Understanding make up gain, what it is and how to use it on your compressor

Understanding make up gain, what it is and how to use it on your compressorUnderstanding Make Up Gain

Regardless of what compressor you’re using, almost all of them have some form of make up gain control. This will usually be called ‘gain’, ‘output’, ‘output gain’ or some variation of these. Whilst the term used for this function may vary, its purpose remains the same. That is to manage the level of the signal once it has been compressed.

You see, the level of the signal coming out of your compressor usually won’t be as high as it was when it went in. That’s because the compressor is actively turning parts of your signal down. So make up gain is used to turn the overall level of the signal back up.

Managing your compressor’s output level

The good thing about using make up gain is that it has no effect on your threshold, ratio, attack, release or knee settings. That’s because it manages the level of the audio signal after it has been compressed. Using make up gain allows you to keep your fader in the same position as it was before you applied compression. This is handy if, like me, you tend to set all of the levels in your mix before you apply compression to anything. If your compressor doesn’t make this type of control available to you, then it probably applies gain automatically so that the output level of your compressor matches the input.

As you can see, this parameter provides a simple way to manage your compressor’s output level.

Is make up gain something that you use on your compressor? Or does your compressor manage its own output level for you? Did you know you could manage the output level of your compressor? Or have you been altering the fader position to compensate for the level change until now? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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