Compress it NYC Style – New dynamics with Parallel Compression

Hi guys, it’s Andre.

Today I’m going to share a certain kind of compression technique which some is also called ‘Motown Trick’ or ‘New York Compression’, which enables you to get dynamic signals under control without getting loose of the original punch and natural dynamic — also called Parallel Compression.

Parallel Compression is the combination of heavy compression and no compression to get the best of both the compressed and uncompressed signal. Especially signals with a lot of dynamics like drum tracks or VO are great examples to try out this technique. Check below how it works and try it on your own.

Parallel Compression

Above you can see a simple setup demonstrating parallel compression. At the top you can see an uncompressed drum mix as one file. The outgoing signal is sent to an Aux track including a compressor (duplicating the track and inserting a compressor also works). The outgoing signal is compressed pretty heavy on purpose.

The compressor on a pretty high threshold (about 40-60db) and the ratio is around 2:1 or 4:1 (for more crunch, set up the ratio around 10:1). The attack is set up as fast as possible (don’t worry about  losing the some punch with this settings, it’s all part of the plan). The release is set up to a high value around 500 – 800ms. Bring back the volume with the gain.

The outgoing and heavy compressed signal sounds pretty strange, when you listen to it solo, so pull down the fader. Now, it’s time to listen to the original and uncompressed signal and slightly add the heavy compressed signal to it (in my setup above, I’m doing this by sending the original signal and the compressed signal on an Aux track to a second Aux track and mixing them). You’ll soon hear a difference. The signal will sound more controlled and compressed, without losing its original dynamics and punch. Depending on the kind of compressor and settings, the mixed signal will get its own sound. Experimenting with various compressors (especially emulations of vintage hardware) and playing around with the settings will create a very own characteristic of the sound.

One problem of traditional compression is getting the signal under control without losing the original punch. This often result is spending a lot of time working on the perfect settings, until you’ve got the sound you’re looking for. Parallel compression is another technique to achieve this goal with less precision work on the compressor settings and more mixing signals via faders. Some compressors add some unique note to your sounds when used in parallel compression and some of them also feature built-in parallel compression (f.e. Fabfilter’s Pro-C).

Get the NYC style into your production and get the best of both original dynamics and heavy compression!

Cheers and have a great weekend.

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