Bus Compression with U-he Presswerk
Bus compression is a great way to tie drum elements together. Modelled versions of vintage compressors compressors are usually a good choice, as they are not only intended to control dynamics but also to add that much needed ‘glue’ or ‘vibe’ to a group of sounds, helping them to sound more coherent.
Begin by inserting an instance of U-He Presswerk onto your drum bus. If you don’t have Presswerk, pick a compressor that is modelled on or influenced by one of the classic hardware units – for example Logic’s Compressor in Vintage VCA or FET mode or Cytomic’s The Glue, which comes bundled with Ableton.
Our drum bus has an 808-style kick with a couple of top and hi-hat loops. The mix sounds OK, but could do with some bus compression to help gel these sounds together.
Presswerk is an outstanding compressor, capable of pretty much every style of compression, however the GUI may not be so intuitive to some, especially if you are new to compression. Let’s make things easier by loading one of the presets and then tweaking to our needs. Hit the preset button on the top section of Presswerk, then select GL Gentle Loving from the 2-Track_Mixdown section.
This has changed our loop quite a bit, and has really changed the shape of the transients. The Attack is quite fast on this preset, so back this off to about 14.0ms to let more of the transients of the drums through. We’ll also bring the release right down to 15.0ms so the compressor doesn’t cling onto the sustain of the drums.
Presswerk features a mix control, allowing us to very quickly dial in some parallel compression, blending the compressed signal with the uncompressed original. We’ll take the Dry/Wet dial down to 23:77. We’ll also take the output down to 3.34 dB, balancing the level of the processed signal with the original, so we can really hear what the compression’s bringing to the sound. The loop is definitely sounding tighter now – more punchy and upfront.
Now let’s take a look at the Saturation section towards the bottom of Presswerk. We can use this to really add some colour to these drums.
Take the Dry/Wet control back up to 0:100 for now, and push up the Amount control until you begin to hear some audible saturation occurring. It’ll probably be most notable on the kick drum.
We’ve pushed the Amount right up to 30 dB, which really smashes things. If you now begin to turn up the Dynamics control, you’ll noticed the saturation soften. This is due to the way the Dynamics control applies saturation only when compression is occurring. We’ve set this to 35%, producing a pleasingly driven but not destroyed result.
The Warmth controls shifts the energy towards the treble end of the spectrum, saturating the high frequencies more. Turning this up reduces the saturation on the kick drum and softens the top end, great for that vintage vibe. We’ve set this to 5.51 dB.
We now dial the Dry/Wet back to 23:77 and again adjust the Output control to match the levels.