Seriously. You really don’t need to do this with digital recording*. Just set a good level that’s not clipping and hit record**. I have gotten far too many overly compressed tracks to mix over the years, and it’s a headache to try and work around this. You’re ruining the dynamic range, the sibilance gets out of control, and there are all kinds of other EQ issues that pop up when you do this because your compressor isn’t smart enough to know when there’s supposed to be a little extra 400hz in a sound or if it’s too much. Compressors are stupid. Our ears are not.
I am currently struggling with a lead vocal track that’s so compressed that the “S” sounds are exploding, but my de-essers are having a hard time chasing them because there’s no dynamic range in the vocal. If I EQ the “S” out, the track gets too dark, and also becomes very boxy sounding.
The other problem is that by compressing on the way in to the recording device, you’re removing some of the musical dynamics of the singer! Of course, we all know that this is sometimes a necessary thing to do, but more often than not, you lose a little bit of excitement by doing this, and then I have to go in and create dynamics for the singer with fader moves.
Put a plug in on the track while you’re recording if you must hear compression while tracking. But don’t print it. Leave that to the guy who is mixing. He’ll thank you for your great sounding tracks.
*of course, if it’s “The Sound”, then by all means George Martin, do it!
** and also, if you’re recording to tape, you need to apply a bit of compression to get above the noise floor and stay below distortion, so go ahead if you’re using tape.