I have an external compressor from back in the days before I got into software recording. Would it be better to run the vocals through the external compressor into GB, or just use the plugin compressor in GB? Just curious if its better ot not, or even the same for that matter!
I suppose if CPU is an issue and you know what you want out of your external compressor, then that could be the way to go.
One thing to consider though is that an external compressor is "permanent" whereas a plugin compressor can be more easily tweaked or switched on/off. If you decide that you over-compressed your vocals with an external compressor, you may have to scrap the track and redo it.
Here are a few freeware compressor links that may be useful:
Yeah. LeopoldHardt pointed you into some very good link directions. However in my own studio, I have everything set up in both DAW and Digital-Analog rack hardware.
Essentially, Compressor / Limiters are vastly misunderstood stood signal processing devices. For one thing, they are separate units that do "separate things." And unfortunately, if in the hands of a novice, they can cause eternal frustration to certain users and paint complete havoc on an otherwise perfectly good recording a/o track mix.
Feel free to refer to my Blog article about them on my Artist Page in iComp. I provide an excellent study/graphical link concerning more about the art of "Ducking" using these devices-successfully.
In your case, YOU have the best of both worlds.
Use your rack compressor / limiter as a "global" Mic a/o line instrument attentuator BEFORE Sound Card Plug in.
This will give a nice warm "analog" feeling to the mic or instrument before it goes into a DAW platform of your choice such as Cube Base or Acid Pro, etc. It will also allow you to cleanly control volume level at output without clip distortion or painting unwanted dynamics such as "pumping."
WARNING!!!: ALWAYS MAKE SURE the units INPUT Volume Control is tuned "off" and the OUTPUT Control is set to at least 12 noon position before plugging anything into it either directly or from an external mixing board. This will ensure your speakers and other equipment won't accidentally EXPLODE! Feel me?
STEP #1. (per each channel for mono a/o stereo):
> Set THRESHOLD to middle noon position (-10)
> Set RATIO to 10:1 Ratio or more (5 PM).
> Set ATTACK to Hard Left or (-0.1)
> Set RELEASE to noon position (0.5)
* You have just turned your Compressor Limiter OFF and have now created a dialable mic-attentuation volume controler at a flat frequency response setting of 0-VU. Includes manual / Auto clipping control by you as you tune with your fingers.
STEP #2. GETTING A GOOD BOARD READING for O-VU:
I like to plug a mic a/o instrument flat into an external mixing board with the the Stereo Compressor Limiter plugged in for ACC/SEND Receive.
From there, INTO a sound card a/o other recording device. With the board option, you can set a flat 0-VU reading BEFORE activating the output signal(s) routed into the compressor.
Happily, once that happens, observe how much more headroom the compressor / limiter now gives you at output-immediately. Where normally, the 0-VU Meters on the board would be distorted and fried. That clean and "in your face" result will automatically record into your PC a/o other recording device!
STEP #3. FREQUENCY MIXING COMPRESSOR WITH ON BOARD KNOBS:
> BY keeping Ratio set at 10:1 Ratio to Infinity, you control Volume output frequency by Adjusting the THRESH OLD control knob accordingly.
> Make sure the INTERNAL and OUTPUT Channel knobs are always set to 12 noon each at this point as well.
> Experiment by switching between THRESHOLD and backing off a little with the RATIO until you find a dynamic point that is CLEAN, DISTORTION FREE the way YOU want.
> Slightly toying with ATTACK and RELEASE will sharpen certain dynamic frequencies as well.
> If your unit has GATING and AURAL ENHANCEMENT knobs, experiment further. Usually, the GATE is set to off at this point.
So, as you can see, you can use a Compressor / Limiter permanently for ANY recording requirement while adding extra volume -flat- with no distortion along with clean, flat dynamics all controlable by you.
If your unit has side chain In / Outs, you should study how that is looped into a dual band 10 or 15 band rack equalizer to further fine frequency tune these primary techniques I just showed you.
LeopoldHardt's link Articles should come in pretty handy for you at that point.