Ableton Tutorial: FET Compressor External Side Chain Set Up

This is a short tutorial on how to set up external side chain compression for Softube’s FET Compressor!

I am doing it in Ableton Live, but these techniques can be applied to any other DAW.

Get the FET Compressor — PIB/FETCompressor

Watch the Video Tutorial

*full written tutorial & release notes below

Written Tutorial

Drop the FET Compressor onto which ever track you would like it to compress. Then add a second track with what ever sound source you would like to trigger the side chain.

NOTE: What ever channel you choose to use as the side chain trigger will be automatically muted. So, if it is a part of the overall song itself, you should duplicate it.

On the side chain trigger track you need to route the output to the channel containing the FET Compressor. In Ableton Live you do that by clicking the Output Type drop down menu.


Output Source / Output Channel Drop Down Menus in Ableton Live

If there is only one device that accepts a side chain source, in this case the FET Compressor, than the second drop down, the Output Channel, will automatically select the FET. If there is more than one device that can handle the source you will need to manually choose the FET.

It will be labeled “Side Chain Input X-FET Compressor“. The X will be the number of the channel.

Once you have that selected you will need to leave the side chain source channel activated, though you won’ be able to hear anything.

Now you can go and start getting that sweet sweet FET Compression dialed in for your track!

There are a couple other features to be aware of in the Side Chain compressor section of the compressor itself.


FET Compressor by Softube

The detector area controls the amount of side chaining to apply to the signal. The Low Cut & High Cut will adjust which frequencies of the side chain source to use for the side chain processing.

Then there is the lookahead. This is useful if your side chain source has immediate peaks at or around 0 dB. It allows the compressor to see those and adjust itself before the actual time it is supposed to do the work.

Release Notes for the FET Compressor

The FET Compressor is an impressively faithful modeling of one of the most iconic compressors of all time. FET Compressor is loved for its aggressiveness and its tendency to add some tasty distortion to the sound source when driven hard. This compressor loves to be slammed and abused. But few things are so good they can’t be improved, so we added a couple of nice features that makes it even more flexible than the hardware original.

Get the FET Compressor — PIB/FETCompressor

In general, the FET Compressor can be used for deeper gain reduction than you would normally use with any compressor. The reason is that even at extreme settings, the FET Compressor shows no trace of the pinched sound many other compressors make when you push them hard. This ability for strict gain control is not least useful on lead vocal tracks that need to be kept in the listener’s face. The distortion also adds a nice grit to the voice, highly useable in rock mixes but in no way limited to that.

Another common use for the FET is in drum mixing, where many engineers use it on room microphones, overheads or across the entire drum buss. Used this way, the FET Compressor has a way of bringing out a large, explosive sound in the Led Zeppelin vein. This is also an application where parallel compression is a useful technique, so we added the Parallel Inject control to facilitate this. To reduce kick drum pumping or let the bass guitar’s low end bloom, use the side chain filter.

But there are still many more uses for the FET. Bass, acoustic guitars, pianos – bring out some edge or use the compressor’s fastest attack setting to round off any transients.


  • Sweet input and output stage distortion.
  • Super fast attack time (just like the original)
  • Lookahead (in case you don’t find the original’s attack time fast enough)
  • Modeled “All buttons in” mode
  • Continuous ratio (even between 20:1 and ALL) – but if you want the fixed ratios of the original, just click the ratio labels around the knob.
  • Parallel compression.
  • Detector low and high cut filters
  • External side chain
  • Stereo with synchronized gain reduction
  • Very CPU friendly
  • Meticiously modeled analog compressor. Each single stage of the analog unit has been modeled separately to achieve the exact sound and behavior of the original analog unit
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Author: Joshua Casper

Joshua Casper is an Artist, Musician, and Blogger.

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