The term glue compressor and glue compression is often used interchangeably in the mixing process. And most of the mixing engineers actively set up a glue compressor before they start to mix audio tracks.
This clearly explains the importance and usability of a glue compression.
But what does the term GLUE means? Is it vital, and can it make a mix sound more polished?
This article will discuss an essential aspect of a mixing stage to add refinement, final polish and dynamic control to a mix.
Furthermore, this article lists some of the best glue compressor VST plugins and glue compression settings for transient control.
What is glue compressor?
The term glue compressor originates from the SSL G-Series Bus Compressor, commonly found on the SSL mixing consoles. This compressor lives on the end of the signal chain and is renowned for its glue cohesion properties.
Most of the mixing engineers that own the original SSL mixing console use the bus compressor to subtly tame and glue the mix together. It helps to control the peaking transients and mix dynamics.
Our goal with the glue compression is to add punch and glue to a mix subtly.
Multiple things make the original SSL compressor special, unique, and popular in today’s DAW era. Hence, the plugin manufacturers have put their resources into creating a copy of this legendary SSL 500 series mastering compressors in digital format.
The SSL compressor, to this date, is known for its glue properties which subtly tame and round off the peaking transients within a haywire mix.
A benefit of using the plugin over the hardware unit is that you can use it on individual tracks and buses.
Many plugin manufacturers have replicated the original copy and named their version a glue compressor, thanks to its warm analog sound.
The SSL mastering compressor, also known as the glue compressor, makes a mix sound cohesive and consistent.
Recommended glue compressor VST plugins
Over the years, as the SSL bus compressor has come to the attention of masses and not only audio professionals, a lot of glue mastering compressor VST plugins have been created.
Here are some of the best VST glue compressors plugins.
1) SSL Native Bus Compressor
The SSL native bus compressor 2 plugin comes from Solid State Logic’s house. Therefore, it assures us that we are getting a closely related copy of the original SSL mastering compressor.
After testing it against the Cytomic Glue and Waves SSL compressor, it is one of the best plugins that match positively to the original compressor on most of the settings.
2) Waves SSL Compressor
The SSL Compressor from Waves is another excellent and budget-friendly glue compressor option. It reacts similarly to the original plugin. I love how waves are selling one of its premium plugins for a sale price of under $50.
Most of the functions I have used on this plugin behave similarly to the original one. However, the auto-release knob is something I would not use quite often.
Give this plugin a chance to add characters to individual tracks and glue different buses together.
3) Cytomic Glue
The Glue by Cytomic has become insanely popular as it is one of the most affordable glue compression VST plugins.
This compressor is modeled after the British console bus compressor widely known for adding glue and warm analog tones.
It is another excellent plugin that many mixing engineers actively use as apart of the famous SSL bus compressor.
Setting up Glue Compressor on the master Bus/Fader
In next sections, let’s get our hands dirty and see how to set up the glue compressor on the master bus to glue a mix together using master bus compression.
But first, here are some essential compressor terminologies to keep in your mind while you tweak the knobs.
Attack: The attack knob determines how fast the compressor acts on the incoming signal. A fast attack means that the compressor clamps down the signal as soon as the signal goes through it.
On the other hand, a slow attack means that the compressor acts only after a particular time delay as per the setting chosen.
Release: The release knob tells the compressor when to stop applying compression and let go of the compression effect.
Ratio: The compressor ratio determines how much the gain reduction will be applied to the incoming audio signal.
Threshold: This knob determines the level at which the gain reduction and compression will act.
Make-up: The make up knob is used to bring up the volume levels on a compressed signal.
Oversampling: This feature offers high-resolution audio quality. However, only a few plugins will come with this feature.
Glue compressor settings
Since glue compressors are placed on the master fader and the whole audio goes through them, ensure that you are applying subtle compressor. Controlling the transients and audio dynamics more than 5 dB can have a negative effect on the final mix.
|10 ms or more
|0.1 ms or fastest
|turn the knob to get gain reduction of 2-5 dB
|Make up gain
Refer the following steps to setup glue mastering compressor in a correct way.
Start with a low Ratio
After loading the compressor on the master bus, the first thing is to set a suitable ratio. The ratio you choose depends on the type of music you are mixing.
Use a low ratio of 2:1 for soft music and a medium ratio of 4:1 for aggressive music.
Set up a slow attack
A slow attack of 10 ms or more will allow most of the peaks to pass through the compressor without clamping down or hurting the dynamics of a song.
Remember that we aim to add glue to the mix rather than control its dynamic range or reduce the transient peaks. Heavy bus compression will ruin the vibe and energy of the song.
A quick release
An important compressor parameter is its release time. Let’s see how to set release time for a glue mastering compressor.
For setting up a glue compressor, always opt for a fastest release time so that the new transients come pass through the compressor and old transient leave as early as possible.
Threshold & Gain Reduction
An important thing while setting up threshold values on a master compressor is to use the loudest part of a song. Doing so will allow you to glue a mix consistently over loud and quiet region.
Once you have chosen the loudest part of a mix, decrease or increase the threshold value so that the compressor needle hits the 3-5 dB range.
Make Up Gain
The last step is to apply to make up gain to compensate for the decrease in volume levels after using the mix bus compression.
After applying the make up gain to the audio signal, you will hear a subtle glue effect to your mix.
should you put compressor on the master fader?
Putting a compressor on a master fader or stereo mix bus is not mandatory. But, adding a mastering compressor with subtle compression can inject life and excitement into a song to add finishing touches and glue a mix together.
Moreover, putting a compressor on the master fader or the stereo mix bus or not depends on the mixing engineer and the song itself. However, a thing to note here is that only apply aggressive compression values if the mix sound squashed.
A glue or mastering compressor offers a great way to add glue and cohesion to a dynamic mix.
However, such glue plugins also add warm analog characters to a clean audio signal. Hence, making them a great option to use on individual tracks like a regular compressor.
A benefit of using DAW is adding this plugin to any audio track or bus and not as the last processing unit on audio. So, feel free to use such an awesome plugin instead of standard compressors.