In this roundup, we look at six alternative sidechain compression plugins that offer immediate results without the need to set up a compressor triggered by an external audio source.
What is Sidechain Compression?
Sidechain compression is an essential mixing technique used to create space in a mix so other elements are heard more clearly or can be applied creatively to add that signature ‘Pumping’ effect, create rhythmic gating effects, and add movement to static sounds.
Sidechain compression is achieved by using an audio source to trigger a compressor placed on another source to attenuate the volume of the audio being played. For example, one of the most common uses of sidechain compression is using a kick drum to trigger a compressor on a bass track to quickly duck the volume each time the kick drum plays allowing it to cut through the mix with more impact. This vital mixing technique creates space by removing bass frequencies that could conflict with the low frequencies of the kick making it sound less powerful. Sidechain compression is also used for various other purposes to treat all types of audio sources in musical ways.
Although sidechain compression is fairly simple to set up, it can often be a tedious process that can become inconvenient when your workflow is in high gear. To alleviate the setup process and keep the creative train rolling we rounded up six alternative sidechain compression plugins that offer immediate results without any audio routing or need for external audio sources.
Xfer | LFOTool
LFOTool is an effect utility plugin developed by Xfer Records that allows users to sculpt custom waveshape curves to modulate volume to create effects such tremolo, auto-pan, trance-gate, wobbles, as well as simulate sidechain compression with minimal effort. LFOTool can also generate MIDI CC messages to control other instruments, effects, or external hardware. Equipped with dozens of presets, this handy tool is capable of achieving desired results quickly, or you can shape your own curves with the customizable point+tension-curve editor which is switchable via MIDI notes or automation to add expressive movement to your sounds. Read more at Xfer Records
Cableguys | VolumeShaper
VolumeShaper is an extremely flexible tool that lets you shape the levels of any audio signal in pinpoint detail. VolumeShaper provides a visual approach to volume shaping to create musical effects such as multiband sidechain compression simulation, creative gating, tempo-synced stutters and tremolo, precise sample-sculpting, and bit-crushing effects. VolumeShaper features multiband waveform-based editing, a comprehensive selection of preset curves, an oscilloscope, a big spectrum view and a selection of presets. It also runs samples in sync with your DAW, in Hz mode up to the audible range or retriggered via MIDI. Read more at Cableguys
Nicky Romero | Kickstart
Drop Kickstart on any track and this effective plugin will immediately apply sidechain-style compression to provide space and definition or give your sound a rhythmic advantage. Designed by Nicky Romero and Cableguys, who also make the more feature-rich VolumeShaper, Kickstart features a big Mix control, 16 hand-crafted modulation curves, a precise oscilloscope, and can run synced or retriggered via MIDI, with loop and one-shot modes all available on a streamlined interface. Read more at Kickstart
Vengeance | Multiband Sidechain
Multiband Sidechain by Vengeance is a feature-rich plugin that offers smooth, high-quality sidechain simulation. This powerful tool gives you ultimate control over shaping volume curves in a convenient and detailed interface. Use this tool creatively to sculpt your sounds or to cleanup the audio spectrum. Multiband Sidechain features a massive selection of pumpin’ dance presets, two independent sidechain channels for low and high frequencies, three filter types to separate the bands, a unique grafic interface, and a configurable main display with eight predefined scenes. In addition, the sidechain effect can be triggered with audio signals, MIDI notes or host sync. Read more at Vengeance
Waves | OneKnob Pumper
Designed for achieving an instant ducking effect, the OneKnob Pumper simulates sidechain compression, saving you the need to route the kick track to the sidechain input of a compressor. This extremely handy and easy-to-use plugin is ideal for making either your entire mix or individual tracks pump with the beat. Get immediate results with little effort. Read more at Waves
Ableton Live | Auto Pan
Ableton Live’s Auto Pan device can easily be set up to simulate sidechain compression and add that pumping effect you’re looking for. Auto Pan does a great job adding stereo width and movement to your sounds, but it can also be used to create gate style stutter effects or duck the volume to clear frequencies, so your kick drum strikes through the mix. Configuring Auto Pan to simulate sidechain compression is achieved by setting the Phase control to ’0.00′ which creates a single waveform that modulates amplitude. Once the Phase is set, you can fine-tune the effect by selecting an LFO Waveform and adjusting the Rate, Shape, and Amount to control how much of the effect is being applied.
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