What is Serial Compression? Quick and Easy Guide to Learn it! (2023)

What is Serial Compression?


Think about for a moment that you wish to give punch to an instrument whereas offering it consistency all through the whole tune. As we have seen in earlier articles, a compressor is a good device to attain each of those attributes, however, punch and consistency require fully different settings.

So, what are you able to do? You need to use two compressors, that is right, one behind the other, every with adequate settings. However watch out, it isn’t fairly as simple as it appears.

The very first thing to think about is that the order of the compressors is essential. For instance, to get a punchy and constant sound, the first compressor needs to be the one aimed toward reaching consistency and the second for getting extra punch.

Putting them the opposite way around can be counterproductive, as a result of the consistency settings of the first compressor can be working against the punchy settings of the second. Thus, you will have to think about which order works best for you, relying on the objective you have in mind.

What is serial compression and is it needed on your project? Well, that totally depends on the sound you are working on and whether is it in need of serial compression. That is the decision you will need to bring by yourself after carefully analyzing the signal. Always go with reserve when making this decision, use it only if you know how to do it right and how to set it up properly. If you are questioned about how to do it, below we have several pointers that might be helpful for you.

what is serial compression

What is Serial Compression?

Serial compression means using a number of compressors in sequence (ie, one after the other), and it is a good way to mix essentially the most fascinating attributes and/or capabilities of two or more plugins.

A sensible instance can be using a slow-performing compressor similar to Native Instruments’ Vari Comp, which is modeled on a traditional valve design, adopted by an extra trendy compressor like an SSL clone or digital compressor with a lookahead.

Through the use of two complementary items together like this, it is doable to harness the final leveling behavior and vibe of the first alongside the scientific peak control and clear sound of the second – nice for recreating the texture of outboard gear ‘in the box’ whereas retaining the precision that trendy processors are recognized for.

Using compressors in sequence additionally lets you unfold the workload. For instance, as an alternative of 1 compressor performing 4dB of gain reduction, you would possibly use two compressors giving 2dB each. This may be very helpful in a mastering or precision mixing situation, where you want one thing to sound like it hasn’t been processed at all!

serial compression graph

The order in which different effects are positioned may make an enormous distinction to the outcomes. For instance, reverb positioned before compression can provide a source sound that ‘compressed room mics’ sound, whereas inserting the reverb after the compression will give a much less ‘reactive’, studio-style sound because the reverb itself will not be compressed.

How about EQ? Enhance the bass before compression for a rhythmic pumping effect that may sound nice for kick-driven music corresponding to house or techno, or after for a ‘clear’ bass boost without affecting the compressor’s action.

Tonal and Dynamic Compression Blend

These two approaches work best when mixed. As I discussed earlier, compression sounds extra-musical and pure when applied in a number of levels (serial compression).

For lighter genres where little compression is required, tonal compression is more applicable. However, for different genres where heavy processing is required, apply both tonal compression and dynamic compression with two totally different plugins (or hardware items).

I hardly ever use dynamic compression by itself for vocals (because it’s usually used in mix with tonal compression), however, I usually use tonal compression by itself for lighter genres.

PuigcChild 660 and CLA 2A

Right here is my go-to plugin chain for a mainstream vocal track:

  1. Gentle tonal compression when tracking
  2. Surgical EQ
  3. Tonal compression (slow attack, low ratio, low threshold)
  4. Tonal EQ
  5. Dynamic compression (quicker attack, increased ratio, higher threshold)

You too can experiment with using the quicker dynamic compressor BEFORE the slower tonal compressor. Because of this, your slower compressor isn’t thrown off by any loud peaks, because the quick compressor will catch them first.

Setting it up

The first compressor needs to be in a fast-attack mode to clip the loudest peaks of the signal. Find these peak elements in your audio then set it up on a fast-attack time, often one millisecond or less. Next, select a high ratio, roughly 12:1, in order that it’s only knocking back the loudest peaks at two to three decibels. The second compressor ought to have a slower attack time. This needs to be set to roughly 10 milliseconds.

Remember the fact that the first compressor set on the loudest and quickest peaks will probably be clear. Nevertheless, the second compressor will pull in the total average which is still, for a really easy sound total. The end result is a pure-sounding compression with the audio signal sustaining a constant decibel stage. It ought to have little to no dynamics or any substantial artefacts remaining.

The best advantage of what is serial compression is similar to having two recording engineers working along with one another for control of the general volume of the track. Experiment and make the most of this handy approach to make sure you obtain the optimal output.

As always, keep in mind to trust your instincts first on the subject of sound. Your ears are your greatest tools.

Two Vari Comps in Series


I am unable to stress enough to watch out not to overdo it with this method. For those who ever use two or more, compressors in series on each track, I can assure you that your mix will disappoint you. There are two issues I’ve talked about before that you must always remember:

  • On the subject of mixing, “less is more.”
  • Compressors are like antibiotics, do not overuse them!

Check our eBook on Mixing Tips! If you want to get a more in-depth breakdown of those tips we share, follow our link and get the “Ultimate Mixing Tips Booklet” and up your game quickly!


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.

1 Comment
  1. […] The best approach is to compress in stages. Instead of using one compressor to control everything, you can use serial compression. […]

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