Compression Headaches

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,888
Minnesota USA
I’m still baffled by compressor pedals, at least I can’t tell the difference when it’s engaged.

There are basically three reasons to want or need a compressor:

1) Dynamics Control.

Smoothing highs and boosting lows (volume-wise, not tone-wise) are what compressors do. But to use it for fixing sloppy playing never works, because you have to dial in too much compression for it to actually control anything, which squashes the signal adversely most of the time.

It’s much better to control the picking attack and use the compressor for more subtle smoothing.

2) Sustain.

Compressors add the “perception” of sustain by gradually increasing the volume as the instrument’s note levels decay.

But you will need some sustain to begin with (from both the guitar and amp) in order for it to sound natural.

Otherwise, like controlling poor dynamics, you’ll need so much compression that it will squash your signal as well.

3) Texture.

This is how I use mine the most.

When a compressor kicks in (depending on how it’s set) some of the picking attack can be cut off or “rounded” giving a perception of having a “silky” “creamy” edge.

So, for me, a compressor is literally a “tone sculpting effect”, with any dynamics control and added sustain being only an additional side-effect to that.

All of this can be fairly subtle of course, which does make it difficult to understand what’s really going on at times.

~~~

So there can also be three other ways to look at it:

1) If you really don’t know why you need one, then you probably don’t need one.

2) If your amp already has great sustain and dynamics control isn’t an issue, then you probably don’t need one.

3) If you just desire a little more sustain, a bit of dynamics smoothing or a silkier picking attack, then a compressor may or may not be the thing for you.

Like I said, I use mine for “tone sculpting”, but I can easily live without it on the most part as well…

 
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JB74

Senior Stratmaster
Mar 22, 2018
4,107
ɹǝpunuʍop
empress and cali76 are two that i would favour from experience -and the Keeley.
i still have the cali76.
no need to extrapolate further really. There's a solid reason it stayed. Dynamics.
Also, I don't just use it on guitar. I think that is a very important point to make, because it's great on live vocals and modular synth.

Dynacomp is old school. and the Ross - if you're looking for ye olde vintage sounds. most all the modern ones have adjustments to dial that in as well. something to think about if you want some versatility.

my OP: best bang for buck in a hip pocket friendly price range is definitely Keeley.

Only the opinion of one person and that means take it with a grain of salt, because only you know your sound and my making suggestions is not a recommendation for you to go buy one without some prior testing (extensive) to make sure it does what YOU want. What I use has little bearing on you, and popularity contests are the bell curve median result, not necessarily the best tool for everyone.

"Just Try Stuff"
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
May 20, 2020
5,559
Sante Fe, NM
Hey guys, I'm fairly allergic to the idea of huge pedalboards full of enough money to buy me another guitar, but i think i might just need me a compressor pedal

Simple, minimal, clean....i play mostly blues and Americana. MXR any good?
I do all my compression in the DAW or in the mixer.
 

Shuffles

Strat-Talk Member
May 7, 2022
57
Oh-Ree-Gone
Yeah honestly working in a DAW has been most of my experience, when mastering multiple audio tracks.....for live / practice, I'm just hoping to tame the occasional errant pip and squeel from my bad playing.....

Because tho more pedals you get, the better you play, right???
 
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rocknrollrich

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 8, 2016
7,088
philadelphia
Yes a blend would be could and quite honestly probably one of the more important parameters. I have a rule to not become reliant on anything that you couldn't find when visit a friend and jamming etc. ie, if you absolutely can't play your guitar unless you have $40 flat wound strings from Italy (as cool as they are) and you find yourself in a music shot in Topeka that only has Ernie ball .09s well, yeah.

So subtlty is a plus.
I feel the same way (about relying on a certain piece of gear).
Like a song that requires a capo, for instance. If I don't have a capo I can't play it...?
Nonsense. I want to be able to play with it or without it.
That's always been important to me.
 

The_Whale

Strat-O-Master
Apr 11, 2020
564
Gaithersburg, MD
Many compressor threads on this board; these two are good:


 

rocknrollrich

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 8, 2016
7,088
philadelphia
Yeah honestly working in a DAW has been most of my experience, when mastering multiple audio tracks.....for live / practice, I'm just hoping to tame the occasional errant pip and squeel from my bad playing.....

Because tho more pedals you get, the better you play, right???
Actually.... a compressor may emphasize those occasional errant pips and squeaks.
The reason I use one (on occasion) is to bring out the nuances that are normally lost at lower volumes.
If I was able to turn an amp up loud enough, the quiet nuances would still be hella loud, and the louder parts would be squashed by the amps limitations. Tube amp compression works like that.
So the pedal will kinda emulate that, but without obnoxious volume levels.
 

okieactor

Strat-Talk Member
Jan 18, 2010
21
Austin, TX
Personal Experience:
-Keeley (prefer 4 knob) (currently own)
-Xotic SP (currently own)
-MXR Custom Comp (Currently own. Not a huge fan of the stock red comp, super comp slightly better, custom comp is best, and I’ve not tried the red mini or the studio comp)

Would also recommend damn near any Wampler pedal.

And whatever you get, open it up and look at what dip switches or internal pots you get to fine tune.
 

StratUp

Most Honored Senior Member
Sep 5, 2020
8,079
Altered States
Taming those is what a a compressor is good at.

I'd differ on that. Let's say you have a minor pick cluck. The compressor is going to (effectively) elevate that to make it equal to the rest of the signal. Pick cluck just went mainstream. (I'm ignoring intended pick cluck here a la a Tele player with an old school Dynacomp looking to emphasize that country sound, different discussion).

One of the reasons some people complain that compressors are "noisy" is that they put them later in the pedal stream instead of first. The compressor takes any noise you've accumulated along the way (e.g. noise from a gain pedal) and brings it up to the level of the rest of the signal. Whoops.

Same concept in both cases.
 
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Shuffles

Strat-Talk Member
May 7, 2022
57
Oh-Ree-Gone
Well, i had $200 hundred credit that i cashed in with my local pusher / music shop, so i cashed it in and got a used Strymon OD-1, it's disco to yes and seems relatively. Simple and had a boost to boot. I like their stuff, although they are expensive, but made in USA which i like.
 

CalicoSkies

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 10, 2013
7,152
Beaverton, OR, USA
I'm fairly allergic to the idea of huge pedalboards full of enough money to buy me another guitar
Allergic to an idea?
confused-no.gif
 

walter01

Strat-Talker
Jan 28, 2022
158
United Kingdom
Hey guys, I'm fairly allergic to the idea of huge pedalboards full of enough money to buy me another guitar, but i think i might just need me a compressor pedal

Simple, minimal, clean....i play mostly blues and Americana. MXR any good?
MXR Dynacomp Deluxe highly recommended. Boss CS3 pretty good. Or one of these? Compression/ Overdrive prototype pedal. Not in production yet though. I am lucky to have one. Massive amount of controllable gain and sustain. Controllable overdrive.
 

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Tremdaddy

Strat-Talker
Sep 18, 2020
150
North Hollywood, California
I have an Analogman modded Dyna Comp Script logo reissue. Also have a Keeley 2 knob. Both are good but I prefer to have a blend knob to do parallel compression. I went with the Barber Tone Press. The Keeley 4 knob looks good too, haven't tried it, there are several others that have the blend knob as well. But the Barber's pretty great if you want a small footprint on your pedalboard.
 

DaMasta

Strat-Talker
Feb 9, 2019
111
California, USA
MXR Dynacomp Deluxe highly recommended. Boss CS3 pretty good. Or one of these? Compression/ Overdrive prototype pedal. Not in production yet though. I am lucky to have one. Massive amount of controllable gain and sustain. Controllable overdrive.
I put my vote in on the Boss CS-3. I like mine very well and it does what it says it'll do. Fairly simple to operate as well.
 

Chmason85

Strat-Talker
Jan 8, 2021
333
Ardmore, PA
I have a Way Huge Saffron Squeeze, only compressor I’ve ever had. To me they don’t work with every guitar; I like it with fenders but absolutely never use it with my Gretsch guitars. 27592A0D-5798-4298-9348-16C3CB516609.jpeg
 


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