Relationship Compressors vs Limiters

I’ve been gettin’ my music thing on pretty heavily recently.

I didn’t think I was going to derive any good dating topics from studying mix engineering, but I most definitely did! >:D

I’ve been looking for a long time for a good analogy that explains the type of relationships that some of y’all are in, where you think you have say in things, but you really don’t.

The way I’m going to do that is by talking about two pieces of musical equipment that do the exact same thing, but in significantly different ways.


Let’s say you’re recording a vocal (someone singing). That person might sound quiet at times and loud at other times, during the same line of a song, or even during the same WORD in a line.

That might be useful if you don’t have much instrumentation behind them and the volume changes express certain feelings. It ISN’T useful if you have to keep their voices at a certain level to remain above the background music. Sometimes, they will be heard, and sometimes, they won’t.

You can’t just turn up the volume so their most quiet words can be heard, because the parts where they get louder will jump up over the mix in an unrealistic fashion that ruins the listener’s immersion, and probably their ears, if they’re using headphones.

One way around this is to “ride the faders”, meaning that you listen to the entire song and change the volume of their vocal to compensate for how they recorded it. An easier way is to run that channel through a compressor.


Basically, what a compressor does is it only gives you back a lesser percentage of what you give it.

Let’s say that volume ranged from 0 – 10. Without compression, if you speak (or sing) at level 5, you’re perceived at level 5. If you speak at level 9, you hear 9. At level 10, you hear 10.

Let’s say you put a compressor on that channel, set the threshold (volume where it begins compressing the signal) at 0 and set the ratio at 2:1. If you speak at 2, you’re heard at 1. At 4, you’re heard as 2. At 10, you’re heard at 5. For every two decibels of volume you give the compressor, it gives you one back.

The value of this is that it automatically decreases the range of fluctuation in the volume of that channel. Assuming that the loudest that vocalist could get is 10, the loudest you’ll ever perceive them is 5, which is much easier to sit into a mix. You could make it even easier by using 4:1 compression, meaning that when that person perceives themselves on level 8, you’re hearing them on level 2.

I’ll be getting to how this is relevant to dating in a minute. >:D


Limiters do the exact same thing that compressors do if you’re able turn the ratio on the compressor up extremely high.

Let’s say a limiter is a compressor with a ratio of 1000/1. This means that your vocalist’s 1-10 volume range will always be perceived as less than or equal to wherever the threshold was set.

Limiters are used to make sure that regardless of what happens, the sound never gets louder than X. If the threshold is set to 6, at 1, the sound is heard as 1. At 3, heard as 3. At 5, heard as 5. At 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, heard as 6.

Let’s say we make the threshold 8. So long as the vocalist stays between 0 and 8, they get back what they gave out. There’s no compression on them before 8. Whatever they do, however, including bringing other people to yell into the mic with them or breaking out a bullhorn to amplify their voices, they will NEVER be heard louder than 8… unless the mix engineer raises the threshold to 9 or 10 or removes the limiter from that channel entirely…


I’ve really wanted to explain this properly for a long time, because I’m not a “compromise” type of person. I’m excellent at doing what *I* want to do, and horrible at doing something someone else wants me to do that I don’t give a flying **** about.

What I realized about myself is that anything I do for someone is, in fact, a gift that I’m giving them. It’s not something I’m compelled to do for some externally-based reason.

I don’t have a job. I’m a freelance video editor. I do the jobs I feel like doing, and I don’t do the jobs I don’t feel like doing. I don’t answer my phone. I don’t check my voicemail. The people that want to hire me know to email me.

I don’t have one girlfriend. I get in where I fit in. We’re hooking up, or we’re not. If I show up somewhere, it’s because I felt like it, not because I can be coerced by threat of a sex embargo if some chick doesn’t like what I did or said.

Basically.. My doing what *I* want to do will ALWAYS be more important to me than doing what YOU want me to do. This means that regardless of what you THINK is going on in the relationship, I control the compressor and/or limiter on the reality of the situation.

I’m not saying this is a one-sided concept. I get compressed and limited every single day. Women have compressors and limiters up the wazoo! 😀 It’s completely ridiculous how many invisible walls pop up in front of me when I’m interacting with chicks, most of which, they’re doing to themselves and it has nothing to do with me.

“I don’t want to look like a ho!”
“I don’t want to eat in front of guys!”
“I only do that after you call me your girlfriend!”

BLAH, BLAH, BLAHBLAHBLAH, all this nonsense that The Kid has to circumnavigate just to get a chick to BE HERSELF and do what’s ovbious that she WANTS TO DO! 😀 .. So, the concept DEFINITELY works in both directions as far as compressing and limiting relationships.

What This Has To Do With You

I’ve wanted to explain this for a long time because people keep claiming they have free reign in their relationships, when they most obviously DO NOT! 😀

I wanted to find a way to tell them that they’re only free to a certain point, and then the door slams shut on them. Some people are the compressors and have freedom to do whatever they like, without getting shut down by their SO. Some people are in actual, authentic two-way perfectly free relationships. Some people are being compressed and/or limited, and they don’t even know it.

Compression would be the more obvious of the two. When people interact, they’re usually discussing frivolous, unimportant issues. “Where are we going to eat, tonight?”. “Which movie do you want to see?”. “What time do you want to leave to go snowboarding?”. If you get a lot of static and ‘direction’ and potentially CORRECTION during discussion like this, you’re being compressed. Your SO is telling you that your ideas aren’t as good, so here’s the right way to do things, try to learn it for next time, so I don’t have to compress you again about the same issue.

If you don’t get resistance to your concepts, you may very well be in a free relationship. Unfortunately, a free relationship looks EXACTLY like a limited relationship until you hit the limiter. The limiter usually kicks in when there’s an IMPORTANT decision to be made, such as “Let’s get married” or “Let’s have a baby” or “Let’s have MORE babies! :D”.

So long as your ideas have no real effect on your SO, you never hit the limiter. You get to run around telling your friends that you’re in an equal relationship and y’all make decisions together, when, in fact, your SO’s making all the decisions by allowing your concepts to pass without being vetoed.


A guy is being compressed when he’s scared to death to look at other girls when his girlfriend is with him. When she’s not there, he’s all about checkin’ out some ass, but all eyes are on her as soon as she arrives. Compressed.

A gal is being limited when a guy’s willing to come to her crib and hit it on the regular, but refuses to a) go anywhere with her in public, and/or b) admit to anybody he knows that he’s messing with her. If she presses him to make people aware that they’re involved.. or, even worse, decides to announce it HERSELF! :O .. She ‘might could’ get dumped, because his reputation is more important to him than hooking up with her.

A guy is being limited when he can’t stand the concept of not having sex with this one particular chick. It’s not something she’s doing to him. He’s doing it to himself. No matter how much he swears up and down that he’s not going to XYZ, the bottom line is that if it seems like she’s going to stop producing, he’s going to do WHATEVER. HE. HAS. TO. DO. to make sure he still has physical access to her.

Unfortunately, dudes like this often rebel against the facts and akk tha FOO instead of calming down and accepting the current circumstance of their lives. It’s bad enough that THEY KNOW they’re whipped. It would be worse for the viewing public to know that, so they try to act braver than they are when it comes to other chicks. Behind closed doors, it’s all about “Yes Dear”, “Right Away, Dear”, “Coming Right Up, Dear”… Limited.

A gal is being compressed when her guy is always trying to tell her what to do, what to wear, what NOT to wear, how she should have her hair, who she’s allowed to talk to, who she’s allowed to be friends with, what time she needs to be home, what time dinner needs to be served, how she should behave, which fork to eat with, how much alcohol to drink…


Like Clint Eastwood said.. “A man’s got to know his limitations”.

Some men & women actually are experiencing free relationships.

They really can disappear for an entire week without contacting their SO and still have a relationship to come back to.

They really can have sex with other people, threaten their SO with violence or actually put their hands on them, withhold sex from them indefinitely, and do anything else they can possibly think of, and not have a single worry in the world that the other person might end the relationship or impose sanctions on them that make any difference at all in their lives.

Everybody else’s relationships are regulated by the limiter, whether they realize it or not.

I was having some laughs with some guys and somebody brought up the line from the Chris Rock routine where he says something to the effect of “I would never hit a woman… BUT I’LL SHAKE THE **** OUT OF HER! >:D”.. The importance of that line being that SOMETHING will be done to get her to stop trippin’ out, even though it won’t be punching her in the face.

Apparently, this was the first time in life that one of the guys there had heard that, so while everybody else was laughing, he was obviously imagining a scenario in his mind of that actually happening. He looked dazed and confused for a while, and then he says something like “oh.. I could NEVER shake MY wife! :O”. Limited.

In fact, he CAN shake his wife. He’s physically capable of it. He’s not WILLING to even CONSIDER shaking his wife, because he doesn’t want the cascade of consequences that comes with that, such as her leaving him, amongst other things. He’s not scared of HER.. He’s afraid of what he would lose if he did that.

I happen to have met his wife, and she’s a charming and lovely woman, and I can’t see any reason why he SHOULD have to shake her. That’s not what he was thinking about either, that she’s too nice of a person to shake.

In fact, were she not that type of person (which is purely hypothetical, because he probably wouldn’t be with her if she were like this), and she got in an argument and slapped the BEJESUS out of him, he’d probably just take it. He’d take that and anything else she decided to do to him because he’s mentally restricted from physically stopping her from acting stupid.

There’s nothing wrong with that way of being.. Some people actually call that “civilized”. Whatever you call it, it’s a limitation. He’s not free to do ANYTHING in his relationship, because there will be consequences and repercussions.

Perhaps, in that same hypothetical, she’s limited as well. He might be willing to take one beatdown, but not two. o_O He might decide to leave HER because she’s not who he thought she was when they decided to share life together. So, while she THOUGHT she could lay hands on him with nothing happening to her, she was actually experiencing an illusion of freedom.

Hitting The Limiter

There are two people affected when somebody hits the limiter. The limitEE realizes that their relationship is actually different from what they thought it was this whole time, and the limitER now has to deal with someone that’s suddenly become aware that their power in this relationship was only loaned to them by you.

If you set the limit high enough, it won’t happen at all. Even if they hit the limit once or twice, they might not understand what it was. An example of this would be when a gal wants to escalate the relationship, and the guy keeps putting it off. Sometimes, that means he’s honestly not ready yet to break out the girlfriend, fiancee or wife titles. Other times, that means he’s just stalling as long as he can before she INSISTS on a title, at which time he has to inform her that he’s he’s not interested in committing to her at all, which means she’s likely to bounce from the relationship.

Compression is different, because there are constant reminders of what the limiter doesn’t like or doesn’t want the limitee to do. That’s more of a “You’re still letting them do THAT to you? o_O” situation. That’s when there’s a buildup, until the limitee decides they’ve had “all they can stands… and they can’t stands no more!” and ejects.

The potentially saddest part about hitting the limiter is the ensuing discussion about compromise. In music, you use a limiter instead of a compressor to say “You can DEFINITELY NOT get any louder than this, or something bad will happen to my mix”. With a compressor, there’s room for potential compromise. If the vocalist brings another singer along, increasing the volume entering the channel to 20 from their individual maximum of 10, if they’re being compressed at a 2:1 ratio from a threshold of 0, their voices combined are heard as volume level 10. OTOH, if the vocalist was being limited at 7, they can bring as many people as they want and get as loud as they want and they’ll never achieve a volume louder than 7.

That’s what’s sad.. When people think they can negotiate their way to an 8 or a 9, because all the way from 0 to 7, they felt like they were an equal partner in making policy. They thought their opinions actually counted, when, in fact, those things only happened because the limiter agreed with what they said, or he or she didn’t deem the issue important enough to veto.

Some people never get it and keep trying to negotiate. Others understand what happened and are left with the choice to stay in a relationship that they know is limited, or bounce and have no relationship at all.

Neither choice is fun, but it sometimes becomes necessary to decide what you really want for yourself. In fact, some people never even understand what they’re doing in relationships until they hit the limiter and are forced to recognize the reality of their current situation. If they wanted more kids, they’re gonna have to have them with somebody else. If they wanted to get married, they’re gonna have to do that with somebody else. If they wanted to move to Arkansas….. They’re gonna have to do THAT with somebody else! 😀

Realizing that you’re limited in your relationship brings up important questions, such as “Do I want to go along with this?” and “How long do I think I can keep this up?”. Ultimately, it comes down to the type of person you are. Do you want to do what YOU want to do? or do you want to do what someone else dictates to you to do?

If you can roll with the limits, good for you! 😀 If you can’t, you’re better off single until you become involved with someone you’re on the same page with… or, at least someone who imposes limitations that you can stand. 😀 Connect with Bill via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Email Subscription, RSS Feed

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      1. I realised a few months ago i was ‘limited’ and ‘compressed’ in a relationship (if i can call it that) sometime last year and vowed to get out for 2011. took some while cause the sex was the bomb and me and the guy really used to have a good time whenever we go out but i found myself wanting more, more of his time( he has kids) i felt like there was only so much happening but there was a limit. many times he asked me to be his girlfriend as we were dating for a year but i never accepted cause as u said it just felt like a title, i asked what would change after i’m called girlfriend and i didnt get much of an answer since he claimed he was already only dating me so u were right about titles, they really dont mean anything. His mother lives in another state but she came home for xmas, he claimed he doesn’t have a good relationship with her and didn’t want me to meet her( i was a bit upset about it but i eventually dismissed it) his excuse waa that me meeting her or not doesnt change the way how he feels about me but he took the mother out, the kids and the kid’s mother, i was like WTF!!! thing is Bill he told me before he did it.while the mother was visiting i didn’t see him as much as usual but it was xmas, the snow was horrible and making no excuses for him i believed he was where he wanted to be. New year came i told him for 2011 i want more, he cried, i felt bad, i stuck in it a bit longer but i’m not getting what i want out of it,never been introduced to his brother, we go out in public but i feel like he’s in my life but i’m not really in his. realising this is a limited relationship As u said i’m beginning to ask myself a lot of questions, feeling frustrated, while he wasnt around as often around xmas i met someone else, who has no kids and seems eager to get to know me and things dont appear so limited but what can u tell in 2 months time? Ive hit the limiter in my ‘relationship’ with dude 1 and this post came at the right time Bill. Guess it wasn’t real, my instincts tell me get out! been ignoring them for a while but I’m on that plank about to jump off the ship and into the sea, think i’ll be better swimming in the ocean than on a ship to nowhere.


        1. Thanks for the comment, Kiree. I’m glad you got something out of the post. 🙂

          Sex being good in a relationship is going to cause ANYBODY to delay leaving, nah meen? hahaha

          You were already in the hole since dude has kids. So long as he’s not a ******* deadbeat, his kids are going to come before you in all circumstances. Christmas, Thanksgiving… They’re also a built-in excuse for what he was doing during time that he wasn’t with you, hehe o_O

          Good call on the “girlfriend” title. It’s meaningless without changes. That’s like getting a promotion at work, but no raise. What’s THAT worth? \o/

          All it would have done, in fact, is stop YOU from kicking it to other dudes, because you would have been running all over creation, going I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!!! every time a dude tried to get to know you. Nothing would have changed on his side.

          Not introducing you to anybody is DEFINITELY a sign of a limit. I go to lengths to make sure that my close friends meet each other, even if it’s rather briefly, just so they can see each other and get a feel for each other. If I were dating a chick, she sure as hell would be introduced to my friends, especially being that she’d probably be around wherever I went, anyway.

          No point in dating someone you can’t share good times with.

          Going out in public is easy, so long as you know where your friends & family AREN’T going to be.

          I wouldn’t go so far as to say your relationship wasn’t “real”. Your relationship is/was what it is/was. It’s REALLY the way you describe it. It’s not a fictitious relationship just because it’s most likely not going to end up in a marriage.

          Still, I think your assessment’s on-point. You seem to know what you want and you seem to clearly see the obstacles in your way of receiving that from that particular dude. That’s clarity. It’s all you can really ask for.. Knowing where you stand and what kind of game you’re actually involved in.

          I think that so long as you’ve expressed your concerns to this guy, the ball’s in his court to make things better or not. If you say you want to be introduced, and he still doesn’t do it.. \o/ Same thing for getting more time and everything else that’s been bothering you about the situation.

          Make your assessment and then make moves. It’s YOUR life.

          Good Luck! 😀

          1. Bill thanks once again,I have so much appreciation for you ‘keeping it real’ Some women dont have anyone that they can discuss and can explain some of the things you do and i also think some suffer from self esteem issues, therefore accepting situations that they really shouldnt accept. I was introduced to his friends met his dad once but was introduced as ‘my friend’ not girlfriend cause at the time i had just saw your site and had read the post on titles and after seeing that i totally agreed with you and i am now not into titles so when he asked me to be his girlfriend (he asked 4 times, i gave him 4 refusals). Well i called lastnight(after reading this i was finally ready to break it off) and told him it’s over, deleted him of my blackberry,facebook, msn. Now he’s calling, texting and doing those things men do when they realise that you are making an exit. Bill another thing tho, i like the fact that u date multiple persons, problem is if a woman does that we run the risk of being seen as a skank if you are seen out with various guys. i think it’s totally impossible to find one person who is a lover, best friend, confidant, the person you share hobbies wid, go shopping and for years women( i can only speak for women since i am one) are subject to all these romance novels and magazine that feeds us that rubbish notion that there is this ‘perfect partner’ that we wil eventually find who will meet all or most our needs if we do this and that and that other thing…..blah blah blahhh and women soak that up like a towel and believe it.
            I think we all need to keep focussed and make assessments of our needs as human beings and know what we want and where we intend to be, as those questions u mentioned to help decipher who we really want to be or weather we need to be with someone at all and then as u said make our Moves.

            off the plank and in the ocean just gotta watch out for sharks now Bill 😀

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