1. How much/often do you apply compression (as opposed to brickwall limiting)? Does your selected genre require it? How often do clients request it?
Luca Pretolesi, Electronic: “Clients usually don’t request compression, but during mastering I tend to use light compression, and I like to sidechain internally so I don’t have any pumping. I will set 500 Hz and down and 5 kHz and up to not trigger the detector, whether it’s a plug-in compressor or hardware compressor, so it’s more of a mid-range compression. Normally it’s a slow attack, fast release trying to stay away from changing the envelope of the drums, so I don’t want to kill the transient giving me a more musical dynamic response. Then I’ll compensate with limiting later to reach the right RMS.”
Bob Olhsson, Acoustic/Jazz: “I often view compression as a way to take some of the load off of the limiter. It can also enhance the rhythm depending on the arrangement. Does your selected genre require it? It depends. How often do clients request it? Almost never.”
Darcy Proper, Acoustic/Singer-Songwriter: “I consider compression part of my standard mastering signal path and use it when the mixes I receive allow for it. However, many mixes arrive already heavily compressed and limited, so in those cases, further compression is certainly not necessary. I would say I use it in most acoustic jazz projects and about half of the singer-songwriter projects I receive, although many of the latter tend to be arriving in a similar state to pop material where they’re already hit harder than I would like to start with.”
Dan Millice, Rap/Hip-Hop: “It 100% depends on the mix that I hear coming through my monitors. I can’t really give you an honest opinion because it depends on the sound. I can say that lately I have been using multiband compression more often than stereo compression, but that could totally change at any moment. I realize this answer is likely annoying to readers, because it’s an answer I hear often, but it truly just depends on all aspects of the mix, which I won’t know until I hear it. If I like how it sounds, then I go with it.
Does your selected genre require it? It is never required.
How often do clients request it? Not often in this genre, more often in other genres for sure. Rock for example.”
Michael Bishop, Classical: “Additive sidechain compression is often and carefully used. The genre doesn’t require compression, and no one requests it specifically, but they almost always prefer the masters when additive side-chain compression is used.”
Adam Ayan, Pop: “When needed :)
Does your selected genre require it? Not necessarily (in mastering), but compression is an integral part of all Pop music.
How often do clients request it? Not often, but I think it is expected if needed.”
David Glasser, Folk/Bluegrass: “I use some sort of compression on most projects, generally for tonal color and not level.
Does your selected genre require it? Often, yes.
How often do clients request it? My clients are usually agnostic or uninterested in the specifics of the mastering process, and only concerned with the final master.”
Paul Blakemore, Jazz: “I only use compression if the average volume of the mixes is not appropriate for the genre, or if there is substantial difference in average volume of songs in the sequence. Most of the overall dynamic range work is with a brickwall limiter or with a multiband compressor preceding the limiter. The multiband is not used to boost volumes but rather to reduce volumes in certain frequency ranges so the final limiter doesn’t overreact.
“Sometimes jazz albums benefit from compression in conjunction with limiting depending on how they are mixed.
“Clients rarely if ever request anything. I speak with them about their concept for an album and then generate a complete version one. I make adjustments or completely redo depending on their comments on the version one.”
Cem Oral, Dance/Electronic: “Almost always in different amounts.”
Does your selected genre require it? Absolutely. Compression here also compensates amateurish mixing and flattens unbalanced aspects of a mix.
How often do clients request it? Rarely. Most clients seem to have endless trust in the mastering engineer’s skills.”
Alex Psaroudakis, Electronic: “Not much compression unless its really dynamic (20 RMS or more). Mostly limiter.
Jeff LeRoy, Classical: “Not Usually. The ‘concert hall’ aesthetic is one that artists and reviewers alike are listening for. Another factor is the instrument/ensemble. For example: one aspect that makes an orchestra sound like an orchestra is the command of dynamic contrast, and implementing compression can quickly give the impression of an ‘over-engineered,’ inauthentic recording.
“Once in a great while, an artist will request it, and this is often the result of low RMS due to high dynamic contrast. In extreme cases if this, we might manually gain down the loudest peaks (a rambunctious timpanist or crash cymbal player is often to blame) and then normalize.”
David V.R. Bowles, Classical: “Often.
Does your selected genre require it? Yes, but I do as little as possible.
How often do clients request it? Rarely, but I do explain the need for full dynamic range.”
Gavin Lurssen, No Genre Selected: “These days, it is fair to say that a high amount of releases require both.
Does your selected genre require it? Yes and no. The music is the music. The mixing of art and commerce means that we need to have the level of experience that knows when and how much to do. Limiting or compression should only ever be done for musical choices. Never, repeat NEVER, for the sake of getting level only. But there is usually an expectation of the fans in this area.
How often do clients request it? Hardly ever. It is mostly left to us as to how to process and treat the music. I have always enjoyed this aspect of my career.”