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FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Compression on live vocals?

davywhizz
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Jul 30th, 2017 08:57 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

How many of you routinely use compression on live vocals? We got a cheap four-channel Behringer compressor in the early days of our band and it's been in the rack ever since, set pretty mild on the vocal mics. We now have a rack vocal effects unit (TC Electronics M350), currently set up for reverb only but which could also apply compression to some or all 16 channels if necessary, with very simple adjustment of the parameters, just a couple of knobs. I'm inclined to take the Behringer out of the chain and maybe even try working without any vocal compression. I think we've all improved our mic technique since the early days. We could use the effects unit if that doesn't work. As ever, all FDP advice is very welcome.

Peegoo
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The rain sounds like

a round of applause
Jul 30th, 2017 10:42 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Compression on vocals--like compression on guitar or other instruments--can make things sound fairly flat.

Compression on certain things like rhythm guitar or bass is often beneficial because maintaining a constant rhythm or bass level allows the other instruments to pop in the mix.

On vocals, though, compression has to be really mild or it sucks the life out of the vocals.

Same goes for lead guitar, keys, and drums: compression can remove dynamics (quiet passages, loud passages). It adds a certain "mechanical" or robotic flavor to the sound.

Ultimately the best test is your ears. If it works for you and the style of music you play, then that's all that matters.

edited for speeeling eroors...

(This message was last edited by Peegoo at 12:47 PM, Jul 30th, 2017)

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Jul 30th, 2017 07:47 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

This will be a long post.....I am channeling Tony....:>)

I always insert compressors on vocals.
I will not use Behringer comps. Yes, they manage dynamics, but they kill the tone.

Now that things have gone digital in the big leagues, you can buy high end analogue comps retentively cheap.

I own two Klark Teknik DN 504 comps(eight channels), one Rane C4 digital comp (four channels), and two BSS DPR 901-II four stage fully parametric comps.

I keep one Klark and one BSS for non house gig jobs.

My default ratio for vocal compression is 2:1.
If the metering says four dB of gain reduction, there's four dB of gain that still makes it out the front door.(2:1 ratio lets half of the signal over threshold through.)
At my house gig I have one BSS inserted on a group. That lets me rout unmanageable sources to the BSS...four stage fully parametric compression is a god send.
I won't hesitate to increase the compression ratio if a source is unmanageable.

Rule of thumb....the better the band, the less compression needed.
Also....as soon as I see a synth...I insert comps on the stereo channels. I don't know why, but keyboard players don't seem to care about different levels of their patches.
Hope this post isn't too long winded and is helpful.


davywhizz
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Jul 31st, 2017 01:46 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks,very helpful. I think I'll start by ditching the Behringer and see what the M350 can do across more than the vocals. Good point about synths! Maybe snare drum too. If we need more I can look for another rack unit..

Juice Nichols
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Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Jul 31st, 2017 06:55 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Great explanation Roly! Especially "the better the band, the less compression is needed" part.

Cheers!

davywhizz
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Jul 31st, 2017 07:26 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yes, on that basis it sounds like we still need some compression.

Hammond101
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So. Cal. USA

Jul 31st, 2017 09:33 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I mix for a Beatles tribute band quite often. Compression on the Vocs is a huge help in mixing the harmonies. Some guys just don't know how to back off of a mic.

Yes, the better the band the less you need.

Juice Nichols
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Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Jul 31st, 2017 01:34 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Some guys just don't know how to back off of a mic."

You're right about that. They fail to realize that you're basically providing your own compression by backing off the mike when needed.

I mixed the musical "Grease" for a local HS this last spring and I had compression and gates going on every vocal mike. They would be singing one minute and yelling at the top of their lungs the next depending on the scene.


Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Jul 31st, 2017 07:40 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I would leave the TC for fx on a post aux.

Check eBay for Klark, BSS ,or XTA comps.
The XTA comps are still pretty expensive.

The higher end comps mentioned above do not have 1/4" connectors, so you will need 1/4"TRS connectors to dual XLR connectors.(in most cases, pin 2 is hot and pins 1 and 3 should be shorted for unbalanced connectors.)
I think it's unlikely that your desk has balanced insert points so, no need to go into detail regarding that matter.

HERE'S SOME VERY IMPORTANT STUFF!!!!!
Some mixers like the Allan and Heath Z series mixers take their pre fader auxes POST INSERT AND POST EQ.
This can be a nightmare.
Some A&H mixers have internal Jumpers that permit you to rout aux sends pre fader,pre EQ and pre insert.
Last thing you want is to have changes made to the mix show up in the monitors.....There are exceptions.

cheers
Roly


So.....Keep the TC for FX, read the mixer manual to determine where the channel insert point is in the signal chain. Give yourself enough set up time to draw conclusions and make appropriate changes.

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Jul 31st, 2017 08:16 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

" M350 can do across more than the vocals. "

Not sure what you mean by "across more than the vocals"
What are you getting at?
cheers

davywhizz
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Aug 1st, 2017 03:14 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks for all your help Roly. As I understand the M350 you can use its effects, such as reverb but also the compression etc on the second "engine", on any or all mixer channels by using the aux sends on each strip. The old Behringer compressor only has four channels, so we use insert cables for the vocals only. I was thinking that if the M350 gives a compression option across all channels we could add it to the snare and synth, for example, as well as vocals, just to tame any transient peaks. The mixer is a Mackie CR 1604 VLZ.

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Aug 1st, 2017 06:06 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi Dave
I don't think the aux thing is a good call.
The result will be what's called "parallel compression." It has it's merits but with your limited resources I don't think it's the best choice.
I suggest you buss all the vocals to a group and insert one side of the M350 set to "compressor" on that group. (that's assuming you are not going to buy any comps).
Use the other side for a reverb or a delay....whatever you prefer.
Be sure to send the FX side of the TC a post fader, post EQ aux.
If you have enough holes left, return the TC reverb/delay to a spare channel instead of an aux return. That gives you strip eq and permits you to mute the FX return channel between songs when whoever is fronting the band talks to the audience.

In my previous posts, I omitted compression attack and release times.
My default attack time for non percussive sources is...as fast as the damn thing will do.
Release....500 ms.
From those starting points....mix to taste.

Next.....that Beheringer thingy....I think it's unlikely that you could get 50 bucks for it.
With that in mind....try sticking it on unmanageable sources...from what you have said....I think snare and synth are the likely candidates.
Stick with a 2:1 ratio and never go beyond 4 dB of gain reduction.
It might be acceptable.
Cheers
Roly




PS.....I'm just a bush league guy, my remarks are sincere but there are many other techs out there with greater depth.

davywhizz
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Aug 2nd, 2017 04:07 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks again Roly. I really like the idea of using the Behringer for taming the drums/synth via the channel inserts. I could also set gates and limiting on those. My plan had been to donate the old compressor to a local charity which promotes music for all but maybe they can wait!

Re the M350, you've prompted me to find out a little about parallel compression. The key issue seems to be the aux send mix of a "wet" and "dry" signal? The Mackie mixer has a "main insert" output which I assume applies to all channels and is described in the manual as being for effects. Would that do it rather than creating a sub-group? We could still use an aux (post) send and return for the reverb side of the M350. By the way, the M350 manual talks about the compression setting being 100% "wet" so maybe they've thought about it to some extent?

I haven't ruled out buying better kit, but would like to see what I can do with what we have first. We use different sound persons for gigs, so the simpler the set-up the better.

rockstar_not

USA

Thank God for guitars!
Aug 2nd, 2017 06:02 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Late to this party, but better live singers need less compression. They know how to interact their output with the mic sensitivity and the room PA system. I realize this has already been said for the most part. If you have a singer that is giving you issues mostly with plosives rather than vocal level variation, it doesn't hurt to get a couple of different foam toppers to try first before going the route of compression. Yes I realize they are ugly. One of the vocal groups I was in actually used SM57s for live vocals, but we all had a push-on foam topper on our mics, and plosives were never an issue. If it's not plosives and they just don't know how to work the mic, if they are teachable, show them the issues and why you are being forced to compress their vox. Help them help you. BTW, you can even get foam toppers for popular vocal mics.

Shure SM58 windscreen

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Aug 2nd, 2017 09:06 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A comp across the mains is best used as a peak limiter.It's sole function is to protect the drivers, not to manage dynamics.
There's such a mix of sources at the main outs that there is no compression setting that qualifies as "one size fits all".
If that were the case, techs would only own one comp....:>)

Looks like there are no insert points on the groups.....bummer.
Solution is....buss all vocals to a group, do NOT buss that group to L/R.
Instead, connect the group out to the comp in, and return the comp out to a spare channel. Buss the comp return channel out the front door.
Not as complicated as it may seem.
The TC will always be 100% wet when non effects patches are called up.
cheers

davywhizz
Contributing Member
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Aug 3rd, 2017 02:00 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks rockstar_not. Being honest, I'd say we know in our heads what we should be doing re mic technique, but in a live performance the execution is sometimes lacking. I noticed a big improvement years ago when we first tried some basic compression.

Roly: one more stupid question please, I realise you've been more than helpful so far. I can see how to assign vocal channels to a sub-group (1-2 or 2-4) and the sub outs are numbered 1-4, but these seem to be stereo pairs and the M350 only has a single input on the compressor side. How do I hook that up? Just a simple Y splitter adaptor and two patch leads? Taking the output from the comp to a spare channel seems easy enough.

(This message was last edited by davywhizz at 04:08 AM, Aug 3rd, 2017)

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Aug 3rd, 2017 01:50 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi Dave
Let's say you are using group 1 for the send to the comp.
Pan all the vocal channels hard left and push in the group 1/2 button on those channels. They will only show up on group 1. Don't send group 1 to the L/R outputs.
I'm not sure if the groups have insert points.
If that's the case, just go group out to comp in and comp out to a spare channel.....DO Not send the comp return channel to group 1, send it right out the front door.
A Y cord works for splitting signals but is not correct for summing signals.

cheers

davywhizz
Contributing Member
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Redesdale UK

"Still Alive And Well"
Aug 4th, 2017 12:23 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks Roly, I'll give that a try, Rehearsal Sunday!

Roly
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Whitehorse Canada

I don't get out much
Aug 4th, 2017 09:03 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A thought about parallel compression and why it won't work with the TC.

Because the TC is digital....there's a tad of latency that's inherent.
If you were to combine the signal of the TC out with the uncompressed signal, the result would be smeared, not unlike a chorus or flange.
A few years ago, a guest tech insisted on using one of my Rane digital comps to do the parallel compression thing.
He complained that things sounded phasey.
I explained the latency thing and reluctantly, he switched to a channel of Klark.
Problem solved.
Analog is faster than digital.

cheers

PS...good luck on Sunday.

FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Compression on live vocals?




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