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Parallel Compression in Logic (In 2 Minutes)

Parallel compression is a music production technique used to achieve a fuller, punchier sound without losing the dynamics of the original audio signal. In order to achieve this, a copy of the signal is compressed heavily while the original remains dry. This compressed version is then blended with the original uncompressed signal.

Although the engineers in New York apparently used to often scoop out some of the mid-range frequencies, parallel compression and compression are now utilized interchangeably.

Regardless, this method is employed on many albums and offers a number of advantages above, merely utilizing the wet and dry knobs in your preferred software compressor. 

Contents

How To Set Up Parallel Compression in Logic

However, there are four important elements within parallel compression, which need to be accurate if you want to nail this trick.

4 Elements Of Parallel Compression:

1. Bus Routing:

Routing the original signal properly is key to achieving the desired results. We want to route signals in a way that gives us maximum control while giving us the flexibility to make changes later in the project.

2. Volume Independence:

Routing the audio for parallel compression before it enters the volume fader allows you to achieve volume independence, which is key in parallel compression.

Though the original track’s signal is used by the compressed track, you wanna make sure that you have independent fader controls for both channels.

This way, you can use the original track for volume automation and add other effects too, without your parallel compressed track tagging along all the time.

3. Compressor Threshold:

Remember, it’s only called parallel compression if the original signal consistently crosses the threshold of your compressor plugin. If certain sections of the song don’t cross the threshold, it’s going to seriously affect the tonal balance of the track.

With an inaccurate threshold, some parts might receive the character of your compressor, while some might just pass through undetected. This is worse as they’ll be adding unnecessary additional uncompressed decibels (volume), which can ruin your mix.

4. Dry/Wet Consistency:

If you’ve successfully executed the routing for volume independence and set your threshold well, you should be getting a consistent ratio between your compressed and uncompressed signals, which is the goal of parallel compression.

A step-by-step guide to setting up parallel compression in Logic Pro X:

Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up parallel compression in Logic Pro X:

Step 1: Create Your Tracks

1. Select the track that you want to apply parallel compression to in your Logic Pro X project. 

Parallel Compression in Logic

2. Re-name it as “Dry Vocals”

3. Look for the “Send” button above the pan knob and click on the drop-down menu.

Look for the 22Send22 button

4. Click on “Bus” and select any empty bus that you like. For example, Bus 25. It would appear as B25 on the channel strip now.

Click on 22Bus22

5. Click on the adjoining slider on the right and move it clockwise till it hits 0.0dB or unity gain. Notice it turn green. 

Click on the adjoining slider

6. Now notice that a Bus 25 track appears next to the Dry Vocal track on the right. 

Bus 25 track appears

7. You can go ahead and add a compressor by clicking on the “Audio FX” button below Bus 25. Ideally, add a “Fast” compressor. If in doubt, it’s best to go with a FET 1176 style compressor as seen below. 

FET 1176 style compressor

8. Now go ahead and rename this bus 25 track as 1176. Right-click anywhere above Bus 25 in the strip and select “Create Track.” We now have a dedicated 1176-track.

dedicated 1176 track

Step 2: Pre-Fader Routing Your Dry Track

1. On your “Dry Vocals” track, click on B25 and scroll through the drop-down menu. Notice that Post Pan is selected by default. Change it to “Pre-Fader.” 

Dry Vocals

2. Notice the signal indicator turns blue and switch to the left side. This means that we’ve achieved the 1st step towards volume independency, as the dry vocals are being sent ‘Pre-Fader” to the parallel compressor or 1176 track.
This means the Dry Vocal volume fader can be used normally for regular purposes without affecting the parallel compression. 

parallel compression

Step 3: Creating An Independent Parallel Compression Track

1. Click on the “Stereo Output” in the Dry Vocals track. Open the pull-down menu and select the next empty bus. We selected Bus 26.

Note: This is probably the most important step in the process.

Here, we’re “diverting” our dry vocals from the project’s stereo output to a new bus track. This is the 2nd step toward volume independence, which we’ll expand upon later in the article. 

volume independence

2. Notice that a new track with Bus26 on the right has been created. This is the track where the volume fader can be freely used without creating imbalances between the dry track and the compressed track.

new track with Bus26

3. Since we can use this volume fader freely as an independent parallel compression track, we’re going to name it “Parallel Vocal Volume”   

Parallel Vocal Volume

4. Same as before, right-click anywhere above Bus 26 in the strip and select “Create Track”. We now have a dedicated Parallel Vocal Volume track.

dedicated Parallel Vocal Volume track

5. Now let’s route the 1176 track to this Parallel Vocal Volume, too. Click on the 1176 track.
Same as before, click on the “Stereo Output” in the 1176 track. Open the pull-down menu and select Bus 26-Parallel Vocal Volume.

Step 4: Finetuning Comp. Settings 

1. Once you’ve added the compressor plugin to your parallel compression track, you’ll want to adjust the compressor settings to achieve the desired amount of compression.

2. Start by setting a high ratio (e.g., 4:1 or higher) to apply more compression to the audio signal.

3. Set a fast attack time (e.g., around 10 ms or lower) to allow the compressor to react quickly to peaks in the audio signal.

4. Choose a medium release time (e.g., around 100 ms) to control the release of the compressed audio signal.

5. Adjust the effect processor wet/dry mix to merge with parallel compression. This balances and unifies sound.

6. Blend the parallel compression and effect with the dry signal. Set the parallel compression fader to unity (0 dB). Then, progressively increase the parallel compression track fader until your mix has the appropriate compression. 

Step 5: Adding Effects To Your Parallel Compression 

1. With Step 3, we’ve managed to make sure that pulling the “Parallel Vocal Volume” fader up or down can safely move the dry and the compressed track together without unwanted changes. We’ll dive into the explanations later in the article.

2. Add an effects processor to the parallel compression track. Reverb, delay, chorus, or other effects can improve your mix.

3. Choose an effect that fits your sound. We have used Elephant Reverb, which is an excellent free reverb plugin. You can use the one of your choice.

4. Adjust the effects processor settings to get the desired sound. For space and depth, alter the reverb’s decay time, pre-delay, and wet/dry mix. Find the right blend settings by experimenting.

5. This reverb will go on the “Parallel Vocal Volume” track. So all you need to do is go to the Parallel Vocal Volume track and click on stereo Out and drop down the menu. Select Output 33-34, enter the rop down menu for the busses and select bus 61 and send it to it.

6. You’ll find the Bus 61 track on your right side. Just copy and paste the Elephant reverb onto its Audio FX slot. Otherwise, click on the Audio FX slo and pick out the reverb from scratch.

Audio FX slo

7. Now rename the Bus 61 track with the reverb as FX.Set the knob to unity (0 dB) so the signal gets through.

8. This single bus track gives us enormous flexibility as it can host a variety of FX that you can use in parallel with your dry vocals throughout the track.

Step 6: Adjust Your Send Levels

1. After creating the send, adjust the send level to control the amount of audio signal that is being sent to your parallel compression track.

2. Start with a 50/50 blend between the original uncompressed signal and the compressed signal from the parallel compression track.

3. You can experiment with different send levels to achieve the desired amount of parallel compression in your mix. Higher send levels will result in more compressed audio signal, while lower send levels will result in less compression.

Sound Examples Of The Step-By-Step Parallel Compression:

DRY vocal

Parallel Compressed Vocals with All Buttons mode 1176

Same Parallel Compression Steps on Mix Bus

Parallel Compressed Vocals with 1176

Reverb on Parallel Compressed Vocals

When Should I Use Parallel Compression?

Parallel compression is especially useful in instances where the live recordings of your drums, vocals, or electric guitars in a studio lack aggression and focus. Parallel compression allows you to preserve the essence of the performance but also get to add the focussed, tonal, and aggressive sound that the wet channel offers.   

Parallel compression is at most times, a great alternative to standard compression as you get to keep the dynamic inconcsistencies of your dry, natural, original sound without losing the charm of the recording. 

However, don’t slap this on everything, as it’s only useful in cases where your original audio has a fairly broad dynamic range or has anomalies that only vocalists, instrumentalists, or “Real” drum recordings have. 

When To Not Use Parallel Compression?

Parallel Compression works best on Live recordings. For example, if you have a four-on-the-floor 808 electronic kick drum or snare hit going on, you don’t exactly need parallel compression as the sounds are already even and mechanical-sounding. What you need is to add more character in such cases

Changing the velocities at one individual drum hit or adding saturation, overdrive, or slight bit-reduction would increase the inconsistencies in the velocity and the harmonics, leading to a more complex and fuller sound.

For almost any situation where you might wish to employ compression with a high degree of control, parallel compression should be used.

The three main situations in which you’ll be using parallel compression are listed below.

The Control of Dynamic Range

Parallel compressors strive to control the track’s dynamic range, just like conventional compression, sidebar parallel compression, multiband compression, or any other sort of compression.

However, parallel compression methods excel in preserving the live dynamics of the original signal because they are frequently more deft and accurate.

Having stated that parallel compression is not necessary if you want to apply high compression to a track. The main distinction is that parallel compression provides you with greater control over how the compressed signal and dry signal blend together.

Sounds to “Glue” Together

Any type of compression can be quite helpful for joining sounds together in addition to processing just one track. For example, four singers could be used to create the background vocals for a song. You can process these related tracks, in the same way, using a parallel compressor within a send bus without significantly compromising the integrity of the original dynamics.

Transient Shaping

Compressors are quite helpful when processing stuff like a dry kick or whole drum kit because they may help shape waveforms. Since you might not need to control the dynamics, you might prefer parallel shaping to a straight-on compressor. You may easily produce the sound forms you’re after thanks to the flexibility of the blend of the two streams, all without power loss through harsh compression.

Why use Parallel compression? Can’t I use Regular Downward Compression Instead?

The reason is actually rather simple. When conventional compression fails to produce the desired outcome, you utilize parallel compression. This is due to the disadvantages of standard compression (broken transients, loss of high-end frequencies, excessive unwanted noise), or it may just be a desire for greater dynamic range control.

Questions To Ask Before Parallel Compressing A Track

  • Is it for dynamic range control? 
  • Is it done to give a sound more life and personality?
  • Is it only to help clusters of sounds sound a little more connected?

These questions will not only give you a decent sense of which sounds to perform parallel compression on (and thus answer the “when/in what situation?” issue), but they will also indicate the general range of values you should be looking at.

We’ll concentrate on these settings next.

What Kind Of Parallel Compression Settings Do The Pros Use For Different Instruments?

We’ve laid out some of the common settings used by the pros when it comes to parallel compression on various Instruments.

Parallel Compression Settings On Vocals

A vocal recording’s dynamic range, or the difference in level between the loudest passages and the quietest whispers, is frequently rather large. Parallel compression is therefore ideal for bringing out a vocal’s low-level detail, even though it won’t typically be employed to give vocals more character or to join several vocal sounds together. 

Parallel Compression Settings On Vocals

(this line can be bold but after the yellow box above)This will let you accentuate a voice’s natural volume dips (at the conclusion of a phrase or when changing to a lower register) and give the vocal vitality.

Regarding settings, we typically suggest a (very) rapid release and a medium attack time (about 4-6 ms).

DRY Vocal

WET vocal with 1176

Parallel Compression Settings On Drums

In order to make their drums add body and adequate transients, which make them constantly noticeable throughout the mix, producers frequently utilize the parallel compression approach on drums. You want to be ideally dealing with a low threshold and high ratio (at least 4:1) to make sure you have one substantially compressed input signal to work with. 

In order to increase a track’s overall volume and fight in the loudness war, drum sounds, in particular, can have highly harsh volume peaks that must be controlled. However, you gain far more control and finesse with parallel compression rather than standard (downward) compression.

control and finesse


You can manage the dynamic range of a single snare or the full kit or grouped percussion sounds in tandem with the regular kit, using (parallel) compression to ensure that their impact is constant throughout the entire recording. 

We recommend starting with a slow (or long) assault (about 30 ms) and adjusting gently until you’ve reached the appropriate position because you don’t want to change the drum sound’s initial punch.

Because you don’t want to change the punch of your drum sounds, you’ll need the release to be quick (or brief) enough to end just before the following drum sound triggers it.

DRY Drums

WET Drums with 1176 

What Compressor Style Should I Use When Parallel Compressing Audio?

Here are some of the styles of compression, along with the names of some of the built-in compressors in Logic Pro X that you can use. We’ve listed out their pros and cons so you can discern the best situations to use them in.

I. VCA (Voltage-Controlled Amplifier) Compressors

Pros:

  •  Fast and precise response, making them suitable for controlling dynamics and shaping transients.
  •  Transparent and clean sound, making them versatile for a wide range of audio sources.
  •  Often have adjustable attack and release times, allowing fine-tuning of compression characteristics.

Cons:

  •  Can sound somewhat clinical and lack the coloration or character of other compressor styles.
  •  May not add the desired warmth or saturation to the parallel compressed signal.

Logic Pro X’s Stock Compressor: 

Studio VCA Compressor

II. FET (Field-Effect Transistor) Compressors

Pros:

  •  Fast attack times and aggressive compression characteristics, ideal for adding punch and presence.
  •  Can introduce subtle harmonic distortion, contributing to a more “analog” and vintage sound.
  •  Generally well-suited for parallel compression applications due to their tonal characteristics.

Cons:

  •  Can sound overly aggressive or harsh if not carefully adjusted.
  •  Limited control over compression release characteristics compared to other compressor types.

Logic Pro X’s Stock Compressor:

Studio FET Compressor

III. Tube Compressors

Pros:

  •  Analog warmth and pleasing harmonic distortion when driven hard, offering vintage and musical characteristics.
  •  Typically offer adjustable attack and release times, allowing for precise control over compression.
  •  Can impart a pleasing coloration and smoothness to the parallel compressed signal.

Cons:

  •  Some tube compressors may introduce noise or have less precise control over compression parameters.
  •  May require maintenance and tube replacements over time.

Logic Pro X’s Stock Compressor: 

Better to try a third-party tube compressor plugin

IV. Optical Compressors

Pros:

  •  Smooth and transparent compression, ideal for leveling out dynamics without sounding overly aggressive.
  •  Generally have a more natural and musical response, suitable for vocals and acoustic instruments.
  •  Can add subtle tonal enhancements and character to the parallel compressed signal.

Cons:

  •  Limited control over attack and release times compared to other compressor styles.
  •  May not be as suitable for extreme compression settings or highly dynamic sources.

Logic Pro X’s Stock Compressor:

Vintage Opto Compressor

V. Digital Compressors

Pros:

  •  Precise control over compression parameters with a wide range of options.
  •  Often provide a clean and transparent sound suitable for a variety of genres and sources.
  •  Can offer advanced features like sidechain filtering, lookahead, and versatile metering options.

Cons:

  •  Some digital compressors may lack the warmth and character associated with analog compressor styles.
  •  Excessive or poor parameter settings can result in an overly processed or artificial sound.

Logic Pro X’s Stock Compressor: 

Platinum Digital Compressor

Platinum Digital Compressor

Remember that while Logic Pro X offers these built-in compressors, there are also numerous third-party compressor plugins available that emulate different compressor styles and provide additional sonic possibilities for parallel compression.

Creating Templates for Larger Projects

Working on projects of 50-150 tracks, for example, the way you set up parallel compression and other techniques is extremely different. There is a lot of management required in grouping the appropriate frequency spectrums and timbres, in addition to the standard instrument groupings.

Below are some methods for configuring parallel compression for larger projects:

Advanced Grouping and Routing:

Create subgroups within each instrument group to address specific components of the mix in a huge project. Within the drums group, for example, create subgroups for kick, snare, toms, and cymbals.

Auxiliary bus tracks are useful for parallelizing certain frequency ranges or effects, as well as parallel compression. Additional bus tracks can be added for low-end enhancement, harmonic stimulation, stereo widening, and specialized effects processing.

Customized Parallel Compression Chains:

Create a number of parallel compression chains, each with its own set of parameters tailored to specific instruments or subgroups. Adapt the attack, release, ratio, and threshold parameters to each instrument’s or subgroup’s dynamics and characteristics.

Experiment with different compressor plugins or combinations of multiple compressors in sequence within a parallel compression chain to get distinct and desirable sound attributes.

Automation of Parallel Compression:

Create dynamic changes and movements in the mix by automating the parallel compression setup parameters. The Dry/Wet knob, compressor settings, and even track routing to several parallel compression chains may all be automated. This allows for fine-tuning the impact and intensity of the parallel compression throughout the song.

Customized Channel Strip Templates:

Customized channel strip settings can be saved for specific project tracks. Include custom EQ, compression, and other effects settings in addition to parallel compression parameters for each track.

Group these customizable channel strip settings by instrument type to make it easier to memorise and apply different processing chains to different recordings.

Advanced Bus Processing:

You can experiment with complex bus processing options in addition to parallel compression.

Parallel Saturation:

Use parallel saturation chains on bus tracks to enhance harmonic richness and warmth to certain instrument groups or subgroups.

Parallel Saturation

Use saturation plugins or tape emulation plugins to offer varying degrees of saturation to the parallel signal to improve the timbre and character of the instruments.

In the example above, we’ve used Melda Productions’ free MSaturator plugin. By using it on the mix bus with the same parallel compression steps as explained before, we can achieve parallel saturation with ease and control.

We’ve added even harmonics of the 2nd and 4th while reducing the odd harmonic of the 3rd quite drastically and boosting the 5th harmonic quite substantially too.

DRY-

WET-

EQing in Parallel:

Use parallel EQ on bus tracks to change the tonal balance and frequency response of certain instrument groups or subgroups.

EQ plugins can be used to increase or attenuate specific frequency bands in the parallel signal, allowing for focused tonal shaping and enhancement while retaining the original character of the dry tracks.

Parallel Distortion:

Use parallel distortion on bus tracks to add grit, edge, or aggressive tones to specific instrument groups or subgroups.

To achieve controlled distortion while keeping the clarity and dynamics of the dry tracks, apply distortion or amp simulation plugins to the parallel signal.

Parallel Processing Modulation Effects:

Examine the effects of parallel modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser), parallel reverb, and parallel delay.

Experiment with different plugins and processing chains on bus tracks to create unique textures, spaciousness, and rhythmic effects within certain instrument groups or subgroups.

Logic’s Advanced Parallel Compression Techniques

If you’ve read thus far and feel like these approaches are well within your grasp, you might want to look at some of the advanced techniques below, as they can really broaden your perspective on what is possible with parallel compression.

Parallel Compression Linear Phase Equalisation:

Use a linear phase EQ plugin in the parallel compression chain to precisely change the frequency response of the compressed sound with minimal phase distortion.

In rock vocals, for example, linear phase EQ in parallel compression is used to boost middle presence and clarity without adding phase-related distortions, resulting in a focused and upfront voice sound.

Mid-Side Parallel Compression:

To have separate control over the mix’s center (mono) and sides (stereo), use mid-side processing within the parallel compression chain.

This allows for independent compression of each component.

Mid-side parallel compression, for example, is used in jazz drums to compress the middle (kick, snare) to add punch and control while leaving the sides (cymbals, room ambiance) somewhat uncompressed to preserve its natural spaciousness.

De-Essing of Parallel Compression:

Sibilance issues can be handled by incorporating de-using in the parallel compression chain, which targets and decreases harsh sibilant sounds.

Parallel Compression on a Specific Band: 

Implement band-specific parallel compression using multiband compression within the parallel compression chain, allowing customized compression for specific frequency bands.

Parallel Compression on a Specific Band

We’ve used multiband parallel compression here on the mix buss with the Waves C6. You can immediately see the tonal balance changing from the dry to the wet multiband track. You can notice we’ve bumped some of the low mids and high mids to accentuate the vocalist.

DRY

WET

But this trick goes beyond just accentuation, which can be done with regular downward compression. Multiband Parallel Compression completely changes the tonal balance of the tracks. You can surely imagine the possibilities in an ensemble setup or with an orchestra of 80-100 instruments spanning the various bands.

Multiband Parallel Compression in an Ensemble/Orchestra: 

For example, in a full orchestra mix, you can totally use band-specific parallel compression to regulate dynamics and balance among particular instrument groups.

Strings:

Apply light compression to the low-frequency region of the strings section to provide a sturdy and regulated foundation while allowing natural dynamics and expressiveness to peek through in the mid and high frequencies.

Brass:

With band-specific parallel compression, you can control the dynamic range of the brass section. Apply light compression to the mid frequencies to balance out the performance and bring the instruments forward in the mix while preserving the intensity and glitter of the high frequencies.

Woodwinds:

Apply subtle compression to the intermediate frequencies of the woodwinds section to maintain stability and control while allowing the delicate subtleties and timbral fluctuations to show through in the low and high frequencies.

Percussion:

Use band-specific parallel compression to boost the punch and sustain of the percussion instruments. Apply light compression to the low and mid frequencies while leaving the high-frequency transients and natural resonances alone to tighten the low end and add punch.

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