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Compressors Explained

Discussion in 'The Effect effect' started by hellaGNARLY, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. hellaGNARLY

    hellaGNARLY Strat-Talker

    358
    Feb 25, 2015
    California
    I've never owned a comp nor used one. I've been told to invest in a top comp pedal. Can someone explain the need/impact on tone etc.?
     
    garyhoos1 and circles like this.

  2. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    61
    May 30, 2013
    SE England
    I use compression a lot. Check out my entry to this week's Jam Track No 5 for a demonstration. http://www.strat-talk.com/threads/weekly-jam-track-no-5-that-reggae-track.412871/#post-2529627

    I find I get an almost pedal steel like effect, with less initial 'peak' and longer sustains. Having said that, I'm not a big fan of a lot of compression pedals, as I can really hear them in action. My weapon of choice is often the waves plug-in version of the Classic 1176 studio compressor, originally made by United Audio and then Urei.
     

  3. lonegroover

    lonegroover Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    57
    Mar 5, 2016
    England
    I also use it a lot - there's a patch on my GT-001 called Clean Sustain which is essentially a compression + gain effect, and I find it very pleasing. It smooths things out, makes the guitar sound a bit more 'produced' and as Simon says, gives substantially increased sustain. It can be almost like using an E-Bow. I also use an effect in Audacity called 'Leveler' which does the same thing to the recorded track.
     

  4. hellaGNARLY

    hellaGNARLY Strat-Talker

    358
    Feb 25, 2015
    California
    So it acts as almost a kind of limited EQ?
     

  5. lonegroover

    lonegroover Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    57
    Mar 5, 2016
    England
    Not really EQ, no .. works on the volume rather than the frequencies.
     

  6. TSims1

    TSims1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Aug 9, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    Get a Keeley GC-2 or a Cali 76 and see how much better your tone can become. Seriously. They do a whoooooole lot more than just squash your signal. My GC-2 actually makes my tone BIGGER.
     

  7. ToneRanger

    ToneRanger Most Honored Senior Member

    Jun 8, 2009
    Area 51
    One way to picture how a compressor works is similar to how when you put your thumb at the end of a garden hose it creates a tighter, more powerful stream of water - a compressor takes your entire guitar signal and "compresses" it - sort of takes the top and bottom of the signal and squeezes it into a tighter area. You lose the dynamics a bit - the quieter bits are brought out more and the louder signal spikes are limited, so you end up with a very consistent tone with a lot of sustain.

    If you're in the market for a compressor look for one that has a blend knob, like the Barber Tone Press or Xotic SP Compressor - this allows you to blend the compressed sound together with the natural sound of your guitar for a slightly more dynamic sound but with the benefits of the compression.

    A compressor maxed out will give you the classic, country chickin' picking sound - it also got a lot of use in the 80's - Trevor Rabin of Yes used them quite a bit - you can heard how his guitar sound is very punchy and tight with a lot of sustain:

     

  8. guitarface

    guitarface Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 11, 2012
    New York
    The hose thing is a great way to describe it.

    If you have half an hour, this will cover it.

     

  9. FormerTeleGuy

    FormerTeleGuy Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 17, 2013
    Oak Lawn, IL
    It doesn't sound like you need one. They're usually used to even out your tone, increase sustain and remove the snap in your tone. Most tube amps compress naturally as you crank them up. I wouldn't get one unless you feel the need for one.
     
    Charles Kang likes this.

  10. TSims1

    TSims1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Aug 9, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    A good compressor(again, a GOOD one)can be a real game changer. The ones I mentioned are absolutely amazing. My GC-2 is always on. It really brings out the whole sonic spectrum, helps the top end of the volume range from being too explosive, and drives the pedals after it(my ODs particularly)a bit harder(meaning I get MORE out of them).

    I used to think compressors were unnecessary. Now it's an always-on must-have for me. Take a look at that Keeley GC-2(I've done some demos for RKeeley, and he made me a believer).......it's genius.
     
    Rastus likes this.

  11. adiabatic

    adiabatic Senior Stratmaster

    Jul 2, 2013
    Western Canada
    TSims1, have you had any issue with the GC-2 picking up radio interference? Mine does... I was going to contact Keeley about it but got busy. This thread reminds me to do that...
     
    TSims1 likes this.

  12. TSims1

    TSims1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Aug 9, 2009
    Atlanta, GA

    None whatsoever, and I play live several times a week in addition to lots of recording sessions. That's weird....definitely contact him. He'll straighten you up, I'm sure of it.
     
    adiabatic likes this.

  13. Nate D

    Nate D Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    37
    Apr 2, 2016
    Ohio
    I'm not a fan of compression for my own playing, but I do dig it in other people's playing and spend a little more $$$ up front on a Keeley and you'll be set.

    Keeley is a top hand in the pedal game and you're set up nicely with one of his pedals. A little more spend up front saves money in the long run as you're getting quality initially and won't tone chase as much. That's my experience anyways. Plus, you can get quality at all sorts of price points so take what I say with a grain of salt as it's only my experience.

    @Ebidis rocks my world with his tone and he's got a different perspective than I do.
     
    abnormaltoy likes this.

  14. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985 Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    51
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    Thanks for the wonderful compliment Nate. I Just dial in what I think sounds good at the moment, I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes my sound. LOL

    I don't even own a compressor, or feel the need for one. I used to have one, but rarely used it except as a clean boost. Now I have an Electro Harmonix LPB-1 clean boost, and find I like it better.

    I prefer to get my compression by driving the amp, and if I want more, hitting the front end of the amp with a clean boost, or overdrive will push it into higher levels of compression. For real nasty squashed tones, I use a fuzz.

    I don't like a lot of compression on clean or crunch tones, as I like to preserve my picking dynamics. and I like the snappy attack. That's just my personal preference. If you want more even, less snappy cleans, or more squashed driven tones, or your trying to smooth out the transient spikes in the atack, a compressor will definitely even out the dynamics.
     

  15. Nate D

    Nate D Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    37
    Apr 2, 2016
    Ohio
    First off, you're welcome. I always love it when you share something.

    And secondly, I 100% agree with what you said. I love preserving my picking dynamics. Even with a transparent OD or pushing your amp with a clean boost you can still get a lot of love in your tone from your picking dynamics. To me it's a big part of my expression as a guitar player.
     
    Ebidis likes this.

  16. Rastus

    Rastus Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 1, 2014
    Australia
    Hello,

    Compressors are very much more versatile than you may think, though it's difficult to word it. But here's some things to consider.

    Advantages...

    * Much better over-all band-sound balance. Your sound engineer will be all smiles.
    * Your speakers too will love the fact that their cones will live longer.
    * You still hear "accidents" in your playing, but without the volume "pop".
    * Lots of folks want "transparent" (lol) over-drive tones...The use of a compressor, will give you sustain, that will hold that clean-on-the-verge-of-break-up sound for solos longer.
    * Play a rhythm part as hard as you like, & only your expression will be brought-out, not the volume.
    * You can use them as a clean-boost to drive other effects devices, or your pre-amp.

    Disadvantages...

    * It's one more pedal in the chain, & that means a partial signal loss, & possibly the removal of another effect to mount it on your current board.
    * Another power-source or battery will be needed, plus connecting cable.
    * Past a certain point, when looking for more sustain, they'll add noise to your signal.

    Cheers,

    Rastus
     
    Nate D likes this.

  17. Nate D

    Nate D Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    37
    Apr 2, 2016
    Ohio
    Yep- I like this part of compression. Great point.
     
    Rastus likes this.

  18. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985 Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    51
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    And I like this aspect, but other than that...
     
    Rastus and Nate D like this.

  19. Hugh

    Hugh Needs Mo Motown Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 26, 2009
    Louisville (KY)

  20. Roccobagadonuts

    Roccobagadonuts Strat-Talker

    364
    Sep 6, 2011
    Remulak
    Im a huge fan of the early 80's Ibanez CP9. Makes tubescreamers sound way better. And then some... Its like a TS9 is missing something until ya step on a CP9 then it actually starts to work right...