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Comp or Limiter?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ninefoldbass, Feb 28, 2003.

  1. ninefoldbass

    ninefoldbass Guest

    Feb 26, 2003
    whats the difference between a compressor and a limiter, my B-2R has a limiter on it.. but im thinking about getting a comp for it.. why do i want a compressor? (i could figure it out on my own, but i have such a great tool at my fingertips, thx TalkBass).. if its worth it.. should i go tube or wont i be able to tell the diff?

    Jake, Ninefold bassist
  2. From the little I know, the difference is that a compressor will reduce the peak levels continiously producing a more 'hi fi' sound, whilst the limiter often found built into amp heads like some Trace Elliot's will only work when there is a major spike in the level which it will then act on and reduce. Once it has done this it will not activate again until another spike in the level occurs at which point it will start it's work again.

    I think this is right but someone with more knowledge and better terminology will no doubt correct/clarify as necessary


  3. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    If you set the threshold of a compressor to infinity, it becomse a limiter. Limiters don't really shape your overall sound but kick in to protect your speakers from overload.

    Most pople use compression as a sound shaping tool, having it kick in on just about every note, smoothing things out and making it fatter.
  4. Practically speaking, how far back in time does the use of compression go?

    Am I hearing compression (in the bass) on recordings from say the 50s or the 60s?
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Yeah, but that was most likely due to the limited dynamic range of the technology.
  6. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    D'you mean the search function? :rolleyes:

    Petebass gave a good description. You want a comp if you desire more evenness in your dynamic range. Lotsa slappers use 'em to tame the pops. Tube comps vary, try one out, see if you like the sound.
  7. Compression is actually OLDER than tape recording. You'll find limiters and levelers that predate tape because they were initially used for radio to keep transmitters from overmodulating and burning up. Early recording engineers quickly figured out that they could use them to make sounds seem louder than they are.

    In addition, analog tape is a natural compressor because the record heads can't accurately reproduce large transient peaks on the tape because it physically runs out of room. Rather than chopping the waveform to square like a digital clip, the motion of the tape slurs the "square" part of the wave into a pseudo-rounded peak until it begins to decrease in amplitude, resulting in compression.

    Bass wasn't compressed as agressively on vintage recordings because it wasn't considered desirable to be heard 'up front.' In that case, the compression was mainly to force the bass into a specific dynamic range, usually 6-10 dB below vocals while still being audible.