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“Analog” Summing with Logic Pro X’s Compressor

a screenshot of the compressor plugin in logic pro x

New-York based producer and engineer Chris Vandeviver at Brass Palace Recording recently sent me a guest post and accompanying Youtube video tutorial about how to emulate the effect of analog summing using Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin.

She’s all yours, Chris!

“Analog” Summing with Logic Pro X’s Compressor Plugin

It’s no secret that getting that analog sound is all the rage in the digital audio world these days. Slate Digital, Universal Audio, Waves and other third-party audio plugin developers all are happy to sell you the promise to fix your lifeless digital audio with analog “vibe” and “warmth.”

But lo and behold, Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin comes with several shades of analog distortion.

Not just one, but six emulations of the most sought after outboard compressor/limiters.

Logic Pro X’s Compressor: Distortion – Reloaded

a screenshot of logic pro x's compressor plugin with distortion enabled

For a stock plugin, Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin is pretty stacked.

There are seven compressor emulations to choose from, most of which model coveted recording studio pieces.

Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin can emulate the following hardware:

  • Studio VCA: Which models a Focusrite Red-Series compressor
  • Studio FET: Which models a “blackface” 1176 compressor
  • Classic VCA: Which models a DBX 160 compressor
  • Vintage VCA: Which models an SSL compressor
  • Vintage FET: Which models a “silverface” 1176 compressor
  • Vintage Opto: Which models an LA2A compressor

What’s more, each Compressor offers different degrees of harmonic saturation. In Compressor’s case, it’s labeled as “Distortion.”

You can choose from either:

  • Soft
  • Hard
  • Clip

Each setting will result in different amounts of added harmonic distortion.

The Platinum Digital compressor is Apple’s own version of a compressor. It adds no inherent harmonic distortion as it’s a purely digital compressor. So for this article it’s been omitted.

The Days of Analog

In the days of analog, mix engineers loved hardware like the 1176 and LA2A. But it wasn’t just for the hardware units’ ability to compress. By running a track through each unit without compressing, something happened. These hardware compressors had a sound of their own. Each unit added harmonic distortion to tracks, which added analog life and vibe. Analog warmth is why some mix engineers still won’t ditch their analog mixing console. And it’s why plugin developers have developed plugins to emulate the hardware.

Summing

The idea of analog summing is for each of the tracks in your session to “sum” together using analog outboard or plugins. For example, Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection would be instantiated on each of your tracks and your Stereo Output. The VCC emulates the saturation of an analog console across your whole session. Dangerous Music is a hardware company that has built its business on outboard summing mixers. In the case of something like their 2-Bus, you’d route your instrument groups to your audio interface’s outputs, and run them into the 2-Bus. From there you’d send the 2-Bus outputs to your audio interface’s inputs and record the results in Logic Pro.

Video – “Analog” Summing with Logic Pro X’s Compressor

In the video below, I mimic Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection concept of analog summing in the digital domain. By adding Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin to instrument groups and the stereo output with distortion set to “on,” you can get a similar effect.

To do as I did in the video, start by placing a row of the same Compressor model on each instrument group and the stereo output. Highlight all your aux buses by Command-clicking each. Now you can compare the sum of your Compressors by turning them on and off. Simply click one of the Compressor’s Power Buttons while each bus is highlighted in the Mixer.

Want to hear which compression model sounds best?

Just instantiate the second row with a different model.

Now you can A/B between the two to find your favorite flavor of saturation.

Quick Recap

To emulate the effect of analog summing using Logic Pro X’s Compressor plugin:

  • Insert the Compressor plugin on each major instrument group in your project.
  • Insert Compressor on your Stereo Output.
  • Set each Compressor to the same model.
  • Set each Compressor’s Ratio to 1:1
  • Set each Compressor’s Threshold to 0.
  • Set each Compressor’s Distortion to Soft.

Remember, your goal is for each Compressor to add harmonic vibe to your mix.

You don’t want them to compress necessarily, unless of course, you do.

Chris Vandeviver is a diehard Logic Pro user and New-York based producer and engineer. His studio and blog, Brass Palace Recording, offers more insights for getting better mixes.

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  • Eli Krantzberg

    Great stuff Chris! I’ve always felt the Logic Compressor distortion modes are overlooked and under rated. I usually use them in conjunction with compression. But separating their effect from the compression is a great idea.

  • Great idea! This also works with Logic’s hidden Tape Emulation (using Tape Delay without delay).

  • EdgarRothermich

    Just out of curiosity. You use the term “Harmonic Information” instead of “Harmonic Distortion”. Is it just just to avoid the scary sounding word “distortion”?

    • What exactly are you driving at here Edgar?

      • EdgarRothermich

        A 2002 VW Golf.
        Or do you mean my question? I just never heard of the term “Harmonic Information” and was wondering if that is a new thing.

        • “driving AT”. Not “driving”. In other words: “What are you implying”.

  • I like that. Well put.

  • Eli Krantzberg

    Thank you! Although I didn’t talk specifically about this idea that Chris has presented here, you might want to check out this series: https://www.groove3.com/logic-pro-training-video-tutorials/The-Mechanics-of-Mixing-in-Logic-Pro-X There are plenty of other tips in it…..

  • Darude

    Good post. Even though someone has bought the more expensive purpose built products, it’s always great to have alternatives in your palette! That said, I LOVE the fact that Logic in itself is ridiculously cheap for all the stuff it has. I have numerous 3rd party plugins, but I regularly use only Logic stuff first, later grab 3rd party plugs, because it makes collabs easy.

    Although I had this clumsy vaguely JP8000 emulating DOS synth, ReBirth, HammerHead and Cubase in ’98 and loved the idea of having those instead of having to buy hardware I couldn’t afford, my then-mind would’ve be blown to gazillion tiny little particles had someone said you can do everything within one software (+ tons more with the added 3rd party plugs).

    Off-topic: I get asked “What should I get to start producing music?” and “Can you show me/teach me how to make music (or DJ)?” almost every day, and while those are kind of valid questions, I laugh, as 20, even 10 years back we didn’t have the thousands of free and paid tutorials available and the gear was expensive vs. today, that someone really wanting to start should be able to do that easily on their own by just typing whatever they’re looking for in Google or Youtube, not having to have someone holding their hand and doing it for them… :O I have absolutely nothing against teaching someone, of course, but people should take initiative first, read up on the basics, mess with things, then ask questions, you know, good ones, valid ones, not just “Tell me how to make great music?” on day 1.

    • Thanks for your comment Darude – super nice to see you here.

      “mess with things” +1 for that – and the JP8000!

      🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts Darude! I agree with you completely. The facilities that come within Logic are staggering. I remember point/clicking drum beats for rock recordings in Fruity Loops. It didn’t sound good at all, and it took me forever.

      Now? We’ve got Drummer. Possibly the most innovative thing to happen in a DAW for songwriting. I make a habit of sitting and writing riffs in an hour that are quite pleasing using just the preset patches and Drummer.

      It’s almost too easy!

  • EdgarRothermich

    OK, let’s continue with that conversation.

    I like terminology and that was the reason for my first question. Terminology is the language how we communicate in our technical conversations, especially on the internet, where we read something and trying to understand what the other person trying to explain or say.

    I’m on various internet forums every day, reading and answering forum posts and a huge problem is the mis-use and mis-understanding of terminology. There is so much time and energy wasted going back and forth to figure out what a person is talking about due to miscommunication because people have a different understanding of a specific term (or no understanding at all).

    The beauty of terminology is that you can make a quick Google search or a Wikipedia lookup to understand and learn something. However, if someone uses a term differently or has a different understanding, then it gets tricky.

    That was my first reaction when I watched the video. I’m familiar with the term “Harmonic Distortion” and I though that this is what you were referring in the video, but you used the term “Harmonic Content”, which I wasn’t familiar with. Great, I learned something new, I thought. However, I didn’t find anything about that term and it seemed that you used your own term “Harmonic Content” instead of the common term “Harmonic Distortion”.

    Especially for newbies, I think it is important to introduce and stick to the common terminology that they can easily lookup and learn, instead of introducing non-conventional terminology.

    About “distortion”. I don’t think it is necessary to avoid that term. Instead, use it and explain what it means, in all its different variation and the way it is used.

    “Harmonic Distortion”, don’t fear it, understand it, embrace it

    PS: About the difference between “Saturation” and “Distortion”. That is a conversation for another time and another place.

    • Hi Edgar,

      The term “harmonic content” does exist, it seems to be more related to overtones and the quality/timbre of sounds and musical instruments. You’re right, the term “harmonic distortion” is the better choice in this blog post. I’ll edit.

      Thank you.

      • Harmonic content exists in anything that isn’t a sine wave, it’s good to know. That basic understanding helps someone who is mixing to realise that a the only thing a filter can do to a sine wave is to reduce volume.

    • I appreciate the feedback Edgar. Saturating a signal, in my mind, implies the addition of harmonic information related the incoming signal. Thus added harmonic content. But if distortion suits others better, I’m all for it.

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