Vocal Compressor Settings

My usual vocal chain is Shure SM7b, Api 512c, Wavearts Track5 (which I only use the Gate section) and Izotope Nectar. Recently I took my API Lunchbox and SM7b to a friends house to record. He didn’t have any plug-ins on his computer and I realized he needed compression on his vocals. When I bought my Lunchbox and 512c I also bought an API 527 compressor. It’s always been in the Lunchbox but I rarely use it. In fact, I’m ashamed to say I just use software compressors, mostly presets and never really figured out how to set my 527. That’s what this post is all about. This is a question to Wire to the Ear readers. What would be a good setting on my 527 compressor for vocals. What’s a good starter setting and what should I adjust?

I’ve already asked a friend (Cesar B. de Guzman aka @cyndiseui) on Instagram. I set my 527 as he thought would be a good start. He makes a lot of music but what do you think?

“527 is a VCA comp that has a very fast attack response. U could do this ratio 1 til 3. Attack 3 o clock. Release 8-9 o’clock. Set to new if you want something sparkling style or old as punch vintage type… The only thing you could adjust yrself is threshold. Technically you could leave from 2 to 3 db down from the threshold as a starter.” – cyndiseui

For more info: apiaudio.com/527.html

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to: thehorrorist.com

2 thoughts on “Vocal Compressor Settings”

  1. if you’re not using it at all, an easy always on remedy would be to use it as a peak limiter. output gain=0db, compression ratio infinity:1, knee=hard, attack=0ms, release=0ms, and finally adjust the threshold to MAX and adjust it manually a tiny bit lower until your peak limiting kicks in but everything below those hottest peaks is uncompressed.

    to do more standard vocal compression, you’ll want something a lot more subtle than peak limiting. It looks more like: output gain=+3db to +9db, compression ratio low like 1.5:1 up to say 6:1, knee=soft, attack=5ms to 10ms, release = 10ms to 25ms and threshold should be somewhere around the midpoint of the softest and loudest signals coming from your mic if watching the VU meters. This is a kind of classic 1970s style vocal compression type setting, so not knowing what the tech is underneath that old/new toggle switch I would start with old and play with it creatively to see what works best in a given situation.

    I find that output gain and compression ratio are the easiest to approach conceptually once the concepts are understood. knee is next, but the hardest ones to set without listening are attack, release and threshold since I almost always find myself listening to tweak these into place to avoid pumping and breathing and such.

    1. Thanks for the great response. This blog is like my notebook so be sure your settings will be in use shortly. The 512c and SM7b are interesting in that even when I see distortion… even digital I don’t necessarily hear it.

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