Anatomy of a Mix: Buss Compression [Excerpt]

Last, but no means least, is our buss compression.

Now, there’s quite a lot going on. This is the loudest part of the song. So I’ve got between…


It’s dancing between 2-3. There’s minimal, 2 dBs of compression. 3, 3.5 maybe. It’s never quite hitting 4.

A couple of things to notice. Yes, the threshold is up because the source is really super hot. The gain make-up is back up to make the difference. Go and look over there at our VU meters.

They are slammed. And you might ask, “Why are they slamming?”

Well there’s also something about an SSL when you — here we are, in the densest part of the song. The loudest part, the most aggressive part. There’s something about the SSL when you hit it hard that does a little bit of natural limiting.

I love Neve consoles. I love API consoles. But Neves, I have to be careful with. As soon as I get too hot over naught dB, I’m up at like, +3, here we are slamming it at +3 and above. On a Neve, I hear that crunchiness, so I have to mix within it.

Having said that, a Neve has a beautiful, open sound, so it’s fine. APIs are a little more forgiving, but the thing I like about SSLs is I can smash my Left and Right master buss pretty heavily and it adds to the sound of the mix. It’s like natural limiting. We aren’t doing any additional limiting on this at all.

However, what we are doing is this.

[shows Pultec EQs]

So, when you’re setting up your master buss in your mix, don’t be afraid to compress and EQ. Here you see, I’ve got 60 selected, and I’m doing a boost of 2. That’s not dB, it’s probably — I believe we’re probably around about a dB maximum. Maybe 0.7. I’d have to look it up, but not a huge amount of boost, but it is boosting on the mix.

Here’s off.

[mix, before and after EQ]

And here’s on. There’s also 12kHz. Again, two steps up and it’s set pretty broad.

So what we have is some 60 and some 12 over the whole mix. So don’t be afraid to do buss compression, and don’t be afraid to do EQ on your mixes. If you’re mixing in the box and you want to do a little compression and a little EQ, it’s fine.

I’m also getting natural limiting from my SSL, so if you need to limit, you can do that as well.

If you look at Bob’s way of working, he has multiple busses going into one master buss.

Back to the buss compression, I’ve got the auto setting on the release. When I first started working on SSLs, I didn’t like the buss compressor. I couldn’t figure out why everybody raved about the SSL buss compressor.

Then I asked a couple of different guys, especially guys like Joe Zook who are mixed in a hybrid fashion who use SSL buss compressors, and I was like, “Why do you like the SSL buss compressor?”

He’s like, “Oh, I love the way it sounds. It’s got that spank, it sounds great.”

Here it is off.

[mix, no SSL compressor]

Here’s on.

[mix, SSL on]

It’s got a little spank to it. I couldn’t ever get the release time to be right. I tried fast, slow, whatever. And then he’s like, “Put it on auto and listen again.”

I put it on auto and listened again. Most of the time, I leave it on the auto setting. It’s smarter than me, and it is really adding to the sound. I’m not saying you should do that every time. Different tempos of songs, you might actually find a release time that works perfetly with the tempo of the song.

But, the auto setting is really the difference between it sounding like an SSL buss compressor or not for me.

It’s interesting, but I use it in auto. For the attack time, I’ve got it all the way up to 30 there. Full right, and then of course, the ratio is at 4:1, so it’s not the most aggressive. It’s definitely compressing 4 to 1, so you know, it needs four dB over to let one dB through.

I could get more aggressive on it, but that’s pretty typical for me.

So thank you ever so much for watching. This is a song I had a lot of fun recording, and a lot of fun writing, and a lot of fun playing on, as you can tell.

Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at
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