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Audio Basics (Part 2)

Dynamic Processors

Dynamic range processors are a fairly large group of devices, all of which are designed to have a certain effect on an audio signals gain/volume level hence the term ‘Dynamic Processor’. The four most widely used dynamic processors are Compressors, Limiters, Gates and Expanders.

Compressors and Limiter controls

Compressors are generally used to reduce the level of a single or multiple signals, whilst compressors are incredibly common in the world of personal recording, limiters are slightly rarer. Whilst the adjustable options vary with different models, the following are very common adjustable options and are what you would expect to see with most compressors and limiters.

Attack - attack is essentially the amount of time it will take for the compressor to start working once it has gone over the set threshold.

Release - the release time determines how quickly the processor stops working on the audio signal once it has returned below the threshold.

Threshold - the threshold control allows you to determine the point in which the compressor/limiter will begin to work on a sound.

Ratio - ratio determines how much gain reduction will be put upon an audio signal which surpasses the set threshold.

Make up gain- after a signal has been put through a compressor or limiter it can seem a little quiet due to the dynamic compression nevertheless make up gain allows you to simply increase the volume level to the level desired.

Knee - Despite appearing on fewer occasions than the previous controls knee can become very useful when working with these processors, this option for me was best described by Carlos Lellis Ferreira - 2013. “This parameter may be described as a fine-tune control over threshold and attack, i.e. a soft knee function effectively lowers the threshold and slows down the attack of a compressor.

You will find some very similar looking controls on most expanders and gates just with a few difference, of course these types of dynamic processors work to increase a signals dynamic range rather than compressing them.

in terms of going out and buying dynamic processors theres a definite difference in the options of buying plug-ins or actual analog units. The first and most obvious one being the price, for the average high end compressor plug you’ll be looking at around £300 whilst for a high end analog compressor you can be looking at thousands of pounds and probably much more for certain models. Another important point I should mention is that the plug-in options definitely do not sound thousands of pounds cheaper than their analog predecessors, in fact there is very little difference at all.

George Capon

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