A very common question I see is “should I use compression in audio recording?“ The best answer to this question is, as is so often the case, “Do you need compression in your recordings?” Let’s start with a workable definition of compression in the audio recording sense. When you lower the
volume of only SOME of your audio, usually the bits that are clearly louder than most of the rest of the audio you’re working with, you are “compressing” that audio. This is usually done in order to allow you to raise the average loudness of the entire audio file.
Now, this can be done manually, by which I mean you could open your audio in an editor, seek out all the areas where the wave forms (I like to use the term “blobs” instead) are loudest, then turn those bits down. But that can get REALLY tedious and time consuming. So to automate this process, a a machine (nowadays done with software) called a “compressor” was invented. This allowed folks who really knew what they were doing to more quickly manipulate volume and loudness dynamics. The dark side of the situation, though, was that it allowed folks who were less expert to mess up their audio, and do it much faster and more efficiently than ever.
There are all kinds of settings on a compressor that are better discussed in other articles. For the moment I’d like to focus on a visual explanation of basic compression, since I strongly believe that those who use compressors to mess up their audio (usually without actually WANTING to mess up their audio) do it because they don’t have a really good grasp on what compression really is. This should help.
Read the full article, including visual aids, here: http://www.homebrewaudio.com/should-you-use-compression-in-audio-recording