I have built a super handy Ableton Live audio effect rack for New York Style or Parallel Compression, and offer it to you as my newest Free Ableton Live Pack! First let me give a brief and simple explanation of compression (feel free to skip the next paragraph if this is old news to you!).
Compression is an effect that changes the dynamic range of an audio signal. (Dynamic range is simply the distance between the quietest part and the loudest part of a signal). Ableton Live comes with a very capable compressor. Basically, a compressor works by listening to the audio signal and quickly turning down its volume whenever the audio goes beyond a certain volume (that volume level is known as the “threshold”) and then it quickly raises the volume back up. The effect is that the quieter parts and the louder parts are closer in volume (the dynamic range is reduced). You can specify how much the volume gets turned down by adjusting the “ratio” control, as well as how fast the volume gets turned down (with the “attack” control), and how fast the audio is turned back up to normal (with the “release” control). Compression is extremely useful for helping tracks sound fuller and sit nicely in your mixes.
Sometimes, however, reducing the dynamic range causes problems. Instruments can lose their “punch” and their excitement can be lost. (Here’s a link to a great video about how over-compression can ruin a track: Loudness Wars). Fortunately to combat this problem, producers have come up with a technique known as New York or Parallel Style Compression. It works by compressing the audio (usually squashing the daylights out of it!) and mixing that processed signal with the original. The compressed signal has the fullness that a compressor offers, but the original maintains the dynamic range that the compressor can destroy. The end result is you get to have your cake and eat it too, the best of both worlds.
To achieve this effect in Ableton Live, I have built an Audio Effect Rack that has two chains: one with a Compressor (plus a Saturator for a little extra flavor), and one chain that allows the audio to pass through unaffected. The download link is below. The eight macro knobs allow for control over the most commonly used parameters (Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release…) as well as an overall volume that allows you to mix in as much of the compressed signal as you like. I particularly like this effect on drum tracks, because it beefs them up while preserving their impact. Feel free to get creative an use it on all kinds of tracks (I’ve had a lot of success with vocals and acoustic guitars).
Thanks for stopping by and downloading this and all my free Ableton Devices. Be sure to check out my series of 2 Minute Ableton Live Tips and some of my Premium Ableton Live Packs. As always, if you make any music using any of my stuff, let me know and I will post it!