What are Compressors and Limiters

Hey, everyone out there, so now this is compressors and limiters. Well, how many of times you have listened about threshold, dynamics of music, attack, release, ratio etc. This must be every time you are on mixing table.

You have definitely, sometimes very scared and sometimes confident about your ability. Well I am not saying that this is extremely difficult to master but it’s not very hard either not to know its behavior.

Though music always works on a simple rule that “Lesser is more”. This applies in this case also. Don’t simply compress anything if it is not needed. Apply it, if it is really needed.

“What is compressor”

Compressors, External hardware or Internal Plugin, used mainly to manipulate dynamics of music instrument or voice, to even it out in terms of loudness.

This is a more bookish one…. In much simpler term, let’s use an example. Suppose your vocal artist sometimes sing softly and sometimes very loud, which makes the track highly dynamic. To even it out, compressors is used to uniform the sound by making the softer parts a bit louder and vice-versa.  By doing this we achieve a uniformity in instrument or vocals. Every audio compressor plugins act differently and has different warmth to it. Though outboard unit has greater warmth but beginners can use internal plugins also.

“Elements of Compressor”compressors and limiters

  • Threshold
  • Ratio
  • Attack
  • Release
  • Makeup Gain

Now, what are these, lets learn in detail


This is the meter which shows level at which passing through the compressor. We adjust it as per our requirement. Suppose we find that vocal is very dynamic. Then we generally set a level where the softest part occurs or anything depending as per choice.


This is the most important one. This tells compressor to allow this much level to pass when level touches the threshold. For example when ratio is set at 4:1, it means that, whatever signal above the threshold is there, allow only one-fourth of it. Means for every four dB, allow only one dB.

General rule used by many is about 2:1 to 4:1.


Attack is how fast compressor should be kicked in. It can be higher or lower, depending entirely on use. Vocal has generally faster attack time whereas snare has longer attack time.


Release is just opposite to attack i.e. how easily compressor is released

Make-up Gain

It adds the gain which is lost due to compression to make-up gain or matches the gain, depending on the use.

Compressor really makes and instrument or vocal sound clear and audible in the whole mix. It’s a very important element of the mix. But it should be applied very carefully as overuse can destroy the sound and make it sound squashed and saturated.

Types of Compressor”

  • Tube compressor
  • External Compressor (Hardware)

Various Products of Compressors

  • Tube Compressor
  • 1176 compressor (From UAD)
  • Manley Products etc.

“What is Limiter”

LimitersWell limiter is used to increase the volume of an instrument while not crossing the set dB and set sound level at particular db.

Limiters have generally two elements:

  • Make up gain
  • Threshold
  • You can set the frequency by adjusting Threshold and your make up gain by adjusting your make up gain. This will make your instrument sound much more loudly but it will not increase the dB in your mix. It will not eat up the mix. So you will have enough headroom to mix.

    Author: Deepak Drolia