How To Use An Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 1

The pro audio world uses compression more than any other form of signal processing, because it makes the music or message you are trying to convey easier to listen to, more consistent and improves intelligibility.

How To Use An Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 1
Since we will only be using one channel for our purpose, we've zoomed in on channel 2 in the image above. There are two parts of the channel. Outlined in red is the expander/gate which can be used to reduce background noise in the channel when no one is talking.
How To Use An Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 1
Since we will only be using one channel for our purpose, we've zoomed in on channel 2 in the image above. There are two parts of the channel. Outlined in red is the expander/gate which can be used to reduce background noise in the channel when no one is talking.

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How To Use An Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 1

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How to Use an Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 2
How To Use An Audio Compressor In Your Church System, Part 1

Technology Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, November-December 2017
The November-December 2017 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers a review of the 49 New Product Award entries this year, as well as those entries up for Solomon Awards in 2017.
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Compression Ratio

The next control knob on the compressor is the ratio, which determines the amount of gain reduction applied to the signal once it reaches the threshold. The diagrams show the results of different ratio settings. For example, the 1:1 setting will do nothing to the signal, but the more you turn the knob clock wise, the more drastically it will decrease the volume of the audio that exceeds the set threshold point.

If you set the control all the way to the right it will severely affect the signal to where it is acting as a hard limiter, not allowing the volume to exceed the threshold. This can start to sound unnaturally squeezed or flattened, depending on the threshold.

Soft Knee Compression

This specific compressor has a feature called OverEasy, otherwise referred to as soft knee compression. It makes the compression less detectable by smoothing out the threshold transition, so we recommend using it as indicated on the above image. The diagrams on the right show how much the volume will change once the signal reaches the threshold level based on the ratio settings.

Auto Attack and Release

The attack and release controls determine how fast the compression activates and deactivates when the signal passes the threshold in either direction. You will note that we have drawn lines through both of these controls in our compressor image and recommend you select the automatic feature found on the dbx 266XL and many other audio compressors. This will automatically adjust the attack and release and is acceptable for this application.

Finding the right settings

With both the over-easy/soft knee and the auto attack and release on, set the compression ratio at 2:1 and the threshold at 0 db. Next, we need to have a sound check with the pastor speaking as he does during his sermon.

Remember, if he generally has a wide range from subtle to attention getting, make sure that you cover all those ranges during this sound check. Bring the threshold down (counter-clockwise) to -10 db or more, and see if your gain reduction meter is showing any gain reduction. If so, how much and what has changed with the sound? Your goal is to lower the volume on the loudest portions of the audio and smooth out the sound of the pastor’s voice.

On the right hand side of the compressor is the Output Gain, use this to offset the dB lost as indicated by the gain reduction meter. This will bring up the volume on the quieter parts of the audio making your pastor’s voice more consistent and easy to hear.

The higher the ratio and the lower the threshold, the more you will squish the sound. Too low a threshold or too high a ratio is not good, but experimenting to get the feel of how it works will help you get the results that sound best with your system in your space.


Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, November-December 2017
The November-December 2017 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers a review of the 49 New Product Award entries this year, as well as those entries up for Solomon Awards in 2017.


Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Team Development · Microphone · Mixer · Pro Audio · Signal Chain · Sound System · System Volume · All Topics

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