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Microphone Month

Gate

A dynamics device whose function is to remove unwanted audio material below a certain threshold. Some type of “gain cell” is employed (usually a VCA) that can raise or lower the volume of the audio going through the unit. When the signal falls below a certain threshold that is set the gain cell will quickly drop the audio level down to a predetermined level. This level is usually very low, or even off, but in some applications it may only be a reduction of a few dB. The reason they are called gates is because when they “close” it sounds as if the audio has suddenly stopped, or has been “gated.” Now, it is possible to set many gates for slower response time so the effect is not as sudden, but often a sudden change is what is desired. Gates are often used on drum tracks to prevent bleed from other nearby drum mics, and they are sometimes used on noisy sources so when the desired audio signal stops the noise is automatically muted. The gated reverb sounds made popular by Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel in the 1980’s were the result of running a reverb’s decay through a gate. When the reverb level fell below a certain threshold the sound would abruptly cut off.

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