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Vocal Serial Compression With 2 Compressors: The 1176 & LA-2A

Vocal compression is a crucial technique in audio engineering that helps to balance the dynamic range of vocals, ensuring every word is heard clearly within a mix.

This process involves reducing the volume of the loudest parts and bringing up the quieter parts, creating a more consistent and polished sound.

Discover how to use 2 compressors on vocals, specifically the 1176 and LA-2A, can achieve professional-quality vocal tracks.

Why Use 2 Compressors on Vocals?

Dynamic vocals have a natural charm but often struggle to cut through a cluttered mix. While some segments are barely audible, others might jarringly stand out. Using a single compressor to address this usually results in a flattened, lifeless vocal track.

Instead, leveraging the power of two compressors in sequence, a method known as serial compression, allows for precise control over peaks and preserves the vocal’s natural dynamic range.

The first compressor (1176) will target and tame the loudest peaks with a high threshold and ratio, and a fast release. The second compressor (LA-2A) will gently smooth the overall signal with a lower threshold, gentle ratio, and a slower, automatic release.

This combination ensures that your vocals remain energetic and dynamic while being controlled and consistent.

Initial Setup

Before you start applying the compression, make sure your vocal track has a basic EQ and de-esser applied. This step is crucial as it helps ensure a clean signal for compression, allowing the compressors to work more effectively without being affected by unwanted frequencies or sibilance.

Step 1: Apply the 1176 Compressor

Vocal Compression With Waves CLA-76 Compressor Plugin

The 1176 is a good compressor for vocals, perfect for catching the loudest parts of the vocal without affecting every word. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Insert the 1176 compressor on your vocal track. I’ll be using the CLA-76 by Waves, but any vocal compressor Waves offers, or other 1176 emulation, will do.
  2. Set the ratio to 8:1. This high ratio ensures that the peaks are tamed effectively.
  3. Adjust the attack to its fastest setting. This allows the compressor to react instantly to any peaks.
  4. Set the release to fast or medium. Play around with this until you get a natural sound.
  5. Drive the input until you see around 3-7 dB of gain reduction on the peaks. This ensures that only the loudest parts are being compressed.

Buy at Waves: CLA-76 Compressor Plugin

Example: Playback your vocal and tweak these settings while watching the gain reduction meter. You want to ensure that only the peaks trigger the compressor.

Step 2: Apply the LA-2A Compressor

Vocal Compression With Waves CLA-2A Compressor Plugin

The LA-2A is another best compressor VST for vocals, adding smooth, gentle compression that evens out the vocal. This compressor has a fixed attack and release, making it easy to use.

  1. Insert the LA-2A compressor after the 1176.
  2. Adjust the peak reduction knob to achieve about 5 dB of gain reduction. This should smooth out the overall vocal without squashing it.
  3. Set the gain so that the vocal level matches or slightly exceeds the original level before compression.

Buy at Waves: CLA-2A Compressor Plugin

Example: With the LA-2A, listen for a consistent compression that doesn’t let go of the vocal too quickly. The goal is to maintain a smooth, even level throughout.

Vocal Compression With 2 Compressors In Serial

Using two compressors in series allows each one to handle specific tasks without overworking. The 1176 tames the peaks, allowing the LA-2A to apply gentle, musical compression to the already controlled signal.

This results in a transparent, natural sound that’s both dynamic and controlled.

In Conclusion

Using 2 compressors on vocals, you’ll find that adding compression to vocals becomes much more effective. The 1176 and LA-2A are among the best compressors for vocals, providing a combination of peak control and smooth compression that enhances any vocal performance.

Whether you’re compressing rap vocals, recording vocals, or just looking for the best compressor VST for vocals, this technique will ensure your vocals stand out and sound professional.

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