Hearing Compression

Hi Tchad

Many thanks for doing this.

I really struggle to hear compression when it’s applied to tracks / busses in instructional videos; and this includes when I am using decent headphones. I’ve no problem hearing the changes brought about by applying EQ (so assume my ears are not the issue) but any compressing / limiting just doesn’t jump out at me.

Often a producer / mixer will toggle between applied / bypass but I just don’t hear a difference? I believe I understand the role that each of the settings on a compressor plays so wondered if you had any really good examples you could point to that may help me?

Because I see it applied so often in mixes I find myself thinking that I really should place it on some tracks or a master buss but in truth I would be working blind.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Take good care.


1 Like

Hi Terry,
Most often when level control is applied the goal is to control peaks and sometimes help bring up the lower level bits while leaving the timbre alone. This may be why you’re not hearing a big difference. That’s part of the goal. If you look at the change in levels you might see a difference more than hear it.
Compression and limiting can also be used for effect. This would be audible compression and it can range from mild to crazy pumping with distortion.
I suggest you take a whole drum kit track and put several different kinds of comp/lim’s on there and go through them one at a time adjusting them to the extremities. Listen to whats happening to the sound and watch the meters to learn how they react. Try them all in!
An 1176 would be a good starting point because it has such a broad range of tone it can generate. Start with all the ratio buttons pressed in*. This should give you quite an extreme sound on the drum kit with the input up fairly high. Careful with the output and start with it low. Adjust in/out from there. Try undoing the ratio buttons one at a time and learn the more subtle sounds it has to offer. I think it’s easier to hear the extreme sounds to begin with, then learn the less extreme sounds over time while experimenting.

*On the 1176 hardware unit you have to push all four ratio buttons in at the same time to cause them to catch. The plug in versions may have a preset or a “option click” kind of thing.


Many thanks indeed for such a comprehensive reply Tchad.

I will indeed try the approaches you suggested.

Kindest regards.