What is Parallel Compression? 7 Great Tips To Do It Right!

What is Parallel Compression?


In the world of music manufacturing, compression is an extensively used method. With a purpose to increase the general level of a certain signal to make specific components come out within the mix, it proves to be a really efficient one too. Nonetheless, most learners don’t actually know the way to implement this method successfully without compromising the end results of the mix.

An underestimated method that directly stems from the aforementioned one is parallel compression. This system produces outcomes that might be as satisfying, (if not higher), than conventional compression. In flip, this text will try to exactly clarify what parallel compression is, why you must contemplate it, its execs and cons, and the way it must be correctly applied in a mix-down.

What’s Parallel Compression?

Parallel compression makes use of a send-and-return setup much like how you’d send a signal to an effects processor. It’s the mixture of the dry signal combined with a compressed version. In a parallel setup, you need to use heavier compression to drag extra depth out of the supply signal. Since you still have the dry signal within the mix, you don’t hear a lot of direct compressions.

The art of parallel compression performs a big part in how trendy mixes sound so full and loud. Whereas some argue that it isn’t essentially a very good factor, it’s not necessarily meant for use for all genres of music. Compression crushes a number of dynamics when overdone, however, to make a song the loudest it may be without blowing up the audio system, it must be heavily compressed.

If you wish to compete in the present market, standard and parallel compression is one thing you will need to have a very good grasp on or you may be left in the mud. For those who use parallel processing in the fitting method, you may nonetheless obtain a pleasant dynamic mix that’s actually loud, in addition, to reduce the quantity of total compression in your master mix bus.

How parallel compression works

Tips on how to set up parallel compression in your DAW

We begin with the dry channel and assign an internal bus output from the channel sends, for this instance we’ll use bus one. Set the sends output to unity gain in pre-fader mode for it to work as a console bus send, or without pre-fader engaged, you may dial in any desired amount for it to work just like the auxiliary send setup.

We then must create an aux channel inside the DAW so you’ll wish to create a mono aux. On the insert of the auxiliary channel, assign the compressor you want to use, then set the input of the auxiliary channel to bus one.

Now you have the uncompressed signal on channel one, and the compressed variation on channel two. Mix them collectively to achieve the amount of parallel compression wanted to make that supply stand out within the mix.

With the development of plug-ins over the past couple of years and more folks utilizing parallel compression than ever before, software program companies are beginning to integrate a “Mix” knob inside the plug-in. The combo knob permits you to have a mixture of dry to wet signals with no exterior busses getting used.

Though it’s a neater setup and may nonetheless offer you nice parallel compression outcomes, a number of us old-fashioned engineers nonetheless favor the traditional send and return system. We believe overall you’ve more flexibility when utilizing the send and return set up in comparison with the mix parameter within a plug-in.

Dry Wet Knob

Widespread Uses of Parallel Compression

Vocals – In all probability the commonest application, parallel compression is usually used to create standout vocals that aren’t overbearing. Because the voice is such a dynamic and versatile instrument, it is sensible that parallel compression can be needed right here.

Drums – Including common compression to each drum file can break the dynamic groove of a track. Parallel compression of drums individually, and even percussion groups, may give certain signals the punch they want, whereas sustaining an affordable level in a track.

Subtle Compression – Generally, parallel compression can be utilized on any track to give it an extra polished feel, whereas permitting backing vocals, keys, different instruments, and so on to nonetheless sound natural. Parallel compression can add a level of complexity for the listener without being too apparent.

Above all, parallel compression provides us extra control as engineers. Very like customary compression, it permits for songs to sound put together, but additionally grants the fluid, pure sound, that our ears love. With more choices to craft a sound, the musical alternatives are limitless. Give parallel compression a try in your next mix!

Duplicated Compressed Signal

Tips for Parallel Compression

#1 Don’t Parallel Compress Vocal Breaths

Breathing is a crucial aspect of any vocal track that makes it sound pure and human. Nonetheless, when overly compressing one thing it makes the breaths louder in a distracting method.

To keep away from this drawback, place a gate before the primary compressor in your parallel track. Set it in order that it solely permits vocalists singing through and never the breaths. Alternatively, in case you duplicated the vocals to a separate track for parallel compression, you may manually take away breaths.

#2 Extremely-Natural Bass

Unless you’re working in a particularly quiet or delicate style (folk, jazz, classical, and so on.), bass compression is a reasonably non-negotiable aspect of modern mixes.

Many producers and engineers favor heavy compression for bass, and it’s not too laborious to know why: inconsistent low end in a track can actually kill its power and momentum. The quickest path to constant, strong bass is often a heavy dose of compression. As a bonus, the saturation imparted by many compressors helps bass to cut on audio systems that battle to reproduce low end.

Too heavy a dose of compression, although, is an effective way to finish up with squashed, lifeless bass. Perhaps you’ve been there before: it will get lost within the mix, after which while you turn it up, it’s virtually unattainable to discover a sweet spot where it doesn’t really feel too loud.

What is Parallel Compression

#3 Compress A Vocal Double

Rather than send the identical vocal to a different track for parallel compression, one other method is to make use of a vocal double. Have your vocalist sing the identical lead line on a second track and compress that heavily whereas only subtly compressing the main vocals.

It’s possible you’ll wish to only bring the double in for certain elements of the music such as the refrain. This may help thicken the vocal and make it stand out throughout extra dense arrangements.

#4 Use Delay Compensation

It takes your computer a number of milliseconds to process sound by a compressor plugin. Usually, this delay is negligible. However, while you’re utilizing parallel compression, it is advisable to take note of it.

If in case you have two variations of a track playing in parallel — one without compression and one with it — the compressed version of the sound will playback a number of milliseconds later. When the 2 variations of the sound mix, they are going to play at barely different times. This may create one thing referred to as comb filtering, which sounds horrible and is certainly not what you need.

The answer is to activate delay compensation in your DAW. This characteristic will right these timing variations, so all of the tracks in your session play completely in sync.

Parallel Compression Plugin

#5 De Essing The Compression

Intense parallel compression will usually bring out the vocal sibilance in an obtrusive method. That is usually why newbie engineers have trouble utilizing parallel compression.

To keep away from this, insert an especially aggressive de-esser before the parallel compressor. You could be way harsher than you usually would as the main vocal will present all of the sibilances. By doing this your parallel compression will solely improve the body of the vocals.

#6 Vocal Presence & Dynamic Management

The human voice is an extremely dynamic instrument. And whereas a recording of a super-dynamic vocal performance generally is a source of complications for engineers (particularly if the singer’s mic method is lacking), merely flattening the dynamics out of the part is prone to make it much less attention-grabbing and less natural. On top of that, the vocal would possibly even have a hard time staying in front of the instrumental.

Somewhat than doing heavy reduction right on the first vocal track, strive for some aggressive parallel compression as a substitute. You may duplicate the lead vocal track and use it there, or create an aux buss and send the lead there together with any backup vocals you wish to include.

A standard-issue vocal compressor like an LA-2A will work properly, or you need to use your favorite buss compressor for a bigger group of vocals. Dial-in additional compression than you sometimes would for a vocal (upwards of 5 dB) and mix the track in subtly. The end result can be clear dynamics control — the quieter moments can be pushed ahead without additionally inflicting the louder moments to get out of hand.

Cla2a by Waves

#7 Less is More

Less is more. An excessive amount of parallel compression could make a track sound flat, one-dimensional, and fatiguing.

When doubtful, step away out of your mix for a couple of minutes. While you come back, play the monitor and ask yourself — does this sound too aggressive? Pay attention to negative artifacts like distortion and edginess. If you’re listening to these things, you’re most likely using an excessive amount of parallel compression.


Having an understanding as to what you may obtain with parallel compression will allow you to know why you must use it and never simply put it on, for instance, your drums only for the sake of it.

We hope that this guide will help you get your required result faster and offer you a deeper understanding of what the controls can do. There’s a lot you may experiment with within this area with all the assorted compressors which might be obtainable, so we encourage you to do some playing around in your DAW and discover some cool sounds.

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Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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