Another highly dynamic recording problem

I have a problem similar to loopster’s (Help with Highly Dynamic Audio Recording). I use a Zoom H4 to record our chorus rehearsals, and use the Audacity compressor with default settings to make it more listenable. Normally this works fine but this week our director, whose voice normally projects wonderfully, had acute laryngitis - she could barely speak above a whisper. To complicate the situation we are rehearsing the Beethoven “Ode to Joy” (9th symphony 4th movement), which is mainly performed forte. I tried playing with the default values in the compressor, but I didn’t know what I was doing, and the results sound odd to me. I changed the threshold from -12 to -24 and the compression ratio from 2:1 to 3:1. I see that stevethefiddle recommended using some much more aggressive settings - if I do that, how will it affect the loud part?? loopster is working with 2 people and a couple of guitars - even if they’re electric guitars (I don’t recall that he said) - I have a 90 voice choir putting out a large amount of sonic energy. Plus a piano.

I could just experiment, but I kind of have to get the podcast up; also, I’m hoping that I can learn something, I always get helpful and informative answers here! So - what should I be doing??

Try using Chris’s Dynamic Compressor.
You can get it from here:
Find where it says “Download the plugin source” - right click on that link and “Save/Save As” the file “compress.ny”
Put that file in your Audacity plug-ins folder and restart Audacity. The effect will appear in the Effects menu.

You can usually leave the settings on the default values except for the first setting which is the compression amount - this usually needs to be set somewhere between 0.5 and 1.0 (higher values compress the dynamics more. Try setting it to about 0.8 - this will have a strong effect.

Thanks for the suggestion, steve, I’ll try that. However, just for giggles I tried the extreme compression settings that you suggested for loopster, and the voice quality is so audible I may use it. I can hear the director better on my crummy laptop speakers than I could in the room with her! The downside is that when she’s not speaking, and in supposedly “silent” intervals, you can hear every shoe scrape, every page turn, every whisper (choral singers will NOT shut up in rehearsal!) - it sounds very scratchy and staticky. I wouldn’t publish it, but as a practice tape to learn from it’s quite good because the parts sound very clear and distinct - is that something I should have expected from this?

The compression tools in Audacity are an exercise in arithmetic and programming. Chris started out life wanting to gracefully tame musical presentations. Big difference.

Chris has tools to avoid processing foot shuffles and yet still calm the great variations in volume in the main performance. Highly recommended.


Just for curiosity, I ran the second half of the podcast through Chris’ tool and it was SO good that I’m going back to redo the first half with it also. It’s amazing.

<<<It’s amazing.>>>

In fact.

I tried it a couple of times and posted to his web site, “You have no idea what you have here.”


If you’re interested in listening to the results, it is the 2 files dated April 7, 2010 at

The first half was run through Chris’ compressor with compression set at .8, as steve suggested; it’s still a little noisy but nothing like what the Audacity compressor did. The second half recording was done with all the default settings in Chris’ compressor and it was perfect, I listened and decided not to touch it.


The only reason I ever change any of his settings is to match somebody else’s compression. Most of the time it’s good out of the box.


You wouldn’t use that extreme level of compression if you just wanted to record the performance, as it does distort the attack and decay.

If you want to have the director’s voice louder and clearer (less reverberation) in future reversals you could position the recorder /microphones closer to her, (and away from your creaky chair).

[BTW if you want a recording to sound like it was made in a bigger room try this free VST effect set on on 'Large room bright" @ 0.25 ]

Thanks for the suggestion about the VST effect. I’ll try that and see how it sounds.

The recorder is positioned on a mic stand, just behind the director, maybe 3-4 feet away (can’t get any closer because of the room configuration) and slightly above her. The creaky chair, unfortunately, is the stool she’s sitting on! We don’t normally have this problem recording her voice - when she doesn’t have laryngitis she has superb projection. As the evening went on her voice recovered a bit, which is why Chris’ defaults worked on the second half.

Thanks again for the excellent help and advice.