Understanding Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics

In ableton, mastering, mixing on July 7, 2012 at 17:48

Let’s talk about Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics device. It is not my intention to explain compression, I just want to understand this complex device. I think, it’s much more easier to handle this, if you keep the Compressor device in mind and its limitations.
Just open both devices. As you may know, in opposite to the compressor the multiband devices works on up to three frequency ranges. The two sliders on the left hand side are for that purpose. But let’s take a closer look at the edit modes of the Multiband Dynamics. You can change the mode by pressing one of the buttons T, B or A.

The time parameters

You can edit the attack and release time for each band. In addition there is a global parameter, time, which affects all values relatively. Well, no surprises here.

Above and below

In the beginning I was a bit confused what above and below in the context meant. It’s simple. If you take a brief look at the input-output-diagram of the compressor device, you see in general a knee. The right values of the knee are called above (the threshold) and the left values below.

Above thresholds and ratios

By pressing the A button, you enter the Above edit mode. Here is the place for editing the thresholds and ratios. Remember you can work with up to three bands. Here is something different from the Compressor device, you can enter ratios greater than one. That means the signals above the thresholds will be louder. Yes, this device is an expander, too.

It is always a good practice to keep the perceived loudness constant, so you can compare the processed audio signal with the original. For this purpose you should change the Output of the band. Now you can compare the signals by switching the value of the Amount from 100 percent to zero. By the way, it’s helpful to solo the band you are working on.

The diagram in the middle is helpful. The length of the (right) bars mean the threshold and the density of the vertical lines corresponds with the compression ratio.

Below thresholds and ratios

After pressing the B button, you will see Below edit mode. The thresholds and ratios are place as usual. If the initial threshold is minimal (-80 db), nothing happens, because this section manipulates audio signals below this threshold. Increasing the threshold will show a new bar in the middle of the device and enables a (second) compressor/ expander for this band.


As said before, comparing the original audio signal and processed is a good way to control your work. For that the global Output parameter and Amount are the values you have to change.


I hope the helps. Best regars.



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