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Home / Tutorials / Multi-band Compression: The Complete Producers ‘How To’ Guide

Multi-band Compression: The Complete Producers ‘How To’ Guide


To most new music producers, multi-band compression looks like a darkish artform


How is it totally different from EQ? How does it work in comparison with ‘regular’ compression? Can I exploit it to fatten up my bass?

All of those are nice questions, however most producers find yourself simply slapping it on their grasp, hoping for one of the best.

Clearly, that gained’t work, which is why we compiled this text that will help you perceive multiband compression as a complete.

You’ll study:

  • When to make use of multiband compression as a substitute of a traditional compressor
  • The controls you’ll discover on an ordinary multiband plugin/gadget
  • The technical aspect of multiband compressors and the way they work
  • Totally different use circumstances (leads, bass, drums and so forth.)
  • Why you shouldn’t all the time use one

Let’s dive in.

However first, want some assist understanding the fundamentals of compression?

The Fundamentals of Multiband Compression

So, what really is multiband compression?

Basically, multiband compression is the method of splitting the frequency band into 2 or extra bands and making use of various kinds of compression on every.

Multiband Compression Ableton Live
That is Ableton Stay’s Multiband Dynamics, making use of three various kinds of compression to every of the excessive, mid and low bands.

Consider it as combining an EQ with a compressor.

This lets you obtain extra nuanced compression since you may, for instance, compressor the high-end above 10kHz closely however go away the low finish extra subtly compressed.

However why would you need to do this?

Generally, a sound has what we name tonal inconsistencies. That’s, a slim or wide selection of frequencies could have plenty of dynamics in them, however the remainder of the sound doesn’t have as a lot variation.

Making use of a traditional compressor won’t resolve the problem, because the tonal inconsistency should still not be loud sufficient to set off the compressor as a complete.

As a substitute, think about you might take a slice of the frequency vary out and compress that as a separate supply. That is what multiband compression permits you to do, and that’s why it sounds so clear. You possibly can go away the remainder of the sound intact.

However why can’t you simply use EQ to show down that particular frequency vary?

Effectively, generally you possibly can, however whenever you flip one thing down, keep in mind it’s all the time turning it down by the identical quantity.

In different phrases, the adjustment is static.

Reductive Ableton Live EQ Eight Cuts in Drum and BassIf Band 5 on this EQ is popping 938Hz down by 7.31dB, it’s going to do this regardless of if the sound is quiet or loud.

So if the excessive finish has the occasional piercing sound, and also you go to unravel it with EQ, you’ll not solely be turning down the pierce, but additionally the excessive finish when there isn’t any pierce. Then, you might find yourself with a uninteresting steadiness general.

Multiband compression may resolve this by turning it down solely when it’s loud, and leaving in intact in any other case.

An analogy: think about you’re eager to placed on weight, and also you say that you just’re going to keep up a internet of 3000 energy a day.

This implies you propose on consuming 3600 energy, and burning 600 a day. However say you do some additional train and burn 1000 in a day.

Should you nonetheless plan on solely consuming 3600 energy, you’re not going to attain your aim – you want your weight loss plan to be dynamic relying in your train.

For this reason multiband compression is such a strong software.

Knobs, Dials & Multiband Workflow

So that you’re keen to begin utilizing multiband compression in your personal mixes. Nice!

FabFilter Pro-MB producers
Producers music

However you open up your plugin/inventory gadget of selection, and the interface has you feeling like:

Confused Man Maths

What do I begin with? What am I listening for? That is too laborious!

Chill out. Very first thing you must do whenever you encounter any tonal points is to make use of both EQ or compression first to attempt to resolve the problem, particularly in the event you already understand how they work.

In actual fact, 90% of combine issues like this may be solved with both of these instruments.

However in the event you’re nonetheless operating into points, now could be the time to tug out the multiband compressor. This fashion, in the event you’ve tried fixing it with EQ or compression, you’ll know:

  • the issue frequency areas
  • approximate compression settings to dial in

which is a head begin, as a result of a multiband compressor mixed these two units of controls into one interface.

Right here’s a short recap in the event you’re unfamiliar:


These are like broader EQ curves that permit you to course of a large or slim vary of frequencies. The bands are sometimes break up subsequent to one another, that means the curves are managed by a ‘crossover frequency’.

This crossover frequency might be managed in sure multiband compressors, permitting you to decide on each a selected frequency level and both a steep (e.g. 48dB/oct) or gradual (e.g. 12dB/oct) curve, relying in your wants.

Do not forget that gradual curves will sound extra pure but much less clear, whereas steep curves will sound exact but extra noticeable.

Should you’re unfamiliar with slopes, take a look at our EQ information.

Compression Settings

Upon getting a selected band that you just need to work on, most multiband compressors could have an ordinary set of settings you should utilize, maybe together with any of the next:

  • Ratio (the quantity of compression)
  • Threshold (when the compressor ought to begin participating)
  • Assault & Launch
  • Knee (a gradual improve of ratio because the sign will get louder)
  • Vary (scales the quantity and route of compression/growth)
  • Lookahead (latency allowed so the compressor can analyze the sign earlier than compressing)
  • Dry/Moist (quantity of processed vs authentic sign)

There will likely be a completely distinctive set of those controls for every band (besides dry/moist, which is generally common).

It’s additionally value noting that the majority multiband compressors aren’t going to paint the sound in the identical approach that an analog compressor would until the plugin specifies utilizing an analog-modelled algorithm, otherwise you’re utilizing a {hardware} multiband compressor.

If you’re unaware of those controls, take a look at our compression information.

The Course of

So now you perceive the fundamentals of a multiband compressor, so how have you learnt when to succeed in for one?

Effectively, like I’ve already mentioned, multiband dynamics processing is a really area of interest software, and needs to be solely strategy when completely obligatory.

Under I’ll record a wide range of totally different purposes.

Tonal Inconsistency Stability

That is whenever you’ve tried utilizing an EQ to repair some downside frequencies within the combine, however regular EQ simply isn’t reducing it.

Possible as a result of the content material of that frequency vary is especially dynamic, so a static band change doesn’t sound good until you automate the acquire, which is tedious.

More than likely, you’ll be working with some type of acoustic or natural sound/instrument in these circumstances, like an acoustic guitar or vocal, as these sound sources are inclined to have much more dynamics then synthesized/digital ones.

That is when you possibly can usher in a multiband compressor. The purpose right here is to make use of the minimal variety of bands to unravel the problem by concentrating on solely the precise frequency vary, and leaving every little thing else.

This leaves the audio intact whereas fixing the issue.

Right here’s a common step-by-step workflow strategy you possibly can attempt:

  1. Attempt to resolve the issue with EQ.
  2. If that doesn’t work, goal the identical frequency vary in your multiband compressor of selection.
  3. Use a ratio of 4:1 (give or take) and set the edge in order that the incoming audio triggers on the time of the inconsistency.
  4. Stability the assault and launch so it sound pure, relying on the fabric.
  5. Alter the ratio and threshold in some way to moreover make the adjustment extra clear (chances are you’ll need to ease again the ratio and improve the edge, or vice versa).
  6. A/B take a look at the sign to see if the issue is resolved. Use the dry/moist knob if the impact is simply too noticeable.

Basic Dynamic Management

Say you’re making an attempt to balance and glue your mix together to make it fatter and fuller, however the bass pumps approach too laborious whenever you use a traditional compressor.

That is the place multiband dynamics can save the day. As a substitute of making use of a one-size-fits-all compression resolution, you tailor it to every band. Now you possibly can management the mids and highs in another way to the lows, the place you could be a little bit extra relaxed.

For instance, high-end vitality can sound good when compressed rather a lot, however that compression wouldn’t sound too nice on the remainder of the combination. So you possibly can dial in a ratio of 10:1 on the 10kHz+ band, however dial in a extra refined 2:1 on the mids and a 4:1 to tighten up the bass.

Right here’s an instance workflow:

  1. Attempt to management your combine with a compressor (attempt a pair no less than to see how totally different compressors have an effect on the combination, together with an analog-modelled compressor).
  2. If the issue isn’t solved, take heed to the elements of the audio that undergo beneath regular compression.
    • Lows?
    • Mids?
    • Highs?
    • A specific vary?
  3. Begin processing the elements that aren’t affected as a lot by the compression first, with comparable settings.
  4. Work your approach down with much less excessive settings, making use of the suitable quantity to every band.
  5. A/B take a look at the sign to see if the issue is resolved. Use the dry/moist knob if the impact is simply too noticeable.

Bear in mind a golden rule with dynamic vary management – the mids is the place the music is, and compressing this vary an excessive amount of can result in an overly-squashed combine.

De-essing and De-popping

You’ve doubtless heard a few de-esser earlier than.

Effectively, basically a de-esser is a multiband compressor, however for a selected frequency vary and extra nuanced controls.

In actual fact, de-essing is definitely simply one other type of tonal inconsistency balancing on vocals specifically.

De-popping is an identical phenomenon however within the low-end of the spectrum.

You’re welcome to make use of a standard de-esser plugin or a common multiband compressor plugin to unravel these points, and you may comply with the identical course of as the primary workflow above, besides it’s unlikely that EQ will resolve an overly-sibilant vocal with out dulling the general recording.

Inventive Sound Design

Abusing a multiband compressor can yield some surprising but fascinating outcomes.

Take the OTT preset in Stay’s Multiband Dynamics. Clearly the purpose of this plugin is to not resolve refined combine issues, however to drastically alter the character of a sound, making it extra squashed and fats.

It is because multiband compression can alter the tone and dynamics of a sound on the identical time in a singular approach, permitting you to attain one thing you couldn’t have finished with EQ and compression alone.

Try our OTT tutorial for an instance.

There isn’t a set rule right here fo utilizing a multiband compressor on this approach, however you might attempt the next:

  • Mess around with presets
  • Use a number of situations
  • Crank the enter acquire up so that you compress the sound lots
  • Tweak random issues and see what occurs

The Finest Multiband Compressor Plugins

So that you need to buy/obtain a multiband compressor.

Perhaps you need to see in case your inventory plugin is any good compared to what’s on the market.

Both approach, right here’s an inventory of really useful plugins/VSTs you must take a look at.

  • FabFilter Professional-MB
  • Waves C4/C6 Multiband Compressor
  • UAD Precision Multiband
  • iZotope Ozone 9
  • Ableton Stay Multiband Dynamics
  • FL Studio Maximus
  • Logic Professional X Multipressor

FabFilter Professional-MB

This one is my private favorite, not solely as a result of the interface is really stunning, but additionally as a result of it’s insanely customisable and sounds nice.

FabFilter Pro-MB 3 Bands Multiband Compression

You possibly can create a band wherever by clicking the + icon on the interface, and any bands you add might be both fully separate or adjoining by dragging the crossover frequencies at both aspect of the band.

Past that, you possibly can a complete host of compression controls to dial in, together with the usual ratio, threshold, assault, launch and acquire, however you even have the vary management which lets you scale the quantity of acquire discount in a selected route. Very highly effective.

You even have the choice to make use of totally different part modes relying in your purpose, together with the ‘Dynamic Section’ mode which goals at retaining the dynamics in your channel as greatest as doable.

Waves C4/C6 Multiband Compressor

The Waves C4 and C6 plugins are a traditional and nonetheless a best choice amongst many producers for multiband compression purposes.

Waves C6 Multiband Compressor

Not like Professional-MB, this plugin(s) use Four pre-defined bands, with an adjustable crossover in between. Whereas this might sound much less versatile, it helps to restrict your choices and concentrate on what’s essential.

The one distinction between the C4 and C6 is the variety of bands allowed. Though the C4 will deal with most purposes, in case you have a very tough software, then the C6 can turn out to be useful as effectively.

The two additional bands on the C6 don’t comply with the identical crossover performance, and might be independently dialled in on a selected frequency vary, helpful for one thing like de-essing or de-popping.

Other than that, the bands have pretty normal controls: ratio, threshold, assault, launch and extra, in addition to international controls for setting the algorithm, knee and common compression strategy.

UAD Precision Multiband

UAD’s plugins are very often coveted by many producers due to their nice sound high quality and offboard processing via one in every of their UAD gadgets.

Precision Multiband is the multiband compressor of selection for UAD customers, and it’s a beast.

Whereas its interface appears a bit dated, it’s really laid out very effectively and is easy sufficient to grasp.

You’ve got as much as 5 bands of compression/growth/gating to make use of, which might be turned on and off, and use crossover performance as a substitute of impartial frequency settings, just like the Waves different.

The graphic interface within the centre exhibits all your curves, good points and thresholds, so that you gained’t get misplaced when dialling in some dynamic management.

iZotope Ozone 9

Not like the opposite plugins on this record, Ozone isn’t only a multiband dynamics unit – it’s an all-in-one mastering suite. However the multiband dynamics part is simply as succesful because the competing choices.

Whereas it solely has as much as Four bands (you should utilize it as a single compressor too), every band has a compressor, limiter and a gate on board, that will help you form your dynamics with as a lot management as you need.

You even have all the usual controls, plus the brand new adaptive launch mode, mid/aspect compression and the power to compress both the Peak, RMS or utilizing the Envelope mode. So that is extra than simply your normal multiband compressor.

Your DAW’s Native Multiband Compressor

Now we get into the inventory plugins. You may be tempted to disregard this part since you’ve simply seen a wide range of high-quality paid choices with fancy interfaces, however don’t be deceived.

Typically the inventory gadgets are seemed over as a result of their easy interfaces and lack of options, however more often than not, they’re all you want.

Word that not each DAW could have a inventory multiband compressor, however the most typical three do: Ableton Stay, Logic Professional X and FL Studio:

Ableton Stay Multiband Dynamics

It is a private favorite inventory multiband compressor of mine, as a result of in contrast to different multiband dynamics plugins, it combines each upwards and downwards compression, permitting you to tame your audio on each side.

Ableton Live OTT and Multiband Compression

You additionally get all the normal controls and a singular however useful interface within the centre, that permits you to see the acquire discount and sign degree being affected by each side of compression.

It’s additionally residence of the OTT preset, which the Xfer OTT plugin was designed to recreate, so you should utilize it not solely as a mixing software however as a sound design software.

One in every of my private favorite options is the ‘Time’ knob, which scales the assault and launch of all of the bands, permitting you to form a preset to any audio materials shortly.

FL Studio Maximus

Maximus is a beast of a plugin, with a terrific consumer interface and three bands of compression in addition to a grasp band designed for limiting.

FL Studio Maximus

The kicker with Maximus is which you can draw within the compression switch curve your self. So technically, you may as well use it as a multiband waveshaper too.

It additionally has a hell of plenty of controls – dry/moist combine, crossover management, assault and launch for every band, customisable show choices and even stereo width management. Loopy.

Logic Professional X Multipressor

So the interface right here would possibly look a bit complicated, however Multipressor is equally as highly effective as lots of the different choices talked about right here.

Logic Pro X Multipressor

For starters, every little thing is laid out on the display, so that you don’t need to go clicking any hidden tabs to find options – what you see is what you get.

You get Four bands of management with all the normal options for dynamic management – ratio, threshold, acquire, assault, launch and even a devoted growth part, permitting you to manage each side of the dynamic vary.

Beneficial: Music Manufacturing Software program Information

And That’s It

That needs to be sufficient to begin you off in the correct route.

As all the time, any questions – let me know.

Aden Russell


With 10 years of music manufacturing expertise and a few advertising and marketing chops, I head up the content material right here at EDMProd. I additionally make music beneath Artsea. My pastimes embrace studying, consuming espresso and taking photographs.

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