A beginner’s guide to understanding the audio compressor release setting

A beginner’s guide to understanding the audio compressor release settingUnderstanding the compressor release setting

The compressor release setting allows you to control how quickly or slowly a signal rises back up to its original level after the compressor has applied gain reduction to turn the signal down.

The release phase begins as soon as the provisional amount of gain reduction (which is determined by the ratio) drops below the applied amount of gain reduction. As soon as this happens, the compressor stops turning the signal down and allows the signal to rise back up to its original level.

Typically, the compressor release setting can be set between 5 ms and 4000 ms (4 seconds). The shorter the release time, the faster the compressor will recover, meaning that the gain reduction will cease more quickly. In contrast, a longer release time will see the gain reduction subside more gradually. In general, 50-100 milliseconds can be thought of as a fast release time. Whereas, around 2 – 5 seconds can be thought of as a slow-release time.

Click here for a video lesson on your compressor’s release setting:

Compression Release Explained

Using the compressor release setting

What you set your compressor’s release time to is dependent on what you are compressing and how you want the compression to affect the signal.

Fast release times are great when you want the compressor to stop applying gain reduction and return your signal to its original level quickly. That said, if the compressor release setting is too fast, then it may cause the compression to sound unnatural or may result in ‘pumping‘.

Slower release times are great when you want the gain reduction to cease more gradually. This can be useful in an instance where you want to give a snare more punch, for example. This is achieved by using slower attack and release settings to preserve the snare’s natural attack but attenuate its decay. If the release time is too fast, then the compressor will recover whilst the decay portion of the sound is still occurring, creating an unnatural result. If the release time is too slow, however, then the compressor may not have time to fully recover before the next part of the signal comes along which requires compression.


The compression release setting gives you a great deal of control over the way your compressor affects your audio signals. When used alongside your compressor’s attack setting, the compression release setting allows you to really shape the way that your compressor applies gain reduction to your signals.

Does this help you understand what the compressor release setting does? Is there anything else I can explain for you on this subject? Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.


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