023

Post Sat Feb 11, 2023 5:50 am

Correct me if I’m wrong… but to retain the transients of the source material, don’t you want to use a slow attack time so the compressor doesn’t have time to turn the (fast) transient down? It basically just misses the transient.

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