by Michael Nickolas
Multiband compression is a powerful tool and a great problem solver. It is also one of the hardest processors to learn and use. It is similar to a regular compressor as it is used to even out a performance or to add punch, definition or warmth. But, instead of acting on the entire frequency spectrum of your source, it only affects bands of your choosing. Putting in some hours learning a multiband compressor can pay off for you down the line with better sounding mixes.
There are many features that make this plug-in special. For example the user can choose from either a Normal or a Vintage compression mode, with Normal behaving as a typical compressor does and Vintage emulating the often desired warm sound of a classic analog compressor. The multiband plug-in also features an output limiter. When activated, the limiter will automatically adjust any level exceeding 0dB to below clipping, allowing you to raise the output gain without distortion. There is also a “TCR” (Transient Controlled Release) choice which is a feature to automatically adjust the release time in real-time to avoid fast compression changes.
Below are two real world scenarios demonstrating the use of the multiband compressor to solve typical problems you might encounter as you are working on a project. I’ll be using SONAR Producer Edition as the host program.
The first example is using the multiband compressor as a de-esser. Many times you can find that a recorded vocal sound is overly sibilant. That is the top end sounds harsh, with words heavy on the letter “S” jumping out and sounding piercing perhaps. This could result from bad microphone choice or placement. Sometimes it happens when layering vocals. What sounds fine as one part becomes too “essy” when stacked with doubles or triples. Here is a procedure using the Sonitus multiband compressor to help tame the S’s.
1) Patch the Multiband compressor into the tracks effect bin.
2) Click on the Reset button
3) Find the annoying frequency (which usually falls between 5-7kHz) as follows
a. Solo Band 5
b. Also solo the vocal track in SONAR and with your song playing, click and drag the slider for Band 5’s crossover frequency, located just above the word “High” at the bottom of the plug-in screen. Drag it left and right until you find the spot where you are hearing the most of the annoying frequency. The image below shows Band 5 soloed and the High frequency set to 6935. This means the compression settings will be working on frequencies 6935 and higher.
4)Stop the song and switch from the Common tab to the tab labeled “5”.
5)Set the ratio to 4.5, attack between 0-10, and release to 200.
6) Un-solo the vocal track in SONAR, un-solo Band 5 in the plug-in, start the song again and pull down the threshold slider located at the top of Band 5’s meter until the annoying S’s disappear. Tweak the ratio, attack, release and threshold to fine tune these basic settings.
Another use you might find for the Sonitus multiband compressor is to tame a drum loop. Many composers/producers these days use stereo drum loops (like the excellent SmartLoops collection offered by Cakewalk) to build very realistic drum parts for their projects. Of course being a stereo file, the user has no control over the mix of the different drums that make up any given loop. In some cases you might find the bass drum, snare drum or hi-hats jumping out of the mix and not blending as you wish. Use the de-essing technique above, but do so on the frequencies that make up the sound you want to tame. In the case of a snare that is too loud you will probably be adjusting both crossover Bands 4 and 5. The compression will be functioning on the frequencies that make up the distance between the two. You will also find a shorter release, say 35-60ms is more appropriate. Playing with the attack will also affect the sound of the snare, so again, fine tune to your liking. Using multiband compression like this can really increase the usefulness of you loop library!
So, as you can see, multiband compression is a powerful tool and only one of many impressive effects available in the Sonitus:fx plug-in Suite. Put in some time to learn it, and don’t hesitate to break it out to solve your sonic problems!
Michael Nickolas is a guitarist and composer in Marlborough MA. Recent compositions have been used on CBS's "JAG" and ShowTime's "Soul Food". Visit him at www.studionineproductions.com. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org