VO compression

I am going to be using audacity for professional VO. I have done a lot of radio work, but usually have had an engineer do the processing…Here’s the place I need some guidance. I’m looking for some typical help in setting the compression. All I want is for it to give me that finished “he’s got a great voice” sound. Can you get me started?
Lynn Benson

And now you get to learn the most important thing about audio engineering.

Nothing beats experience.

In order for Compression to work to it’s fullest, you need to first make sure your recordings are as clean as can be. This is imperative since Compression will raise the noise floor of a signal along with the quiet sounds. To do this you either need good equipment or a good Noise Removal (depending on the noise). You might want to use Audacity 1.3.3 since it’s Noise Removal function is fantastically better than the one in Audacity 1.2.6.

If you do decide to go the Noise Removal route, use Noise Removal before Compression.

Once you’ve got a clean signal, try using settings like these with the Compressor (to begin with):
Threshold = -20dB
Ratio = 5:1
Attack Time = As low as it goes.

If you’re doing professional work, the Audacity Compressor might not be flexible enough for you. In all honesty, it gets the job done but it won’t be getting a promotion any time soon.

If you’re serious, I would look into buying an outboard compressor that takes a line in signal from your pre-amp (or mixer) and gives you a line - out to send back to the mixer. Then record both the dry mic signal and the Compressed signal and use Audacity to blend the two together (as long as the waveforms are lined up exactly, zoom way in to make sure). This technique is called “Side-Chain Compression”

This page has a good technical description of this technique (starting with the words “SOME YEARS AGO IN Studio Sound magazine”):


The caveat is that I’m not a professional. But I like to think I have some idea what I’m talking about

Thanks for the reply. It’s a day off isn’t it? Didn’t know if anyone was out there.
Whay about the Leveler? Is it a compressor limiter? Will that do what the broadcsters are doing?

Sorry, Lynn, I edited my first post while you were typing up your second. I don’t think I edited much.

Day off? Not in the small-company Toy industry. We don’t get these mythical “days off”

The Leveler seems to be a particularly heavy-handed compressor. It might well work out for you. It might be even more useful as a side-chain effect (make a second copy of a dry track and apply the Leveler to only one track, then mix the two together at a lower volume).

Also, Compressors and Limiters are just two different names for the same process. “Limiting” is the name usually applied to very heavy and fast levels of Compression.

As for what the broadcasters are doing? I have no idea. Your best bet might be to ask them what kind of perceived volume levels they are expecting. It would be even better if they could tell you what kind of settings they’ll expect you to use.

I might be defining “Side-Chaining” incorrectly.

Does anyone know the “correct” term for mixing a dry signal with a wet signal in this way? Wikipedia and a handful of links call this “Parallel Compression”, but several other links call this “Side-Chain Compression.”

Sometimes I hate the audio world.