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Let's say I have a kick track. I put a compression effect on it with settings: Threshold: -20 dB, Ratio: 1:4, Attack: 1ms, Release: 20ms, Makeup Gain: 0dB.

Since it's a compressor, I expect it co compress everything above -20db, and make the overall sound quieter, until I use a makeup gain. But, the actual result is that kick becomes much more punchy, and it SOUNDS even louder, even though the actual volume of the track remains it's value before the compression.

So, the question is: why COMPRESSING kick without makeup gain makes it sound LOUDER and PUNCHY instead of lowering the volume?

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The overall sound of a kick drum is made up of a number of different spectral components. While there are significant components in the 200Hz range, which accounts for the 'punchiness' of a kick sound, there are also significant spectral components in the higher part of the spectrum, which account for the 'click'.

With a standard single-band compressor, the overall level of the entire spectrum is considered during threshold-detection.

So, the question is: why COMPRESSING kick without makeup gain makes it sound LOUDER and PUNCHY instead of lowering the volume?

This doesn't really make sense if you are not using make-up gain. A single-band compressor will reduce level of all audio peaks over -20dBFS - effectively reducing the energy above this threshold. This will most likely reduce the higher-energy high-spectrum components. The way to make this sound 'punchier' is to then boost the makeup gain, therefore increasing the lower-frequency components.

Also make sure you are not using any other compression inserts further down the mix chain.

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