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The Differences Between Compression Release Curves

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The Differences Between Compressor Release Curves
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Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here.,, and

Last mixthru that I did was on an EDM record. In fact, it was on this EDM record.


This is just the faders up mix, basically to start from square one and show you something, but I want to talk about release curves, because one of the foundational ideas behind dynamics in EDM is pumping. In a House record, it’s a very simple system where the kick generally hits every quarter note, and the record, whether it’s the bass or the entire record or some combination thereof, will duck the kick, and then it will swell back up.

So you get this, “whoom-whoom-whoom” kind of sound going with the record – this pulsing kind of feel. However, not all EDM records pulse, like this one.


And so, it might not be appropriate to go for that kind of deep pump type of sound. In fact, even if you’re doing something that is a four on the floor type of record, you still might not want that.

So we’re going to talk a little bit about release curves here, and I’m going to use the FabFilter Pro-C2 because it has a bunch of different compression styles and they all have their own sort of unique curve, and I can talk about the basic ones as needed.

So the most basic one is going to be a linear curve. Now, most compressors don’t really have linear release curves, but some will get pretty close to it, and this Opto style in the Pro-C2 is pretty close to linear.


And I mean, the graph sort of helps show what the curve looks like, but basically, as time goes on, the gain restoration occurs, and it’s pretty much 1:1 or it’s close.

But then we’ve got some things that are like, let’s say a more logarithmic curve.


Where the initial release happens faster, and then as we start going over time, the release starts to slow down, and gain restoration occurs more gradually. So it’s very fast, and then slows. That has a different effect. In general, that has the effect of being more transparent.

Then we have something like an exponential style curve, where it’s actually a slow release to start, and then speeds up as time goes on.


And they each have their place. So sonically speaking, when you’re using something like an exponential style, which is something that I tend to do a lot, because I’m used to mixing a lot of Deep House kind of records or Dubstep records where you want a very distinct sound of the pump where it’s like – I think of it as like a hole puncher knocking out part of the record, and that’s what I ended up using for this tutorial. Although, after talking to the producer, he suggested that a more logarithmic variation would probably be better, and I agree with him, actually.

So, the style for this pumping setting here, which is exponential, is like that of totally ducking something out of the way, and then quickly bringing it back in, whereas if we were to do say this punch style…



It’s a little more transparent.

I’m going to go between a few different styles and talk about the ones that I like real quick for this particular sound.

So let’s go back to the pumping one real quick.


Very dramatic. This one…


That’s very transparent sounding.


And that one is fairly transparent sounding. It’s still pretty transparent, but not quite as transparent as the buss setting.

Let me see if I can grab something that’s like, super transparent.


That’s almost like a limiter it’s so fast. I think that we want some of the release flavor to be in there, so I kind of – I’m liking this punch one. It’s sort of between the transparent and the very distinct, hole punchy sound, but basically what I want to do when I’m picking my release curve really is I want to hear the sound in my head and then try and emulate that using the appropriate timing and the appropriate curve.

So, if it’s, [imitates song], it could be, [imitates song with compressor], or it could be, [imitates song with compressor], and those two things have a different kind of vibe to them.

[song with one compression setting, then another]

And ultimately, it just comes down to your taste and the style that you’re doing and what you’re trying to emulate, but it’s something to think about in addition to your timing and not just your attack and release and threshold, but also the shape of that release.

The other thing is that all compressors will have a release curve. Some of them allow you to adjust that release curve, like what I’m doing here. Others have a set curve.

So whether or not your compressor allows you to get under the hood to change the curve, you still have to acknowledge the shape, and you can do that by ear, but the approximate shape based on the transparency, how long it takes for the sound to recover, and acknowledge what that compressor is doing, and that might lead you to choose one compressor over another when you’re doing this kind of processing.

Alright guys, until next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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