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In this first installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows how to improve the sound of a mix with compressors, limiters, gates, de-essers, and other dynamic processors. The course explains the fundamentals of sound waves, and amplitude, explores common compressor controls, and shows how to eliminate unwanted noise using gates and expanders. The course also demonstrates best practices in compression and limiting in a variety of audio applications and covers sculpting the attack and decay of individual notes with transient shapers and applying frequency specific dynamics control with multiband compressors. Exercise files accompany the course and include special Get in the Mix session files.
Gates with ratio controls are called expanders. Instead of completely cutting off a signal below the threshold, expanders simply reduce the volume of the signal below the threshold by the specified ratio. In this case they're truly a reverse compressor because they expand the dynamic range of the signal instead of reducing it. In an expander, the signals that passed over the threshold are unaffected and the signals that fall under the threshold are attenuated. This creates a greater dynamic range between the softest and loudest parts of a signal. Expanders are perfect for scenarios when you don't want to kill the bleed but just want to turn it down a bit or separate it more from the main signal.
This can help give a signal a little more bounce as the dynamic range between the below and above threshold parts is extended or expanded. Listen to the snare through an expander with a ratio of 2:1. Notice how the bleed is reduced but not eliminated. (music playing) Expanders, as well as gates, may also feature a range control that allows you to define the lower and upper end of the threshold so that the transfer curve remains linear both below and above the range of gating or expansion.
This control gives you more flexibility in separating signals from their underlying bleed while still maintaining some of it. In the following movie, let's look at how to apply a gate and expander to a track.
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