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  • Explain compressors

    Not how they work, I know that. But how do set one? And what makes a good one? ODs and stuff is pretty easy, either you like the tone or you don't. But compressors don't really have any tone as such, they're just there to level out your playing. So how you do go about choosing one?
    --------------------------------------------------------
    1973 Aria 551
    1984 Larrivee RS-4 w/ EMG SA/SA/89
    1989 Charvel 750 XL w/ DMZ Tone Zone & Air Norton
    1990's noname crap-o-caster plywood P/J Bass
    1991 Heartfield Elan III w/ DMZ mystery pups
    1995 Aria Pro II TA-65
    2001 Gibson Les Paul Gothic w/ PG-1 & SH-8

  • #2
    Explain compressors

    Got to Ovnilab.com and spend a good time reading about the different types etc.

    It really depends on what you want to use it for.

    You can go from super subtle to add a bit of sustain and chop peaks like me to full squash. Others use them as a boost for clean leads or to juice dirt pedals.

    I personally have an always on Maxon CP101 (optical, 4:1 ratio) with low sustain and at unity volume that like they say you don’t know it’s on until you turn it off.

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    • #3
      Re: Explain compressors

      Compressors are magic! Actually what they do is simple, the results are magic-

      Want Knophlers clean sultan shimmer?
      Want the incredibly sustained piano chord at the end of Beatles Day in Life?
      Or near infinite sustain in general?
      Or to drive amps and pedals into the extremes?
      Or homogenize a bunch of overdubs (acoustic walls of sound like Jeff Lynn)
      Or even squash an entire mix for EDM mix?

      All of this is compression-
      Personally, for cleanish, blues rock, I love the original MXR 1 knob- amazing simplicity

      In the studio? Every plug in the arsenal has opportunity to get the guitar to sit in the mix or beef up a section

      Bottom line- get a bunch of plugins and experiment- it's an art that is crucial for many many timbres-
      What's so Funny about Peace Love and Understanding?

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      • #4
        Re: Explain compressors

        I hate to be "that guy" but do a search. There are a few excellent threads here on the topic.

        As said - it REALLY depends on the compressor, but keeping it simple, 3 knobs:
        Level, Attack, Sustain

        Level is exactly that - how loud when the effect is when on. Since a compressor messes with dynamics, it can make your instrument seam louder/quieter so you especially if you are kicking it on-off you need to set this carefully. Bonus, most can be used as a lead boost if you want!

        Attack - This is how soon the effect kicks in to start squashing runaway signal spikes. Fast means right away (check your instruction for the direction on the knob). Set at max, this often takes the peak right off the signal and makes it sound very "effect-y". Listen to the Police, Every Breathe You Take, the arpeggios, for a compressor sound where it is set like this. At the other end, it lets the full attack of the string, and the max signal peak get through. In between somewhere, calms the signal more/less to your taste.

        Sustain - this makes the quiet parts louder. As the note trails off, at a certain point it brings the level up. Handy on those long David Gilmour-esque solos if using a single coil Strat and not maxing the gain! Downside here is that it makes other noise louder besides the main signal also.

        Many these days like the "blend" control which mixes the dry signal in with the compressed tone. They say it brings back what the comp takes a way. That's most people. Or maybe you got a crappy compressor that really colors the sound. I say it defeats the purpose. Kinda like compressors for people that don't like/need compression.

        SO....

        Fast attack, max sustain: A heavily compressed, but very even signal that rings for days.

        Slow attack, max sustain: All the note attack glory and dynamics are there, but that note will go on and on and on....

        Fast Attack, low sustain: Adds bite and definition and even outs all of that sloppy picking, but the notes fade naturally.


        I almost always use a compressor on my acoustic, as it is a clean sound, and my tacky picking/strumming results in a lot of "unwanted dynamics" if you know what I mean. The comp really evens things out. I set a moderately fast attack, and a low sustain, because my acoustics hold their notes decently.

        Compressors are often used on clean instruments, as a heavily distorted signal actually IS compressed. That distortion "clipping" is essentially saying "Nothing can be louder than 10!" and at there same time "Everything is going to be 10"

        The Ratio thing above is a setting for the amount of compression. My recommendation, start simple. There is ratio, hard knee, soft knee and a host of other variables....Lots of good 3 or 4 knob comps out there. Often cheap, because people buy them and don't know how to use them.

        Our other guitar play uses one when he plays Lay It Down by Ratt. Really makes the intro riff pop.


        A good comp preserves your tone without coloring it. My comment, all but the uber expensive ones do. I like a tone knob on one. Also, it does not add noise. Best advice I have ever read (and it was here): Set it until you know it is on, and then turn it back a little bit just until you can't tell for sure. It's working perfectly then.
        Last edited by Aceman; 08-04-2018, 10:22 AM.
        Originally posted by Bad City
        He's got the crowd on his side and the blue jean lights in his eyes...

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Explain compressors

          Originally posted by Aceman View Post
          I hate to be "that guy" but do a search. There are a few excellent threads here on the topic.

          As said - it REALLY depends on the compressor, but keeping it simple, 3 knobs:
          Level, Attack, Sustain

          Level is exactly that - how loud when the effect is when on. Since a compressor messes with dynamics, it can make your instrument seam louder/quieter so you especially if you are kicking it on-off you need to set this carefully. Bonus, most can be used as a lead boost if you want!

          Attack - This is how soon the effect kicks in to start squashing runaway signal spikes. Fast means right away (check your instruction for the direction on the knob). Set at max, this often takes the peak right off the signal and makes it sound very "effect-y". Listen to the Police, Every Breathe You Take, the arpeggios, for a compressor sound where it is set like this. At the other end, it lets the full attack of the string, and the max signal peak get through. In between somewhere, calms the signal more/less to your taste.

          Sustain - this makes the quiet parts louder. As the note trails off, at a certain point it brings the level up. Handy on those long David Gilmour-esque solos if using a single coil Strat and not maxing the gain! Downside here is that it makes other noise louder besides the main signal also.

          Many these days like the "blend" control which mixes the dry signal in with the compressed tone. They say it brings back what the comp takes a way. That's most people. Or maybe you got a crappy compressor that really colors the sound. I say it defeats the purpose. Kinda like compressors for people that don't like/need compression.

          SO....

          Fast attack, max sustain: A heavily compressed, but very even signal that rings for days.

          Slow attack, max sustain: All the note attack glory and dynamics are there, but that note will go on and on and on....

          Fast Attack, low sustain: Adds bite and definition and even outs all of that sloppy picking, but the notes fade naturally.


          I almost always use a compressor on my acoustic, as it is a clean sound, and my tacky picking/strumming results in a lot of "unwanted dynamics" if you know what I mean. The comp really evens things out. I set a moderately fast attack, and a low sustain, because my acoustics hold their notes decently.

          Compressors are often used on clean instruments, as a heavily distorted signal actually IS compressed. That distortion "clipping" is essentially saying "Nothing can be louder than 10!" and at there same time "Everything is going to be 10"

          The Ratio thing above is a setting for the amount of compression. My recommendation, start simple. There is ratio, hard knee, soft knee and a host of other variables....Lots of good 3 or 4 knob comps out there. Often cheap, because people buy them and don't know how to use them.

          Our other guitar play uses one when he plays Lay It Down by Ratt. Really makes the intro riff pop.


          A good comp preserves your tone without coloring it. My comment, all but the uber expensive ones do. I like a tone knob on one. Also, it does not add noise. Best advice I have ever read (and it was here): Set it until you know it is on, and then turn it back a little bit just until you can't tell for sure. It's working perfectly then.
          Wow, gotta say that was very good, man.

          Funny how you started by saying to do a search then you actually took the time

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Explain compressors

            That pretty much sums it up right there.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Explain compressors

              Originally posted by Blille View Post
              Wow, gotta say that was very good, man.

              Funny how you started by saying to do a search then you actually took the time
              The search threads will give you more/varied opinion. Plus, still had a half a cup of Joe left.
              Originally posted by Bad City
              He's got the crowd on his side and the blue jean lights in his eyes...

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Explain compressors

                Compressors can also add punch to a mix, as well as provide "glue" (brings all the tracks together in an ear-pleasing way).

                You might be surprised just how much compression is used.
                Lefty Lounge Lizard's Guitars & Amps Extravaganza

                Fastest ears in the West

                "The truth comes out eventually"

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                • #9
                  Re: Explain compressors

                  Another thing to consider in a compressor is whether or not it has an adjustable threshold. That way you can set it so that it doesn't boost the volume of your hands scraping the strings as you change positions or whatnot.
                  If I only had a dollar for every song I've sung
                  every time I had to play while people sat there drunk,

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                  • #10
                    Re: Explain compressors

                    Originally posted by Chistopher View Post
                    Another thing to consider in a compressor is whether or not it has an adjustable threshold. That way you can set it so that it doesn't boost the volume of your hands scraping the strings as you change positions or whatnot.
                    I did not realize some comps have this feature! Any idea which ones? Or what they typically call it?
                    I tried out 3 or 4 a year or two ago and this was the factor that kept me from keeping any of them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Explain compressors

                      Originally posted by Dave Locher View Post
                      I did not realize some comps have this feature! Any idea which ones? Or what they typically call it?
                      I tried out 3 or 4 a year or two ago and this was the factor that kept me from keeping any of them.
                      Maxon CP9 Pro.

                      In others like the MXR Studio you have “input” which is essentially the same.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Explain compressors

                        And they need blend, midi, patches, digital readouts, more blends, more more, and it is best if the size is a mini

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                        • #13
                          Re: Explain compressors

                          Originally posted by Blille View Post
                          Maxon CP9 Pro.

                          In others like the MXR Studio you have “input” which is essentially the same.
                          Thank you

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                          • #14
                            Re: Explain compressors

                            I love my DBX 163X. Simple 2-knob operation, with High-Z input and works great.

                            Click image for larger version

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                            • #15
                              Re: Explain compressors

                              Just sold my EHX Tone Corset, liked the sound and all that...but TB and blend is not all that popular here
                              An old thing passed by the other day.....
                              Old CS-3 from 87 with the DBX VCA....
                              Cleaned it up....and it works nicely..
                              No annoying click click or any for me useless knobs...

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