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Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
#3034431 03/21/20 06:02 PM
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Compared to compressors and limiters, I think expanders might be the "forgotten" dynamics processor. Maybe that's because the most common application is downward expansion, i.e., below a particular threshold, the output level falls off at a faster rate than the input level. This helps reduce tape hiss, noise from guitar pickups, low-level hum, etc. But in today's studios, noise levels are pretty low, so expanders aren't as relevant as they were in the days when hiss of all kinds (tape, preamps) was common.

However, lately I've been playing with the expander in Studio One, which can also do upward expansion. With this, you set a high threshold, and expand upward from there so that the output increases at a faster rate than the input. What got me into using this was a drum loop that had a lot of room sound. It sounded cool, but the drum attacks got kind of lost in the process. By setting the threshold at -3.0, and the ratio to 1:2, the peaks above -3 became more prominent - problem solved.

I've also used this to accent the string attack with acoustic, and make the overall sound a little more percussive. This allows mixing the guitar further down to make room for other instruments, but the strumming itself is still able to drive the song.

Any other expander fans out there?

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034489 03/22/20 12:55 AM
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Not many true expanders that increase the dynamic range, opposite of a compressor. My UREI LA-22s can function as either. I admit not finding much use for expansion, except on a song with a marching snare rudiment which was really effective.

The LA-22 also features frequency selection; it's a bandpass filter with width control that lets you select the frequency range of threshold. That combined with expansion could be effective on the string attack of an acoustic guitar.

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034490 03/22/20 12:56 AM
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Some Drawmer compressors (DL-231, DL-241) implement an "expander" just before the compressor but they are actually attenuators IE a variable gate.

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
The Real MC #3034498 03/22/20 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
Not many true expanders that increase the dynamic range, opposite of a compressor. My UREI LA-22s can function as either.

Yeah, that's an interesting animal. AFAIK it doesn't do downward expansion, only upward expansion - is that correct? That makes it even more unusual.

I've also experimented with Studio One's Multiband Dynamics, where you can implement upward expansion on particular frequency bands. Expanding just the high band on kick beaters and other drums can give more definition. I've also used in on acoustic guitar where I want the drums to drive a song, but be able to reduce the guitar's overall level. Upward expansion isn't something I use a lot, but it does have a different character compared to a lot of the transient shapers I've used.

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034500 03/22/20 02:23 AM
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I’ve had a DBX 3BX for years. I used to keep it wired into my stereo with a Hafler graphic EQ. Now it resides in the studio.

dB

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034567 03/22/20 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by The Real MC
Not many true expanders that increase the dynamic range, opposite of a compressor. My UREI LA-22s can function as either.

Yeah, that's an interesting animal. AFAIK it doesn't do downward expansion, only upward expansion - is that correct? That makes it even more unusual.

I've also experimented with Studio One's Multiband Dynamics, where you can implement upward expansion on particular frequency bands. Expanding just the high band on kick beaters and other drums can give more definition. I've also used in on acoustic guitar where I want the drums to drive a song, but be able to reduce the guitar's overall level. Upward expansion isn't something I use a lot, but it does have a different character compared to a lot of the transient shapers I've used.

Just be careful in the digital domain that you don't exceed FS. Easy to do with expanders.

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034708 03/23/20 04:51 PM
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Huh. I'm wondering - increasing the peaks, and if you can do that with selectable EQ ranges....this makes me think maybe some experimentation with electric guitar tracks would be in order. Maybe it could put a little more dynamic interest into an overly compressed, mushy performance? Or bring out bits of wild feedback or highlight some just-right crackle in the distortion, etc.

Will play with this after work (must stay disciplined even 'tho working at home.)

nat

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034717 03/23/20 06:33 PM
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EQ is not dynamic expander. Totally different operation.

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Anderton #3034718 03/23/20 06:33 PM
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The Gibson RD Artist Bass that I had for years had both a (Bob Moog designed) Compressor and an Expander built-in and switchable. I could get almost a minute of even level sustained sound from it, but the thing I really used most was the Expander to significantly increase the slap effect.


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Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
The Real MC #3034724 03/23/20 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
EQ is not dynamic expander. Totally different operation.


Absolutely right. I was thinking about Craig's comment re:

"Studio One's Multiband Dynamics, where you can implement upward expansion on particular frequency bands."

nat

Re: Why I'm Falling in Love with Dynamic Range Expanders
Nowarezman #3034769 03/24/20 01:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Nowarezman
Huh. I'm wondering - increasing the peaks, and if you can do that with selectable EQ ranges....this makes me think maybe some experimentation with electric guitar tracks would be in order. Maybe it could put a little more dynamic interest into an overly compressed, mushy performance? Or bring out bits of wild feedback or highlight some just-right crackle in the distortion, etc.)
As mentioned in my first post, I've had some good results with acoustic guitar to accentuate the strumming, as well as with drums. With something like a slap bass, I would think it might make things worse because it's already so percussive.

The frequency aspect was very interesting with drums, because you can restore a certain presence you feel when the stick hits the drum. You can expand just the very highest frequencies, and bring out the stick hits more. Because there's not much energy up there anyway compared to the sound of the drum's body, you also don't have to worry too much about peaking things out.


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