It seems to me that there are many different compression types used in music production nowadays. However, I find one of them extremely useful. This is because it allows the audio signal to be processed and controlled in a number of bands rather that one band like in traditional compressor units. I am talking about Multiband Compression. This type of compression has proven to be very useful in popular electronic dance music genres like Dubstep, Trance, and D&B. In my opinion, multiband compression can be used in just about any music genre, if used properly.
Multiband Compression 101
To make a quick summary let’s say that multiband compressor is dividing the frequency spectrum into different sections, or bands so that each has its own unique compression settings. This allows longer attack time for the low band of that bass drum to punch through while keeping the shorter attack time in a higher band to keep the guitar in check.
What makes Multiband Compression so Special?
By using a multiband compressor, it is possible to closely tailor the compression for different elements in a mix. To put it simply, you can compress the recording more transparently than with a standard single-band compressor. In order to effectively compress the wide range of frequencies contained in a recording, different attack and release times would be required for different parts of the frequency spectrum. Multiband compression makes this possible.
Choose your Multiband Compressor Weapon of Choice!
Every once in a while I stumble upon some interesting plugin unit. One of them is without a doubt OTT by Xfer. Surely, It’s a multiband compressor unit with great characteristics and I believe that it sounds awesome. In addition to this, it is free for download.
The main part of it is the upward compression (the tough part to reproduce with a typical compressor) which is applying (up to 36 dB but not more) its gain to a quiet (below threshold) signal. This brings up quiet details (usually high frequencies otherwise unheard) while also providing the typical multiband compression duty of “ironing” (consistent lows/mids/highs).
In the following tutorial, I will not bother you with minor details. This is because I believe that it’s really important to experiment and use your ears when using this particular compressor. Accordingly, I will just make an A/B comparison. I advise you to use it gently on group tracks or on the master channel. Furthermore, you can crank it up a bit more on individual instruments that need to be more “in the face“ in your mix.
Without further delay, here is a hip-hop pattern that I have previously made in SoundBridge. It consists of drum elements accompanied by bass and Rhodes piano. Let’s first hear the drums group track without and with OTT.
~Drums Group track without OTT
~Drums Group Track with OTT
As you can clearly hear, there is a fair amount of difference between the two sound recordings. Comparing to the first example, the snare drum, percussion, and hi-hats are now more upfront. What’s more, reverb is more present and has more detail.
To conclude, let’s bypass OTT on the drums group channel and place it on the master channel. Now, let’s hear how it sounds without and after with the plugin.
~Master Channel Without OTT
~Master Channel With OTT
Download the patch here.