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Compression - Uses in a Live setting?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by theFALLEN, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. theFALLEN


    Jul 29, 2009
    EDIT: Have just found Bongomanias Compression site, will defintely look on there now but any help on hrere would also be appreciated!!

    Hi guys,

    I've done a quick search on this and can't find anything specific to my question so started this thread...

    I'm basically wanting to know how many bass players use Compression, either through a pedal/rack/built into an amp, whilst playing live and also whether those Bassists are in a specific genre? i.e. rock/metal/jazz etc?

    I play in a band with an Avenged Sevenfold/KillSwitch Engage/Def Leppard ( :ninja: ) type feel.

    The main issue I have with Compression is that I find it is so subtle that I can't actually tell whether it is doing anything or indeed if its worthwhile using? Perhaps I'm just not using it correctly....

    Also, would Compression effect the sustain of held notes? In that I'd want it to extend my sustain rather than shorten...

    Thanks for your help guys,

    I realise this is a n00b question however when it comes to things like this I feel that unless you ask/have experience with them then you'll never know...


  2. If you have to ask, it makes me question: what do you want to use a compressor for?

    Not being difficult :) just curious. I think sometimes people just want to put FX for teh sake of it, while I think that it may be more productive to think what it is that you want to sound like, and then figure out what needs to be done to get there.

    A compressor's job is to even up the volume between quiet and loud notes. Ideally, a compressor would do that job and you would not know it's there... except that your notes sound all nice and even... or at least even within a certain range (you want to have some room for dynamics I expect!).

    I use a compressor, and a limiter. But before using them, I identified something in my sound I didn't like. For instance, when I slap and when I fingerpick the volume can be quite different. Then I thought I'd use a compressor, or a limiter.

    I ended up using both. My amp head (TC Electronic RH450) has a pretty good built-in compressor. I have it set mildly so that it softens my *unintended* differences in dynamics, but still allows me to play quietly or softly and respond to differences in the way I attack the notes. I use my limiter (Boss LMB3) at the end of my FX chain (actually, just a tuner, an EQ pedal and sometimes a Digitech SynthWah or Boss AW3 AutoWah). The limiter will not boost quiet signals, just cut the loud ones. I have it set so that it normally does nothing at all, and only tames the highest peaks (from slap, or from the synth-wah effects, which can be quite wild at times).

    So, I use compression and a limiter, but they don't really do all that much to my sound. My bass still sounds the same, pretty much. However, the dynamics only vary within an "acceptable" range, making me sound a bit smoother and even where I want it, but still allowing me to add emphasis to certain notes or passages by digging harder.

    It took a bit of trial and error until I found the settings I like, put masking tape on the pedal panel to indicate my favourite settings... and I'm done. Two effects that do nothing... but they do!!! :)

    Compression can be used for sustain, because it will boost the quiet notes and it will continue to so as teh note decays if you let it ring, as long as you set the compressor to do that. However, it'll also boost any background noise, so you may get long sustain, but with extra noise creeping in as the note is sustained... it depends on the settings, the pedal itself, and how noisy your FX chain and your bass are.
  3. theFALLEN


    Jul 29, 2009
    Thanks for your reply.

    The main thing that I'm wanting to use it for is to add sustain to held notes in heavier parts of my playing. I can fell/hear that these held notes quickly fade where as my guitarist can hold those notes all day (insert Spinal Tap quote...)

    I'm also wanting to use Compression to make my bass parts consistantly punchier.

    And yes, I'm not sure If I do need one however its another "toy" to play with and it might be the magic ingredient to help me get one step closer to my "perfect" sound! :ninja:

  4. A compressor will definitely help making the sound even/consistent and you can definitely increase sustain. You should try different compressors with your own rig and see which one works best with less noise. Maybe noise is not an issue so much.
    When I was after a decent bass overdrive I bought nearly everything I could get myhands on on eBay, so that i could try them at home properly with my bass, my amp, etc. Then sold everything that I didn't like (which was... almost everything). That way I didn't really make a loss (some things sold for more than i paid, some for less... but just about the same prices). You may need to try different compressors until you find "the one". I'd just like to say: don't bother with the Ashdown dual compressor or the Digitech Bass Squeeze. ;)
  5. theFALLEN


    Jul 29, 2009
    Ha I think the Ashdown looks amazing but I've heard bad things about it!

    Have you had any experience with the Boss compression/sustainer? I just had a play on it and thought it had potential?

  6. Not quite. Compressors don't boost anything. They only reduce gain, not increase it. The sustain effect happens because as the note dies down, the compressor relaxes it's effect on the note, until it's not doing anything at all, at which time the note rapidly fades.
    The Demeter pedal seems to get a lot of good press here.
  7. René_Julien


    Jun 26, 2008
    I'm one of the few people that like the BOSS CS-3... unmodded.
    I haven't tried a modded version though.

    But I like the CS-3 as an "effect", not as a serious compressor that is always on. By "as an effect" I mean to create a certain texture of sound. With the EQ of the CS-3 toward treble it sparkles very nice.
    That's why I have a rack unit, a TL Audio, that is constantly on for my overall sound.

    IME, a constantly on compressor is needed for me... passive P-basses with their infamous dead spots and solidstate amplifiers is what I play.
    And it takes the harshness away from my piano-sounding strings.
  8. You're right, and a limiter can be considered a "hard" compression, if you wish, with a high ratio and with a fast action. But a lot of instrument compressors also work by boosting low level signals, in fact many are named "Compressor/Sustainer" (see Boss, Digitech...), whilst an instrument limiter such as the Boss LMB3 acts in a similar manner (threshold and ratio are user-defined, attack parameter is not available, it's set fast) but only reducing high amplitude peaks, doing nothing to the low level signal... therefore you don't really perceive a sustain: the note doesn't last longer if you don't boost it as it decays, it lasts just as long as without a limiter, only the level remains at a given level for longer rather than going up and decaying progressively.

    NOt another compression/limiter argument! ;)
  9. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    IMHO... EBS MultiComp
  10. bigtexashonk

    bigtexashonk Supporting Member

    Compression by itself is useful, but used with the correct technique/touch it can do very cool things. It's subtle, but if it carries you to the place where you feel most creative, who's to say differently?
  11. roceci


    Jan 27, 2009
    Cardiff UK
    I use a Tech 21 Bass compactor, always on in my chain. Really simple (hi + low bands, vol & comp level). Nice & transparent, kicks in when needed, mostly forget it's there.

    STAY AWAY from Digitech Bass Squeeze as advised. Awful noisy thing & really plastic sounding IMO. Which is strange as their X series Driver & Synth Wah are great. Hmmm.
  12. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    ...Except that 99.9% of compressors include a make-up gain stage which is used to bring your signal back up to unity gain, making up for the drop caused by the compression itself. In many cases the make-up gain stage is also capable of significant extra boost.
  13. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    They way I use it, compression isn't exactly subtile.
    It's more like smashing notes into your face. :)
  14. bwv1013


    Mar 20, 2008
    southern cal
    i love me some stock cs3 too. i use it for my church gig and my fusion combo, both situations where a smooth output level from me helps the overall sound. i personally would leave it out for a rock gig, i don't mind sounding a bit raw and i think it adds to the vibe.
  15. i've tried a Dyna Comp and really liked it, but i've settled in with my old Boss LBM-2(i do believe that's the model, it's the predecessor to the LMB-3). i LOOVE that pedal. it's great at smoothing off harsh peaks from my Stingray, While at the same time increasing sustain. i usually set it up for a decently high threshold, just enough compression to get a small amount of "squash" :smug:, and being that my band plays in drop C the gain stage in this pedal does a great job of shoving some extra OOOMMFFF into the bottom end :D

    i pretty much love it :p
  16. Yes, but this function isn't active, which throws some people.
  17. try finding a bass that has the sustain you need. Then if you still need a compressor it wont pick up as much noise, and will sound more natural.
  18. Stu_Bass


    Nov 24, 2006
    From what I own: Compulator, Multi-Comp, Boss (love this one for guitar), Dyna Comp. In that order of preference. I think the Compulator imparts a round, warm sound and use it (subtly) at the lead end of my effects (only after my SHO/buffer) because of the tone and to level things off a bit so my octaver tracks a littlte better. I then use the limiter in my Tfunk to tame the spikes from the octaver and my Bass IQ. And yes, a compressor can add some sustain. Just watch out for pumping sounds and a rising noise floor. (Boss CS-2 set up suggestion: set your comp level and make up gain then, while playing an open string with a pick, sweep the attack knob and find the point with the clearest, most defined attack. This is around 1 o'clock for me. Affords the best sound for my purposes. Of course, YMMV) BTW I don't often play with a pick but this setting sounds best finger picked also, to me anyway.
  19. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    What? Of course it's active! It's an opamp or FET boost typically, never passive, and never disengaged from the circuit. I'll repeat: an active gain boost circuit is an inherent, always-on part of 99.9% of compressors in all formats.
  20. Eublet


    Jul 28, 2006
    IMO, using a compressor live depends GREATLY upon the compressor being used. I gigged with a rackmount dbx 160a and it worked so great I didn't want to play without it. When I started using lightweight gear more, there was no rack, and I went on a pedal search. Everything was a bit of a let down until I found the EBS Multicomp. And even that pedal I only used typically for slap, and it still wasn't as good as the dbx 160a. I recently picked up a Maxon CP-9 Pro+ which has a dbx style VCA/RMS inside, along with two separate knobs for controlling threshold and ratio just like a dbx compressor. It works so wonderfully that it's easily an always-on unit. Having said that, I've gigged a lot without using any compression at all.

    Consider this. With a typical gig through a small PA, you can definitely get away without using compression. Any big gig that is backlined the FOH engineer is likely going to put compression on your bass signal. Why? To protect his equipment for one thing, but beyond that it improves the sound. The corallary here is that properly placed compression even on those smaller gigs will do those two things as well.

    It is not a fix for poor technique as many people like to portray it. It can be to some extent, but one shouldn't feel like they are cheating because they use compression. Lots of the greatest players use compression in their signal. In fact, for many it becomes an integral part of their sound and technique. Marcus Miller anyone?