Am I just not a compressor guy?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by andy474x, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Decided I needed a compressor recently. Had one briefly a while back, didn't care for it, returned it, but thought maybe since my playing has matured I could make it work. Did some research and last Saturday got a TC Hypergravity.

    Don't like it.

    For one, even at moderate compression ratio and 50% dry blend, it adds a LOT of noise. I was considering using as a boost into a light overdrive, but that's out of the question. Second, it adds a lot of "pop" to note attack, no matter where I set the attack knob. So, basically, I only like it with mild compression and when the blend is majority set to the dry signal.

    I was wanting to add some authority to upper fretboard, held out arpeggios and that kind of thing, but because of the noise and pop factor, it just really turns me off. I think I would rather just boost with some mild OD, as I've been doing, and ditch the squeaky cleans for this kind of playing. Do I just not get compression?
     
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  2. Rider1260

    Rider1260 New Member

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    Since switching to mainly PRS guitars I have had little use for compression, I used to run two different compressors.
    Also there can be a HUGE difference between compressors. I've had good luck with some stomp box ones but they usually can only be dialed it for one tone.
    I am interested the noise you are getting when using compression.
    When I use a compressor I favor the higher end ones ( TC Electronics in my Nova system , Keeley or one of my Favs and old DBX160x )
    When I played a Tele mainly I LIVED for compression, I used it to smooth out my cleans and beef up lead tone.
    One other thing to try is using the compressor in the loop.
     
  3. dkilpatrick

    dkilpatrick Makes guitar faces

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    Where are you running the compressor in the signal chain? I use a compressor quite a bit and have it right before the overdrive. I also have it set to a mild compression.
     
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  4. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I'm a guy who likes mild compression, and the main tips I have are:

    1. All compressors sound different, and different circuits do very different types of things. Here's an effect where the circuit design really, really makes a big difference. There are fast compressors, slow compressors (regardless of knob settings), hard knee, soft knee, strident, pillowy, you name it. It took me a long time to find a pedalboard compressor I actually liked.

    2. Compressors lower the loud signals, but also raise the level of the soft signals. The soft signal that gets louder includes noise. So anything ahead of the compressor that's noisy, whether it's coming from your pedalboard, or the pickups, or the cables, or ground loops...that noise is going to be increased. You must fix the noise before the signal hits the compressor.

    3. Just in case you're wondering, I use the Suhr compressor, and it's dead quiet, unless something ahead of it has noise. The compressor seems to have a moderately soft knee, and is far more subtle in its operation than most, very much like a high end studio compressor.

    My pedalboard is dead quiet, and therefore, so is the compressor.

    What do I use it for? To control the overall level of clean signals, of course, but I also have it set to EQ the highs a little brighter (it has a switch that does that). I mainly use it when I've rolled the guitar volume back a bit but don't want to lose clarity. If you've rolled back your guitar volume, to get a certain tone, but found that you were missing some of the spank and articulation you get with the volume all the way up, a compressor might be for you.

    And, of course, I use it when I want that country thing happening, which for me happens once in a blue moon, but you need it when you need it, right?

    I always use it with a wah. The ear spikes coming from a wah can be nasty, and the compressor helps with that. I use mine after the wah to control the spikes, but other players put the compressor before the wah. It's all personal preference. In fact, my compressor follows my clean boost and my overdrive, for times I need to control those effects, too. Other people do it the opposite way.

    A compressor will work differently with various amps, too. Just like overdrives. Sometimes a compressor that's great with a Fender will be all wrong for a Marshall. Etc.

    The player who got me started on compressors was Laurie Wisefield, back in the 90s when I worked with him on a project. Laurie's played and toured with the greats (including Clapton), and uses a compressor ahead of his Marshalls. He gets a nicer sustain that way, controls his attack a little, and so on. While they're not for everyone, experimentation would be a very good idea before giving up on the concept.
     
    #4 LSchefman, Aug 23, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
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  5. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Interesting. I don't know the terminology of compressors, but I would like something that helps with my sustain, without warping the initial attack of the note. I want a compressor gives me a little more time to really wrangle the mojo out of a note, but without changing anything about the way my rig sounds. The poppy attack was distracting on the Hypergravity, especially when picking single notes. And, exactly like you said, it may just be a "fast" compressor, no matter where the knobs are set.

    I returned the Hypergravity this afternoon, didn't have the patience to try every compressor in the case so I took my store credit and went for the new MXR Reverb instead (had to use it, so what the heck). I'm not off the compressor hunt, but I think I just need to really do some in depth research before I try again. Definitely going to check out that Suhr. I'm feeling like compressors are more about feel than sound - something that makes me react differently and thus inspires a different sound, rather than just popping out what I want automatically.

    On a brighter note, the MXR Reverb is astounding. It came out shortly after I got the TC T2, and I wanted it immediately. The modes are all just so useful. I like the T2, but the issue is that many of the settings have heavy modulation that IMO give the illusion of poor intonation. The MXR is a winner in every spot, even their modulation sounds much better. And the PAD setting... sweet goodness, like nothing I've ever heard before. Didn't even realize it was in there, when I heard it I went from wanting to have-to-have-it.
     
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  6. Bill SAS 513

    Bill SAS 513 Just another old guy in a T-shirt

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    Had the chance to pick up a Keeley 2 knob Comp a while back and haven't looked back. Love it, and I probably can't describe exactly why.o_Oo_O:confused:
    I have it in front of my OD/Chorus/Phaser, and it just sounds better with it on, especially chords. I tried a few different comps and it seems like the less expensive ones added more noise.
     
  7. Kazz

    Kazz Kaptain Kazz of the Triple Sickle Alliance

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    I'm sure you're fine with the sound of at least some compressors since one or many are used on just about every piece of music/TV/movie sound.

    I know putting it on your pedalboard is different from adding it to a recording, but it can potentially be even more effective that way since you can affect your other effects with it, so it's good that you're still open to the idea.

    If you want to avoid messing with your note attack much, look for an attack control and set it to be slow so it doesn't engage heavily until after the attack.

    ...maybe you already know all of that, but if you don't have much experience with compressors I thought it might be useful information.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    OK, here's a short explanation of the terminology:

    The idea of a compressor is to control volume -- dynamic range -- basically it's an automatic volume control that turns the volume up when it's quieter, and turns it down when the volume is too loud. You set the compressor for this in a variety of ways, depending on the circuit.

    Some compressors simply have input level, output level, and a compression ratio choice (how much compression relative to the original signal, will take place). This would be perhaps the most traditional type of compressor, what you'd find on some of the classic gear.

    Some compressors in addition to the above, will allow you to select a Threshold - the point at which the compressor starts to grab the signal; this controls the attack, and how the note sounds coming off the pick. Most of this type will also let you choose a Release - the point at which the compressor lets go of the signal; this affects the duration of the sustain of the note. Threshold and Release controls can be interactive, or not, and sometimes the most subtle change in a knob can be the difference between "great" and "sucks."

    Set the Threshold too low, or get a circuit with too fast an attack, or too steeply curved and fast a knee, and you get a very clicky, compressed attack that can sound unnatural (this can be a good or bad thing depending on taste). I find that for guitar, I want a slow attack, but I want the compressor to grab the note just before the decay becomes noticeable.

    This is certainly not a "set and forget" kind of choice. It's going to vary between pickups, work better with certain amps than others, etc.

    More sophisticated compressors may also allow you to choose the "knee" of the compressor, that is, the compression curve and speed with which the compressor reacts to the signal. This can be really useful, but I don't know of any pedal compressors that include an adjustable curve. And of course it goes from there - some software compressors have an incredible number of choices.

    Compressors sometimes have limiters as well; this controls the ultimate level of the signal, like hitting a brick wall. The signal gets no louder, you just get more squish.

    There are also side chain filters, that control which frequencies get compressed, and when. I know of no pedals with a side chain filter. But the list can go on and on, I'm keeping it simple for this post.

    Anyway, as you can see, there are a lot of pieces/parts to designing a compressor circuit, and they each have their uses and adherents - in fact, in the studio, I use a pretty wide variety of different types to do different tasks.
     
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  9. shinksma

    shinksma What? I get a title?

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    Les's two posts nail it exactly.

    I have a Boss CS-3 (which seems to be a non-preferred Compressor-Sustainer by the TGP crowd, for example), and I like it for certain Gilmour-esque leads.

    But I find I use it very little overall, and does not appear on any of my gigging boards.

    As Kazz mentioned, Compressors/Sustainers/Limiters are very valuable in the studio, but are hard to use "live" without sounding over-done. In fact, for general live use the ideal "sound" of using a compressor might be not noticing it at all, yet not hitting the red peaks on the mixing board with such regularity. But then you can kick it into a higher gear for country or other styles where you want the notes to either hang longer (sustain) or have a very very even rhythm (compression).
     
  10. CVS

    CVS Not so new member

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    I am with you. I leave my compressor home & use clean / mid boost pedal when playing outside the house.
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I find that I use my pedal compressor often; that may be a function of the fact that it's a good one, or it may be a function of what I use compressors for, or some combination of the two. There are times I want to hit the front end of the amp with a compressed signal, and as I said earlier, that's often when the volume on the guitar is rolled back for various "in between" tones. It's a good trick that the guys who usually keep their guitar volume all the way up might want to try.

    Also, when recording, sometimes I feel the need to control the level of the signal hitting the mic. And then there's the whole wah thing; I'm not a "wacka-wacka" wah player, I generally use the wah to slowly modulate the signal, but wah is sure more "trial and error" than science, and so I like to control the spikes that I occasionally hit and can't control a different way!
     
  12. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules Archon owning member

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    everything Les said, and get a Barber Tone Press and thank me later.
     
  13. prsrocker1988

    prsrocker1988 New Member

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    I use them with a clean sound only. When the volume gets cranked or I kick an OD on, I get enough compression from that but for crystal clean parts, I love a good compressor.
     
  14. Huggy B

    Huggy B Ha! You can't hit me.

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    Like all effects, the level of saturation (and the overuse) is a pitfall and a learning curve. I was never a "compressor guy", but in recent years have found it to be very useful in a lot of applications, just gotta find the balance between that effect and your main signal. Using it more discreetly and not expecting the world from a compression effect I'm sure you can find some usefulness for it. For me, I use it to even out the attack of guitar solos or picking arpeggios, subtle and hardly noticeable for the most part. This is one of those effects that seems like a massive issue during the recording process but you forget all about it after the recordings done and you listen to it.
     
  15. WeFixFlats

    WeFixFlats Respect The Clave

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    Interesting thread got me thinking why did I sell a CS-3 and replace it with an expensive boutique compressor, then sell that one thinking, pffft, compressor?, I don't need no stinking compressor! Only to realize, now after reading all the comments, that I really wasn't using it the way I should have been for my taste. That is: Adjust it ever so slightly so you can 'feel' it, but not enough to 'hear' it working. If that makes any sense. On the other hand, if I want the classic, cliche compressor smush of my Tele thru the Vibroking, I can dial that in too now. And that's why I went ahead and bought another used, inexpensive and much loved/hated ubiquitous CS-3. So we're right back where we started. Figures.
     
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  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    You have no idea how many times I have done that exercise. ;)
     
  17. Mikegarveyblues

    Mikegarveyblues Cream Crackered

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    Always used compression. Boss CS-3... Set, forget.... Happy days!
     
  18. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    I've never been a pedalboard compressor guy. Most likely it's a stylistic decision: I beat the bajeebers out of my strings often and a compressor makes that, generally, go away. Much of what I consider to be my style involves dynamics...finger or flat picking, and real-time mix level adjustment with another guitarist. A compressor limited (literally) my abilities in this regard. The alternative was to use ODs that brought compression to the table, like the BB Preamp. Higher settings, over noon, dialed in enough compression to make rhythm parts smooth out well. Just an alternate view. :)
     
  19. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Digging these comments.

    The Hypergravity was really killing my pick attack and the dynamics of my playing, when I still wanted those nuances to come through - I just wanted a little more on the "back end" of my notes, if that makes any sense. I guess I'm a butt guy. The softer notes were hitting way too hard, and when I would dig in the attack would just wash out. So, I did the exact same as you - quickly decided I would rather just kick in some OD than have the compressor on, the way I've always done it. My Bogner Wessex is so smooth and transparent, it can hang out almost anywhere a clean tone would normally be. I initially thought, knowing so little about compression, that I would just grab a popular one that appealed to me, and I wouldn't get a handle on if it was good or bad for me until I used it for a few months. False, I immediately knew I didn't like it! And there was no amount of tweaking that produced an effect that was better than tolerable.

    I'll have to look into the CS3. Have also seen that MXR released a "Studio Compressor" that has some of the features that Les mentioned. It's actually their bass compressor that has been available for some time, but they put it in a new box so guitarists wouldn't be turned off by the false notion that it's strictly a bass unit. And, of course, still going to check out the Suhr!
     
  20. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    IIRC, you're a Wampler fan? Make sure you check this one out too:

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/EgoCompressor/
     

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