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Gear Tech




Compressor What?

Dave Yantz- Tech Editor

What is a Compressor/Limiter? Will it help my sound system and do I need one ?

I have been asked these questions many times on the internet, So I thought I would share what I know about them with you in this issues column.

What is a Compressor/Limiter?

A compressor/limiter was invented for live sound engineers and recording engineers. The reason is that they needed a way to stop over signals from getting to the P.A. system or Tape recorder. Live sound can be very dynamic and can overdrive the system if the input fader is set to high. (sudden scream's into the mic/dropping the mic, ect.) They had to be very fast with the faders to stop damage to the sound system or tape overload before we had Compressor/Limiters.

What a compressor does is lower the input signal by a pre-set amount when a over signal from a live source is present, stopping the over signal from reaching the amplifier and/or recorder being used. A compressor's output can be adjusted.

A limiter is a compressor whose output level stays the same, No matter its input level.

Will it help my sound system ?

Oddly enough.....Most don't know they already have a basic compressor in there system.

Many name brand amplifiers have them built in...They go by different name's (Peavey calls it DDT.) And so do many other quality brands of amplifiers. They are not user adjustable and some work differently than others, but are a basic compressor to protect the amplifier/ speaker system.

And another point is that the Recorded Music we play is already compressed. So to add a outboard compressor/limiter to further compress the music not necessary. The studio Engineers have better gear than we do for setting the limits.

The one's who can benefit from a compressor/limiter is KJ's ! There use in the guests singing Mic/Mic's could save you a woofer/driver next time they drop or scream into a Mic!

But for DJ's at large.....There is no need. If your system has proper headroom the on-board Limiter in your amplifier will be up to the job of protecting the sound system.

A side note, Have you seen a button on your Mixer or EQ or Amplifier that says "40 Hz Cut" ? If you have, place it in the "ON" position. This is a filter that stops all frequencies below 40Hz from getting to the amplifier. This is because most "Portable" speaker systems can not reproduce sub frequencies below 40 Hz. And by not filtering them out, Your amplifier is making frequencies that your speakers can not reproduce anyway, wasting amplifier power and your system headroom.

Have a tech topic you would like to see covered in this column ?

Drop me a E-Mail and you may see your topic in the next issue of the DJZONE!

Dave Yantz



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