Peak mode and RMS mode
In the peak mode, the compressor reacts to momentary changes of the sound amplitude. This mode is suitable for limiting the signal when an engineer faces a task of setting a rigid threshold that no signal can pass through. The peak mode is great for performing a significant interference in the dynamic range, as it manages to react to even negligible and quick sound changes. One of the examples is a narrator’s voice, which has to be clearly audible at all times. This mode is also used in professional mixing and mastering music services, where it tightly controls the signal dynamics. It’s very good for adding some density to the guitar track.
The RMS mode is used when only overall dynamics of the signal needs to be changed. This mode doesn’t react to peak, momentary changes in the signal amplitude, passing them over. For example, it can be useful if you need to level out the guitar sound without affecting the attack of the instrument. After applying the RMS mode, the sound will be leveled out and the attack will be preserved. The compressor in the RMS mode works very discreetly, it carefully levels out the volume and leaves the signal dynamic. The mode is great for discreet compressor work.
Hard knee and soft knee
Many professional studio compressors have two compression types available: Hard knee / Soft knee.
Hard knee is a default compression type. The signal, which exceeds a preset threshold level, will decrease at a constant ratio.
A hard knee compression begins abruptly right after the signal level exceeds the threshold.
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