Audio Compression. A Primer

One of the so-called “black arts” of audio is that of compression – what it is, how it works and when to use it.

We have all come across it at some time; for those with absolutely no knowledge of compression, you will have come across it via the myth that TV adverts always sound “louder” in the commercial break than the actual show.

Whilst it may sound louder, in actual fact, it is just the dynamic range that has been played with. Similarly, that bloke who seems to do the voice over for every new movie that is released has that BIG voice that grabs your attention.

Most good video editing packages will have some form of compressor available to modify sound tracks and certainly, every decent sound editing package or digital audio workstation (DAW) software will have.

As many know, I use Vegas Pro, and as this started life as an audio program, there is a very good and robust set of tools included for audio sweetening, including compressors.

Many if not most come with presets making life just that little bit easier for the beginner, but having as knowledge of what each of the basic controls of a compressor does will assist you in getting the best from them.

These basic controls are Threshold (also known as Input Gain), Ratio, Attack, Release and Output Gain.

It would be pointless to re-invent the wheel as there are many, many websites dedicated to this subject. If you have access to audio compression, I’d suggest having a play and seeing what sounds best and in what order you create the “chain” of effects to get the sound you want.

If you want more technical detail on compression and techniques, there is a very good explanatory blog at

And here is  a quick overview video using MAGIX Sound Forge.



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