Compressor in the amp or rack?

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Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Wannabe » Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:21 am

Hi guys,

After a year of playing around with an old low powered tube amp I'm ready to step up into a professional rig. Don't wanna do it twice type of thing.

Anyway looking at the Mesa M6 or M9. Started with the M6 because of cost but a closer look into rack compressors and a couple other things I tend to like the M9 better as you get extra power, compressor built in, graphic Eq, and fot switch for $200 more, but I don't know the odds and ends to how a bass rig really works. I did get a little insight from a pro player about power and headroom and why you don't alway need to matched speaker handling to your max output as you'll never need that, but of course good if it just happens to be that way. His point was really about clean power.

So my interest today is compairing rack mounted compressors such as the BBE rackmount for $200 verse having your compressor built right into your head. The pro and cons for either design and if you would liketo get into these two different amps I'd like to hear about that also.

Thanks,
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Sloom » Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:56 am

Have you done any reading on how a compressor works? You can click over to http://www.gearslutz.com/board/and get some handy and concise info there, then go see what's availabe, what you need in the way of controls, features. There are some simple units with novel ways of handling the absence of a "Ratio" control on a streamlined interface, for example.

The comps built into bass heads tend to be pretty abbreviated versions of a studio compressor. My Trace-Elliot SMX head has a "Dual Band" device built-in, each with a simple knob to "add" more or less compression effect. Ratio, Threshold, Attack/Delay times are all pre-set, but because you have the high and low bands as individual stages you can "get away with" it (one-trick pony, fine for this kind of limited use). Your signal then hits a tone balance sweep between these two bands as it leaves this stage of the amp and goes to the power section- really works well for live use. It protects my speakers and fattens/tightens up the tone.

BBE makes user-specific stuff too. The Maximizers are neat for making your tone "bigger" if that's what you need. Nice gadgets. I had an Aphex 651- great box but was really an all-around studio type gadget. Was great for everything, and pretty expensive. BBE probably makes something though that'll 'hit the button' for a bass rig.

You want something you can use for more stuff, or just for your bass rig? Want something simple to manage your tone reliably? Want fewer parts to have to plug in (built in, if it works well, is great for this!)? Different ideas, different gadgets. I'd go get hip to compressors- take you about 1/2-a-day to really get the idea. Make sure you know what you want out of it, and your journey will be short!

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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Wannabe » Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:14 am

Thanks for the help. What you bring up about needing stuff to do other things also has been my flip flop for over a couple months. I have electric drums, small guitar amps that could used to be mic'd, and keyboards that coupld use the idea of a big power amp laying around provides. Then I'm saying," nah small and light" like a Markbass Jeff Berlin, but it is so far removed from my crappy tube sound I have now it worries me, because I like older style bass lines. From what I have read the M9 is not a true tuby tone, but still gets into that feel and said to cover the other side very well also.

Cray how I keep going round and round with this.
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Sloom » Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:20 am

Well to wind up compression: Compression for a live rig and compression for other applications are two different worlds. I'd bet a simple, spartan device to compress your bass signal for your rig is one idea. You keep it in your rack and it stays there, that's what it does in your life. Also having a separate, more job-specific compressor in your bass rig will keep you from having to drag it's heavy ass around just to use the compressor for a recording trip. And then when you want/have to go play, your bass rack isn't all married into some project's recording chain. Everythinbg you do takes time...

For all that other recording stuff, I'd get a nice DBX 166a, or an Aphex, or similar. A good compressor with all the settings available is a real good utility item for studio projects.

Amps. I don't know the Boogie stuff, but if you want tubes, go for tubes. You can do other things, like the SansAmp VT thing and a small amp. But there's so much out there you can get a headache in 5 minutes thinking aboht it. Too many choices I think. Can't offer much, except tho say that to limit yourself a bit is a good thing. You can get almost anything out of your amp if you just work at it. Amps don't really have sound, you do. An amp is volume and color, that's all. Tubes or SS? That's a big choice, then there are lots of colorful options no matter which way you go.

Whatever you do, decide to be happy with it, and it'll work! Go get 'em! [smilie=grinning-smiley-003.gif]
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Nighttrain » Sun May 16, 2010 6:14 am

The BBE sonic Maximizers are not compressors more of a tuneable expander(sort of) . They can make Vocals and other line signals clearer or sound different (sometimes good and sometimes not) but they do not compress as such. A rack compressor such as the DBX 166XL or The Aphex Aural exciter with Big bottom are good compressors. there are other compressors out there and finding one that works for you is a matter of trial and error.
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby ghiadub » Fri Jun 04, 2010 3:19 pm

I use the mesa walkabout head, it looks like a smaller version of the M6 or M9 but sounds a bit different.

It does not have a built in compressor but depending on how you run the preamp stage it gets some nice sounding tube type compression.

I also use GK amps with built in compressors and honestly, I can barely tell much difference when it is kicked in. I do run it kicked in, seems to help when I dig in too much. A little.

If I was going run an outboard comp I would probibly just run a pedal. I had a chance to play a Keeley (sp?) and it was comp overkill, very noticeable, but maybe that is what you want.

Stop in at the effects forum, there are some opinions there as well.

Let us know what you get
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby groovemachine » Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:23 am

I've had lots of nice amps with built-in compressors and always found them not to be very usable. When I want compression I just use my Joe Meek VC3Q in front of my amp as I love the sound of it and it's very flexible as far as dialing in just what you want. That's just one option, there are many others I'm sure...but you can usually find the earlier Joe Meek stuff (VC3, VC3Q) on eBay for around $100 or so and the compressor sections on these things are great...it will add a little noise to your signal, but nothing that ever was bothersome.
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Re: Compressor in the amp or rack?

Postby Carlitos » Thu May 26, 2011 5:23 am

I don't like big compressions that mute the sound or that make it dull or muddy. I use an Alesis 3630 with two different settings and it's the amount of compression I need. I know it's a studio compressor, but acts really well with mi rig.
The Alesis is very cheap if you find it used (less than 90€) and I prefer it to other built-in compressors in amps I've tried.
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