Update: Youtube modular pro Ben “DivKid” Wilson commented on The Muff Wigglers Facebook group (an indispensable resource) about some other sidechain compression modules, and a tip on how to get the ducking effect of a sidechain compressor using an envelope follower and a voltage inverter! Check out the Facebook post or scroll to the bottom of the article for his suggestions!
A few months ago, Chris Randall of Audio Damage teased an exciting new module on his Instagram (apparently a popular app for Eurorack manufacturer module leaking, watch #modularsynth…) which got a bit of a buzz going. The Kompressor, much like most of the Audio Damage line, is a DSP-based effect module. Of course, the Kompressor is an audio compression effect, but offers an added bonus by including the now-infamous Sidechain feature.
I got a chance to meet Chris at the most recent Analogue Haven synth meet on August 1st in Santa Monica, California, where he gave me a quick demo of the Kompressor and the Sidechain function. As evidenced by some of Randall’s recordings posted to Soundcloud, the Kompressor does just what we would hope and expect. Here is an example that he and the Audio Damage team posted demonstrating the sidechaining functionality.
Sidechain Compression has become a ubiquitous element of Electronic Dance Music. This effect was most likely originally used to quiet background music whenever a narrator would speak. The basic idea is that one sound will be silenced or “ducked” under second sound, and the shape and amplitude of the ducking is controlled by the shape and amplitude of the second sound. This technique is now commonly used in big room EDM and styles of music that have a heavy 4 quarter note kick drum rhythm, like Techno and House.
Here’s a good example of a fairly dramatic use of this effect from Fred Falke. You can clearly hear in this track that the kick drum falls on the beat, while the other sounds are ducking under it to intensify the beat, creating this push-pull effect in every beat.
We can hear the intensity of the synth changing in relation to the kick drum, ducking on the beat as the kick hits, and then fading back in until the next beat and kick duck the synth again.
Teebs uses quite a bit of sidechain compression in his experimental beats, combining elements of Jazz, Hip-hop and modern Electronic music. The kick drum really cuts through as a result.
This is an indispensable technique in modern electronic music, and it’s exciting to see it coming to the Eurorack format in the Kompressor.
Ben “DivKid” Wilson writes us…
It’s already been possibly for a long long time … on other compressors too in Eurorack. The WMD Compressor, L-1 Microcompressor, Mutable Instruments Streams (two compressor modes with sidechain available), Hex Inverter Mutant Hot Glue, Cwejman (couple of units I think) and you can also patch up a sidechain compression patch yourself.
The patch is take the sound you want to sidechain the main sound. Patch that into an envelope follower (with attack / release settings) and then take the envelope follower output into an inverter. Then take your main sound into a VCA with the offset/gain/bias up full so it’s playing at full volume then take the inverted envelope follower output into the VCA so that the envelope of the sidechain source now ducks the VCAs with it’s own amplitude/shape. The attack and release of the envelope follower is like the attack and release of the compressor and the depth of ducking is dependent on the depth of CV modulation on the VCA.
Thanks so much Ben! Look for more coverage of DivKid’s great channel in the near future!