Parallel or New York compression has long been a favorite of studio engineers. Usually deployed to “fatten” up tracks it can sound great on drums or vocals.
Parallel compression is achieved by mixing an unprocessed dry signal with compressed (usually heavily compressed) version of the same signal.The advantage of parallel compression is the dynamics of the dry signal are left intact while your free to add as much or as little body, character and all that other good stuff heavy compression can bring to the party.
Setting this up in your DAW typically involves either duplication of tracks or the creation of an effect send or buss, which can be a bit of a hassle. Fortunately there are a few compressor plugins out there that incorporate a mix or wet/dry knob. A mix function more commonly seen on a reverb or delay makes it a cinch to set up parallel compression. Two such plugins that are up to the job are Waves H-Comp and Fab Filter Pro-C
Setting The Compressor
When it comes to setting a compressor for parallel compression you can afford to really hammer the signal, high ratio and threshold settings are the order of the day. Next you want to set the mix knob to 100% dry and slowly turn the dial to introduce the compressed signal, somewhere around 20-30% sounds good but adjust to taste.
Lets hear what it sounds like on this drum loop.
Drums No Processing
Drums Parallel Compression
Now if only more plugins had mix knobs!