Backwards Compression Test/Poll

I finally sat down and tried it, and I thought I’d let ya’ll judge for yourselves. The following audio is a snippet of a rough mix song called “Nobody’s Gonna Love You” by Briana Tyson from a current mix contest on Splice.

In case anyone’s interested, here you go:

The pic below is 3 waveforms of the main vocal track. The first is my starting point. I’ve gone through and done some clip gaining to reduce a few massive peaks.

  1. Initial waveform
  2. Normally compressed: this is the initial waveform with MAutoVolume (auto-clip-gaining to further shave peaks) and then IK’s Vintage Compressor which is their model of the Fairchild 670. (I think Andrew mentioned he used a 670 on his vocal too.)
  3. Backwards compressed: This was the reversed, compressed, then turned back around. I used the exact same plugins with the exact same settings applied as No. 2.

Now for the fun part. The following clips are those 3, level matched and put in a RANDOM order. Each waveform above is represented by one of the audio clips below. Please vote for the one you like best. You don’t even need to try and guess which is which, just vote for the one you like.

Clip A:
(No more votes for Clip A! Yes, it’s the uncompressed clip and sounds better, but I’ll leave it here for comparison. :slightly_smiling_face: )

Clip B:

Clip C:

  • Clip B
  • Clip C
  • You should have left Clip A in the poll, I’m voting for it anyway!

0 voters

I actually think that the clips are in the same order as the picture. I like the first one best. It’s a sparse mix and the vocal doesn’t need so much compression, IMO.

I have to pop over to that other thread to see what you guys were talking about. I’ve never heard of this madness of reversing a track before compressing it! I can imagine that, based on the algorithm, it would have a big difference. But that compressors are probably designed to sound the best in the direction that they’re going to be used in haha.

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I just ran across it as well and have been fixated on the idea of it all week. It’s really “outside the box thinking”, and I can see, at least theoretically, where it could work. super interesting idea! And it IS a lot of effort…

I’ll save my thoughts and response to your poll reaction for later. Thanks for chiming in!

For what I am hearing on headphones I voted Clip A for clarity of vocals where B and C seemed a bit duller.

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Thanks for the votes @Cristina and @jamestoffee. I just changed the poll because the non-compressed vocal is obviously better! As soon as I put the clips up and listened, I thought the same. That was an apples to oranges comparison.

NOW, even though the two compressed tracks don’t sound as good, the vote is between to 2 compressed tracks. Which compressed track sounds better, and which is which??

Honestly, for this material, much less compression is called for. I should have compressed less, used a more transparent compressor, etc. etc.

Anyway, now it’s an “apples to selppa” comparison. :grin:

I’m going to ignore A.

C sounds more like someone is twiddling with a volume knob haphazardly. It’s compressing, but it’s doing it in a way where I can hear the volume changes more. My guess is that it’s backwards.

The reason I could never take to backwards compression is because I can’t hear what it’s doing in real time. With regular compression, I can hear if I’m overdoing it or screwing it up and adjust accordingly. With backwards, I don’t have any real sense of if I’m doing it right until I apply it, reverse it and listen back. For me, it makes it almost impossible to dial in. I suppose if I found a particular compressor with a particular setting that seemed to work really well most of the time, I could just stick with that. But I haven’t found the patience to find that setting.

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I agree with boz about the noticeable volume changes.

The vocal volume seems to be being tweaked during the singer’s delivery and is noticeably distracting, so between B and C, B is less distracting allowing more focus on the overall song.

Maybe the effect would work better on instruments where you wanted to enhance a pumping effect.

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Of course every one of you were correct! I should have tried it more subtle settings, but that goes right to Boz’s point. I didn’t want to take the time to redo it a guess again at the outcome. :slightly_smiling_face:

I DID end up using it though. I added a dark delay and verb and ran it parallel under the main vocal.

Still, it’s a really interesting idea. Thanks for the replies!