In answer to a common audio question from Recording.Org About "compressors"

We'll answer two common compressor questions, in simplest terms possible:

What does an audio compressor do?

What is is used for?

What does an audio compressor do - simply put?
As simple as I can make it -

First you set a "Threshold" - any signal below that level is not affected by the compressor,
any signal above that point gets reduced by the amount determined in the next step -

Secondly you will set a "Compression Ratio" - if you set it for instance at a 4:1 ratio
that means that for every 4 dB the incoming signal goes above the "Threshold" only 1 dB
will pass through to the output.

The benefit is - now you can keep the loud passages from getting out of control,
which lets you turn up the quieter parts, knowing you have the compressor watching the peaks
don't get too loud.

What gets 'compressed' is the dynamics. It is lessening the difference
between the loudest and quietest parts of the track.

This is a very general overview I hope that helps.

Why would you use a compressor?
A compressor with the right settings will thicken up your guitar sound and make it fuller sounding
and easier to mix, because you don't have the extremes in volumes. A guitar should have dynamics,
but using a compressor should make the volume more manageable.

For your drums, a compressor can give them more punch. It can really thicken a kick drum by
softening the impact at the top of the spike. You should be able to get a meatier, more full-bodied sound
without clipping.

Think of it as someone riding the fader and when the signal coming in gets hotter, it instantly pulls down
the fader to a proportional level. When the signal settles back down, the fader goes back up to where it started.

If you have a decent compressor and learn what it can do, it will quickly become your best audio weapon.
Then you'll want to keep adding more compressors to get a more professional sound. As far as I'm concerned,
I'll take as many compressors as I can get. Just about everything can benefit from some amount of compression.
But, I won't have any of them stomping on the signal so hard that it sucks the life out of the track.
Dynamics and the air in-between the notes are usually what makes music interesting to me.
Just don't go mad with power over-compressing things and you'll be OK.
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