Get Unstuck with Ableton Live 9's Glue Compressor

Need to bring the elements of your mix together and create a tighter, more cohesive sound? Of course you do! Gary Hiebner's demonstration of Live 9's Glue Compressor will have you stuck on it for good  

The Glue Compressor is a nice inclusion to Ableton's repertoire of effects. Ableton have partnered together with Cytomic to create an adapted version of the 'The Glue' compressor plug-in for Live 9. It is an analog SSL bus compression emulation plug-in, with a few new features, and it works really well to tighten up instruments or to glue elements together in a mix. Let's take a look and see how the Glue Compressor can be used.

Step 1 –  Using the Glue for Parallel Compression

The Glue Compressor has your standard compressor controls such as: Attack, Release, Ratio, Threshold and Makeup Gain, but it does have other parameters that make it a better choice over Ableton's standard Compressor. The Dry/Wet control allows you to choose how much of the compression to dial in which means parallel compression can be easily achieved. This works well on drums, but can be used on other instruments too. With this technique, you can use a heavy compression setting to give the track energy without squashing any of the transients on it.

Here's some dry drums we'll be processing using the Glue Compressor:

For an example let's use quite an extreme compression setting. Dial in the following settings:

  • Attack: -3
  • Release: -6
  • Ration: 10
  • Theshold: around -25 dB
  • Markup: around 7 dB

The settings above will apply a heavy dose of compression to the audio to the point where it starts losing the original dynamics. There will be quite a significant amount of gain reduction, around 5 dB. Start pulling back the Dry/Wet to introduce some of the original audio back into the track to get the 'New York-style' parallel compression effect. This plug-in is an analog emulation so if you drive it quite hard it adds a nice saturation effect to the audio. Try this out to add some color and warmth to your tracks. Increase the Makeup Gain for a more saturated sound. But watch those levels and make sure the audio doesn't clip!

Image 1

And the processed drums:

Step 2 – As a Limiter

The Glue Compressor has a very fast attack mode. It can be set all the way down to -0.1 ms. By default, the plug-in sets the Clip mode to Soft to apply a soft clipping of -0.5 dB giving an analog-style soft clipping effect. If you turn this off and apply a very short attack, you can use the compressor as a hard limiter. 

Glue Compressor does come with a handful of presets that are a helpful guide for limiting purposes. Insert the Glue Compressor on your Master track and choose the preset Mastering – make it loud. This preset has a very short attack with an automatic release, and a high ratio of 10. Turn off Soft clip to enable the hard clipping. This way the audio will not peak above 0 dB. Start increasing the Makeup and this will increase the overall volume of your song, but it won't clip. I compared this with the Limiter and got much better results with the Glue Compressor, plus it added a desired coloring to the audio sound.

Image 2

An example pre-limiter:

And now with the limiter applied:

Step 3 – Dial in Range

The Range control is a real nifty inclusion. With this, you can limit the range of the compression that is applied to the audio signal. Start dropping the Range amount and you will see a guide in the Gain Reduction meter to where the range is being applied. Use the same compression settings as in Step 2. Dropping the Range to about 5 dB will limit the range of compression to between 0-5 on the Gain Reduction meter. This is really handy for focusing in on the compression and tailoring the amount of compression applied.

Image 3

Step 4 – Using the Sidechain

The Glue Compressor also comes bundled with a Sidechain section. Click the arrow on the left to view the Sidechain. You have a choice of either using an external source as a sidechain input or by using the Sidechain EQ. With the EQ section you have a choice of 6 different filter types. From there you can dial in the EQ and Q for the filter type. The Sidechain works really well to create 'pumping' effects. 

On a bass track add the Glue Compressor. Then setup a kick as an external source for the compressor. From the Audio From menu choose your kick track. On the Gain parameter, dial in a setting of around 12 dB. This causes a significant gain drop on the bass when it detects a kick hit. Using the Dry/Wet controls you can choose how much of the external signal the compressor will detect.

Image 4

An example without sidechain compression:

And now with the sidechain compression applied:


The Glue Compressor is a great inclusion to Live 9's arsenal of effects. You can add SSL-style bus emulation to your tracks or use it as a hard limiter on your master output. It adds a warmth and color to your sound that is missing with Ableton's standard compressor, and should make a positive difference to your mixes. Try it out in your next production!

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More


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