Parallel compression is one of those advanced techniques, similar to multi-band compression, side-chaining, etc. that sound like a magic bullet or secret ingredient to pro mixes.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
Let’s explore if this is true and when and how to actually use it.
Parallel compression is very powerful, but also dangerous (if not done correctly) and definitely not necessary.
It’s another tool at your disposal that some people swear by and others don’t use at all. Understanding it properly will help you make a decision about whether it fits your workflow and style or not.
So let’s talk about if, why and how we use it, what to watch out for and which tools we use.
Let’s also explore some other techniques you could try that didn’t work for us, but are being used by other mixers successfully.
This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.
Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.
TSRB Podcast 130 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: this is one of those things that people believe they have to use in order to get their mixes up to a certain level. And I just wanted to explore. If that is true so is parallel compression, something you really need to do. Can you get away without it? Like if you use it, how do you use it? When do you use it? hello and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedictine, and I'm here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flat. How are you? Malcolm?
Malcom: Hey, Benny. I'm great, man. How are you?
Benedikt: Great. Thank you so good to have you back. I'm gonna say it again. Last week was the. The first episode after the break, but this one is the second. Uh, but it still feels really, really good to, to see you again and to have you back and to be doing this again,
Malcom: Yeah. Back into the swing of things, making more podcasts for you. Lovely folks out there. It's good. It it's, it's kind of crazy. Like being away. I was still getting updates on the podcast and seeing people are listening and, and learning, and it's like, man, this is cool that we get to do this. So thank you, listeners. It is, uh, rewarding work, helping you all.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. And the pockets grew by the way. Um, pretty significantly I think. Or like, was it, I don't know, like significantly, but like. Unexpectedly because during the summer used to be a little slower. And now that you were away and kind of things slowed down a little bit, I was afraid that maybe our numbers drop or something, but it actually looks good. Um, it actually grew
Malcom: Oh, so
essentially I left and things did well. Okay. That's
Benedikt: That's not what I was trying to say, but the essentially yes, that's what happened.
Malcom: I'm getting the hint. I'm taking the hint.
Benedikt: no, it's, it's it's, it's so good. You you're back and with great things coming up too. So I'm, I'm, I'm all looking forward to that. Yeah. Um, I don't know anything else you wanna give me an update on? We we've. I feel like we've talked about it on the last episode, but you always, you always say something for later. So maybe there's a little story that you haven't told yet or anything like that.
Malcom: not this time, buddy. Sorry. I, I didn't, I didn't save anything for the, for this episode. Um, but I am excited to talk about this, this topic, cause I feel like it's relevant, um, to both, uh, the original mixes, unpacked volume we did. Which is a little mixing course walkthrough that Benny and I did recently. Um, but it's also, uh, this topic is in, in my volume too as well. I'm sure. To some extent. so yeah, fun topic that I am enjoying these days. So looking forward to this, this, this chat.
Benedikt: Totally. And I I'm, I'm very much looking forward to watching your videos in that volume two course. I haven't yet, to be honest, like you've sent it over months ago at this point, I think, or weeks ago, and I still haven't watched them, but I've listened to the song over and over again because I just think that song is so great. um, we had Chris Erickson on the podcast after you've interviewed them. the artist that you've been working with and that you walk people through the mix you did. And I, I think that song is just so B. In the way, like how it sounds unique and everything. And I, I don't know. There's something about the vibe of the whole thing that I just love. So I, I kept listening to this over and over again, and I'm curious to, to actually see what you did there, because I really enjoyed that.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. It, it, it's a great song. Um, yeah, if you haven't checked with that episode of the podcast, you should cuz there's some audio, uh, of the song in that episode, which is really cool. Thomas. You're a great podcast editor buddy. Thank you.
Benedikt: Yeah. Thank you, Thomas. Really? . Yeah. And, and, uh, if you wanna check out the song, the artist is called SC, right? Scuff, or like, how do you pronounce it? SC
Malcom: uh, SCO. Yep. You got it. S K O V period. And then, uh, the song is called dark ice.
Benedikt: Yes. All right. Yeah. And this, this episode is about something that you, I assume used in that mix and that I use all the time too, in my mix. And it's something it's, it's about parallel compression. So this is what this episode is gonna be about. And parallel compression is one of those advanced techniques similar to like multi-bank compression or side chain, things like that, that seem to always interest people. And that sound like some sort of magic bullet to people or secret ingredient to promix is this is one of those things that people believe they have to use in order to get their mixes up to a certain level. And I just wanted to explore. If that is true and when and how to actually use it in our opinion, if so is parallel compression, something you really need to do. Can you get away without it? Like if you use it, how do you use it? When do you use it? Because I think it's, again, similar to multi-bank compression, for example, that we've, we've been talking about in a, in a previous episode, it's a very powerful thing, but also dangerous if not done correctly and in my opinion, and we're gonna get to that. It's definitely not necessary. It's just another tool at your disposal that some people swear by and others don't use it. And, uh, I think understanding it properly and hearing us and hearing how we use it, for example, will help you make a decision about whether it fits your workflow and your style or not. So that's why I wanted to do this. Um, so let's talk about how and like if, how, and when and why we use it, what to watch out for which tools we use. And let's also explore some, some other techniques. you, you could try like parallel compression techniques. You could try that maybe didn't work for us or, um, or something, but they, but they might be used by other mixes successfully. So there are some things that I've tried, for example, that I saw other people do that just haven't worked for me, but I know that they work for other people. And let's, let's just talk about these things and explore what we actually do and why we do it.
Malcom: Yeah. Now I think first we gotta describe what parallel compression is just in case anybody's unclear. we are so lucky these days with the, the power of. Software and, and what every plugin includes for, parameters that we can control. more and more plugins nowadays. Now have a mix knob, it might say blend, it might say mix. and it sometimes I think even rarely it'll say parallel, but it it's really, it's a mixed knob and all it is is when you, you know, dial in a compressor, however, you would like. Grab that mix knob. And you can just pull back so that you're reintroducing the uncompress signal or keep it a hundred percent wet and it's entirely your compressed signal. So the process signal, um, so just like a, a mixed blend knob on any other plugin works the exact same. We're just introducing the unprocessed and the process element to whatever ratio of blend we w we think sounds right. So that's really, really all it is. Now what is probably the most common example of parallel compression being used for you? Benny? What, what do you think is like the, when people hear parallel compression, what do, what do you think they imagine?
Benedikt: I think drums. I think parallel drum compression. Like that's the first thing that comes to mind. And that's the first thing that I used it on, I think, and at the time I discovered it or I heard, I first heard about it. It was like, I don't know how many years ago, but it was when I was starting out and people refer to it as like New York compression, which is kind of a style, or I don't know if it, I don't actually know the origins of, of that. Exactly. But I could, it was something I assume people did in New York. I don't know. That might be a very stupid, uh, thing of me, but I, I don't really care. I just heard that term and that's what I, what I kind of tried first and I always, the way I understood it at the beginning was that it was typically compression is we've talked about that in another episode, but like Compression is, you turn down the loud, like simplified is, you turn down the loudest parts of a signal and then you bring the overall thing up to compensate. So that means the quieter things now are louder and everything is like denser in a way. And if you use parallel compression, you can leave the peaks unchanged basically and bring up the quiet stuff without affecting those peaks. It achieves a similar thing in the end, but you're doing it differently. You don't do it by turning the loud things down, you do it by mixing in more of the quiet things I feel like. That's how I thought about it in the beginning. And I found that concept to be interesting because it didn't mess with my drum transients as much. And it kept some of the original dynamics and the punch, but I could still get the density and the energy and the sustain and all of that out of the shells that I wanted by blending in the compressed version shell. So that was the first thing. I, uh, experimented with and that's, I assume is like the first thing that people think about when they think Al compression. I, I think, I mean, I might be wrong, but I, I always associated it with drums basically.
Malcom: I think you're right. I think, yeah. New York compression, I think you're right about that history. Um, that's what I seem to recall too, but nowadays you're more likely to see in a mixing session, something called like the crush bus or something like that. and, that is often a bus where things are being sent to, to be compressed heavily. In parallel to their, you know, other like, base tracks where, where the actual audio lives, where maybe that compression isn't happening. So the crush bus is off like where my brain goes. When I first hear. Parallel compression. The other one would maybe be vocals. You do hear parallel compression being sold as like again, a magic bullet, for vocal sounds and getting that in your face vocal sound, but not sounding overly compressed. That's kind of what is sold anyways. So that said you can use parallel compression on literally anything. Those are just kind of probably the two most common examples I hear. and last but not least, which is actually probably what I use it on the most is on mix bus or, or a Baine purposes as well.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. That, and that's, that's exactly the reason why I wanted to do this episode, because I wanted to hear what you do and, and mix bus or mastering compression. And parallel is one of those things that I always. Thought is great in theory, but never really worked for me. I've tried a lot of different ways of doing it and it all makes sense and I, I totally get how it works or how it's supposed to work, but for, for whatever reason, I just don't like it in my, on my masters or in my mix bus. So I never, I think I've never printed a single mix or master that has parallel compression on it on the final thing. I've experimented with it a lot, but I've never actually did it in the end. So I'm curious to hear how you do it and how it works for you. I mean, maybe I'm wrong there. Maybe I, I might have dialed it back, like a couple of percent on the wet, dry thing or which is parallel compression. I might have done that occasionally. but yeah, I, I don't know. I, I use it a lot on vocals. I use it a lot on drums. I use it on base to, but on the mix bus or on the master, very rarely. If, if at.
Malcom: Yeah. Well, now that's exactly why we're doing this episode, because what works for some, what works for most might not work for you? Um, which, which is fascinating. It's kind of unlike other things in that way. Just , It just, it simply doesn't work for me the way it works for other people, case in point being like that crush bus on a, on a drum kit, I have never come to a result that I've been happy with trying to make that happen, just ever
Benedikt: Yeah. That's something I do in every single mix. Yeah.
Malcom: yeah, like all of my favorite mixers do that every time and I just, I just am routinely not happy with it in in fact, the only time I ever use. parallel compression is using the mix knob on a plugin rather than through like the bus routing system, um, which is less flexible. Uh, I understand that in theory, that means that I'm not able to have as much flexibility as the separate bus method would. but it just works for me that way only
Benedikt: Yeah, it it's so interesting because I'm the exact opposite. Like I've I never used any mixed, dry knob on any plug. I always do it with a send and return configuration on a parallel bus. I just like to balance the two fades against each other. I like to send things to, I don't know. yeah, it's, it's actually the same thing, but for whatever reason, when I, whenever I try the, the wet, dry knob, I, I feel like I dunno what I'm doing. And when I send it to a different bus, I have full control and I like the result. It's weird. Like that it's
the exact opposite of what you
Malcom: it. Yeah. So I, I, I quickly want to touch on that those two methods to try and make the make sense on an audio podcast, which is kind of hard. I feel like this is easier visually, but yeah, I already described there's a mixed knob on most compressor plugins these days. so that's how I, I use parallel compression. The other option would be to say, like, take a snare track, duplicate it for a really basic form of it. Now you've got two identical tracks. Throw a compressor at a hundred percent wet on one of them. Now you've got parallel compression and you can just use the volume fades of those two tracks to create that mix instead of using a mix knob. now what that does to increase your power of, of inflexibility, uh, over using the mix knob on the plugin is that you could also do other things to that. That duplicate track, you could distort it. You could EQ it differently. You know, you've got the power to really change that parallel send rather than my method where it's like, just on the, on the one track is if I also EQ that it's, it's also, EQing my, my dry signal. Like it's, I'm kind of locked in, but for whatever reason, my brain likes it and I tend to get to my result quicker that way.
Benedikt: yeah, yeah. To totally. and I, I, I wish I could do that because it seems so straightforward and simple, and I don't, I wouldn't have to scroll to the other half of the, the mixer to get to my parallel bus, you know, and I. Could just work with that, with that one chain of inserts. Uh, but for some reason I can't that's, that's the thing and yeah, but, but like, whatever works for you, you know, works and. Let let's maybe talk about some specific examples so that people actually can, can get an idea of why we use it in the first place and how we, how we use it in specific, ways. And, and to, to, to achieve a specific result. Like when, for, let's start with the drums, like, how do you use peril, drum compression? Why do you use it? Why not just put a drum compressor on the track full on, like what, the reasoning
Malcom: Okay, this, this will also drive the, the people that do use parallel compression on their own bus. Crazy. But I actually use parallel compression pretty well only as like a global thing. Um, so it, I throw it on my drum bus, like where all of my drums are going symbols included, which is you usually where like the New York method doesn't do that. You're normally sending just shells to it, avoiding symbols, like crazy.
Benedikt: Makes me wonder why I like your drum so much, because everything you do is kind of the opposite of what I do. But when I listen to a song like the song, I it's mainly the drums that I really like a lot. And now I like now I hear you talk about how you do actually do it. It doesn't make sense, you know, so,
Malcom: um, yeah, no, I, I can't remember if I did. The, the drum parallel compression on that song or not, but, uh, but yeah, generally, like, and it's, it's the same for, for when I like, like I said, I use it on the mixer master bus and it's the same, you know, that's a global spot. it like, I, I'm more likely to use it on an entire instrument group rather than an individual instrument for whatever reason. and, uh, yeah, so, so for drums, I like to use it. It's like it's really, uh, a glue machine for me. Um, so I can do crazy things, like have like a, a really slow release and a fast attack, which really is not transparent at all. But by having that, I can use the mix knob to kind of hide that, have done that and get the best of both worlds. That's kind of like one example of how I would use it on drums is like this really. Compress signal being mixed in with uncompress signal essentially, but across the whole kit, I find that seems to work on like an energy standpoint for me. cuz I actually like symbols pumping and stuff like that. if that, if the song calls for that, of course.
Benedikt: Yes, for sure. For sure. It's, uh, it's a rather bold thing to do sometimes, but it's like, it's totally the right thing to do. yeah. And it's, it has to be intentional, but it can definitely give an energy, to the whole thing that I, yeah, and some, I mean, sometimes you can achieve that by just doing it to the rooms. Maybe if they have symbols on them and leaving the overheads. Um, more clean or uncompressed, but you can totally do that by compressing the whole rum kit. And yeah, I think that's a perfect example of why parallel compression is actually useful because if you do that without using the wet, dry op or different bus, to achieve the vibe you want, you will probably overdo it with the symbols and the pumping and with the, the, the blend, you can get the best of both worlds. You can get just, you know, the, the energy and the amount, the amount of compression that you want, but then dial it back so that it. You don't overdo it basically, which yeah. You can really only do by blending the two, I think.
Malcom: Yeah. I should add, that I probably spent like, Until recent years without doing like any parallel compression, I would do it like a couple times a year. And, and I, you know, I'm still happy with my work back then, too. Um, so, so that kind of goes back to saying like this it's not a must have thing. It's just helping me get where I want quicker. And actually I would say more successfully. I think I'm, I'm more happy with my drum sounds these days. Like they, they're getting more energy than. The more of the energy that I was looking for, previously, but I, I don't think that's because of parallel compression. I think it's just the tool that is helping me get there.
Benedikt: Okay. Yeah. question, if I understood correctly, You said long attack, short release? sometimes yeah. Sometimes. Yeah, obviously. so I'm just, that's interesting to me or like I kind of, yeah, it always changes for me. And I was just interested in, in how you think about that and what you do, because sometimes I feel like doing that is exactly the right thing. If I wanna add more punch and more attack and more transient. To my drums. Then I do that. I, I keep the attack long, the release short, which is pretty aggressive, which makes it more punchy, which that's the transients through. And then if I blend that, um, it adds even more power and makes the drums sound harder in a way. And it also pumps and all of that. But with some drums, it makes them sound like too pokey or too, I don't know that the transients just get too much and it kind of sounds thin and not fat enough again. And if that's the. I might do the opposite. I might do use a very, very quick attack and completely kill the transients. And the, the release is still fast. In most cases, it's mainly the attack that I'm changing. And then I, if I blend that in, um, I don't get more of the transients. I get a wider fatter sounding, um, shell sound that doesn't put more emphasis on the transients, but makes the add sustain, or like length to the shells and makes it less pokey in a way and more, you know, I don't know how I should say that. You probably know what I mean. So I, I kind of do these two things. If I think they need to, to jump out the speakers more, I keep the attack longer. And if I think they jump out too much and I want more length to them and I want them sound to sound fatter or like, I don't know any bigger in a way, um, without additional attack, then I keep the attack shorter and blend that really squashed, flat sounding thing with the drums. Um, so did you do that too, or is it sort of a,
Malcom: Yeah, no, it, it, I almost wish I hadn't given an example because like, honestly, my brain just goes to whatever I did most recently, but it, it it's, it's always changing it. Like the, the attack and release are, especially for if like, if I'm using parallel compression, it's it means I'm using a lot of compression on that, that plugin. like it, it it's, it's probably slamming and then I'm dialing it back quite a bit to hide that . Um, so, but because it's being used so aggressively, it means that I have to, you know, audition those settings and, and, and, and choose what actually works. Um, you can't just slam something arbitrarily and assume it's gonna work on
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. I think the essential thing here for people to understand is that most of the time when we use parallel compression, we do it because we can use more compression without causing a lot of damage. So we, we often completely overdo it on the compressor and then dial it back or just blend in a little bit of that, depending on, on whether you do the mix, um, the wet, dry. Blend thing, or if you do it on a, on a different bus, but we are kind of abusing the compressor and doing a lot of it and then only use a little bit of it in the mix. That's what we typically do. So there's, to me, at least there's not much like, it doesn't make much sense to be careful with the compression and then use it in parallel because in those cases I can just use it without parallel and it just works. I only use parallel if I wanna kind go kind of crazy on the compressor and then, but. But as soon as I achieve the sound I'm going for, it's too much compression and then I have to dial it back. That's how I think about it. Um, and if I can get away with just a bit of compression, then I don't do it in parallel at all. I just throw it on.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Cause you might as well just dial it back. So it's not working so heavy. Um, but, but when you push these things, sometimes they have a bit of a sound and you're, you're affecting more of the, the audio than just the peaks at that point. Right. So it changes more. It it's a different sound.
Benedikt: Yeah. Specific use cases again. Uh, so we had make drum sound, as if the drummer hit harder or more energetic in a way that you can do that by adding, like making the, the transient sound, even harder, making the drums pump more and blending that in. You can do, um, if there is like a. if the transients are enough, but you feel like there's not a consistent enough, like sort of energy, it's not dense enough. You need more length to, to the shells or whatever. You can do the opposite. You can kill the transients on the parallel compression and then just blend that super squashed, noisy thing in basically which, which leaves the, the peaks as they are, but adds more density of the whole thing. Um, for other instruments, another use case for me would be, let's say you have a bass guitar. That's something I, that, um, happens often in my mixes where I feel. The player had some like original dynamics in there that I think are really cool the way that he, he or she pluck the, the strings or something in the playing like nuances, subtleties that I want to keep as they are, because they're really great, but I still need the base to be more consistent in order for it to sit better in the mix. And if I then do what I typically do first, which is compress the base really hard, Sometimes I, I end up losing all these nuances and details and they're not quite as cool as they were in the beginning. And the workaround for me is to use parallel compression because then um, I sent up the base to a second bus, basically a copy of it. and then I compress that really hard and I completely kill it basically with a, with a limiter or compression or both. But I also have an uncompressed version of the base. And then I blend in the super compressed version, which gives me all the consistency and the solid low end and the density. But because I still have the uncompressed version. the top of the peaks basically is still exactly the same as it was before. And I still get the nuances and the playing while having that consistent base performance and that low end. So, and, and I can really only achieve that with parallel compression, if, if that makes sense. that's a use case for me that I, where I love this, where I can have all the consistency that I want, but still . Keep whatever the player did in their performance.
Malcom: Yeah. And a similar argument could be made for vocals. Um, it was keeping like that, human sounding consonance and stuff like that.
Benedikt: And the breathing And some of these mouth sounds and that stuff stays the same. Yeah.
Malcom: yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. And as per your base move there, that's something I've actually stolen from you. Benny hearing you talk about it previously and, and tried it recently and it's like, oh yeah, this. AC accomplishing some more human elements, like cuz I, I, I need my base locked in. I'm obsessive about it, but keeping some of that when, when it's needed is like very helpful. So it's, it's a great move.
Benedikt: Yeah, because sometimes, especially like in, in the genres that I often work in, in like punk rock or yeah, in pin punk rock it's very often the case where bass players would, they would play along with the guitars for a while. And it's like just providing the low end. But then all of a sudden there's these little bass runs or licks a little fills on the bass that are super important to their genre or two what the band wants. And sometimes the bass players would be. They would just become a little bit louder on those runs or they hit a little harder and it just jumps out a little bit, which is great. And if I compress the base really hard, I kind of kill these moments and I have to automate them back in, which is okay. But like, sometimes it's just better to keep them because they're actually perfect. And I can keep those moments and this, this little like explosiveness or like these little fills and runs that they play so carefully, I can keep those and still make the bass sit very well and well, and compress it a lot. So that's, that's kind of why I started using this because I always got notes from bands and I noticed it myself too. Everything sits great. But for whatever reason, now, this little fill or lick just doesn't jump as much anymore. And, and we need to, to, we need this to pop more. So I, I tried to come up with a way of like keeping it as, as it is, but still making it sit well.
Malcom: Yeah. Um, so you don't do parallel compression on your mix bus,
Benedikt: No, so tell me more about that. What do you do there?
Malcom: all right. It is kind of, uh, it's the same. It lets me go ham without going noticeably ham , which means that like I can, if I want to really. Clamp down on, on the mix. Um, and this is something I find on mastering work for other people, especially is where some, some mix engineers are maybe afraid to compressor mix, or maybe pull off too much when they send it back to me. And it sounds nothing like their reference master they had anymore. and I, I have to get it back. There is I can go and use parallel compression to really like. Go after the drums, for example, or, um, just as likely, it's actually about getting that vocal to lock him. and I find that using parallel compression, I can do that and then sneak transients back in essentially. Um, and, and have. Kind of saved the, the movement of this mix without changing the, the tone of like transient feel too much. cuz you don't want to told the Al alter the song, but like if there's a problem, like if that vocal is isn't sitting there and it's getting quiet at not too quiet at certain times, like you've gotta fix that. Um, or if the, the, the drum is just occasionally getting like way too loud, you know, it's gotta be locked in. So this is kind of like the only way I've been able to. Fix that. Um, and I, I would say it kind of is a fixed thing. It's like, this is, is a problem with the mix. Can we fix it? Um, and that parallel compression's probably gonna be the way to, to get it.
Benedikt: Interesting. I never thought, yeah, that that's, that's probably because I don't do as much mastering for other people. I do it, but not, probably not as much as you do. I, most of my mastering is like mastering my own mixes these days. So I rarely have to really problem solve in mastering that like that. I just can, I can just go back to the mix.
Malcom: Yep. Totally.
Benedikt: So that might be part of it. And also part of it is, I don't know. I, I tend to be pretty subtle in mastering or pretty. I try to be pretty transparent. Of course I do whatever's necessary, but I feel. I don't know what I would, why I would want to go kind of crazy on a compressor and mastering and then dial it back. I just don't feel the need to very often. I wouldn't know what I wanted to achieve because the results would always be like too drastic in a way. So that's probably why I don't do it, but sometimes it would be cool. And I'm just probably not bold enough to do it. I don't know. It's that might be part of it. I just I'm so subtle that I don't know, like what I could dial back because I'm doing just or two anyways, you know, most of the
Malcom: well, like, honestly, even if There has been instances was probably sound surprising where I've gone, like ratio 10 fast attack, fast release. So it's like, this is an aggressive sounding pressor and then had the blend on like 10 or 15%. So like, it's really barely there. But all of that stuff that is getting fed in is like really locked in and, and that can just be like the consistency add you need where, so it seems like an extreme move, but it's really actually transparent. Um, so. I find with the mastering chain stuff, a little goes a long way, but you might have to. Start by doing a lot. to get that, like, get that content you need, that you can actually add it in. and then the only exception being for like my own mixes and stuff would be that I, um, sometimes using it pretty heavily on the mix bus pre vocals, I will say I've got my pre vocal, instrumental stem there, and will use the compressor to generate a lot of pump there. Um, and then dial back the, the parallel knob just to again, give the transient life back.
Benedikt: yeah, yeah. For sure. that makes sense. I'm just thinking the only plugin I've actually used parallel compression a couple of times on masters or the mix bus. but that, that was just with a blend too, with a, with the mixed up too, the only plugin where I found. Where I just liked the sound of it. And it was just a little too much for me. And I just had to figure I had to dial it back. Um, that was, that is actually something I, I really love is that there's a, um, a manly, very mu emulation, by pulsar is the comp company. Pulsar mu is the plugin. I think it's, it's the best to me. It's the best, um, very mu plugin compressor out there. And I just love that thing. and. That thing is great on individual, channels too. And, but it's also great in mastering or on the mixed bus, but I always feel like it's doing. Kind of a lot if I get it, like when I, as soon as I get it to the point where I, I love what it's doing, it's already doing a little too much. And so it can use it more subtle, but then it just kind of, it's not enough. And when I get it to the point where I like the vibe of it and the, the box tone, the coloration that it gives me all of that. It's more about that than the actual compression. At this point, I feel like it's doing a little too much in terms of pumping and compression. So, and then I just dial it back a little bit and I can, yeah. And that lets me, lets me use it basically. so I actually did do that, but I, again, I didn't go really crazy on that compressor. It's just, yeah, just dialing it back a little bit. But with that one, it really works.
Malcom: You know, that that's worth mentioning here for, for people trying to figure out when and why to use it. If you're dialing in a compressor and you're like, oh, it's just too grabby. And you keep trying to, you know, dial a threshold back a little bit. So it's not so grabby, but then it's not doing what you need. The answer often is, is just going back to right where it becomes too grabby and then blend using the mixed knob just a little bit back instead of dialing the threshold back. Cause like, It's slightly different, what that equals. so, so that, that can just be the move sometimes. It's just like, oh, just 10% back on that. During this conversation, I've been realizing that I use parallel processing all the time now, you know, like distortion, like I, I never use decapitated without the blend knob being used pretty well. and, and, uh, sooth spiff, these like, like ultra intelligent, plugins. I'm always using the blend kn on those, uh, yeah. Oh, no. Okay. Yeah. The experiment experiment, man. Sometimes you can push it really hard and then blend it back and it just works better.
Benedikt: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, don't do that. I do it with saturation time. You right? Decapitated stuff like that all the time. Um, soothe, never really, I guess I'm just afraid I need to be, I need to make more bold decisions sometimes. I think with those things, I just, in case the th soothe, I was always afraid. I was. Getting some sort of phase issues or something. If I use it in parallel, I just kind of, whenever I don't fully understand what is going on or how they deal with those issues, that I'm kind of afraid of. I, I tend to not try it. but yeah, it probably works so otherwise they wouldn't have it on the, on the plugin. It just, my brain immediately goes to, okay, this is an, the queue. It's pretty like it's pretty narrow filters. So using that in peril is probably gonna give me phase issues. So I don't fully trust it.
Malcom: Yep. I it's, again, it's just, I find that like, say you're notching out whistles with soothes on a guitar. If you turn the depth down. So it's making shallower cuts that does equal something different than using the mix knob. I, I don't really know what that difference is, but it is different. Um, so it's just whatever sounds
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. that, that's actually a point that we should talk about real quick that I wanted to bring up in this episode is when parallel compression, uh, or parallel processing in general, but like, let's keep it to parallel compression for now. Like when can that actually be dangerous because for now to up until now, like, it sounds like it's actually a safe thing because you're dialing back whenever it's too much and you can blend in as much as you need and you can't, it sounds like you can't really do any damage. But I think we should talk about that about those occasions, where it can be dangerous. And I think it has mainly to do with the fact that it's parallel, which means same as with like using multiple mics on one single source. You always have to be careful with face and, uh, or, and, or latency issues depending on the, do you use and stuff like that. So You have to be aware of the fact that whenever you use parallel processing, you're using one track and then a copy of that track and both run together at the same time. And you do processing to one and not to the other. So you're changing one. It's still pretty similar to the unprocessed one, but it's slightly different, which means, as long as you're just changing the amplitude like the transients and the sustain and all of that, it shouldn't cause any problems when it comes to phase. But if you change the frequency content or the timing of it, then you can run into phase issues. So long story short, if it's just a compressor and you have latency compensation, nothing bad should happen. If that compressor has some sort ofq curve built into it, or a filter that you use, Which many do. yeah. Or a filter that you use, or if you EQ the parallel chain, if you say you'd use a parallel compressor, and then after that you insert an EQ and you shape. Compressed sound and then you blend it in. You can run into very, very weird things and you might not know that you are having these issues, but it might end up sounding really strange. So, that's something you keep, you need to be aware of. And a lot of people, obviously aren't aware of that because I hear some results that sound really crazy. Sometimes you can, you can completely eliminate the, the entire low end of your drums. For example, if you're not careful with that sort of thing, um,
Malcom: Totally totally. that is actually one reason why I think I do default to using the blend knob on the plugin is cuz it's on the one track. It kind of like saves me from, from this problem. I don't have a duplicate track that can get all outta whack with delay, conversation and stuff. It's just the one.
Um, so for
Benedikt: But still if using something like decapitated, that's not compression, but I'm just saying it just because you mentioned it, decapitated has two filters on it, a low cut and a high cut filter, and then the QOB in the center. So if you use those and then you use the wet dry, you could still completely mess up, um,
Malcom: Absolutely. Yes, yes. Yeah. It's not rule proof. It's just safer.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Malcom: Um, and, uh, and you know, now we're like saying, oh, like, if, if there's an EQ circuit built into your 1176, it could do this. Um, and, and it would, that doesn't mean it's bad. It might be totally acceptable, whatever that changes. It might even be an improvement. but it also could be bad. So it's like you really have to be using your ears at every step of the process.
Benedikt: Yes exactly. I mean, some people even use parallel EQ, which is very risky and you had know what you, what you do, but you can do it. And, um, so there's no right or wrong. You just have to be aware of it. You have to be aware of what happens and that you, whenever you change. Thing. And you blend it with, with, with its original version, there is a chance of some cancellation or some frequencies adding up or, you know, canceling and all that. And you just need to know that this could possibly happen and you need to check if you like the results or not. And if you don't like it, as long as you're. You're aware of what could have cost it, you can fix it. And that's really all you need to know, but you need to be aware of that because otherwise you're trying parallel compression. You're wondering why it all of a sudden you don't have no low end anymore, or why your symbols now sound like an MP3
Malcom: Right. Exactly. Yeah. so yeah, uh, I think, uh, another warning to why maybe you shouldn't jump straight to parallel compression is just that it is, it's a slow process. Especially, you have to build the routing by scratch every time, if you don't have a template kind of thing. And anything that takes you that far out of like the, the flow zone is kind of bad news. I think, it it's just like now you're thinking like, okay, I gotta make sure this is routed here. Is this all delay compensated? Is it all yada yada. You've lost so much momentum by that time. and, and that's just gonna lead to stupid decisions. it, it also leads to overanalyzing. So if you've made like this pump snare bus, now you're just so focused on your snare which you should never be that focused on your snare, even though we all love to. like it, there's this whole mindset thing where you have to be careful, um, where you're not just doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff, because you saw it on.
Malcom: I, I think that's really important. and like we've said, great mixes have been made with without parallel compression. This isn't a mandatory thing.
Benedikt: a hundred percent. I don't remember who it exactly was, but I just read an interview. I have to look it up. I put it in the show notes eventually, but I, I just read an interview with like an A-list mixer, like a really big mixer item. I don't know who it was. And he said he never, ever uses parallel compression. Never. It's just another thing he does. He doesn't say it doesn't work, but just, he doesn't need it and he doesn't use it, period. doesn't even think about it. So, definitely you don't have to use it. quick example of how we can actually. Be how, how I can slow you down and like, just let Malcolm Malcolm said and how I can make you overthink things and make, and, uh, how I can. Lead to, to bad to make you bad decisions. So in my example, in my, when I discovered parallel compression, I kind of got obsessed with it and I wanted to know everything about it. I wanted to use it and experiment with it, which is cool. But what I did in the beginning was I set up different ways of using drum parallel compression, as we talked about. And I tried it by just putting a plug in on the drum bus, which is pretty easy and straightforward and quick. Then I tried to, to send the whole drums to a bus and use it that way without the, the wet, dry thing, but on a separate bus. And then I started experimenting with just sending shells to my drum crush bus as Malcolm described, but sending the overheads to the drum bus and not to the compression, for example. And that's where I started getting into trouble. I'd still do that now, but now I know what I'm doing, but that's where I got into trouble because what I, what I did. And that's just to, to show you what it can lead to and how it can like mess up your workflow and everything. So I, I created this drum crush bus with a compressor on it, and I send my kick and my snare and my Toms to that, but not my symbol mics, my overheads and stuff like that. And sometimes I would send the, the rooms to it and sometimes not so far so good. I like the results I blended to taste. I smashed those shells. I blended it with everything and I loved it. And the symbols were still not pumping and always good. But then. I always had to actively remember that I actually did this because what happened. At some point in the mix. I thought I have to turn up the snare a little bit. Like I wanted to push the snare two DB or so, and I pushed up the snare fader, but then not only did the snare get louder, it also got more compressed because by pushing up the snare fade, I also sent more into my drum crush bus, and I forgot about that, that I had set up this way because it was a post fatter send or I just thought, okay, now the kick drum's too loud. Let's turn that down a bit. So I turned it down, but it not only got quieter. It also got inconsistent all of a sudden, because the compression was lacking. And, you know, every balanced decision led to a different sound and it kind of drove me nuts because I always, I, I, I thought I, I just wanna make the snare quieter or louder, but every time I do that, everything changes. And, uh, always having to remember that and then readjusting the send, and then readjusting the compressor and then do the balancing move again. was just, yeah, it was just not a good way to work. And now I, I kinda it's part of my workflow and I kinda learned that, but for a while, this really got me into trouble and made mixing much more tedious than it should be.
Malcom: Yes. So this is called cascading is when effects affects, trickle down and affect other things in your mix. And, uh, it, it goes both ways. Like if you mix into a limit or too hard, now you can't like you try lowering your vocal and it doesn't get any quieter. Cause it's so pushed into it. Like that's the opposite side of this, right? Um, you're kind of mixing inside of a box and both sides of those box are able to get ya. and. Yeah. So like, this is gonna sound crazy for a guy that like regularly has 150 tracks in his mixing session, but every track is my enemy. If I can get rid of a track, I'm deleting it or hiding it, like, don't need this high hat mic. It's gone. Don't need this bottom snare. It's gone. Like, whatever I don't need in there is just eliminated from the equation and the less tracks I have on my mix, the quicker it becomes a finish mix. Easily. Um, and, and so adding like three sets of, and like, again, one of my favorite mixers, he has like a, like a tube bus where it's like, just like a parallel bus of like tube sounding saturation. His pump bus is like, you know, like, uh, like he's got all of these different blends and stuff and I'm like, I couldn't handle it, but it works for you. So that's great. But, I think if you're just getting started. This is doing probably not doing you any favors. Um, try, like, if you want your snare to sound a certain way, try and just make it sound that way with the snare you have first. And then if you need to, you can go into the parallel universe.
Benedikt: Yes, absolutely. Try it with just compression and only if you can get, if you can't get it, right that way, then do it and Just like you said, Malcolm, don't go and copy the most complex setup that you've seen on YouTube. Start with that, but just start by putting one compressor on your mix, Ord drum bus, or whatever, and just experiment with the wet dry there. Start by doing that. And if that doesn't get you the results, then I don't know, apply it to something else or just send individual stuff to it, maybe. But don't start with the most, uh, what I just described, don't start with the complex setup of sending individual things to something and then blending it back with something else. Don't do that. Just use one compressor on a group of things and experiment with the wet. That's the first thing I would do. And, and even before that, just try to make it work without parallel at all. And only if you reach the limit there sort of, or you wanna experiment and see the difference than experiment, but don't be before you've ever tried it. I wouldn't, I wouldn't try and implement the most complex setup into my, my template or something. That's just not the way to go.
Malcom: agreed. Now all it said. Absolutely. You just listen to this. You're you're all curious. Go, go experiment, go see what happens when you try this stuff. but, uh, this is, uh, yeah, I guess this, this episode is equal parts. Like, Hey, this is a cool tool. Um, experiment, learn. See if you like it, see which type of use you like, like Benny and I are pretty much polar opposites on how we use it, which is fascinating.
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and, and kind of similar too, in a way that, like how we use it, but the why we use it and what we do with it is actually pretty similar. It's
Malcom: yeah, absolutely. Totally, which is, is again fascinating. Um, but it's also like a, a warning of like, don't get hung up on this. don't let it get in the way of what really matters, and, and keep it simple, stupid.
Benedikt: uh, totally, absolutely. This is, this might be one of those topics. for some of you, um, this, this is a very helpful episode. I hope. And for others it might feel pretty overwhelming or like too complex. this might be one of those things where. You feel like you have to ask some questions, you need, you need some answers to questions you have or problems you, you encounter with that or things you don't really understand that even have to listening to this episode. So if that is you, you can go to the self recording, ben.com/call and just book a call with me. And you can hang out with me for an hour and ask me all the things you wanna ask about parallel compression. And I can hopefully explain it to you in a way that makes sensor or that helps you solve your specific problems with that. So I think these more complex things are good topics to, for, for a quick chat, because then I, I can hopefully make that a lot, a lot easier for you. Um, so if you wanna do that, go to the start recording ben.com/call, sent me a mix that I can listen to. I will give you feedback and I can tell you if per processing is your problem or maybe not, or if you've, you know, made a mistake, if there's, I don't know, you just send it over. Hang out with me for an hour. Let's talk about that. And, uh, I, I'm pretty sure you won't have any questions about that after that, so.
Malcom: Yeah, do it. That's a great idea.
Malcom: That was a fun chat man.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Totally. All right. let's see you next week and, uh, yeah, have a good, have a good time until then.
Benedikt: Bye. Bye Thank you for listening.
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