Reply To: Aux Monitor Mix Advice Needed

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Hi Joe, thanks, that’s nice to hear.

The make up gain is not really part of the actual compression process, even though it is in the compressor “processing object”. It’s just a fixed (but user adjustable) gain adjustment. Normally you’d use it as you have, to replace the signal level lost at the compressor so the same sort of average loudness is maintained even though the dynamics have been compressed. In some genres you might have a snare drum doing 10dB of compression on every hit because it sounds good, but you don’t actually want it to get 10dB quieter when you turn the compressor on.

Generally, I’ve used compressors primarily on the vocals and I’ve made a habit of setting the gain reduction at no more than about -6dB and then simply set the make-up gain at +6dB

As it is now, when your vocal is below the threshold it is 6dB louder than it would be without the compressor (0 reduction +6dB make up). When you sing loud enough to hit 6dB of reduction your vocal is the same level as it would have been without the compressor (-6dB reduction +6dB make up). If you get up close and shout into your mic it might hit 12dB of reduction, it this case your vocal is 6dB quieter than without the compressor (-12dB reduction +6dB make up). The point is that the make up gain is independent and can be arbitrary.

The make up gain basically does do the same thing as raising the fader, it’s just nice to have have it in the compressor so you can maintain loudness while reducing dynamics and do it all in one “device”. Some EQ’s also have level controls for the same reason, you want to make a tonal change but you don’t necessarily want to change the overall signal level so there’s a gain adjustment to compensate for the gain change of the EQ.

One occasion where the compressor make up gain might really come in handy is if you were working with a very dynamic input signal like maybe a stand-up comedian who talks quietly and then suddenly shouts. You need to leave enough headroom at the preamp to accommodate the shouting, but this means that the talking is really quiet even with the fader all the way up. Say at the input to the compressor the whispering is coming in at -10 and the shouting is +15. You set the threshold to 0dB with a 10:1 ratio and now the loudest sound at the output of the compressor is only +1.5dB (assuming zero attack time). This means that you could apply up to 16.5dB of make up gain without clipping anything in the desk, which is plenty to make the whispering audible. If you’d applied that gain at the preamp the shouting would have clipped by 13.5 dB. Now you’d wouldn’t really use all 16.5dB of gain, but it illustrates the point.

I’ll get back to you later on the dynamics in IEMS thing 🙂