MixCoach Podcast 065: Expanders

expanders mixing gate

In this episode we talk about how we use expanders in mixing… the answer may surprise you.

Raw Transcript:

Kev: This is the Mix Coach Podcast, Number 65.

Male: This week, we’re going to be talking about expanders. We have some
fairly interesting thoughts about expanders, as well as when we use
them or when we don’t use them.

This week, Kev, we’re talking about expanders. This is something that
is on almost every channel strip plug-in. Whenever I asked you about
it, you had an interesting response and I had an interesting response,
as well. Expanders; how do you use it? What do you do?

Kev: The joke was whenever I see EXP for expansion, I always click it
until it says GAT, because I hardly ever use expanders. You know what;
you asked that and I was thinking, “Have I ever used an expander?” I
think I have, back in the day. I think there was a piece I used to
use, an expander that I used, I think on toms back when I worked in
the first studio I worked at. After . . . when I first dove into DAW
world, or DAW world, I got [inaudible: 01:10] digital performer and I
sent it through a Yamaha 02R. There was preset on the Yamaha 02R that
was an expander. I think it was called ‘hip comp’; I think that’s what
it was called. It was my instant awesome preset before there was . .
before I . . .

Male: Before you had any SSL . . .

Kev: . . . before I had an SSL plug-in. I used it on every vocal. I think
what it did was it actually expanded; it was an expander of some sort.
I didn’t get into the details of how it worked, but I know that it
sounded great and it was in my workflow all the time.

Male: We were talking to . . . actually, Joseph who’s an intern here, and
he was talking about how using it to where . . . rather than
compressing like if you have a snare with lots of ghost notes, rather
than compressing the actually big hits to bring up the ghost notes,
using an expander with the right timing and the right attack on it and
everything, it would boost the ghost notes as opposed to compressing
the big one and how that could sound a little bit more musical.

Kev: I could totally see that. I’m probably going to do that because it
makes a lot of sense . . .

Male: It does.

Kev: . . . if expanders are the opposite of compressors. What you use a
compressor for is to bring down the hot sounds, or bring down the loud
sounds, then an expander if setup correctly, would bring up the soft
sounds. That makes a ton of sense, and that may be something that I
try here pretty soon because I’m a little bit intrigued by if it would
work for this as just such an occasion.

Male: Definitely spending some time to get a decent preset, template, or
workflow on an expander would be a really beneficial thing I could
see. I could see that being helpful.

Kev: I could see where it would make the snare sound a little less
manipulated, and instead, make the ghost notes sound a little bit more
manipulated. I can see how that would be. For the most part, you were
asking about when I use expanders. I can’t remember past the 02R,
which was 10 years ago now for me. I can’t remember in the recent
history ever using an expander, because when it comes up, it just
doesn’t seem like . . . on my tom preset that I use for the R-channel
from waves; it’s great, but the expander just doesn’t seem to be hefty
enough. It doesn’t seem to be . . .

Male: Give it that punch.

Kev: . . . as aggressive enough as I need. When I gate a tom, I don’t
want it to just suggest that in between the ghost parts or the rumble
from the toms is just a little bit lower. I want it to take it out.
I’m like an assassin when it comes to sound in between the notes I
don’t want. Therefore, I use a gate because a gate seems to be either
on or off. Expanders seem to be a little more fru-fru and not really .
. . but with that in mind, I think I am going to use it on the . ..

Male: On some snares.

Kev: . . . the ghost notes, yeah.

Male: I think, honestly, there’s some times whenever I’ve needed it and
I’ve done other things to get around it, where like I’m doing parallel
compression on a snare just to get those ghost notes out. I think
something like expansion would help because even with parallel
compression whenever you hear that snare hit, again like you said,
sometimes it can sound manipulated. You can hear the compression on it
where it’s like ‘That snare’s been compressed.’ Avoiding the time that
it would take to get that out would be ideal, I think. Definitely, I
think we’re both going to checking out some expansion.

Kev: What about the listeners? Do you guys use expanders? If you have a go-
to expander setting or something you always use an expander on, tell
us. Tell us in the comments below this, or go to MixCoach.com and tell
us in the comments section.

Thanks for listening. This has been the Mix Coach Podcast; the podcast
dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more
tips, tutorials, and even a free course, be sure and visit us at

Question: How do you use expanders when you’re mixing? Or do you ever use expanders?

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