Mixing With Compression – Mix Buss Compression (Part 5 of 7)

| Audio Example, Mixing, Mixing With Compression, Plugins, Tips, Video

Mixing through compression on your master fader (mix buss) is one of the quickest ways to create punch, thickness, and energy in your mix.

But if you don’t set up your compressor the right way, it can actually make your mix worse.

Subtle But Worth It

Today I want to show you my exact settings for mix buss compression. Spoiler alert: they are subtle and the effect is subtle. But it’s worth it.

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14 Responses to “Mixing With Compression – Mix Buss Compression (Part 5 of 7)”

  1. Jim Amsden

    Graham, what impact will these mix buss plugins do during the mastering phase? Do you bypass them before delivering for mastering or leave them and let them naturally limit what the mastering can do.

    • Paulo Clayton

      I’d say that unless the mastering engineer specifically requests you leave the compression (and any other master buss FX) off, leave them on! If you’ve mixed with them on (I tend to get my master buss FX set after getting overall levels of each track set but before adding any EQ/compression to the tracks), you’ve crafted your mix according to the sound you’re hearing, and it’s been going through the “filters” of the master buss EQ and compression. If you remove those, chances are you won’t like your mix. It’s also one of the reasons Graham likes to make subtle moves on the master buss. Once the mix is near completion, I go back and tweak those master buss FX just a little bit more if needed, more so on the compressor than the EQ.

      (Graham actually likes subtle moves in general. I was watching a snippet of a Chris Lord-Alge tutorial on snare compression, and he likes *really* extreme moves, especially in EQ. Holy high shelf boost, Batman!…)

      The mastering engineer’s job is really to balance out a whole set of songs so they sound cohesive & like they actually belong on the same record. Plus, the better-sounding mix you give the mastering guy, the better “mastered” mix he’ll be able to give you when he’s done.

    • Graham

      No – I would never bypass them. That would defeat the point. The point of them is to help the mix sound better. Just like a compressor on the kick drum track or lead vocal.

  2. Grayson Peddie

    IMO, the punch is the same with and without the compressor and they both sound just like a record.

    That is from my ears, by the way. My ears are not trained to hear very slight changes in EQ and compression, let alone 3dB in specific frequency.

    • Paulo Clayton

      It is very subtle, hence the caveat he begins with. =) As you keep mixing and getting better at listening, you’ll start to hear the difference. Took me a while as well, but I do notice it pretty clearly now. Also helps to do so on better monitors/headphones.

  3. Rafael

    One thing I learned in my mixing classes – before you start mixing anything, make sure you put whatever your going to put on your mixbuss and/or master buss before mixing starts. Why? Any plugins you put there can and will change the tonality. So, put all the plugins you need there, then start your mix. You can always take plugins off if needed of course down the road.

  4. Johnny

    Thanks again for another helpful tutorial Graham. Would you consider doing a video on what order you should put certain plugins in ie. compression first then EQ etc etc.?There is so much conflicting info on the web I don’t know what to believe. IMO this is a subject few have any concrete teaching on and It is the one thing that I lack real confidence in.



    • Graham

      It’s conflicting because there is no right answer 🙂 I prefer EQ before compression. Others prefer the opposite. I would try one, then flip them around and see what sounds different. Then decide for yourself.

  5. Douglas M.

    I have been using Mix Bus Compression for years. Yup…it does work! Just don’t be too heavy handed and you should be fine. Thanks Graham.


  6. Alan Honeycutt

    First, let me say that when I started teaching myself to mix, this blog was a huge part of my education, so I have nothing but great things to say about TRR. This comment is entirely about solidifying my own understanding and (hopefully) helping others who are trying to learn everything they can about this art come to a better understanding about what all of these compressor knobs are doing. As often happens with Graham’s posts and videos, this one made me think and inspired me to keep getting better. Caveat over. On to the show…

    If you look at where the compressor is actually doing compression work (reducing gain), it is almost entirely on kick and snare hits. If anything, it should make those hits quieter, right – since it’s taking the loudest parts of the song (kick and snare) and reducing how loud they are at a 4 to 1 ratio? So, how does adding the compressor make the kick and snare more “punchy”?

    Well, at the end, Graham mentions that he’s adding 1 – 2 db of “makeup” gain. IOW, he’s adding 1 – 2 db of gain to the entire mix (including those loud hits). If you do the math, the net result is that everything is louder than it was before (including the kick and snare). Of course it sounds subtly more punchy – you can hear it better! In fact, the initial attack (first 10 ms) of the kick and snare is 1 – 2 db louder than it was before it was run through the compressor. It’s only the tail of the kick and snare that are being compressed and those are only being reduced at a 4:1 ratio – so they’re still louder overall than they were before (though they are quieter relative to the rest of the mix).

    Please correct me if I’m wrong here and happy mixing!

    • Graham

      Yes and no. The kick and snare ARE being turned down, and more than just the tail. But you’re right that the initial beginning of the transient is getting through. That’s why the drums sound more punchy, but at the same time the rest of the mix glues in closer to the kick and snare level.

      It’s kind of weird – but do it if it sounds good to you 🙂

  7. George Roxburgh

    Thank you for a great series of videos. You say use slow attack and fast release on the mix bus compressor. Unless I didn’t see it clearly enough the compressor settings on your video looked like 10mS attack and 0.1s (or 100mS) release.

    So if 10mS is slow in what sense is 100mS fast? As I say perhaps I was mistaken in what I saw on the video. Would you please be kind enough to put me right

  8. Steve Hamilton

    Great stuff! I went back and applied your compressor tips & tricks to one of my mixes and could really hear a nice change – more professional sound. Previously I was just randomly twiddling knobs like a noob.

    I think one nice visual you could have added was to route the output of the compressed vocals to a new track to show how the dramatic peaks and valleys were compressed.

    Can you explain the upper right section (side chain) of the stock Pro-Tools compressor?


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