How Mix Bus Compression Can Make Your Song 100% Better

How Mix Bus Compression Can Make Your Song 100% Better

Written by Jaron Lewis

So you’re a DJ. You’ve just mixed your first song in your bedroom. It sounds good through your expensive headphones. Everyone’s going to love it, you think. This is going to fill floors as quickly as a bird comes for bread. This is going to be a hit. Don’t get ahead of yourself. It might sound good through your headphones, on a moderate volume, but when the DJ turns it up to ten, it’s going to get fuzzy. You’re going to have to compress.

Mix bus compression glues the different parts together. Do you want it smooth or do you want it warm? Do you want it characterful and dense or do you want it to feel light and transparent? Mix bus compression imbues your song with its personality.

What Is Mix Bus Compression?

Basically, bus compression is when you put a compressor across the stereo outputs or across a section of instruments (a drum submix, for example). The first kind, when you put it across stereo outputs, is called master bus compression. With mix bus compression, you’re mixing through a stereo compressor from the beginning of the process rather than simply using it at the end.

Add Gloss

Mix bus compression allows you to put a gloss on things, glue instruments together, reduce dynamic range, thus lessening harshness and smoothing aural irritants, and coat the song with a sheen of professionalism, turning something amateurish and rough into something commercial and polished. You have to be careful, though: experts warn against doing too much, in case the track ends up dead, overworked, imbalanced, or distorted.

For this reason, experts recommend high thresholds (i.e. the points at which the signal is compressed). You should also remember that mixing isn’t the final stage, and certain things should be left for the mastering process.

Which One Should I Get?

When it comes to mix bus compressor plugins, there are, of course, many to choose from. I recommend the Waves Renaissance Compressor. Though it costs money, twenty-nine dollars for the software, you don’t want to skimp when it comes to compressors. The mix of your whole track is at stake, and compressing is daunting enough without a simple, well-designed interface.

If you’re using a plugin compressor, however, you should know that there are many who think digital doesn’t match analogue in terms of sound, and that, despite the possibilities afforded by digital compressors, the analogue compressors are still the best.

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Is It Really Necessary To Use A Bus Compressor?

The short answer is, Yes. If you don’t, the different strands will remain incoherent, insufficiently glued-together. The professionals do it, so if you want to sound professional, you’re going to have to do it. However, unless you know what you’re doing, it’s very easy to over-work in the compression stage.

Ultimately mix bus compression is finicky work, and it’s hard to discern the differences actually being made to the audio without a very sensitive ear and years of experience. But if you want your song really to feel like a song, and not just a mixture of mismatched parts, then mix bus compression is the only way forward. I wish you the best of luck, and don’t screw it up.



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