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'Visualizing' compressor attack and release
Old 23rd January 2007
Gear Nut
🎧 15 years
'Visualizing' compressor attack and release

gday all

when i look at the typical compression curve diagrams, i understand threshold (input), knee, ratio and makeup (output). however, is there anyway to "visualize" attack and realease on these diagrams? i cant say ive seen a diagram that explains attack and release (on a visual level anyway). can someone point me in the right direction?

i know:

if you want to reduce plectrum noise etc (attack portion of sound), turn attack down. if you want to give more punch / definition, increase attack time to let initial transient through.

if you want to turn up the sustain of a bass, set a shorter release time. if you want a pumping effect, set release time even shorter. if you want a smoother compression, set the release time longer.

i also know that attack and release are often dependent on one another which complicates things even further.

the more i try and visualise it, the more confused i become. do i need to be able to fully visualise it?

at least i have my ears to rely on!

Old 23rd January 2007
Lives for gear
Berolzheimer's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Think of a compressor as a volume knob or a fader that only attenuates, and responds automaticallly to the signal coming in (or into the sidechain)- when the level exceeds the threshold, the fader goes down, the amount controlled by the ratio setting. the attack & release control how quickly the fader jumps down and how fast it recovers.

Keep in mind to that with some compressors turning the attack/release setting up makes them faster (rate), on some slower (time or milliseconds). Just depends on how it's labeled or how the designers think about it.
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
Lives for gear
atma's Avatar
🎧 15 years
why don't you experiment with different attack/decay settings and load the resultant waveform in your audio editor and examine how the transients vary depending on your settings?
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years
A decent graphic 'cue would be the waveform and how the peaks and leading edges in particular relate to the attack time. For compression on a mix, that notion could spread out in time to skip past the peaks and cover rhythmic movement.
Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
Reptil's Avatar
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Originally Posted by Berolzheimer ➡️
Think of a compressor as a volume knob or a fader that only attenuates, and responds automaticallly to the signal coming in (or into the sidechain)- when the level exceeds the threshold, .........(continues)......
the same in other words:
look at AR (Attack Release) envelopes of synthesizers. Same thing. Often compressors have VCA too. threshold regulates at how much voltage the envelope is triggered. The way they "look" at a signal and decide to trigger can also differ in between types. (called key or sidechain)

Please look at the first figure in this picture. a simple AR. (forget about the process being described. that is something else) sorry bout the big picture can't be helped...

Old 23rd January 2007 | Show parent
Gear Addict
Eide's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Ok, hows this for visualizing:

The compressor is blind. It cant see the audio signal coming, nor does it know when the signal about to end. But it's not deaf, so when it "hears" the audio it starts to compress. The time between the very moment it hears the audio until it starts to compress depends on fast or slow the attack is set to. Same theory can be applied to the release-time.

So if you take Berolzheimer's example with the fader - visualize yourself as the compressor, riding the fader with your eyes closed, trying to keep the levels steady only judging by ear.
Then start drinking. After a six-pack of beer you'll get a slow attack/release...
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