Compress to impress At a live event, the difference between the loudest sound and the quietest sound is often huge. That’s partly because live events tend to be louder than you would want the volume in your own home. Also, if you’re listening to music in your kitchen, or your car, you need to music to cut through any background noise without suddenly getting really loud. The difference between the loudest sound and the quietest sound on a recording is called ‘dynamic range’. We need to control that range quite a bit if the vocals are to stay on top of the mix. The following video shows how the vocals, and Hugo’s vocal beat box sounds, sit together more effectively when compression is applied. The multitrack is looped, so you can go back to the start and compare the changes as often as you like. My ‘Swiss Army Knife’ compressor is a Waves plug-in emulation of the dbx160 that almost every studio in the 1980s used by the rack-full. Waves have some of their products in sale most of the time, so if you get on their email list, the dbx160 will come round at a really cheap price within a few month The 160 doesn’t have a lot of controls, and it’s really easy to get good results. That said, most plug-in compressors that come with DAWs are pretty decent, if you take the time to learn how to use them. Once you get settings that work for you, saving them as presets means you don’t have to get diverted from your mix next time round.