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by bud brenner


Program compression is meant to be a subtle effect, with an average gain reduction

only 2-3 dB, and usually with a gentle ratio/slope of 1.5:1 or 2.1. My Manley tube
compressor has only one ratio for compression and it is 1.5:1. The transient parts
of a signal can be reduced smoothly but it is the underlying constant level
signals that you might hear being turned down and back again by the attack and
release settings chosen.
Correct attack and release times will differ depending on the tempo and style of
material being compressed. If you have a very busy signal with lots of things
going on in the mix, there are many dynamic events that can trigger the threshold
and allow the
compressor to operate with faster settings, specifically the release settings.
it�s the constant level signals you have to worry about because their note values
are longer than the transients, and under a quick attack and release times with
more than 3 dB of gain reduction, they can be heard to decrease and increase in
level. This is the good old �Pumping & Breathing�. A good program compression
setting will have no such artifacts.

With slower tempo tunes such as ballads, we can assume that there may be less
events per second with even longer note values, and your compression settings,
specifically your release setting could/should be somewhat slower for this type of
material. This results in a smoother compression. Your attack times in all cases
should be set to taste as you are trying to smooth out less than perfect dynamic
performances by the musicians. Just remember that the faster the attack times, the
more compression you�ll be applying and more compression means that you�ll have to
look closely how these faster attack times affect the other settings on your
You may find that you have to raise the threshold setting or slow down the release
time if you use a faster attack time.
�For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction�. This first law of
physics is alive and well in your own compressor so experiment with different
settings using these guidelines to help you along.