What is Multiband Compression? (Answered)

Want to have better control of the dynamics of different frequency ranges of your mix? Learn about multiband compression to find out more.

Have you ever heard of multiband compression? If you want to control the dynamics of different frequency ranges separately and have precise control over the sound of your mix, then multiband compression is what you need!

In this post, we’ll show you how to use this fantastic tool for mastering, mixing, and even live sound applications. Don’t be intimidated by the technical jargon – multiband compression can be a fun and creative tool that will take your audio production to the next level. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of multiband compression together!

What is multiband compression? Multiband compression is a technique used in audio engineering to control and shape the dynamics of sound. It involves splitting the audio signal into different frequency bands, each of which is compressed individually using a compressor. The compressed bands are then combined to produce the final sound. This allows for greater control over the dynamics of the sound and can help achieve a better-balanced mix.

What is multiband compression?

Multiband compression is a method utilized to manage and sculpt the sound’s dynamics. The process entails dividing the audio signal into distinct frequency bands and applying compression separately to each band with a compressor, then merging to generate the ultimate sound.

Image of man working on an audio mix in his laptop. Source: unsplash
Image of man working on an audio mix in his laptop. Source: unsplash

A multiband compressor is essentially a group of several compressors, each of which operates on one section of the full audio spectrum. These sections are created using something called a crossover, which splits the audio into frequency bands below the crossover point and above the crossover point.

This enables different amounts of compression to be applied to different frequency ranges, providing greater control over the sound. Multiband compression works particularly well for tightening low frequencies, reducing boom, and adding power.

Multiband compression can be used in the context of other instruments in a mix, which helps to achieve a better-balanced mix since it offers more control by nature. Additionally, multiband compression is an effective visualization tool, allowing users to see which frequency ranges are being compressed and to what degree.

Multiband compression is a powerful tool that can be used to control the dynamics of sound, achieve a better-balanced mix, and visualize the compression of different frequency ranges.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

What is multiband compression? (answered) | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

What are the elements of multiband compression, and how does it work?

Multiband compression typically consists of the following elements:

1. Frequency bands

This is what makes up the multiband compressor. Each frequency band of a multiband compressor functions as a separate compressor. The range of frequency bands available in multiband compressor plugins varies widely.

The bands often include a movable low and high end, so you may fine-tune where your processing is applied. You may use a multiband compressor’s attack, release, and threshold controls to modify the sound of each individual frequency band. However, some multiband compressors also enable you to click and drag to shape the bands.

2. Spectrum analyzer

Since multiband compression is effective because it targets specific regions of the frequency spectrum, a complete spectrum analyzer is often included in multiband compressors. This may make it simple to monitor the effects of compression on individual frequency bands in real-time and in relation to one another and the overall mix.

3. Attack

How rapidly a compressor clamps down on an audio stream is determined by its attack, and this is true for both traditional compressors and multiband compressors.

4. Release

How long a standard compressor or multiband compressor works on a signal before “releasing” it is controlled by a parameter called the release. In contrast to the dynamic impact that may be achieved with a quick release, a slower release will provide a more constant compressed sensation.

5. Threshold

At what level of compression a certain compressor begins to clamp down on a given track is determined by its threshold or ceiling. In general, a compressor will compress data that exceeds its threshold. Because of this, lowering the threshold will result in a greater amount of signal compression.

With limiters, which may be regarded of as very powerful compressors, any signal over the threshold is compressed to the point that no more signal is audible.

6. Ratio

The compression strength is indicated by the ratio. As the ratio increases, the compression becomes more noticeable; as it decreases, the impact becomes less noticeable.

7. Knee

A knee is simply the slope of your compression, and it is a feature that is not available in all multiband compression plugins. Processing speed and accuracy are improved by a firm knee, whereas a soft knee produces a more relaxed mode of processing.

8. Makeup gain

After a recording has been compressed, the amplitude may be restored by adjusting the makeup gain. If you feel like you’re losing too much volume in the processed signal, you may add some makeup gain to get it back up to where it should be.

9. Gain reduction meter

The gain reduction meter displays how much peak amplitude has been lost due to compression. An additional measure of the compressor’s effort. It may be said that compression is intensified in proportion to the degree of gain decrease.

10. Crossover points

This is unique to the multiband compressor. For every given band of frequencies, the crossover point marks its beginning and end. Setting a crossover point appropriately is crucial so that you’re just affecting the issue frequencies rather than the full channel.

What are the benefits of using multiband compression in your audio production workflow?

Multiband compression can offer several benefits for audio processing:

1. Targeted frequency control

Unlike traditional compression, which treats the entire audio signal uniformly, multiband compression allows for selective compression of specific frequency ranges. This can help to control problematic frequencies in a mix, such as excessive bass or harsh highs, without affecting the overall balance of the track.

2. Increased loudness

By compressing specific frequency ranges, multiband compression can effectively increase the perceived loudness of a track without over-compressing the entire signal, which can lead to a loss of dynamic range.

By selectively compressing specific frequency ranges, multiband compression can help to improve the clarity and definition of individual tracks in a mix.

3. Improved clarity and definition

By selectively compressing specific frequency ranges, multiband compression can help to improve the clarity and definition of individual tracks in a mix. This can be especially helpful in busy or dense mixes, where it can be difficult to distinguish between individual elements.

4. Greater control over the mix

Multiband compression allows for greater control over the balance and overall tone of a mix. By selectively compressing specific frequency ranges, you can bring certain elements of the mix forward or push others back, helping to create a more cohesive and balanced overall sound.

Drawbacks of multiband compressions

Although useful in certain situations, multiband compression is no different from any other technology in that it has its limitations. Below are some disadvantages of multiband compression:

1. Using multiband compression can be tedious

Simple solutions are often the most effective. Yes, it’s true that mastering multiband compression takes a lot of time and effort. Setting up separate controls for a low, medium, and high-frequency range is unnecessary unless absolutely necessary.

2. It isn’t always necessary

At other times, a solitary group or no music at all is what’s required. Even while multiband compression has the potential to be a more useful tool than a standard compressor, it shouldn’t be used by default.

Common compression methods work well in many situations where an altered signal should be heard. If it isn’t obvious that your session requires elaborate effect procedures, don’t use them.

3. You may just need an EQ

You may mold your mix’s frequencies and tones using multiband compression, but an equalizer may be more useful in certain situations. When trying to get rid of annoying frequencies at a certain place in a song, a multiband compressor may be useful. However, it’s worth your time to experiment with an equalizer to see if that’s more effective. No other tools can replace these ones.

How to use multiband compression in mixing

It’s easy to see how multiband compression may be useful in a variety of scenarios within the audio engineering workflow. In light of that, I’ve laid down a rough outline of how you may potentially use the greatest multiband compressor in the mixing process.

1. Figure out your goals

You should know what you want to achieve before installing a plugin, and this is true with compression as well. To shape your sound as opposed to coloring it, for example, requires a different set of tools than would be used for coloring your sound using a multiband compressor.

2. Determine whether it is a right fit for the job

Verify that your multiband compression requirements aren’t anything that may be met with a simpler compressor. It’s time to switch gears and resort to the tried and tested conventional compressor if you find yourself searching for additional bands or attempting to handle the full audio output.

3. Pick one group

It is crucial when working with a multiband compressor to use the fewest possible bands and to test each band alone and in combination with the others to see how the crossover points and dynamic changes relate to one another.

4. Try a high ratio and bring it down from there

Finding the optimal ratio for your compressor may require going too far before bringing it back. If you’re having trouble striking a balance, it might be helpful to identify the points at which the ratio is too weak and too strong and then work your way backward to narrow down the range you can potentially achieve by experimenting with other ratios inside the “good” zone. When there are fewer options, picking one is simpler.

5. Check the whole mix

Because of the way multiband compressors affect frequency response and tone, you need to think about how this will affect the rest of your mix. In order to make room for an instrument with a greater compression ratio, like a mid-range frequency, you may need to move it to a different part of the mix.

6. Experiment

The inventive potential of dynamic plugins like compressors is often overlooked. Don’t rush anything; instead, experiment with alternative attack timings, compressors, and release times. Don’t be afraid to play about with the plugin’s settings; there’s no one “correct” way to utilize it.

7. Be mindful of your gain reduction levels

The amount of compression used for any given sound will vary considerably according to its intended application. However, a gain decrease of up to three decibels (dB) is recommended for most sounds. Keep in mind that compression is a balancing act in and of itself. If you use insufficient compression, your audio sources will lack dynamic range. However, excessive compression may make the mix seem lifeless and flat.

Image of an audio mixer with white, yellow, blue, and gray buttons. Source: pexels
Image of an audio mixer with white, yellow, blue, and gray buttons. Source: pexels

When should you use multiband compression?

What are the circumstances in which multiband compression should be used instead of a standard compressor or some other kind of audio effect? Listed below are a few scenarios in which using one of these potent instruments might make sense.

1. Additional flexibility

Multiband compression is the way to go if you need a lot of leeways or if it’s not too much of a hassle. Multiband compression allows you to tailor compression to the demands of a certain input sample by giving you at least a low band, a mid band, and a high band.

2. Subtle changes

Since multiband compression focuses on just a subset of frequencies, it may be used to effect fine-grained adjustments that would be impossible with a more general compressor. Putting a multiband compressor at the end of your effect chain may be the best option.

If you’re processing an upright bass, for example, and you use equalization, a conventional compressor, and even a touch of reverb, you’ll end up with a little of buildup that weakens the kick drum. Multiband compression would allow you to pick a low band and modify it such that the kick strikes appropriately while eliminating boom. Therefore, unnecessary frequencies will not be compressed.

Sure, you could use a standard EQ to remove some of the low ends, but a multiband compressor offers you the best of both worlds by allowing you to maintain those sometimes vital frequencies and merely duck them down when required.

It’s evident that a multiband compressor is effective. However, you’ll still need to experiment with compression settings to find the sweet spot.

3. Crossover frequencies

Reducing the impact of crossover frequencies is one of the primary reasons for using multiband compressors. There’s the problem of the bass and kick sharing the same low-end frequency region, which is notoriously tough to clean up, to give just one example. The kick is a low-end drum, so you may have to significantly compress the bass portion whenever it enters.

In order to avoid overcompressing the whole audio spectrum, it is prudent to use a multiband compressor. This is particularly true when dealing with the low end of the spectrum, where a lack of specialized targeting will result in a general compression. The use of multiband compression makes focusing on low bands simpler than taking care of a single crossover frequency.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Multiband Compression 101: How and Why to Use It” from the Alex Knickerbocker YouTube channel.

A video called “Multiband Compression 101: How and Why to Use It” from the Alex Knickerbocker YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about multiband compression? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

How do you mix with multiband compression?

Load up a multiband compressor on the bass section. The compressor’s band frequency should be between 0-100 Hz (or higher). Apply 5 dB of gain reduction or more; you may be harsher with compression on low-end instruments. Now, put on the same quantity of cosmetics as before.

What is the difference between a compressor and a multiband compressor?

Standard compressors have an effect on the whole track over the full frequency spectrum, while multiband compressors only impact certain frequency ranges. This is great for making broad alterations to the dynamics, but it may also restrict unnecessary frequencies.

Is multiband compression the same as dynamic EQ?

In contrast to multiband compressors, dynamic EQs often have relatively limited bandwidth options. If you need precise processing, dynamic equalizers are your best bet. A dynamic equalizer is an effective tool for dealing with audio signals that have pronounced resonance frequencies.


And there you have it! Multiband compression gives you the ability to have more control over your mix but can be a tedious task. Ultimately, it depends on your goals and requirements.

So, is multiband compression convenient for you to use? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

Key takeaways

This article covered what multiband compression is. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Multiband compression is a technique used in audio engineering to control and shape the dynamics of sound.
  • In order to properly use a multiband compressor, it’s important to understand the different components of a multiband compressor plugin.
  • Multiband compression improves mixes significantly.
  • The elements of multiband compression include frequency bands, spectrum analyzer, threshold, ratio, and makeup gain.
  • Crossover frequencies must be established when the number of bands has been decided.
  • Multiband compression is a potentially more powerful tool than a standard compressor, but it doesn’t mean it should be used by default.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

Nick is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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