Rap Vocal Compression Settings [Beginner’s Guide + Cheat Sheet]

In this tutorial, you will learn rap vocal compression settings to get the best quality in your hip-hop mix.

Rap songs are known as one of the most aggressive genres in singing. This aggressiveness creates difficulty when you want to harness it with compression. Apart from the other soft genre songs compressing rap vocals is such a difficult task.

The problem is when you apply a little more compression, you will end up with a heavily compressed voice and when you apply lighter compression, it wouldn’t control the hikes common in the rap vocals.

So, what to do? How to apply compression in rap vocals so that it could balance the overall track?

Well, everyone wants a quick solution. So here I will share some of the techniques you can apply in your compressor plugin to preciously compress rap vocals.

Rap Vocal Compression Settings ‘Cheat Sheet’

Here is the cheat sheet for rap vocals that you can initially apply and then tweak as per your need.

Setting 1: Punchy and Aggressive

  • Ratio: 5:1
  • Threshold: -15dB
  • Attack: Less than 1ms
  • Release – 170ms
  • Gain – Use makeup gain if your plugins support

Setting 2: Smooth and Laid-back

  • Ratio: 2:1 to 3:1
  • Threshold: Around -12dB
  • Attack: Around 10ms
  • Release: Around 100ms
  • Gain – Use makeup gain if your plugins support

Setting 3: Clean and Transparent

  • Ratio: 1.5:1 to 2:1
  • Threshold: -8dB to -10dB
  • Attack: Around 5ms
  • Release: Around 100ms
  • Gain – Use makeup gain if your plugins support

Read also,

How to Compress Rap Vocals

When you record rap or hip-hop vocals one thing you can notice is that the singer sings a lot more aggressively than in other genres.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommended. Read more about Affiliate disclosure here.

Most of the area of the vocal has spikes that you need to control by applying the compression precisely.

It’s different than normal vocal compression where you apply a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio and the work is done.

With rap vocals, the best place to start is finding a rap vocal Preset in your compressor plugin’s preset library.

Today, all popular compressor plugins have 1 or 2 presets dedicated to rap and hip-hop vocals.

You can use them and modify them as per your need.

I will share you with the cheat sheet to rap vocal compression in the last of this article that you can use to modify those presets.

If, your compressor plugin doesn’t have a rap vocal preset you need to create one by setting up all the parameters yourself.

In the next section, I will go through all the possible settings you have to apply to precisely compress rap vocals.

Keep reading…

Rap Vocal Compression Settings

The number game starts now…

Assuming your compressor plugin doesn’t have any rap vocal preset hare we will create our own preset by changing the parameters of the compressor.

However, compressing is an art and there is no hard and fast rule to apply the same settings on your vocals. You need to tweak these settings as per your own need.

First off…

Compression Ratio

Compression Ratio decides how the compressor reacts to the input audio signal.

In short, the amount of compression. The more ratio you apply, the more compression takes place.

Generally, in normal vocals, the 2:1 to 3:1 ratio is good to compress the upper dynamics. But when the vocal is aggressive you need to compress more. So you have to increase the ratio up to 7:1.

Probably, you would find the sweet spot anywhere from 5:1 to 6:1. The aggressiveness of the vocal decides how much ratio you should apply.

Observe the changes in the vocal when you are increasing the amount of compression and you will find the best ratio for your vocals.

Attack and Release

Attack and release are the time when the compressor hits the incoming audio signal and for how much time it holds the signal.

As rap vocals are aggressive ones, you should always apply fast attack time to your compressor so that it could come into the process as soon as possible otherwise you can end up with some part of the vocals uncompressed.

For release, it should be anywhere between 160 ms to 240ms, which is the normal range for holding the vocal into the process.

However, you can increase or decrease the release time and observe the changes and find the sweet spot.


The threshold is another important parameter for the compressor. For rap vocals, you should set it -15dB to – 20dB So that whenever the vocal crosses the threshold compressor starts to work.

Don’t Too Much Compress Rap Vocals?

Whatever settings you apply in rap vocal compression, always listen and tweak.

Because without observing the changes if you apply the same parameters I have described above, the chance is you don’t get the best of it.

People often compress the rap vocals thinking that it’s an aggressive form of singing and it’s needed to compress hard. This approach is totally wrong.

Although, rap and hip hop is an aggressive forms of singing you never over-compress it.

These genres have phrases and words that should be clear in the track and your listeners won’t listen to them correctly.

So always avoid over-compression for any type of vocals. Always go with the below process.

Apply – Listen – Tweak 

And you will find the best version.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is compression necessary for rap vocals?

Yes, definitely! Compression is crucial to mix like a professional sound in rap vocals. It helps to control the dynamics of the vocals and ensures that the vocal remains clear and audible in the mix.

Can I use the same compression settings given in here for all rap vocals?

While the recommended settings in this cheat sheet is a good starting point, you must understand that every rapper has his own unique vocal texture that may need adjustments based on their voice and style. Use your ears and make subtle tweaks as needed.

Can I compress the rap adlibs as well?

As adlibs add depth and texture to a rap performance, you should also compress them. However, you should use a lighter compression to retain their natural feel.

Are hardware compressors better than software plugins?

Definitely, hardware compressors are best but you can achieve at least 90% of the quality with software compressors too, if you know how to use them.

How can I avoid over-compression in my rap vocals?

To avoid over-compression, start with the lowest levels of compression settings and gradually increase the compression until you achieve the desired effect. Compression adds subtle changes to the vocals so listen carefully while increasing the effect. You will get the tipping point and above that point the vocal will start getting over-compressed.

Conclusion: Rap Vocals

So, here was a quick guide to Rap vocal compression settings. Now it’s your time to apply these settings on your tracks and let me know how it works in the comment section.

Sharing is caring

Share this article with others in your social network to help them out.

Other useful articles,

Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing, and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

You Might Also Like:

1 thought on “Rap Vocal Compression Settings [Beginner’s Guide + Cheat Sheet]”

Leave a Comment


Exclusive Plugins Deals & Discounts, Audio Recording Tips and Many More...