SSL Buss Compressor: Hardware vs Software (Waves G-Channel)
Let’s learn a little bit more about the master buss compressor.
On the hardware version of the compressor we have control over the threshold, attack with a range of .1 milliseconds up to 30 milliseconds, ratio, make-up gain and release with a range of .1 seconds up to 1.2. And some sidechain and surround options.
In Pro Tools, I’ve got an uncompressed version of this song which is Black Widow by Ugly, Ugly Words and then various printed versions of the analog compressed song. Let’s take a listen to the version with no compression.
[song without compression]
It’s sort of a loud rock and roll tune with a lot of screaming and electric guitars. And of course the SSL compressor like many other compressors will behave very differently depending on the source material. These are all the different analog printed versions right here. I took note of the settings as I printed them. First, let’s take a listen — we’ve got with a 10ms attack time with an auto-release.
[song + compression: fast attack (10ms), auto-release]
Generally, I like to keep slow attack times, especially on the master buss and the auto-release does a really good job on both the analog and digital versions of the compressor. I try to keep the threshold set in such a way that I’m only compressing between 1 to 3 dB at most. As you’ll hear, once you start compressing more, you compromise the transient of the kick and snare drum and it brings up the room of the drums and the vocals and other instruments in a way that is not always pleasing. Let’s take a listen to 30ms attack time with auto release.
[music + compression: fast attack (30ms), auto release]
Very similar to the other version I played and not that much different than the version without much compression. I sort of just like using the SSL compressor for subtle color and gluing instruments together. Now we’ve got a very fast attack and slow release, so what you’re doing to hear is the kick and snare drum really being compromised.
[song + SSL buss compression: fast attack, slow release]
It does do a cool thing to the electric guitars, so what you could do is send your electric guitars and bass and maybe vocals through the SSL compressor and leave the drums out. Let’s check out fast attack, slow release.
[song + buss compression: fast attack, slow release]
It does sort of get rid of the transients but brings up the rooms in sort of a cool way. Here we have totally slammed, fastest attack, fastest release.
[SSL buss compressor with fastest attack, fastest release]
While it does give a sort of explosive quality to everything, let’s take a listen again to the uncompressed version and you’ll hear, we sort of miss out on the kick and snare drum.
[uncompressed vs compressed versions]
Something I often use is a setting sort of with a very slow attack and fastest release if not auto. And again only about 1 to 3 dB of compression. Now let’s take a listen to the digital version and we’re going to open up this plugin right here. There are some differences between the hardware and software. Different ratio, release, and attack settings and this special fade out feature.
[music + Waves SSL G Master Buss Compressor]
That would be a pretty safe setting for me, I might even use a slower attack time, let’s try auto-release.
[music + Waves SSL Compressor w/ auto-release]
Sort of lifts everything, brings everything forward and adds a little bit more intensity. Let’s change the threshold.
[song + Waves SSL Buss Compressor]
And turn up the make-up gain. If we wanna really go overboard let’s go with a fast attack. As you can hear, the kick and snare drum are almost totally lost. Let’s try the fastest release and a little less make-up gain. And different ratios.
Overall, if I were to compare the analog and digital versions of the master buss compressor, I’d say you get a cooler vibe out of the analog version. Perhaps, you know, you don’t need to recall when using the digital version, but truthfully if I had several thousand dollars to purchase the analog version — I’d probably just go with other collections of plugins or other outboard gear. It does have a cool gluey sound, it brings everything together and makes a more cohesive mix. But overall, I wouldn’t say it’s one of my top go-to compressors.
Thanks for taking the time to check out this tutorial for The Pro Audio Files. Make sure to check out Ugly, Ugly Words on iTunes. And we have open houses here at the Art Institute of California, Inland Empire if you’d like to know more about audio production and the SSL Duality.