I would just like a get eveyone's view on the purposes/"what they do" on a compressor.

They way I understand it is, the threshold is the dB level that is reached by a signal that causes the knee + threshold settings to come in effect and "compress" the signal.

So the knee is a combination of the threshold and ratio. The threshold is the apex of the knee correct? And the ratio is the angle of the knee after that apex? That is a very basic overview but the ratio is the proportion a signal must be compressed once crossing that threshold.

Look forward to the responses.


Threshold is the point set for when the compressor actually starts compressing once the volume of the program or track reaches above that level. Note that it's a static volume, so if you have a voice or instrument that is all over the place due to levels, you might want to do a pre-leveling with a fader/volume automation to even it out so it's always hitting the compressor at the same point on the material - otherwise certain portions will be over-compressed, under-compressed, etc.

The knee is a rounded-off joint at the threshold point that smooths out the transition from non-compression and compression. It can sound very nice on certain sharp and pokey voices. Many compressors call this "soft knee". If you see a graphical representation of it, it rounds off the threshold point so it's round and doesn't have an angle, the more you put it on.

The ratio is how much the compression does - for example, at a ratio of 4:1, for every 4dB of volume past the threshold, the output of the compressor will be 1 dB.

Do you understand how the attack and release portions of the compressor interact with the thresh/knee/ratio?

  • Great explanation! And of course to extrapolate one step further, anything beyond 10:1 tends to change from being identified as "Compression" to "Limiting" - two sides of the same coin. – Stavrosound Mar 30 '12 at 20:42
  • attack is how quickly it takes effect and release is how long it decays/or takes the compression to tapper off? – JM V Mar 31 '12 at 9:49
  • Exactly that ;) – Stavrosound Apr 1 '12 at 3:37

I'd recommend having a look here: http://www.barryrudolph.com/mix/comp.html

Covers all the basics well


I've always thought of Knee as being an analog of acceleration.
From 1:1 to 4:1 in 6dB...
Not sure it actually works, but it makes sense to my brain.


The best explanation of a compressor I've ever read is in Stavro's 'Mixing with your Mind' book.

I don't think it's appropriate to post the actual content here, but the book is definitely worth a read. It's aimed at music, but so many of the techniques he outlines can be transferred to all aspects of audio.



There is a tutorial article that helps explain all the basic functions of compressors, what they do, how to use them and other helpful hints on compression at:


It's worth reading if you would like to understand compressors a bit better. IT's written in easy to understand language too.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.