How to use Chris’s Dynamic Compressor for great volume in Audacity – TAP005


We’re talking Audacity this time! Adobe Audition has its fantastic multiband compressor, but did you know you can get fantastic audio compression from a free plugin to Audacity? Listen to the episode to learn move!

What are compressors, limiters, and gates?

A compressor fits your audio within a selected volume range by increasing the volume of quiet sections. A limiter does the opposition by decreasing the volume of loud sections. A noise gate will close (like a real gate) when it receives audio quieter than its “floor,” and opens again when it receives audio louder than its “floor.”

You can accomplish these audio enhancement effects by hardware such as a Behringer MDX4600, or by software, which is where we will focus.

Too simple and too complex

Levelator is a popular and free, standalone compressor/limiter/gate. Simply drag your .wav or .aiff audio onto the program, and it processes the audio into a new file (appended with “.output”). This works great for some people, but I don’t like the results, which I can’t customize because Levelator has no options.

On the other side, you can get some complex multiband compressors for Audacity. I highly recommend that you use the latest Audacity version if you use any of these plugins.

A compressor that is just right for Audacity

I introduce you to Chris’s Dynamic Compressor. It has simple controls and produces great results. Although it’s free, please support his excellent work!

In the audio, I explain how to set Chris’s Dynamic Compressor just right, and demonstrate the audible differences. Here are some screenshots of the different results.

Your results may vary. Remember that Audacity will only maintain your compressor settings while Audacity is still running. If you restart it, the compressor settings revert to their defaults and you can’t save them.

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  • Podcast Panda

    Brilliant episode this week! Glad we're getting down to some nuts and bolts of the process. This one'll definitely be a repeat listen.

    You're pacing with this series is agonizing because the information is really relevant to what I'm working on…and you're giving it away, for free. Please, sir. May I have some more?

    • Daniel Lewis

      Once a week isn't enough for you? 😛 I'm glad I have you hooked—I mean listening! :)

  • @DaveJackson

    Just an FYI when I click on your links, I lose your website (you may want to have the links open in a new window). Great episode. I had some issues with Audition, and was ready to look for a CST plugin for my Sony Acid. (audition decided to work today).

    • AKA Byronious

      X 100

  • DPeach

    Thanks for finally getting to Audacity. I had to be away on a trip for 2 weeks, so am a bit behind on all my podcasts. I was very pleased to hear that we have some Audacity content.

    Who podcasts with Linux? What kind of question is that? I do! I am sure there are others. I have been a Linux only* podcast since the inception of my show, Missionary Talks, in October of 2006. I do most of my recording into a portable recorder and do all the work in Audacity on Linux.

    *There are a few episodes that I ran the audio through Levelator on my wife's Mac before it was available on Linux. I rarely use Levelator anymore, and probably never will again after this episode, but I run it on Linux now when necessary.

  • @coffeegulper

    Ok, I played around with this and it works well at raising low volume parts and lower high volume parts but when I am not talking it raising the ambient noise. Would I need to lower the floor or do I need a limiter for Audacity?

    • Daniel Lewis

      Actually, you would want to raise the noise floor. To get a better idea on how high to raise it, listed to TAP007 to learn how to switch to Waveform (dB) so you can see how loud your noise is. If it's much higher than -24, then I recommend running Audacity's Noise Removal tool, which I'll explain more in a future episode.

  • CJsKidsClub

    Awesome! I'd already been using Audacity (on Linux and Windows). To minimize sound, I've been tweaking my environment to the umf degree and sometimes re-recording certain portions to "erase" unexpected sound.

    If you've heard any of our podcasts though, you can hear the transitions and sometimes total failures. At some point, my son and I get frustrated and so I wind up posting them as-is. Chris’s Dynamic Compressor is making podcasting fun again! =)

    • Daniel Lewis

      That's great! I'm so happy to have helped make podcasting fun again! What you podcast?

  • Curbuntu


    I've had some of your earlier episode re-queued for re-listening, including this one (since I knew I had to go back into Audacity to add the compressor plug-in when I was at the keyboard). You might want to note, for Linux users, that putting the compress-b1.ny file in the proper directory is a matter of permissions, using the sudo (SUperuser DO) command:

    1) In my case, I moved to the directory in which I downloaded the .ny file:

    cd Downloads/

    2) Then use the cp (copy) command with sudo:

    sudo cp compress-b1.ny /usr/share/audacity/plug-ins/

    At least, that's where my version of Ubuntu Linux stores the Audacity plug-ins. "Your mileage may vary."

    Also, a word of thanks for two things;

    a) Great screenshots in Ep. 5 shownotes — they let us see what we heard in the podcast.

    b) Thanks for pointing us to Grammar Girl, now a must-listen podcast for me.



    • Daniel Lewis

      Thanks for sharing the Linux steps! I have not used Linux very much, so while things like this make sense, I wouldn't have thought of them.

  • JD@RadioCSS

    Hi Daniel,

    Do you still standby these settings that you recommended for Chris's Dynamic Compressor? Or have you experimented more and discovered more optimal settings? Thanks!


    • Daniel Lewis

      Hi, JD! The latest version introduces new settings, which I haven't had a chance to try. It's on my list to review for a future episode. But compression is very unique to each recording. However, these settings do generally work on good audio, but may not work as well on noisy audio.

      • JD@RadioCSS

        Ok. Thanks for replying. Looking forward to more Audacity content. Keep up the great work.


      • kiatlc

        Hi Daniel, I face with one problem after using this plugin and your recommended settings. The noise gate will make the interval between talking silence, but quite obvious background noise when speaking, which is unheard before compression. The compression makes the unwanted background noise louder. I have applied noise removal before compression already, please help! It is a nightmare.


        • Daniel Lewis

          Hi there. Yes, a noise gate only removes the noise from when you're not talking. The Noise Removal tool will remove background noise, but it can make your audio sound underwater if it's ramped up too much.

          That's why it's important to remove the noise before you record. Make sure you listen to How to Remove Noise with Audacity to learn some ways to accomplish this.

  • Alan in Belfast

    You used to have a page which included an screenshot of your preferred settings for Chris' Dynamic Compressor plugin on Audacity … but I can't find it now. (Sad to hear of Chris' death.)

  • DAVe

    I still keep coming back to this lesson.

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      I hope because it works for you. :)

  • Jonathan Slater

    Dear Daniel,

    Hey wonderful podcast you have going on. I'm a P.C. guy myself and was so scared to hear from friends that setting up a podcast on a p.c. may have it's troubles since most everyone has a mac. Well I heard about your podcast from a friend named Adam Saverian, whom has started his own podcast. I'm somewhat familiar with Audacity since I use it for submitting some of my Amateur Voice Acting Skills to Audio-book publishers who are seeking new talent all the time. So once I got to your page here and saw that it's a podcast about "How to podcast" & "How to use Audacity" it really just struck a chord with me. It's absolutely perfect!

    I have a few questions for you and maybe you answered these in later episodes that I haven't gotten to, I've only listened to the first 5 episodes of this fine podcast.

    1) Why are USB Microphones preferred in Podcasting? Why not the simple plug and play type? (I have a microphone that plugs into the Microphone connection of my p.c., it's not a usb type.)

    2) I don't have a clue as to how I can set-up a webpage or site to upload my audio-file mp3's and have people subscribe to me via an RSS Feed. I tried to read over this with the "Complete Idiots Guide to Podcasting" and it's really confusing. I looked at wordpress but it had me download some pack – and when I looked at the pack I had no clue what I was actually looking at. Have any advice on where to host a podcast, even for those who don't know how to set up an RSS feed?

    -Thanks a ton for everything you do here on the podcast Daniel. You got yourself another long term listener right here.

    -Jonathan Slater.
    Seattle, Washington

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Thanks for listening, Jonathan!

      Even though I'm a Mac user now, I will still defend Windows! It's totally a matter of preference. I happened to start liking more about OS X at my previous day job, but would come home to podcast and design on a Windows 7 PC. So when I got my first MacBook Pro, it became my primary and now only PC for all of my tasks. But I'm far from an Apple fanboy (just watch my tweets whenever there's an Apple announcement).

      Answering your specific questions.

      1. USB mics

      There are two answers to this. Firstly, an analog mic (with the small 1/8" plug) going straight into your computer isn't a good idea because this normally introduces a lot of line noise. In laptops, this can often be eliminated by unplugging the power and running on battery. On desktops, unplugging the power also eliminates the noise, but may make podcasting a bit harder. 😉 Converting an analog signal to digital outside of your computer (with a USB adapter or USB mic) will almost always eliminate the noise.

      Secondly, I actually don't recommend a USB mic. Once you buy it, you're locked in and can't upgrade without the USB mic being useless. If you decide to get a mixer, have cohosts, or play sounds straight into your recording, this is a lot harder or impossible with a USB mic (especially on Windows).

      Instead, I recommend starting with future-friendly audio equipment like I recommended in episode 43. This gives you a small mixer with USB interface, XLR dynamic mic, stand, pop filter, and XLR cable for under $100. Then if you want to spend $300 on a nice mic, you can plug it right into all the same equipment. Or you can replace the mixer to add more mics. It's modular and easy to upgrade (like a Windows PC).

      2. Setting up a web page.

      Depending on your web host (like BlueHost, Site5, or Dreamhost), installing WordPress may be a very easy procedure with a few clicks. But if this isn't that case or you really don't want to get your hands dirty with that, you can hire me to setup your site for you to the point that all you have to do is upload and publish your episodes.

      A website powered by WordPress software already creates an RSS feed, so you just have to have the right plugins to ensure that RSS feed works for iTunes. Again, this takes work in the beginning, but it's easy after that.

  • FlyingDan

    Just started listening and you have a GREAT show, lot’s of very helpful tips for those of us at the beginning.

    One question I wanted to ask: do you run the FINAL copy through the compressor (the one which has your title music already in it) or do you just do the actual “meat” of the show and add the “potatoes” after?

    Keep up the great work,

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Hi, Dan! Thank you for the compliments!

      I live-mix everything directly into a Zoom H4n, which records in four channels. This gives me two stereo WAV files: one all of my hosts, the other is all sounds (music, sound clips, voicemail). I only compress the vocal track since I don’t want a compressor messing with any of my music fades. This is only an issue if only the music is playing, but I don’t want to check my podcast every time I process it.

      For most people, I also recommend they they run a compressor on only the vocal parts, not the music-only parts.

      • FlyingDan

        Thanks for the tips!

        I am using a Zoom H2 at the moment to do my recording. My co-host and I go through a mixer (he’s mix-minused because he’s on Skype) and out to the H2. 
        We usually don’t play music during the podcast, even our theme music is added in post. We do play field interviews that we’ve recorded previously so that we can refresh ourselves of what was said and discuss them afterwards and in post we import the original interview file.

        • Daniel J. Lewis

          Here’s what you could try. Record and edit your podcast as usual, then mix it all down to a single track, then apply a compressor to everything. If it turns out okay, then you may be all right to live-mix everything and run your compressor later. Most podcasters do this anyway and it works well for them. I’m one of few who like to record in four channels so I can separate my sounds from vocals.

  • Glen

    Hi!  I just started listening to your show last night (I only just found it!) and I’m up to episode 6 already.  Needless to say, I’m really enjoying this and learning a lot.

    I do have a question.  I have done what you instruct on the download page for Chris’ Dynamic Compressor but nothing is showing in my Effects tab for Compress Dynamics.  I have an Alienware Computer that is about 3 or 4 years old and it runs Windows 7.  Are these things compatible?


    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Hi, Glen! Make sure you’re running Audacity 1.3 or 2.0. Are you sure you followed the instructions correctly? You would have to restart Audacity after installing the plugin.

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  • Charlie Knower

    Just found your podcast recently and really enjoy it. Thanks. I also downloaded Chris’s Compressor and love using it. However, it seems I have to install it in my plugins folder everyday otherwise it won’t show up. Using mac with latest Audacity version. Any ideas?
    Charlie Knower

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      This may be an odd question, but are you running Audacity from your Applications folder, or from a disk volume?

  • Jason

    Hi Daniel,

    I just deicided to use the compressor on some audio i recorded in mono format from a RODE PODCASTER microphone. When i use the settings you recommend it just seems to really amp the sounds instead of reducing the in between breathing or air conditioners etc. Any tips? thanks

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Try raising the floor in the settings. I now use a floor of about -18 to miss the breaths and AC background.

  • J. Christopher Guritz

    Daniel, I cant tell you how many times I keep coming back to this page for a refresher! Thanks for your evergreen content!!!!!

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Thanks! My own settings have changed a little since this episode, but I still prefer Chris’s Dynamic Compressor.

  • Phil Naessens

    Great show Daniel! Even though I use Adobe I’m going to give this a try!

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      I now have Adobe Audition CS6 from my Creative Cloud membership. But I still haven’t given it a legitimate try because Audacity fits my needs so well.

  • Geoffrey Allan Plauché

    Hi Daniel, is this plugin compatible only with Audacity? Or, like many others, compatible with a variety of programs? I’m editing audio with Reaper.

  • Đặng Mạnh Cường

    Hi Daniel

    I’m Cuong from Vietnam

    I like your settings so much, but when I apply compression, one or more words at the end of my file louder. Could you give me a suggestion to solve?
    Thanks in advance
    Cuong Dang.

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  • Lamar Myart

    one word about your podcast and information “AWESOME”

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Two words: thank you!

  • Lamar Myart

    I am practicing with audacity, I notice that you can hear each time I take a breath any suggestions to stop that, besides not breathing?

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      You may be too close to your microphone, which would make it pick up more breathing and mouth noises. Try being about 4–6 inches from your mic.

      You could also try using Chris’s Dynamic Compressor and raise the noise floor so that the compressor will silence or de-amplify the breaths.

  • @hugonz

    I’m one of those using Linux. All 34 episodes of the podcast have been recorded with audacity, and then some. Broadcasting live also using IDJC and Butt. Thanks for the great tips, I’ve learned so much about postprocessing!

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      You’re welcome! Thank you for listening and putting up with my occasional Linux jab.

      Daniel J. Lewis

  • Chloe Golden

    Hi :) I am getting that shoo sound at the beginning and end of sentences using Chris’s compressor. What levels do I need to change to try to reduce that?

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      Try raising your floor a little more.

  • Brian Caruthers

    Any advice on how to transfer these settings over to Audition?

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      I will eventually. The transition is a little harder because Chris’s doesn’t use standard terminology or measurements.

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    I just want to say thank you for helping me revive my mp3 collection. The sound is superb!

  • Robert W. Cotterman

    Thanks to you Daniel, i have found this great piece of software. However I am launching an internet radio station with music, Would the settings be any different for songs?

    • Daniel J. Lewis

      I don’t recommend running a compressor on music. This would potentially ruin fade-ins and fade-outs. Music should already be compressed for its ideal performance.