Understanding the 3 compression meters: input, output & gain reduction

Understanding the 3 compression meters: input, output & gain reduction

Understanding compression meters can sometimes be tricky, especially when you’re first getting used to using a compressor. That’s because compressors come with three different types of compression meter. Each gives you a visual representation of something different. Some compressors show only one type of meter. Others may show you all three. Some compressors show only one meter at a time and let you toggle between the three kinds of compression meter. Then there are some that show you no meters at all.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly what these three different types of compression meter do and what you can use each one for.

The three kinds of compression meter are:

  1. Input meter
  2. Output meter
  3. Gain reduction meter

Compression Meters: Input

Like many plugins, your compressor might give you an input meter. This meter gives you a graphic representation of the signal that is entering the compressor. The input meter is useful for a number of reasons. It can help you to set the input level of the meter so that the signal is entering the compressor at an optimum level. It also gives you visual information about the way that the signal is behaving. The input compression meter lets you see where the highest parts of the signal are reaching and how low the level of the signal is dropping. This can be useful when deciding where to set the compressor’s threshold.

Compression Meters: Output

The output compression meter gives you a visual representation of the signal that is being putout by the compressor. This meter is showing you the processed signal i.e. the signal once it has been compressed. This compression meter allows you to check that the signal is not exceeding a certain level. You can also use it in conjunction with the input meter to match the output level to the input level. This can be achieved by visually matching the signal level if both input and output compression meters are present. Or alternatively, if you are only able to view one type of compression meter at a time, then this can be done by toggling between the input and output meters.

Compression Meters: Gain Reduction

The third type of compression meter is the gain reduction meter. This meter allows you to see exactly what the compressor is doing to the signal. It allows you to see how much the signal is being attenuated and when that attenuation happens. This is great for checking that your threshold, ratio, attack and release settings are resulting in the kind of compression that you would like. Having this visual insight is really useful for fine tuning these settings. Having these visuals helps you to make sure that gain reduction is applied only to the parts of the signal that you desire, in the way you want and to the extent that you want.


As you can see, each of these three types of compression meter can be really useful. They can help you to fine tune the way your compressor behaves. They also let you know exactly how signals are entering the compressor, leaving the compressor and being processed by the compressor.

Which types of compression meter does your favorite compressor offer? Which do you find the most useful?


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