Use Parallel Compression To Enhance Sounds

This is a topic that I don’t see a lot of people talk about and honestly, this technique doesn’t come to my mind when I’m mixing a song and it’s been a while since I used it. Don’t get me wrong though, I do use parallel processing all the time for effects not for dynamic processors.

Parallel compression does sound great when applied correctly. For instance, multi Grammy Award winner, recording engineer Michael Brauer uses parallel compression on vocals. He sends vocal parts to different compressors using send channels and blends them together.

In a Q&A session in 2013 Michael Brauer said he’s not sure if this technique will sound as good when doing it in-the-box (using a DAW), it works fine in the hybrid. I see a lot of people asking about Michael Brauer parallel compression trick so I thought I should add that so you don’t waste your time trying to do it on a software such as FL Studio lol just kidding 😀

OK enough with the jokes and boring intro let’s get straight to it.

What is New York Compression

To put it in the most simplest form, this is mixing a dry signal with a processed signal. Sometimes the original signal is not 100% dry, it might have some subtle compression applied to it. But the processed signal needs to be heavily processed.

This will bring up the softest parts of the sound that is getting compressed adding audible detail while leaving the loud transients intact. hmmmm that’s rocket science.

Put it this way, a normal compressor does what is called downward compression which is bringing down the loud peaks, parallel compression is the opposite. The quieter parts are brought up in level while keeping the other parts the same, so this processing technique is upward compression and does the opposite of a normal compressor. And this technique is also known as New York Compression.

You can do parallel compression by using send or Fx channels. The way I do it is to duplicate the sound to a new channel that way I have full control of both dry and compressed signals. Some compressors come with a dry/wet parameter so you can use that as well.

Most people don’t know this but Logic stock compressor does have a dry/wet parameter hidden. You can find it by by clicking on the triangle at the bottom left of the plugin as shown below.

PARALLEL COMPRESSION logic 9

Parallel Compression Settings

Remember that this is a concise guide so the compression settings can be applied to any reputable DAW, Cubase, Ableton, Logic, FL Studio, Reaper etc.

When it comes to the envelope you want to use a fast attack but don’t kill the transients and a medium release will work. The ratio settings needs to be high that is why other people choose to use a limiter instead, because it has unlimited ratio. Be careful though sometimes a high ratio can cause the signal to distort or create a pumping effect. While in some cases a small ratio of 2:1 will work.

You’ll also need to use a high gain reduction, but this will depend on the material so play around with a gain reduction of around -10dB to -20dB and let your ears be the judge.

I choose to use very high settings because I know I have full control of the 2 signals. But just make sure the 2 signals blend well when mixed together and don’t make it sound obvious. Keep everything as organic as possible.

Applying The Technique

Parallel compression can be applied on anything that you think needs upward compression, it could be vocals, drums or even an entire mix during mastering.

As mentioned above, people like Michael Brauer use parallel compression on vocals. If you want to learn more about this technique then head over to Sound on Sound and check out a great post written by Mike Senior.

He shows a step by step process on how to do the Michael Brauer parallel compression technique using Cubase. You can use the same process on any DAW. Here’s the direct link to the blog post.

>> http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr09/articles/cubasetech_0409.htm

If you’re using this technique on drums then duplicate the original signal to a new channel. If the drums are on separate channels then export all the drums and import the drum track to the project.

Then add an eq to the duplicate channel. The eq settings will be a smile curve like the one shown below:

parallel compression settings

After adding that eq then I’ll add the compressor and use the settings I mentioned above. Once I’m happy with that then I’ll drag the volume of the processed channel back down and bring it up slowly to blend it with the original signal.

You can use this production technique on anything, just make sure that you switch on the delay compensation on your DAW to avoid phase. I use the FabFilter Pro Q for these kinds of situations because it has both zero-latency and different phase processing modes.

You can add whatever you want on the processed signal chain, it doesn’t need to be the eq and compressor only. Feel free to add your own creativity.

You can also make your mix punch using this technique, which is not the main purpose of parallel compression though. The question I see popping a lot is “how do I know if everything is sounding right after doing new york compression…?”

The most simple answer is. What were you trying to achieve? If you just add something and hope for the best then you’re going to have a big problem. You should be able to picture the end results before doing any processing. If you know why you added the compressor then you’ll know if it sounds right or not.

Hope you found some useful info in this blog post and leave a comment below if you have any questions or maybe you just want to say Thank You 🙂

See you again soon with more production tutorials and you can download my books if you want more tutorials.

Parallel Compression Tutorial -- Get Phat Drums

Parallel Compression Tutorial - Get Phat Drums

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