This post is going to focus on using compression on sends vs. compression on inserts in order to retain fidelity while adding punch.
Throwing up an insert on a track is an obvious way to control the dynamics of the track or to add punch. Unfortunately, sometimes adding compression to the sound itself dulls the high-end or introduces undesirable distortions, such as in the case of overhead cymbals or piano. One way to achieve the effect of punch or sustain without compromising the fidelity is send a copy of the signal to stereo send/aux with the desired compression effect on its insert and blend to taste.
Higher Gain Reduction with Better Fidelity
By doing this, you can achieve more dramatic pumping effects or higher gain reduction without touching the source signal. I believe I read that this is a favorite technique of Tom Lorde-Alge for adding splash to overheads.
While blending in a send won’t control the dynamics of the source material – sometimes this is what you want. The natural tone and sustain of drums and other percussive instruments has a breathiness to it that compression can destroy. In this particular case, you may want to try having the compression send be the louder, primary track and blend the dry track in to taste. This way the dynamic transient of the drum won’t overpower the track as much. To do this, you would want to set the send to pre-fader so that the volume of the resulting compressed send won’t be affected by the volume of the original fader, allowing you to have a consistent ratio and threshold while changing blends.
Automation for Drum Sounds that Change
Often a solid compression level for a full-on snare hit is not the best setting for a cross stick or the like. So, when a drummer switches over, you either need to choose a compromised setting for both or bear having one setting sound less satisfactory. In these situations, automating the mutes on two separate compression sends can give you the best of both worlds.