Compression?

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Compression?

Postby FatherGino » Mon May 06, 2013 7:05 pm

For some reason I've become interested in the subject. I've read some about using such a thing on a bass in a live setting and there seems to be 2 diametrically opposed trains of thought:

1) It's a tool that when used properly and tastefully can add fullness, fatness and general goodness.

2) It's hell spawned gimmickry for people who never learned how to play.

So I'm wondering if there is any better consensus here.

There's a huge site of reviews and info on the subject and here's the review on a highly recommended unit; the Diamond BCP-1:

"Diamond BCP-1: Diamond's CPR-1 has been very popular for quite a while with guitarists, and even works pretty well with bass; but bassists have clamored for a "better for bass" version for long enough that Diamond has now granted that wish. There are two main differences with this new version: better deep lows, and a switch that selects the center frequency of the tilting EQ between 900 Hz (standard on the CPR) and 250 Hz.

Another point is headroom--when run at 9V, the Diamond can sometimes distort if hit with a big signal spike or when used with a high-output active bass. This is completely resolved by powering the pedal with higher than 9V; the CPR can take up to 18V DC, and the BCP can take up to 24V. The BCP ships with an 18V power supply, but it can be run just fine on 9V if that's more convenient for you. Be aware though that this new version runs on reverse polarity, so if you plan to use a Boss-type center-negative supply, you will need to use a polarity-reversing adapter. This adapter is packaged with the pedal.

Aside from these technical details, the sound of this pedal is fantastic. It somehow adds both clarity and fatness, yet it does not mask or muddy the tone of your instrument. It does not lose either highs or lows, and the tilting EQ provides a truly useful range of tones. The noise level is very low, and in fact it seems to "clean up" the signal rather than amplifying the noise in the signal chain. The noise stays low even if you boost the treble side of the EQ. The compression action is very smooth and unobtrusive.

My only complaint is that the fixed ratio is quite low (about 3:1), so this pedal is not good for peak limiting or "utility" compression to correct uneven levels. However if the reason you want a compressor is for tone improvement, this is the pedal for you. It really gives a "fat and shiny" quality to your sound.

The construction quality is great and the footswitch is true bypass. The LED changes color to indicate signal over the threshold, which is useful. The input gain control allows good response from this pedal with both high and low-output instruments."


So this thing is somewhat subtle but overall makes you sound more good. Snake oil? It's too expensive to buy on a whim and frankly I like the idea of less stuff to deal with but I'm intrigued none the less. What I seek tone wise is maybe some more presence/authority in the second octave in a basic Rock/Blues trio. I've never used a pedal or effect of any sort before and I'm not looking to go there.

Then there is the same question but on vocals in a live setting. My band does not use the built in compressor on the board but it's probably crap anyway. On vocals I could see the idea of smoothing out volume drop offs and peaks as very beneficial.

I'd be curious and grateful for any input
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Re: Compression?

Postby Freddels » Tue May 07, 2013 4:50 am

Being partially color blind, I cannot read any of the quoted text that you have there. It appears to be blue font and it's unreadable for me.

As for the subject, compression is something that I've always been intrigued about. I've never owned a good compressor but I know a good compressed sound when I hear it. A few years ago, I was chatting online with Gail Ann Dorsey about compression. I asked her about the great live tone that she got and she told me to add as much compression as possible but no too much (whatever that means). She didn't tell me which compressor she uses though.

There's a guy on TB that has a huge thread on compression with reviews of many compressors.
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Re: Compression?

Postby FatherGino » Tue May 07, 2013 12:56 pm

Freddels wrote:Being partially color blind, I cannot read any of the quoted text that you have there. It appears to be blue font and it's unreadable for me.

As for the subject, compression is something that I've always been intrigued about. I've never owned a good compressor but I know a good compressed sound when I hear it. A few years ago, I was chatting online with Gail Ann Dorsey about compression. I asked her about the great live tone that she got and she told me to add as much compression as possible but no too much (whatever that means). She didn't tell me which compressor she uses though.

There's a guy on TB that has a huge thread on compression with reviews of many compressors.


This review was copied off of that TB site and this BCP comes highly recommended. It costs about $250. It seemingly can't over compress. OTOH, his review of the popular (and less expensive) Aphex Punch Factory is that it doesn't compress enough to do anything at all though it gets rave reviews from owners.

I've never owned a compressor nor do I know a good compressed sound when I hear it. Maybe I'll have to break down and buy one just to see what the heck it does.

Here's the text in good old black & white:

"Diamond BCP-1: Diamond's CPR-1 has been very popular for quite a while with guitarists, and even works pretty well with bass; but bassists have clamored for a "better for bass" version for long enough that Diamond has now granted that wish. There are two main differences with this new version: better deep lows, and a switch that selects the center frequency of the tilting EQ between 900 Hz (standard on the CPR) and 250 Hz.

Another point is headroom--when run at 9V, the Diamond can sometimes distort if hit with a big signal spike or when used with a high-output active bass. This is completely resolved by powering the pedal with higher than 9V; the CPR can take up to 18V DC, and the BCP can take up to 24V. The BCP ships with an 18V power supply, but it can be run just fine on 9V if that's more convenient for you. Be aware though that this new version runs on reverse polarity, so if you plan to use a Boss-type center-negative supply, you will need to use a polarity-reversing adapter. This adapter is packaged with the pedal.

Aside from these technical details, the sound of this pedal is fantastic. It somehow adds both clarity and fatness, yet it does not mask or muddy the tone of your instrument. It does not lose either highs or lows, and the tilting EQ provides a truly useful range of tones. The noise level is very low, and in fact it seems to "clean up" the signal rather than amplifying the noise in the signal chain. The noise stays low even if you boost the treble side of the EQ. The compression action is very smooth and unobtrusive.

My only complaint is that the fixed ratio is quite low (about 3:1), so this pedal is not good for peak limiting or "utility" compression to correct uneven levels. However if the reason you want a compressor is for tone improvement, this is the pedal for you. It really gives a "fat and shiny" quality to your sound.

The construction quality is great and the footswitch is true bypass. The LED changes color to indicate signal over the threshold, which is useful. The input gain control allows good response from this pedal with both high and low-output instruments."
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Re: Compression?

Postby Golem » Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:46 pm

`

I had a "Bass Compactor" by one of the usual stomp pedal
makers [forgot which one] that had 3 knobs [forgot why]
and which Guitar Center seemed very pleased to take in
trade [someone must love it]. I traded it on a MarkBass
"Compressore" which has several knobs, cannot run on
batteries [uses a wall wart, 14v IIRC].

The MarkBass is all analog, tube-based, and the several
knobs allow me to come to some sorta unnerstantding of
how to control the parameters of good compression. This
unnerstandting is refreshed every time I use it, and fails
to clutter my mind about 1 hour after I'm done playing so
I can't relate to you how it all works; but me likey, and I
have no love of pedals or FX in general.

Anywho, GC lets you return stuff, so go try one out :-)


`

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Re: Compression?

Postby MANZ » Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:21 pm

I've always used compression as part of my standard equipment. It's always a bit suprising and a bit sad how seemingly negative bass players are towards compression. Like a lot of things, I think most of the negative regard that it has is from either misinformation or ignorance. The best compressor I've used was the EBS Multicomp, but it developed a 'hum' (which is apparently a common problem with these) so I dumped it. I also really like the multi-band compression aspect of the EBS. I went back to one of my first compressors which is the half-rack dbx-163x and even though it has its faults, I really like its simplicity. I also enjoyed using the Alesis 3630 for quite a few years too which always worked well plus it has a noise-gate which can be nice.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Gohloum » Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:51 pm

I'm gonna have to agree with MANZ on this one for the most part. Anyone who bashes on compression/compressors knows nothing about it. What is compression? It is a flux of the natural sound wave or signal within a specified limitation, bias, and frequency. Guess what? You got a tube preamp in your rig and you apply a generous amount of gain, even if you are not distorting your signal, you are likely experiencing compression to some degree, If your amp has a valve power stage, then the more volume you push, the more compression and harmonic overtone your sound will have. This is an inherent property of using valves and what makes them desirable, most people don't realize this.

So, to add a compressing device into your signal chain becomes more about what you want to achieve. No, they do not possess a "Don't Suck" knob or switch, so if you can't play, it's not going to help and may actually make mistakes more noticeable. The only benefit to a bad player would be someone with no sense of dynamics. In this case, it would help a little, but as most of us know, the fluctuation of the energy transmitted from your finger, thumb, pick, etc., will change the character of the tone of the note anyway... Therefore you can usually just ignore anyone who posts negatively about comps, they have little knowledge or experience. Now, this doesn't mean that a player without one is doing something wrong, they may simply not desire one for their setup. I know lots of guys that run the pure setup - Bass -> quality cable under 20ft, -> boutique amp. And it usually sounds pretty darn amazing.

OK, back to what you want to achieve with the compressor. First off, do you like your tone/setup? This is probably the most important part of the discussion before adding any signal chain modifications. Some compressors will color the sound more than others and they behave differently, so a certain compressor could really react in a way with your tone that it pronounces a character you DO NOT want. What a compressor in a bass rig SHOULD do as it's main job is assist in your live sound creating a consistent level, yet responsive foundation of tone and volume in the live setting. Tasks like smashing the signal, sustain, coloration, overdrive, etc., those needs are more for momentary effects, not something you would do to your sound throughout a gig.

As a producer, I have access to compressors from $50 to $6000. I've experimented with many of them as both post signal processing as well as signal chain processing. I've put them in front of the pre, after the pre in the effects loop, etc. It's interesting to see just how they react to your sound and the results you get. However note that if you put one behind your pre in your effects loop, you need to make sure you have a very noiseless pre or it's likely going to raise the noise floor. What is interesting about post preamp compression is the effect on the EQ. With a generous knee and a higher ratio, the compressor tries to limit frequencies that the EQ, amplifies and increase bands that are cut. Although this is not a traditional setup for most players, some interesting things happen. Experimenting like this with a client led him to setup a matrix in his signal so he could swap the compressor pre or post with a footswitch.

Also, I have noticed that as a general rule (but not all brands), stomp box compressors seem to lend less desirable results than rack gear and higher end units. However that's my producer side being a little spoiled because I generally use a modified UA LA 610 pre with optical compressor or Manly Vari-Mu for my gain stage in my studio and print that to the DAW. However, it's more than I want to carry around and too expensive. What I have found is the old tried and true DBX 160 XT 1U rack compressor works good for most styles in many situations. It's not a topic I am going to go into detail here but if you research 'dbx style' compression you will find it's something many people refer to 'dynamic' compression - being that it changes it's output behavior according to the amount of input it's being fed. The character of this unit has very little color, but gives you nice control of the amount of compression and it has a soft knee button. This is handy for rock guys and funk guys may prefer to leave it disengaged. This unit has seemed to be a great go-to for many of my clients.

In pedal form, well, like I said, it's kinda hit and miss.... However I have had good results with the Eden WT-DI. It's a preamp with a compressor, but Eden deploys a dbx style compression algorithm in their onboard units. I have a WT-800 and it's stays engaged 100% of the time.

I've not tried the MarkBass tube unit yet, but I have heard good things. The EBS was something I could work with as well. Boss Bass Limiter... Eh... Well, it does that 'Bossy' thing most of their units do, but can be fun if you find the right setup and you are starting with a good tone.

But I still circle back to what is important, a good tone and fundamental sound. This is the first place you need to start. Once you are happy with that, try to get your hands on several different compressors and compare them during 1 session where you can compare the difference. Also know that what you may like sitting in your room playing by yourself may not work so well in a band situation. So make good notes on the differences and if at all possible, take 2 or 3 out on a gig at a time if you can, or at least a rehearsal.

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Re: Compression?

Postby FatherGino » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:16 pm

Gohloum wrote: take 2 or 3 out on a gig at a time if you can, or at least a rehearsal.


Here I am too cheap to even buy one and you want me to try 2 or 3 at once [smilie=fun_84.gif]

Maybe Santa will hear my plea. Stranger things have happened. I remember the elves were very dubious about a "Gramma Pad" a few years ago.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Freddels » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:23 am

I had chatted with Gail Ann Dorsey online a few years ago. She told me to use as much compression as I could to get a great live sound. She wouldn't tell me which one though. I'm sure whatever she uses is out of my budget anyway. I have the EBS compressor but it doesn't seem to do much. Maybe one of these days I'll try the Markbass one (unless they cancel it like they seem to do to many of their products).
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Re: Compression?

Postby Gohloum » Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:28 pm

FatherGino wrote:Here I am too cheap to even buy one and you want me to try 2 or 3 at once [smilie=fun_84.gif]
Maybe Santa will hear my plea. Stranger things have happened. I remember the elves were very dubious about a "Gramma Pad" a few years ago.


OK, maybe I missed something? You want a compressor but you are too cheap to buy one? That seems like a bit of a dilemma to me. Music is no different than any other trade. If you are gigging and making money, you should be able to justify investing into your tools. Your rig and it's components are your tools.

At any rate, do you know any other musicians that have compressors? See if you can borrow them. Also if you have a local music store you like, quite often you can leave a credit card number and they will let you take a few pedals out on demo. It's just a matter of finding solutions. Problems are merely obstacles in life. Just find a way to navigate around them. [smilie=grinning-smiley-003.gif]

Freddels wrote:I had chatted with Gail Ann Dorsey online a few years ago. She told me to use as much compression as I could to get a great live sound. She wouldn't tell me which one though. I'm sure whatever she uses is out of my budget anyway. I have the EBS compressor but it doesn't seem to do much. Maybe one of these days I'll try the Markbass one (unless they cancel it like they seem to do to many of their products).


I've not had a chance to use the EBS. Do you have the multi-band version? Also, unless you are looking for an 'effect' from the unit, a dialed in compressor should not do a whole lot to change what you 'hear', it's more of how it responds. Some units will add a little warmth, the MarkBass reviewers seem to notice this which makes this unit attractive to me. I generally let a pre do the warming and let the compressor to the leveling, but it's not to say you can't find a unit that will do both.

I looked online and the MarkBass will run you about $200. Not a bad price if it performs as the reviewers claim.

A dbx 160A rack unit is gonna set you back about $450, but as far as compressors go, it's gonna give you the best finalizing for the buck. You could easily compare it to higher end studio units. Quite often when I am mixing down a session, I will insert one of these in the bass signal chain. It's just easy and predictable to use. But now you have to tote around rack gear. [smilie=coz.gif]

The MXR unit (White one) is about $190. I played with this one in a store once, not bad, can do some neat stuff... Can also F!@# up your sound if you don't know what you are doing.

Boss Bass Compressor/Limiter - This guy is $79.00. I own one of these. Rarely use it but it's likely because I have lots of other gear. However I did carry it with me a few times to a coffee shop gig to sit in with a friend. I was running direct to his mixing board and it really helped. However, the more you apply it, the more 'BOSSy' it sounds.

Something else you can do is go with a multi effects unit. Again some are hit and miss depending on application. Currently I use the POD HD Pro rack unit with the separate controller. I run 2 models parallel, one is the Ampeg, the other is the HiWatt guitar amp. There is a Vetta Comp model I use on the front end but very little. The compressors in this thing are not very forgiving, so it took a bit of finessing to get everything right. I knew exactly what I was after - my Eden WT-800 sound. So I grabbed an A/B box and patched the POD into the amp Aux input. This allowed me to A/B between the Eden's pre and the POD. I was able to create a patch that I call 'Almost Eden'... It's exactly that, almost, but not quite. The POD is lacking in low frequency eq control, coupled with a DSP type system, the EDEN just as some subsonic character that the POD can't reproduce. Also the POD's upper mid character is focused a little lower than the Eden. I attribute this again to AD/DA conversion and the fact that it's primarily designed for Guitar. However, for small gigs without an amp, or larger gigs when I want distortion, delay, or other effects, it does the job quite nicely... But again, you are getting over the $500 mark for a HD 500 or more for the PRO setup that I have with separate rack unit and floorboard.

OK so the POD thing is a bit off topic from the Compressors subject, but point being, these units have compressors in them and some work very nicely. Come to think of it, I have an older Roland GT-6B and if I recall correctly, it had a nice dbx style compressor model. These units are 2 generations old now, so I imagine if you looked around, you could likely pick up a used one for under $100. It definitely did a few things extremely well.

In closing, I am still going to circle back to what I said in a previous post: Are you happy with your current sound and what do you want to achieve with the compressor? Answering these 2 questions will guide you to the right unit, or at least help me or someone with experience with compressors point you in the right direction. :welcome:
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Re: Compression?

Postby FatherGino » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:00 pm

So I'm a cheapskate, I'll be the first to admit it. Yes I've made some money playing in little clubs/bars and for decades the tools I've used have been a bass, a chord and an amp. That's all I know. I don't know why I've become interested in compression, I guess I just keep hearing about it. Yes I'm pretty happy with my tone but I always think maybe there's a little more. More what? you say. I'm hoping to get more presence/fullness which I can't achieve by adding low end frequencies because they often get muddy in a less than great sounding room. Also looking for consistency/presence/fullness in the 2nd & third octaves. I suspect compression may subtly help in these matters but I don't have the knowledge, experience or patience to endlessly twiddle knobs. I seldom turn any knobs once I've achieved what I consider to be the best tone I can get out of bass and amp. Any tonal changes after that come from my hands. I never slap. I like flatwounds though I've used rounds for the past year and a half but I still hate them when they're new. I have a small rig; GB Streamliner and two Aguilar GS 12s. It sound good and it's small & light. I don't want more crap to cart around, my days of racks are over.

I don't have any friends so I'm not borrowing anything. I'll pull the trigger soon and I'm still thinking it'll be the Diamond. I keep reading many happy users and it seems to have simplistic and minimal controls. I'll buy it and check it out. As I said I suspect what it will do will be subtle. If it's too subtle, why bother.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Mike Childree » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:34 pm

I've never been able to get happy with compressors. When I dig in hard, I want the damn thing to bark....comps seem to remove that presence I need.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Gohloum » Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:31 pm

OK Gino, now I have a better picture after your last post.

I can't honestly speak to the Diamond compressor, I've never tried it. However, with you using flatwounds and further explanation of what you are after, a compressor should do what you want. The flats are gonna have more mass and less overtones, and depending on how you bass is setup, possibly more inconsistencies, so I hear you on that. As for presence, generally a compressor will reign that back a little, but you may be able to bump up those frequencies with the amp. It will also get you more stability and control over the low end which is likely something you will enjoy. The BOSS model has an Enhancer knob that helps add back the presence and you can dial it in. I'm kinda curious now that I know you are running flats, the BOSSy sound of a BOSS pedal will likely be less evident since you are not producing near as many harmonics and overtones.

So I just looked up the Diamond unit. It's an optical compressor. This should work very well for you. The compressor side of my LA 610 is an Optical. Basically, the way it works is you have a lightsource and a photo cell. The amplitude of the light source (say an LED) is driven by your signal. The photocell reacts to the lightsource and the circuitry responds according to the feedback given from the cell. Back in the olden days, Opto compressors were less linear and had slower response and release times. This would allow transients to sneak past the gate threshold and what we would hear is something musical. This is one of the inherit characteristics of older vintage gear that makes them popular. Today, technology with these components has advanced greatly and linear circuity is possible with allows a Opto to perform very much like a VCA unit. The result is you get very transparent compression. Many companies like JoeMeek, Focusrite, etc, build Optos and actually de-linearize them to some degree to try and either recreate a vintage character, or explore with creating a signature musical character.

By the reviews I just read on the Diamond, I would assume the circuitry to be very linear, which is probably a good thing for your situation. Your not really looking for color/character, more for control and to add a little thickness. At this point I am quite curious to hear one. Probably going to place some phone calls soon and see if I can get my grubby little mitts on one for a few days. If I do I will report back.

One last thing: Since your rig is small, have you considered taking it to a music store and patching in a few pedals to try them out. I know it's kind of a hassle, but I've done just that on 2 occasions. This would at least give you a chance to test run a few and see how they work with your setup.

Good luck with whatever you decide. If it's the Diamond, please post back about it with a review.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Golem » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:01 pm

Freddels wrote:...... I have the EBS compressor but it doesn't seem to do much.
Maybe one of these days I'll try the Markbass one (unless they
cancel it like they seem to do to many of their products).


I got me a MarkBass "Compressore" and I really suggest
that you get one ... either before they discontinue it,
or right exactly when they do, which means some kinda
sooper Clearance Price from the big box guys.

I've had simple Stomp box versions and they just don't
do it. Prolly there's other compressors as good as the MB
at about the same price, but I don't know cuz I'm happy
with the MB. I dig MB. I got 3 combos, 2 heads, a coupla
VLE/VPF pedals, and the compressore.

New basses are red. Used basses are black.
- - ---- -- - --- - - - --- - ---- -- - - --- - -- - -

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Tomorrow never comes.
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Re: Compression?

Postby Freddels » Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:40 am

I wish MB hadn't discontinued that VLE/VPF pedal. I think it would a way of having a tone control on active instruments.
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Re: Compression?

Postby FatherGino » Tue Nov 26, 2013 5:01 pm

I ordered the diamond bcp1.

I'll post back once I get it and play with it some.
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