Threshold – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Sound Engineering Glossary

What is a Threshold in Sound Engineering?

In sound engineering, a threshold refers to a specific level at which a signal must reach in order for a certain action to be triggered. This action could be anything from compression, limiting, gating, or expansion. The threshold essentially acts as a boundary that determines when a signal will be affected by the processing being applied.

How is Threshold Used in Dynamics Processing?

In dynamics processing, the threshold is a crucial parameter that determines when the processing will kick in. For example, in compression, the threshold is the level at which the compressor starts to reduce the gain of the signal. If the signal is below the threshold, no compression will be applied. Similarly, in gating, the threshold is the level at which the gate opens to allow the signal to pass through.

What is the Relationship Between Threshold and Ratio?

The threshold and ratio are closely related parameters in dynamics processing. The ratio determines how much the signal will be affected once it crosses the threshold. For example, a 2:1 ratio means that for every 2 dB the signal goes over the threshold, only 1 dB will be allowed through. The higher the ratio, the more aggressive the processing will be once the threshold is crossed.

How Does Threshold Affect the Overall Sound of a Mix?

The threshold can have a significant impact on the overall sound of a mix. By adjusting the threshold, you can control the dynamics of individual tracks or the entire mix. For example, lowering the threshold on a vocal track can help bring out quieter details in the performance, while raising the threshold on a drum track can help control the transients and make the drums sound more consistent.

How Can Threshold be Adjusted for Different Instruments and Vocals?

When adjusting the threshold for different instruments and vocals, it’s important to consider the dynamic range of the source material. Instruments with a wide dynamic range, such as drums or brass instruments, may require a lower threshold to control the peaks and make the overall sound more balanced. On the other hand, instruments with a more consistent level, such as a synthesizer or electric guitar, may not require as much threshold adjustment.

What are Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Threshold Levels?

One common mistake when setting threshold levels is setting it too high or too low. If the threshold is set too high, the processing may not engage at all, resulting in a lack of dynamic control. On the other hand, if the threshold is set too low, the processing may be too aggressive and result in a squashed or unnatural sound. It’s important to experiment with different threshold levels and listen carefully to how it affects the sound before making any final adjustments.