What Is Compression?
Compression is the process of reducing the size of digital audio files. The goal of audio compression is to minimize redundancy in the data while still maintaining the quality of the original recording.
Compressed audio files are smaller in size, which makes them more efficient to store and transfer. Audio compression can be used for a variety of applications, including reducing the file size of music and podcasts. Music files are often compressed using lossy methods such as MP3 or AAC.
These methods allow for a significant reduction in file size without a noticeable decrease in sound quality. However, some music aficionados prefer to use lossless methods such as FLAC, which preserve the full quality of the original recording.
Podcasts are also often compressed using lossy methods in order to save space and bandwidth. By compressing audio files, we can make it possible to store and transfer large amounts of audio data more efficiently.
Why Do You Need Podcast Compression?
Compression is one of the most important aspects of audio production, yet it is often overlooked by amateur podcasters.
Compression evens out the loudest and quietest parts of your audio, giving your podcast a more professional sound.
It also reduces background noise, making it easier for your listeners to focus on what you’re saying. In short, compression is essential for anyone who wants to produce a high-quality podcast.
How to Use Compression for Podcasts: Audio Compression Settings
A threshold is a level at which audio compression begins to take effect. The higher the threshold, the more compression is applied. The threshold can be set to different levels for different frequency ranges, allowing for greater control over the amount of compression that is applied.
The purpose is to find a balance so that your audio sounds natural, without artifacts from too much compression. To do this, you’ll need to experiment with different settings until you find what sounds best for your particular podcast.
Start by setting the threshold at a point where you can just barely hear any distortion, then slowly adjust it up or down until you find the sweet spot. Once you’ve found the perfect setting, your podcast will sound Professional and polished, without any unwanted pumping or breathing effects.
The ratio parameter allows you to alter the amount of compression applied above threshold. For instance, a signal with an 8:1 Ratio will pass only 8 dB more than what is required while one at 3:1 leaves 20 dB open for carry-over sound from other sources in addition having more headroom so that there’s no need worry about maxing out volume levels when pushing your mix beyond technical specifications.
A higher ratio results in more compression, while a lower ratio results in less compression. In general, audio signals sound best when they are compressed with a light touch, so it is important to be careful not to overdo it.
Compression can be extremely powerful for shaping the sound of an audio signal, but it is important to use it judiciously.
Makeup Gain is a crucial tool for maintaining volume when compressing audio. Compression will often result in lower than desired levels, but by boosting Makeup Gains 4-6 dB you can help restore what was lost and keep your track sounding full and natural.
This can be especially useful when compressing tracks with a lot of dynamic range, such as vocals or acoustic instruments.
Of course, too much makeup gain can result in clipping and distortion, so it is important to find the right balance. But if your goal is to maintain the overall volume, makeup gain can be a valuable tool.
Gain Reduction & Auto Gain Correction
Gain reduction is the amount of signal that is being compressed. The higher the gain reduction, the more the signal is being compressed.
Auto gain correction is a feature that adjusts the level of the signal so that it remains consistent despite the amount of compression that is being applied. These two settings work together to help keep your recordings sounding clear and distortion-free.
One of the most important settings on a compressor plugin is the attack. Attack refers to how quickly the compressor begins to compress the signal once it goes over the threshold.
If the attack is set too slow, then the transient peaks will not be compressed and you’ll end up with an uncontrolled, spiky sound. On the other hand, if the attack is set too fast, then it can cause the compressor to sound harsh and artificial.
Attack settings are important because they help to determine how much noise reduction occurs.
Release time is the amount of time it takes for the compressor to go from its compressed state back to its original level. This is measured in seconds, and the release time can be anywhere from a few milliseconds to several seconds long.
The release time is important because it affects how loud sounds are allowed to be before the compressor kicks in. If the release time is too short, then loud sounds will be quickly squashed down and may sound unnatural.
However, if the release time is too long, then the compressor will not be able to keep up with rapid changes in loudness, and the sound will become uneven.
Finding the right release time depends on the type of sound you are trying to compress and how loud you want it to be. For most applications, a release time of around 0.1 seconds is a good starting point.
A limiter is an audio compression setting that is used to manage the loudest parts of an audio track. By reducing the output gain, the sound becomes more controlled and less chaotic.
In general, a limiter is used when dealing with digital audio because it can reduce the risk of clipping.
Clipping is when the sound waves become distorted because they exceed the digital limit. This can ruin the quality of the audio and make it difficult to listen to. By using a limiter, you can avoid this problem and keep your audio sounding great.
Another benefit of using a limiter is that it can help to even out the levels of an audio track. This is especially useful if you have multiple tracks that you want to blend together.
By using a limiter, you can ensure that all of the tracks are at the same level, which makes it easier to create a cohesive sound.
Soft Knee vs Hard Knee
Knee determines how the compressor will respond to the signal. A soft knee will result in a more gradual transition between the compressed and uncompressed audio, while a hard knee will cause the signal to be compressed more aggressively.
For a pleasant sound, a soft knee is typically best, as it prevents the audio from sounding too harsh. However, if you are looking for a more energetic sound, a hard knee may be better suited.
Testing Your Compression Settings
When editing podcasts, it’s important to test your compression settings before you start working. By doing so, you can avoid clipping and other artifacts that can ruin your audio. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Start with a low ratio and slow attack time. Slowly increase the ratio and/or decrease the attack time until you start to hear the desired effect.
- Pay attention to the overall loudness of your audio. If it sounds too quiet or too loud, you may need to adjust your threshold accordingly.
- Listen for any artifacts that may be introduced by the compression. If you hear any unwanted distortion, back off on the ratio and/or increase the attack time.
- Use audio editing software. It will analyze the audio and provide feedback on the compression settings. This can be a helpful way to get an objective assessment of the sound quality.
With a little trial and error, you should be able to find the perfect compression setting for your podcast.
Things You Should Avoid
Compression is important for podcasting, but there are a few things you should avoid if you want to get the best results.
First, don’t rely on the volume knob to control your overall levels. This can lead to drastic volume changes from one moment to the next, and it can be difficult to control.
Second, don’t overdo it with the threshold. Setting the threshold too low will result in excessive compression, and it will sound unnatural.
Finally, don’t forget to use makeup gain. This will help to restore some of the volume that is lost during compression, and it will make your podcast sound more polished.
By following these simple tips, you can avoid common mistakes and get the most out of compression.
If you’re serious about your podcast, compression is an essential tool to give your audio a professional edge. By using compression judiciously, you can control the sound of your podcast and make it consistent from episode to episode.
If you want even more help, consider recording in a professional studio or investing in higher quality equipment. With the right tools and techniques, you can ensure that your podcast sounds its best and reaches a wider audience.
Related: Zoom H6 Compressor Settings