The Compressor

so the Rytm compressor is pretty sweet.
But I have no idea how to use it “properly”.

Just got new monitors :slight_smile:
and want to improve mixing - I guess working on any source material presented to the Rytm inputs is a good way to practice… E.g. it’s fun mangling Autechre’s Untilted with it, this album isn’t very heavily compressed by itself and sounds fucking awesome when further squashed.

But basically, I’m more or less intuitively tweaking around until it sounds ok. Pretty sure my compressor skills aren’t any good and I tend to use the Rytm compressor mostly in certain extreme settings to resculpt the entire master mix until it sounds completely squashed… which can be awesome and has its place for certain tracks, but on others it’s too much/sounds wrong.

Compression is one of these weird topics where if you search, you’re mostly presented with YouTube videos of “to make house, load ableton live, then get [compressor plugin x] and choose [preset number]”.

the section on compression in Olaf’s PDF is pretty cool, from the small bit of text I learned quite a bit. But it describes just one technique, using the HPF sidechain mode.

Any of you know a good resource for learning how to use compressors in general, without presumptions about musical style? Basically looking for something analogous to the Sound-On-Sound synthesis guide…

And do you people feel that the Rytm compressor is a good general purpose device, or would you say it’s more suited to drum bus? It’s the only compressor I have and also lack experience as mentioned.


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There is a ton of good info in this AR forum. AdamJay has been particularly generous with his knowledge. Do a site: Google search.

Now I don’t by any means claim expert on this and I know i still have a lot to learn.


I dont remember who it was that suggested dialing in a roughly half mix (essentially parallel compression) and then finding a threshold that causes the meter to pump. I’ve been going on those instructions and it’s worked somewhat for me so far. I try to avoid a lot of makeup gain cause it’s noisy. I also don’t like a high ratio.


This post from Hermetech Mastering on the forum really helped me get a good process for exploring different compressors.

If Hermetech posts here, I for one would like to thank them hugely for this post.


It’s not the only way, but it’s one way that works for me, after a lot of trial and error, and if you are mastering for punch/clarity/“glue” etc., as opposed to just squash:

  1. Choose a basic compressor and an unmastered, highish tempo, steadily rhythmic track (e.g. something techno or trance).

  2. Set the main controls like this: Attack as short as it will go. Release as short as it will go. Ratio as high as it will go. Threshold/input gain depends on compressor type, but basically be smashing it as hard as you can.

  3. It sounds like shit, right?

  4. Now start tweaking the Attack control and listen to the attack of the transients on the kicks, snares, bassline, arpeggios or whatever. You should be able to find a nice spot where it really lets the transients thwap through whilst clamping down on everything else. Use your ears. Where does it sound best? Less snap and more smash = shorter Attack, more snap and less smash = longer attack. I can usually find a sweet spot very quickly. I usually err on the side of a little too short rather than a little too long. Don’t touch the Attack again, leave it, you are done there.

  5. It still sounds like arse though, right?

  6. Move on to the Release control. We are now at the real magick. What you are looking for here is an indefinable certain something that GROOVES. Again, use your ears. Might be best left at minimum, might sound good thinking about the tempo of the track, so it clamps down and swings back just before the next kick (although it might not…), it might want even longer than that for a volume wave/RMS/loudness levelling like function that just “feels” right. It’s the ineffable control, but the most important for adding feel and groove. So use your ears, not your eyes, not your screen, not your meters, not the markings, your ears. Don’t touch the Release again, leave it, you are done there.

  7. If the comp has a HPF in the SideChain, I usually play with it here. On full band tracks I usually find something between about 60-150Hz will work to stop those kicks and bass pulling things down too much, but I’ll also usually go back and tweak this again later too. I ALWAYS HAVE THE HPF IN THE SIDECHAIN SOMEWHERE, NEVER OFF!

  8. Suck, thwap, such thwack, sounds arsey still, right? Even though it’s “bouncing” along nicely with the music…

  9. Move on to the Ratio control. Bring the Ratio control down as far as you possibly can, all the way if possible, until that groove you have established becomes almost subliminal. Mastering Ratios are often very low, like 1.1:1 or 1.5:1, very rarely more than 2.0:1. You’ve now got that groove just nice. And it’s sounding less like arse.

  10. Threshold or Input Gain should be set so that the amount of Gain Reduction is never clearly audible. Try not to do more than about 1.5-3dB of Gain Reduction on the highest peaks. You have added a subliminal certain something to the snap and groove that the artist will hopefully appreciate. If they had wanted an obvious suck & thwap, they would have done it themselves, or asked you to do it. If they did, great, go ahead!

  11. It should hopefully now sound much better, have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, glue, warmth, togetherness blah blah blah when you A/B it with the original.



Good stuff. Thanks for that.

I’ve been reading SOS for 25 years, and it’s always full of good stuff.

Compression made easy


Compression is always a tricky subject to learn about from reading because the effect depends so much on the source material. Most of the best tutorials will focus on compressing dynamic sources like vocals or acoustic drums.

Electronic music sound sources are generally pre-compressed, so subtle use of compression has little effect and extreme use is more about taste than technique.

[I don’t have any experience with the AR’s compressor.]

There’s 2 way of using the compressor i like. It’s kind transient shaper and NYC parallel compression.

The first one is relatively simple you put the threshold at max, ratio at max and find the Peak of your drums with the attack parameter, once you get the transients passing through in millisecond, you have it you come back to more natural value and find the great release time… 1:2 / 1:4 with a maximum of -6db Gain Reduction

The second one is pretty simple because you need to be agressive and produce a very squashing result you can start with the first method and squash the result with higher ratio and higher gain reduction. (compensate that with makeup gain)

BUT the NYC compression is to MIX [ Dry ] signal with [ Wet ] in pourcentage of your choice so it mixed in the normal signal a bit of dynamics and enhance the overall sounding of your part.

Hope it help a bit.

NB: there a third one which is more corrective for synth to deal with release on string, pad etc… but as this one is corrective it’s better to try to fix the issue before in the audio chain rather to fix it with a compressor when it’s possible. it’s more for engineering who can’t ask to musician to tweak the part better

And sidechaining of course which is pretty more a final mixing on DAW or pumping effect people are after which i don’t like (matter of TASTE)


It took me a long time to get to grips with compression.

My approach is very similar to the Hermetech description above.

I almost always finish by dialling it back to the point where I can just about hear the effect.


One question though - does the compressor act on incoming external audio as part of its source for triggering?

Haven’t got my unit to hand at the minute, but I’ve been considering using the low-pass filter to get the compressor triggering off a Rytm kick, with A4 (doing bass and other stuff) connected to the external input.

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hey void…

if you really like to go into hell good tutorials (not just on compression), go for pensados “into the lair”.

tons of nice tricks and knowledge to learn! Best online vids.

by the way: AR is not the best compressor i ever heard… but its really good for the AR… it just matches the sound and give you dense drums for playing live…
for really mixing, i like to use overbridge or separat outs and then tweak it in a DAW

in most cases, use a short or medium attack, and a longer release on masterbus… dont push the treshold to hard… when you start to really hear it, reduce it again… always play with the mix, you have some sort of sidechaining.
punch it in hard, to hear if the compression works “in time”, or if the “pumping” feels unrythmic… if you got the right settings, dial back to a gentle amount, that you cant really hear… mostly its about using things not to extreme :-))

good starter:


I’m gonna print this, I hear everything you say. Only I lose some ow end and body when doing it. I get more life but lose the bass :frowning: HPF is ON.


tbh I rarely use compression, mostly just to add transient snap (slow attack, medium release, low GR). For most other uses, I mess around with settings until the cows come home, only to A/B (levelmatched) against the dry version and decide to not use any compression after all :pl:

I feel about compression like I feel about listening to a summed mix in the analog domain compared to listening to it post conversion - headroom feels less, things feel smaller. Maybe I don’t know how to use compression :diddly: Also I feel that compression is not as essential to electronic music, since you can control the velocities and microdynamics straight at the source (sequencing, synth parameter tweaking)

Some thoughts on the theory of compression:
Sometimes you need to post eq subtly after compression. Also one age-old technique is to use “pre/de-emphasis” in the form of:
subtractive-eq -> compression -> additive-eq
This technique can sometimes help if you feel a comp is overreacting to a certain freq range


You’re welcome!


Sorry to tell you, but you’re wrong. Compression is kind of essential for Electronic dance music.

Well these things are subjective. I just prefer uncompressed sound most of the time

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Aw man… I guess I’ve been making music wrong

Compression is such a multi faceted tool, with so many uses. It can act as the glue that bonds elememts of a mix, a dynamics squisher to level out roudy frequencies, tame transients, rhythmic side-chain pumping, and more!

It’s easily one of music creations most misunderstood tools.

Rytm’s compressor is so cool with it’s p-lockable settings, ghost kicks set with some trig conditions can really change dynamics.


Dunno how you make music but EVERY artist I know personally (mainly Techno & Drum n Bass guys) uses compression in way or another.

Never said you’re making music the wrong way. Please post a link to your music. I’m interested.

Compression is essential for making mashed potatoes. If you don’t, you are probably just eating damp potato.
Everything in music though is optional.


Giving the family secrets so easily? Good explanation man.


I don’t have any secrets when it comes to music, synthesis, or mastering. Happy to discuss and share, nice to be able to find other people genuinely interested in it.


Not essential, definitely not.
People should compress less and enjoy dynamics more these days