Compressor at front of pedal chain, AND at the end?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by K2000, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. K2000


    Nov 16, 2005
    I'm really like a compressor at the front of my pedal chain, but I do a lot of knob tweaking and some of the pedals are unpredictable in combination, and I get occasional blasts of loudness. Sometimes the volume drops, as well.

    Does anybody use a 2nd compressor at the end of the chain? Is that uncommon?
  2. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    If it sounds good it is good. The famous recorded tones are often hit multiple times with compressors. Or sometimes not at all. Whatever works for you.
  3. therhodeo


    Feb 28, 2011
    Owasso OK
    I've considered it but functionally my idea was more compressor at the front and limiter at the end.
  4. K2000


    Nov 16, 2005
    That's what I mean, too. Compressors do limit peaks (and I also need occasional boost of a weak signal too).

    On account of I got a bunch of weird pedals in the middle there. ;)
  5. Don't see why it couldn't work. Will depend on the specific units selected and how they are applied, but I think in theory it could work very well. Maybe even the 2nd compressor/limiter in your amp's effects loop, between the pre and the power section?
  6. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sure, this is done all the time. Typically one compressor is used or shaping the envelope, the other one takes care of peaks.
  7. Limiting and compressing are the same thing except that limiting is defined as ratios above 10/1 and usually with a hard knee. In the early days before VCA's and FETs made high ratios easy electronically, the devices used in broadcast to prevent distortion were called limiters or compressors almost interchangeably like condenser and capacitor or valve and tube but they still described essentially identical devices. Somewhere, sometime, people started using these "limiting amplifiers" as inserts in the way we use what are now called compressors as an aesthetic effect and the name muddying began. The issue is more confusing for bass players as a population because we are used to using things called compressors on our amps and in pedals without ratio knobs possibly adding to the confusion that compressors and limiters are separate, distinct devices working by different means. They only are in the same way that fuzz/OD/distortion are. They all do the same thing by way of a handful of technologies (ignoring digital for now) in that if you have a OD pedal that will go so far as to truly square the wave, well, you already have a fuzz box too. If you have a compressor that will go higher than 10/1 ratio, you already have a limiter.
  8. I do similar stuff when recording, but never live.
    I compress just a bit going to tape, for tone control, and then maybe a little more when mixing to help the bass sit in there nicely.

    If you have funky pedals in there with weird boosts and stuff, wouldn't you want to retain those instead of squashing them ?
  9. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I always put anything that will make the volume jump up or down before the compressor.
  10. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    The issue, as I understand it, is that you are having an issue with gain staging. When you employ certain effects, the volume jumps considerably. This is because the effect increases the gain of the overall signal. The problem with gain is that a little gain at the beginning off the signal chain often ends up being a lot more gain at the end of the signal chain. This is because gain is a ratio of input voltage to output voltage. Let's say the input in 1 volt, and the gain is 1:10. Then the output is 10 volts. 2 volts of input is 20volts, and 3 volts is 30 volts. As the overall volume increases, the jumps get more significant, 30 becomes 300, for example. So when you set up the gain of a high gain device, such as a distortion pedal, at low volumes, a gain change that seems acceptable, jumps significantly at performance volume.

    There are a few ways to address this:

    1. lower the volume on your bass before turning on your effect - this changes the response of the dynamic effect which is not desirable
    2. put a volume pedal after the effect and lower the volume there - also useable as a swell effect but is a little clumsy and sometimes we forget to return it to full volume
    3. put a limiting compressor at the end of the chain and have it automatically lower the volume - the disadvantage is that this tends to change the dynamic response of the effect, some things are too squashed and other things are not squashed enough
    4. set the gain staging using the volume you use for live performance - this is the best option but requires a lot of twiddling at high volumes

    In your case I would look at #2 as an option.
  11. MilkyMcMilkMilk


    Dec 17, 2008
    I often use my milkbox 1st and LMB-3 last, well just before my eq, which is use last.
    i find it hellpful.
  12. Agree completely. Other factors common to limiting, as opposed to compression (from my modest experience): higher thresholds, and no make-up gain.

    Which makes less sense when talking about some stompbox compressors that just have "compress", "volume" and maybe a "tone" knob, but is useful for higher end stompboxes (like the MXR) and rack/standalone units.