Mixing With Compression – Stacking Compressors (Part 4 of 7)

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

Want that upfront radio-ready vocal sound? Then you need compression.

But sometimes one compressor working hard is not enough, no matter how awesome that compressor sounds.

If One Is Good – Two Is Better

In fact, my favorite way to compress vocals involves stacking two (but subtle) compressors together. Today’s video shows you that step by step.

Want to have all of the Compression techniques in this series on hand next time you’re mixing with compressors? – Download my FREE 7-Step Compression Checklist here!


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34 Responses to “Mixing With Compression – Stacking Compressors (Part 4 of 7)”

  1. Philip Murray

    hi Graham – another excellent video – thanks.

    can’t wait to try some COMPRESSION STACKING.

    Can I ask – was there a no.7 video in the EQ series – or did I miss that one?



  2. coleman D. rhudy

    thanks man! please notify me when you release the song you’re mixing in this video!

  3. Elijah Yalartai

    Graham thank you man for just being the wonderful man of God and teacher that you are your teaching has taken me to places I never thought I quit audio school and have learned more here at Recording Revolution than I have ever learned in my audio career.

  4. Sarah Burke

    Re: stacking compressors. Wouldn’t you get the same result by just using say 6:1 or 7:1 and adjusting your threshold for 3 to 6 db of gain reduction.

    • jeff mercer

      That might of been a good idea for him to compare a heavy compression spec to his stacked compression.

    • Rob

      You never get the same result when using stacked compression compared to a single compressor. If you wanted something similar you could:
      – ensure the attack on both compressors are set to the same value,
      – ensure the threshold of the second compressor is increased by the amount of make up gain in the first compressor if make up gain is used
      – reduce your release to the minimum allowable for one of the compressors

      When you use make up gain on the first compressor, you’re shifting the knee up so that the second compressor with the same threshold has a knee lower relative to the knee from the first compressor. The more compressors you stack, the more the knees form a shape that looks like a soft knee.

      The difference between stacking multiple compressors and using a single compressor is that:
      – a release on an earlier compressor will influence the release on a later compressor
      – you have individual control over the compression ratio for each compressor in series compared to a predefined soft knee
      – you can control how much you smooth out your attack by using different attack values for each compressor in series
      – stacking compressors is more complicated, probably less smooth, but offers more control than a single compressor with an adjustable soft knee

      Use what sounds the best and is easier or available for you to use.

  5. Marlow Durden

    Yes, I did get the free compression sheet. I’m just checking it out for now, I will get back to you
    if I start using double compression on some of my tracks in the mix.

    • Bill

      Really? Why would you write this? He’s trying to help people learn about compression . He’s not asking you to like his voice.

  6. Tryggvasson

    Huge difference! Gonna try it some day. I mean, I have been doing it for as long as I can remember, but not purposely to bring the vocal forward, but to achieve different things. I’m gonna try it like that. Thanks!

  7. Brian Ecclestone

    Great description of a proven technique since the 70’s! I’m 63 and have been using this for years, but enjoy your modern approach to an old idea. The words subtle, judicious come to mind when applying. Remember, tracking, mixing, mastering, pressing, and broadcasting phases ALL use compression. By the time your mix hits the ears of the end listener, it’s going to be squashed many times! GREAT technique, just don’t abuse. I used to do this with a couple of dbx 166’s in series slammed to tape! Those were the days! Don’t cut yourself with the razor blade. ha, ha.

  8. fajebru

    Nice! That makes it way much easier!! especially for a beginner like me. But One Question:

    Is it technically possible to setup ONE compressor that reacts exactly the same like these both?

    I mean, should i use this as help to get better in using compressors or is this a permanent solution?

    Greatings from Germany


    • Rob

      Every compressor is a little different so you’re not going to get a compressor that’s “exactly” the same as two stacked compressors.

      An alternative is to use a compressor with a large or adjustable soft knee. You’ll have less control over shape of the knee, but your compression will be smoother in the transition between uncompressed and the full compressed ratio. You’ll also only have one set of attack and release values instead of the stacked attack and release. Easier to use, but less control.

  9. Durwood Walker

    Would the second compressor settings always be a duplicate of the first one, or are there occasions where you might need different settings? Or maybe a different type of compressor with different settings?

    Thanks for what do, man!

    • Graham

      I start with duplicate settings, but then I adjust to make sure I”m not doing too much gain reduction and that it sounds good.

  10. Dave

    Thank you Graham. For your willingness to give us this valuable information.

    One Thing Needful

  11. rock

    For vocal chain I using 3 compressor stacked. 2 compressor hardware on tracking , the second comp using 20:1 ratio. And one compressor plugin for mixing later. I also activate gate on first compressor to kill unwanted noise or anything bad. We record rock music mostly. I never feel its too compressed because it stand in mix easily.
    And yes I also need to shape the character little bit in preamp before the signal hit that two comp.

  12. Wayne Sanderson

    Thanks Graham,

    Very helpful tips you are sharing in these videos. The way you are stepping through these processes is very helpful.

  13. Joshua Hall


    This is interesting. I use a compressor on my way into the DAW – it is a plugin on the input channel of Studio One 3. I played with settings to find a nice “rough” compression – that catches peaks on the way in. This gives me a subtly compressed sound to begin with. I usually end up adding a compressor. It seems enough but I’ll have to try this to see what it could do.


  14. Bill

    Nice video. I work with a very dynamic singer and I’ve been using this advice from you for a while now. You had some instruction like this for subscribers probably a year ago.
    Thank you for the instruction and help!

  15. Maryt w

    Graham — thanks so much for the informative article, best of luck with the release of your single. Rob — thanks for the informative post. I’d imagine for most of us, you’ve cleared the issue up!


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Read previous post:
Mixing With Compression Threshold And Ratio
Mixing With Compression – Threshold And Ratio (Part 3 of 7)

When using compression in your mix where should you set the threshold? And what is the best ratio for your...