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Compressor Circuits

09/12/2014 08:06

Tue 9 Dec 2014

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Sound On Sound : Est. 1985


In this article:
What It Does
Teletronix LA2A
All Aboard The SSL
Parallel Compression
Logic Pro's Circuit







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Compressor Circuits
Apple Logic Tips & Tecniques
Technique : Logic Notes

The different circuit types available in Logic's Compressor

are well worth a closer look but what are they based on,
and what do they actually do?

Published in SOS June 2011
Printer-friendly version

Stephen Bennett

arly versions of Logic Pro's Compressor plugin, while commended for its easytouse and clear interface, acquired
something of a reputation for being sonically soso. It actually reminded me of some lowcost hardware units; all the
features you'd need, but not exactly the compressor you'd choose to use if you had something with more character
available. With the release of Logic Pro 8, the Compressor was significantly upgraded, but as the interface was practically
unchanged, many users retained lingering suspicions about its usefulness. These days, Logic Pro's Compressor could be the
first that you turn to rather than the last.

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What It Does
The use of compressors has been covered extensively in Sound On Sound in the past, for example, in the article
'Compression Made Easy', September 2009 (/sos/sep09/articles/compressionmadeeasy.htm). Logic Pro's version has all the
controls you'd expect to find on a fully featured plugin, but there's more to compressors than parameters; they usually impart
a 'sound' to any audio passed through them, and some hardware units have a sonic loveliness that is extremely desirable to
many, which is why they are in such demand and why companies such as Universal Audio and Waves go to such great
lengths to emulate them in software. Hardware compressors utilise specific technologies to control signal levels, and these,
along with circuitinduced distortions, are what the companies are trying to model.

The Circuit Type pulldown menu is where you'll find Logic Pro's take on these emulations, and you may want to refer to the
reference box opposite that outlines the particular characteristics of each type of circuit, along with descriptions of some
classic hardware units that feature them.
In some respects, you could look at these circuit types as sophisticated tone controls (with
added distortion), as they all have a subtle, yet audible, effect on the sound. However, if
you're trying to specifically emulate classic compressors, you'll have to know a little bit more
about how the originals work. A brilliant reference document can be found at Universal
Audio's web site, in the shape of the UAD2 manual, but their whole site is a treasure trove of
information for those of us interested in classic compressors

Logic's Compressor has

a Circuit Type pulldown menu,
which is where you can start to
explore the different sounds
available to you.

Hardware compressors often have operational and electronic quirks, the latter of which
are difficult to emulate unless you resort to sophisticated modelling. However, Logic Pro's
Compressor will allow you to add the 'flavour' of many classic compressors and, in many
cases, the flexibility afforded by the extra parameters will allow you to better fit the compression characteristics to your audio.

Teletronix LA2A
The hardware unit is an opticalbased compressor with valve electronics, so if you want to try to emulate it, the first thing to do
is to select Opto from the Circuit Type menu. Clicking on the little arrow at the bottom of the Compressor plugin window
reveals several extra controls. If you choose 'Soft' as the Output distortion type, you can simulate a little of the tube distortion
effect of the LA2A, though you may prefer to add it via a dedicated distortion or tube emulation plugin inserted on the channel
strip before (and, perhaps, after) the Compressor, to emulate input and output distortion.
The LA2A only has a few physical controls, but the 'traditional' compressor parameters are there, albeit often at a fixed or
limited range of values, and these are partly what give the hardware device its distinctiveness. The compression ratio is
ostensibly fixed at 4:1, but fluctuates depending on the frequency of the incoming signal. To emulate this, you'd want to
experiment with the ratio depending on the input signal type, but don't drift too far from 4:1. The LA 2A has a softknee
characteristic, so set the Knee parameter to 0.9 or greater. This reduces the rate at which the compression effect kicks in at
the threshold point, the control of which is effectively equivalent to the hardware device's Peak Reduction knob.
The Gain control performs the same function to that of the same name in Logic Pro's Compressor: to make up any level lost
by the compression effect. The LA2A's Attack is fixed at around 10ms but releases at around 40 to 80 ms. It's worth
experimenting with these values in Logic Pro's Compressor to suit the audio input and the effect you're after.

All Aboard The SSL


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Compressor Circuits

09/12/2014 08:06

A large part of the '80's sound, SSL's Bus compressor is

a VCAbased device that is still much sought after and now
emulated in software by the likes of SSL themselves, Waves,
Universal Audio, and Cytomic, with their 'Glue' plugin. One of
the characteristics of the SSL is that it has switchable values for
Attack, Release and Ratio settings, unlike Logic Pro's
Compressor, which has continuous controls for these
parameters. The SSL values are as follows:
Attack: 0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10 and 30 ms
Release: 0.1, 0.3, 0.6 and 1.2 s, and Auto
Ratio: 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1
If you store Logic Pro Compressor Presets with these values,
The original SSL Bus compressor had switchable values for
you can quickly recall different 'SSL' settings. The SSL Bus
Attack, Release and Ratio settings. This functionality is not
available in Logic, but you can quickly recall different 'SSL'
compressor's Auto Release value is dependent on the audio
settings by storing presets with the appropriate values.
passing through it and, while the Logic Pro Compressor's Auto
setting seems to be affected by the lowfrequency content of the
audio, it doesn't behave the same as the SSL control, so you'll have to adjust the Release manually to suit.
Gain reduction starts at the selected ratio right at the threshold value on the SSL compressor, so set the Knee on Logic's
Compressor to 0.1 to simulate this effect. By using the above combinations of Attack, Release and Ratio and adjusting the
Threshold to suit, Logic Pro's Compressor can be used to get some of that famous 'glue' effect on drum buses or whole mixes.
Of course, there's nothing stopping you trying out other circuit types or adding some distortion. We can sometimes get too
hung up on 'big name' equipment when we're after a specific effect, but moving away from specific emulations might suit your
audio better.

Parallel Compression
A common trick in modern music production is bleeding off a little of a drum mix to an aux, processing it there with distortion
and some overthetop compression, then mixing a little of this back with the original. This technique allows you to maintain
the clarity of the drums while adding a bit of bite and aggression. Logic Pro's Compressor lets you do this without using auxes.
First insert a Compressor on the drum track and use that as a conventional compressor to give the drums a bit of glue and
weight. The SSL simulation described earlier is perfect for this task.
Next, insert another Compressor and click on the triangle to reveal the extra controls.
Set this one to have a high compression ratio and adjust the Attack and Release to taste: you may want to introduce
a deliberate pumping effect.
Blend this Compressor's effect into the track by using the Compressor's Output
Mix control.

Logic's Compressor allows you to

experiment with parallel compression
without having to use auxes. Here we
can see that two Compressors have
been used on the Drums track, one as
a conventional compressor, and the other
to add slightly more characterful
effects to the track.

Logic Pro's Circuit Types

These are based on the electronics that different compressor types use to perform gain reduction.
VCA: Uses a Voltage Controlled Amplifier. Known for their fast gainreduction abilities, examples include SSL's famous
bus compressor and the Dbx 160.
FET: Uses Field Effect Transistors. Compressors based on these designs have a 'valvey' sound, but are also capable of
pretty fast response times. Examples include the Universal Audio/UREI 1176.
Opto: Uses a lamp and photoresistor. By their nature, optical compressors react quite slowly to transients, which can be
a good thing in some cases! Examples include Teletronix's LA2A and the Joe Meek/Ted Fletcher designs.
Platinum: This is Logic Pro's original compressor 'model' and it can still be useful in some situations, as it has a fairly
transparent quality.


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Compressor Circuits

09/12/2014 08:06
ClassA_R & ClassA_U: Quite what these emulations are based on is anyone's guess, but the names suggest variable 'mu'
devices combined with Class-A amplification, similar to devices from Manley Labs. .
Published in SOS June 2011

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