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Context: I recently (~2 months ago) got a gig mixing live sound for a church. I've had years of audio education, but none of the courses offered included extensive applications in FOH mixing (very odd, I know), so I'm very new to the application of audio techniques in a live environment.

The church I'm mixing at is all pastored by guys who have done mixing for far longer than I have, and have contacts who have been mixing for 30+ years. At least two of them have mentioned that they never use compressors in live sound. ever. It's possible they were speaking specifically about Vocal channels, but I don't think it was limited to that.

They also have a very specific kind of sound they are trying to craft, and my understanding of this is lots of BGVs, Bass Guitar, Kick/snare, and Keys.. in roughly that order of importance. Often times we have 5 BGVs, sometimes two keys, horns, bass, drums, aux percussion, etc.

Question:

How often do you apply compression to a channel when mixing? Obviously "If it needs it" is a good starting point, but how often would you say a channel "needs it? I'm trying to make sense of the comment from my boss "I used to mix for 18 years and I NEVER used compressors. Ever." If "Live sound guys never use compressors," then why would the board have them?

OR is there an environment where you would truly never use compressors?

I'm trying to understand this, so I appreciate any feedback!

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  • Well, as two answers already mentioned it, 'never used a compressor in in FOH' context seems a weird assessment.
    – audionuma
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 21:06

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I use them all the time in the worship context.

I won't usually compress the hell out of something though, I usually just use the compressor to take out the peaks in vocals, bass, acoustic guitars.

I'll use them on kick and snare too, usually with a slow attack and fast release, this lets the initial transients through but then compresses them. Makes them sound tighter basically.

So yeah, you can definitely use them.

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