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Compression across live mix..?
Old 24th January 2013
  #1
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🎧 10 years
Compression across live mix..?

Assuming that all the instruments have their own dynamics processing going on and are at a consistent level throughout, do you ever add an overall mix compression in the live environment?

I know that there are a few 'it depends' considerations such as type of music etc, but is that certain 'intensity' to the sound which compression can bring something you look to add, or do you feel that keeping everything more 'open' is the approach for you..?
Old 24th January 2013
  #2
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Never. DSPs in some speakers have a built in compressor and I hate it.
Old 24th January 2013
  #3
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Absolutely. Those limiters built into good cross-overs keep you from killing your expensive speakers.

They should be set high enough that you don't hit them outside of an unexpected event.



-tINY

Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam ➑️
Never. DSPs in some speakers have a built in compressor and I hate it.

Do you like killing your speakers, or do you not have enough of them to get the loudness you REALLY want?



-tINY

Old 24th January 2013
  #5
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IMO; if the limiters are coming on in your DSP/xovers, you need more amps/speakers..
I use compressors on my groups AND on the stereo bus.' I start with the thresholds set high, and usually put my mix together with very light compression / low ratios. Sometimes I'll use a high ratio on the stereo bus and have it there as a limiter, other times I'll use tube compression on the master bus for coloring.. It just depends on the music... Acoustic stuff gets little if any compression.. rock bands often get a lot of compression.
Old 24th January 2013
  #6
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99% of the time. Two units I use for this, as main inserts, are the Avalon 747, or, for smaller gigs, the FMR RNP, in "super nice" mode. Obviously there are many other choices. I'm not going for color, just a touch of leveling, to get closer to an album type sound. Low ratios, medium-ish attack and release, depending on material, etc. Just my preference, no flamos please.
Old 24th January 2013
  #7
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I regularly use a Waves C6 on the main L-R output before feeding it to a matrix.
Often this is used in conjunction with Avid Impact or the Waves SSL G Bus comp.
If I am using hardware comps, which I still on occasion do, I will use a Smart C2 and a Waves Max BCL. These are used to impart a sound and to tighten up the overall mix.
This is all dependent on the artist and the music. None of this is written in stone.

The comps/limiters on your processor are for system protection. Two totally different things.
Old 24th January 2013
  #8
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as of late i've been working with analog boards, i do alot of bus and or paralel compression but never threw one on the master. i'm curious now what the guys mixing digital are up to. when in the studio i usually (not always) have a comp on the two bus
Old 24th January 2013
  #9
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If I have to keep the dynamics of the show in check I prefer my fingers on the master fader. If the music has too much dynamic range you may want to use compression, if it has too little (distorted guitars, screaming, etc.) you may want to exaggerate it for impact. Impact comes from contrast and differences, never from same-same-same. Even if that 'same' is a constant barrage of 150dB. So the question isn't to compress or not, the question is what the show needs to preserve and enhance it's impact.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY ➑️

Do you like killing your speakers, or do you not have enough of them to get the loudness you REALLY want?



-tINY

Limiters are limiters. Limiters are good.
Some speakers (mostly subs) have compressors with relatively low treshold, way below the limiter's treshold or clipping level.
I'm not stupid to run the system over the point it was designed to work.
IMO there can't be too much dynamics on the mix bus. Usually the PA has more than enough headroom and dynamic performance sounds better.
Old 24th January 2013
  #11
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just trying to dissiffer some of the comments.. maybe I'm wrong but,

It appears that some of you describe high or low threshold settings interchangeably, as being a setting that imposes very little compression or limiting..?

This may be true for a unit like an LA2a where the input gain, gains up to a fixed threshold bar.

but compressors and limiters with dedicated threshold parameters pretty much work the same.. hence, if you employ a high threshold setting above the peaks (equals no compression).. a very low threshold setting (depending on ratio settings) can potentially and indiscriminately over compress all audio, cause your threshold is well bellow the peaks and is set in valleys.
Old 24th January 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cover'd ➑️
Assuming that all the instruments have their own dynamics processing going on and are at a consistent level throughout, do you ever add an overall mix compression in the live environment?

I know that there are a few 'it depends' considerations such as type of music etc, but is that certain 'intensity' to the sound which compression can bring something you look to add, or do you feel that keeping everything more 'open' is the approach for you..?
I always use it when I mix a band live. It started back in the late 80s when I was mixing arena rock tours. My live mix concept was always "just like the record, only larger than life". Nothing connects an audience to your artist in a concert situation better than this. Now we were out there trying to recreate mixes from Shipley, Clearmountain, Jimbo Barton, etc. Most all of them were using mix compression in the studio, so I and another trusted engineer colleague thought that we should try it as well. It has the same effect live that it does on a record, everything sits better in the mix, things sound more exciting, it even buys a bit more headroom in the PA (important when you are in an underpowered situation like a 70,000 seat stadium), and it is always better for the integrity of your mix to stay out of the system limiters. The secret is also to use a mix comp with a faster release and longer attack time than you would in the studio, and usually something fairly transparent. I always use low ratios, 2:1 or 1.5:1. The big rooms soak up quite a bit of the apparent transients (reflections/cancellation play a big part in this as well), so you won't use as much reduction as you would in the studio as well.
Old 24th January 2013
  #13
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My guess is I do it more often than not - but it's generally fairly gentle compression. All the venues I work have limiters in the processors.

The only time I don't is jazz gigs. I think sometimes even gentle compression can play with the feel of the band.
Old 24th January 2013
  #14
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I have always mixed into a compressor. generally it has a threshold just above 0dB and a 2:1 ratio.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetboatguy ➑️
just trying to dissiffer some of the comments.. maybe I'm wrong but,

It appears that some of you describe high or low threshold settings interchangeably, as being a setting that imposes very little compression or limiting..?

This may be true for a unit like an LA2a where the input gain, gains up to a fixed threshold bar.

but compressors and limiters with dedicated threshold parameters pretty much work the same.. hence, if you employ a high threshold setting above the peaks (equals no compression).. a very low threshold setting (depending on ratio settings) can potentially and indiscriminately over compress all audio, cause your threshold is well bellow the peaks and is set in valleys.
Yes.
I think a lot of us have used DBX or similar compressors in our outboard racks. When I refer to a high threshold, I'm referring to a threshold with little or no compression.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooter Trash ➑️
Yes.
I think a lot of us have used DBX or similar compressors in our outboard racks. When I refer to a high threshold, I'm referring to a threshold with little or no compression.
Yep exactly, I adjust my attack to let the Kick and snare pass through when I'm, pushing into it but most of the time the compressor is doing nothing. It's only there to give me a little more headroom and save me from making all kinds of mix adjustments for what probably adds up to 60 seconds of impact a night.

I usually see only 3-6dB of gain reduction when I'm using it. More often than not, the compressor is the last thing in my signal chain, so it's output is my line driver. I'll sometimes turn the output up and turn the threshold down a bit to find the sweet spot.

In the digital world, it's just there, inserted on the mains. I never insert anything on the outs of an analog console (The console drives into the EQ/Compressor) as I like the option of getting gain from different places.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam ➑️
Limiters are limiters. Limiters are good.
Some speakers (mostly subs) have compressors with relatively low treshold, way below the limiter's treshold or clipping level.
I'm not stupid to run the system over the point it was designed to work.
IMO there can't be too much dynamics on the mix bus. Usually the PA has more than enough headroom and dynamic performance sounds better.

I haven't run into those subs... I understand why that would be done on low-end units (makes them sound bassier than the competition at low levels in Guitar Center).

I wouldn't want that in my set up either. And I tend to be with you on dynamics for live performance - but we are in the minority in the pop-music world these days.




-tINY

Old 24th January 2013
  #18
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RMJAZZ's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I approach the system processing much like I would if I were mastering a recording.

EQ
Compression
Old 24th January 2013
  #19
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mesadude's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
"to protect the PA-system" or "to gain an extra 3db out of a system" might be the worst reason to use compression/limiting on a masterbuss..

there's plenty of other tools in the chain that can provide that..

and if you're so close to clipping the system, put in a bigger system ! not a limiter !

IF and WHEN i use compression on masterbus, it's ONLY purpose is soundwise.. to add some glue or coloration.. minimum compression, very slow

System-processing and Masterbus-processing are 2 completely different things..
Keep them separate !
Old 24th January 2013
  #20
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Turn knob, if it sounds better ignore all rules that say you shouldn't do it.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beyersound ➑️
It has the same effect live that it does on a record, everything sits better in the mix, things sound more exciting, it even buys a bit more headroom in the PA (important when you are in an underpowered situation like a 70,000 seat stadium), and it is always better for the integrity of your mix to stay out of the system limiters.
Seriously asking but how does everything sit better in the mix if you are compressing the overall mix? And how does reducing dynamics make it more exciting, is that a matter of being able to increase the average level while maintaining the same peak levels?

Compression won't buy headroom if you then apply makeup gain, in fact that can raise the average level and push the system harder.

I think a factor here is how the compression is being used. Is it to 'ease' into the system limiters? Is it to control dynamics and reduce the crest factor, and thus the headroom required? Is it to reduce the peak levels so as to be able to turn everything up? Or is it for some other artistic effect?

And while I agree that "enough rig for the gig" is usually the right answer that won't address someone dropping a mic, unplugging a live input, etc. where a limiter might be a more effective solution to protecting the system. So for me it's sort of a hybrid, have enough rig to keep out of limiting during use but have limiting to help address when something does go wrong.
Old 25th January 2013
  #22
Gear Guru
It all depends on the act. If you have a modern-rock band with a massively compressed catalog, you may need some squash just to attempt to emulate those recordings that have zero dynamic range.

Then if you get some old fart classic rockers, put them into bypass mode and everyone is happy.

Personally, I don't like a squashed live show. It robs the act of energy and dynamics (yes, some still incorporate those concepts when they play, sort of like those rumors about sound you may have heard happening about 30+ years ago).

With EVERYTHING audio squashed to death now, movie trailers, newscasts, commercials, broadcast TV, radio, MP3's etc, it's nice to know you can stlll go somewhere and hear un-adulterated music taken out of the hands of those that believe (I can make you sound better than you really are types) a compressor is God's gift to the audio world.

Limiters? I see live sound guys doing that all the time.

They just clip the mic preamps.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams ➑️
Limiters? I see live sound guys doing that all the time.

They just clip the mic preamps.

Using a mic input like a guitar amp... That's probably an "artisitic" choice too.



-tINY

Old 25th January 2013
  #24
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🎧 10 years
Well said Jim.

I'd also suggest there's a big difference between system limiting (to protect speakers from DJ's and other ilk) and creative compression/limiting. In both case, a little can go a long way...
Old 25th January 2013
  #25
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I loved using my old API 2500 on a live system. I didn't hit it very hard but it was one helluva great sounding live bus comp. (old mode, med thrust)
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by museAV ➑️
Seriously asking but how does everything sit better in the mix if you are compressing the overall mix? And how does reducing dynamics make it more exciting, .
Because even on an album with "wide dynamic range", there is a lot of compression going on, and probably a lot of retakes to get smoother tracks that will sit better in the mix, while still sounding dynamic. So, when playing live, the musos don't have that luxury, and just because of the nature of a live show, the actual dynamics of what they are playing and singing can vary wildly, except for the very best of the best, for example Alison Krauss. So, unless you are mixing her or an equally skilled and tasteful act, by adding some tasteful compression over the two-bus, you are actually helping, not hurting, the presentation of the overall desired dynamic. Not by squashing things to a flat line, but by gently smoothing and creating a sensible window of dynamic range, hopefully taming slightly too-loud peaks and bringing up slightly too-soft valleys. Done properly, with a high quality compressor, it can really improve the mix, IME both mixing like this, and listening to other guys mix like this.
Old 26th January 2013
  #27
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How do you mix for Allison Krauss? I think I'd be too mesmerized to do much of anything.



-tINY

Old 26th January 2013 | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY ➑️

How do you mix for Allison Krause? I think I'd be too mesmerized to do much of anything.
-tINY
Yeah man, she sounds and looks gorgeous, with a great band. Cliff Miller mixed her show, I was system tech on that one. One of the absolute best shows I've ever heard.
By the way, average level at FOH was well below 100db. Sounded like......MUSIC.
Old 26th January 2013
  #29
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When you are talking about dynamic range in a live situation, you have to take into account that the musicians are there and playing live. Playing a tack with no live band, your noise floor is the point where the noise in the system masks the signal, or the signal is simply too quiet to be audible.

Live, the noise floor is dictated by the levels that the band plays on stage as well as their playing dynamics. While it isn't important to just have everything in the PA all the time, you are also at the mercy of the stage volume and dynamics. In some cases, the mix you have to put together to make something sound good has to be mixed off of the loudest thing bleeding off stage and into all of the open mics.
Old 28th January 2013
  #30
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If/when I use a compressor across the mix I do so for one reason and one reason only...I do it for the sound in that particular situation. Not for more headroom or to protect the system.

And unless I'm specifically requested to do so I do not try to sound like the band's record, I try to make the band sound as best as possible based on how they're playing at a given time. I believe that the record is one thing and the live performance is something else, and bands that try to sound exactly like their records invariably sound boring to me.

There is a very strong visual element to a live performance and the audio element should basically match what the audience see on the stage...it is very disconcerting to see the drummer wailing away on stage yet only hear the kit sound like some small, squashed tin pans coming out of the PA...of course the opposite is also true.
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