Compression

A beginner’s guide to understanding the audio compressor attack setting

A beginner’s guide to understanding the audio compressor attack setting

Understanding the compressor attack setting

The compressor attack setting lets you control how quickly the compressor turns an audio signal down when it crosses the threshold. The attack time is defined in milliseconds. The lower the number of milliseconds, the faster the attack time.

With fast settings, the compressor will turn the signal down quickly when it crosses the threshold. With slower settings, the compressor will turn the signal down more gradually. As such, it will take longer for the full ratio amount of compression to be reached with slower settings.

Using the compressor attack setting

How you set the attack time is often dependent on what it is you are compressing and how you want the compression to affect the signal. A fast attack time will see the compressor clamp down on the signal really quickly. This can be useful when you want to tame an audio signal’s transients. With a slower attack time however, some of the transient information will likely pass through uncompressed or only very lightly compressed before the full ratio amount of compression is reached. This is a better option if retaining some of an instrument’s natural attack is desirable. Of course, if the attack time is too slow, the compressor’s full ratio amount may not be reached until the loud part of the signal has already passed.

Conclusion

The compressor attack setting gives you lots of control over the way the compressor affects your audio signal. You are able to use the attack time to control how quickly you want the signal to be turned down once a signal crosses the threshold. So using the attack setting is a key step in really crafting the way your compression sounds.

How do you set this parameter for different instruments in your mixes? Leave your thoughts or questions in the comment section below.

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