Bass compressor for better string balance (Fender related)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by boroman, May 5, 2019.

  1. boroman


    Apr 27, 2009
    Guys, I have never played through a compressor. Never needed one. My path is simple. Zvex Hard-ON, Death by Audio fuzz for the distorted sounds and vintage ampeg tube amps (SVTs, V4s, B15). However I have '68 Tele bass with single coil pickup which cannot be set to ideal string balance. That (original) pickup is very punchy and dynamic, a lot more than later and more popular split-coil pbass pickups.

    I'm wondering if I can use a compressor to tame down e.g. A-string to keep right the string balance of all strings. Which one do I need that would not ruin my sound? MXR 87? Darkglass? EBS?
  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo Regular Human Bartender Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Keeley Bassist. That's exactly what it does.
  3. This is how I use a compressor.
  4. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ?

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    And there is a minty one in the classifieds right now for a great price.
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  5. boroman


    Apr 27, 2009
    Thanks. What are the advantages of Keeley to the M87? I can buy M87 used in my hometown just few miles away.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  6. Nighttrain1127

    Nighttrain1127 Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    Near Worcester MA
    The M-87 is a great compressor I think the Keeley is a little easier to set up and use for someone that is not familiar with using compression. If you get the Manual for the M-87 and follow how to set the comp up you will be fine . And if you run into issues getting it set right you can always ask questions here. I had an M87 when they first came out, It worked fine once I figured out how to use it. You can really crush your dynamics if you have it set improperly but that is true with most comps. If you have a line on an M87 in good shape for a good price go for it . You can always flip it in the classifieds if it does not work for you.
    Low Down Brown likes this.
  7. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    There’s an ongoing thread with compressor reviews by @scubaduba that covers the M87. Link to MXR M87 review here.

    When it comes to outboard devices, I don’t think there’s any pedal preference that is more personal than what someone prefers as a compressor. And they come in a bewildering variety of different models and feature sets because of that. So it’s sometimes hard to make a recommendation for a compressor when someone is buying their first. But I’ll take a shot at it.

    First up some general info:

    What you are looking for falls under the category of compressors that are referred to as “limiting type” compressors. This variety of compressor is primarily designed to tame volume peaks. And in the simplest of terms, it’s basically a smart volume control. It doesn’t increase sustain or add any coloration (i.e. it’s “transparent”). It just limits volume peaks and spikes.

    Most people looking for a limiting compressor want it to be as invisible as possible in operation. And the highest praise a limiting compressor can get is that it’s so subtle and transparent that you won’t even notice it’s on until you turn it off.

    Now for my own current (and subject to change without notice) choice:

    Generalities aside, I use a Keeley Bassist when I want to do limiting. I like it because it is totally transparent, is among the easiest of compressors to set up, and it gets the job done. It’s also almost impossible to make yourself sound bad with the Keeley Bassist because they’ve automated certain settings that often can trip up a less experienced user. So IMO it’s one of the best entry points out there if you’re new to using a compressor and you just want limiting. Bob Keeley’s company has been doing compressors since forever. And that experience shows in the quality and performance of their products.

    If you’re interested you can read/download the manual for the Bassist here. In addition to explaining the controls on the Bassist it's also a quick but very good intro to compression if you’re new to it. Well worth a look.
  8. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I'd go locally with the M87 provided the seller offers "try-as-you-buy". I'd offer the same consideration.

  9. However imho you should try to find ways to get ideal string balance in your playing alone also.

    Comps aren't typically a cure all for string balance... they're for evenness for sure and tonal effects but string to string balance requires practice and proper instrument setup before the comp or you'll still hear strange attack changes between strings through a compressor.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    ^True dat!

    @boroman - have you checked the string radius last time you did a setup? Is there a chance your A is closer to the pickup than it should be? It does seem weird that only one string is boomier. But the fact that the relatively higher volume of the A to the other strings remains (even after lowering the pickup) makes me think the A is set too low at the bridge relative to the other strings.
    dkelley likes this.
  11. mark roberts

    mark roberts Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2004
    Lawrence, KS
  12. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    If You actually change your amp thrn know, that Hartke tx600 tube preamp amp has built in a good and effective compressor.
  13. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I'd suggest a string balance issues should be addressed by either getting strings that are more balanced, or adjusting string height and/ or pickup/pole piece height. My bet is that your A string is closer to the fretboard than your other strings, and raising it a bit will fix your issue directly and elegantly - if you're setting string height by eye, generally you'll end up setting the D and A closer than the G and E - a flatter radius than if you set string up with a gauge. Once I bought a radius gauge, I realized I was doing this on all my basses.

    A compressor will reduce the difference between strings, assuming you're compressing pretty hard (something I never do), but even then, it won't completely fix it.
    Frankie Fender and 40Hz like this.
  14. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    Markbass Compressore. No better sounding compressor IMHO.
  15. Jebberz

    Jebberz Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Quebec city
    mark roberts likes this.
  16. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    This seems like too much of a crutch solution to me...
  17. DangYankee


    Jul 11, 2017
    East Texas
    Another vote for the Bassist here... literally the greatest pedal you can buy.
  18. DangYankee


    Jul 11, 2017
    East Texas
    The Keeley and M87 have a very very similar tone/sound and function much the same. The benefit to the Keeley is the simplicity and ease of use. The M87 takes some thoughtful tweaking and some time to set up properly, and can honestly sound downright bad if you dont set it up correctly. On the other hand, the Bassist can be set up by a blind monkey and still sound fantastic.
    boroman and mark roberts like this.
  19. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 13, 2021

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