The more churches we work with the more I see a need for proper use of compression and gain structure.
The majority of churches now have access to digital consoles, this is great because of the different options you get with them are much more, and now with how affordable they have become so many churches are able to get them.
With a digital console, a church sound guy has more tools to work with than ever before. When using analog consoles, compression is something of an added expense to have on every channel and it can become very complex. Digital consoles make this much easier with onboard compression.
Compression is very much overlooked sometimes. Compression is the process of taking the input level and squeezing it down to something that is easier to mix with. Compression helps with singers’ and pastors’ microphones in a great way. It allows for the explosions of sound when the singer or pastor wants to emphasize a chorus or point in a song or message without clipping or distorting the sound for the audience.
The issue with compression is that most people do not use a proper gain structure. This is where you increase the gain to the proper level for the singer, pastor, or instrument.
In some cases we have seen where a church may over compress the signal coming in when it just needs to have less overall gain. The more you compress a signal the weaker it is and sounds, which is why you need to add the gain back. This is the RATIO, which just means for every 1 db of input you will compress it down that many times once it passes the THRESHOLD, which I will talk about in a minute. So if you have a 1:4 ratio, you are compressing the 1 db of signal down 4 times, which means you are squeezing it a lot.
The THRESHOLD is the point in which the compressor will turn on. It will not turn on until it passes that set level. The ATTACK and RELEASE are just the speed of the compressor taking the input signal, compressing it, and sending it back out. Most times on digital and even analog compressors you can see how much GAIN REDUCTION is done to the signal. This is where you need to use the OUTPUT GAIN to gain up the signal you just compressed.
Here’s a good starting point:
Try a ratio somewhere between 4:1 and 8:1, an attack time as fast as possible, with a release time of around half a second. Try and achieve about 4-6dB of gain reduction. Makeup gain 4-6db.