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Do I need a compressor ?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bigcardinal, Dec 19, 2005.

  1. It seems as though some people talk about compressors as if they are 'essential' gear for bass, while others consider them more of an additional effect. It is my understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong here, that the use of the compressor is essentially twofold: it "tightens" up the sound, effectively making the bass clearer sounding, and maintains a relative level so that the bass neither dissapears or blasts out (potentially even causing damage to the amp/speaker). I have a limiter built into my amp, and I know this is not quite the same, although in the sense of protecting the amp, is it somewhat like a compressor? So, is an additional compressor unit a necessity? Being new to bass, i would like to know what you think of this. Thanks
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It's not essential but it helps. I have never heard a compressor or limiter built into an amp that I've liked, though they do work. However, if you're new to bass, a compressor is probably the last thing you need. You're more than likely in no danger of blowing your amp, and a compressor might even hinder your progress because it might prevent you from developing dynamics and even technique.
  3. gillento


    Oct 15, 2005
    Luxembourg, Europe
    Nordstrand pickups
    +1 to JimmyM.
  4. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    I got one because I got conviced it was the thing to have. It's now basically an expensive rack spacer.
  5. It's different strokes for different folks as you can see. Plus, speaking personally, I have run hot and cold about compression ever since I started playing bass. I'm currently hot again just incase you wanted to know!

    I didn't fully appreciate it when I was starting out, but I had a DOD pedal compressor and it certainly helped smooth out the dynamics. This was especially useful because at the time I was using sub-standard gear (crappy bass, guitar amplifier!) so it overcame the limitations of that such as the basses poor action and potential overloads on the amp and speaker.

    (poor action tends to make finger style sound weak and soft compared to slapping - a good bass can be slapped gently and hence softly, whereas a crap one is not so forgiving.)

    Compressors have many uses, and to lump them all together and say compressors suck is just plain ignorant. Often the problem with compressors is that people just haven't thought about what they want and don't know how to set it up. Ultimately there's only one way to know for sure, and that is to experiment. Sadly, trying one in the shop is rarely a good substitute for trying one at a rehersal, then at a gig, then in your bedroom, then while recording etc etc.

    A limiter is an extreme form of compression. It's aim is more of a protective one and it will not greatly affect your sound. Having said that, there's no reason why a compressor has to greatly affect your sound either. Some people use it as an effect whereas others use it as a utility to sooth the savage transients.

    My opinion is this; if you're a gigging bassist in a band that plays many, varied venues often with sub-par PA equipment, then you will definitely benefit from a compressor. Tweaked properly it will help you find your place in the mix without swamping other instruments and reduce those B'BOOM notes that every venue has. Set correctly it will NOT destroy your dynamics - trust me!
  6. Do you need a compressor?

    Some folks just use them out of habit, or use a built-in limiter (a form of compression) and leave it at that. Using one to solve a problem is common, but I've seen them cause problems more than fix them when they are used with no real reason.

    If you slap, then a comp can help you keep good fingerstyle volume and not have the slap/pop sound be too loud. If you have a device like an effect or amp that you want to prevent overloading, a comp can do that. If you want a squashed sound where the not is pretty much the same volume no matter how hard or soft you play, a comp can do that. And in general it can put a lid on the upper limit of your signal at any point in the signal chain. That can be a good thing too.

    You might be able to get away with a one-knob comp or need a fully controllable one, or need a limiting-specific device, depending on the application. Limiting is pretty much a high ratio comp with an adjustable threshold. Levelling is just another way of saying compression.
  7. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    I have a question about compression, or rather if my idea would work. So I use a GT-6B into a Mesa 400+ into a Bergie NV 610. I want to add a crossover into the FX loop of the Mesa, send the lows at whatever frequency sounds good back to the 400+ power into the 610, and then I want to take the highs into a separate (probabally tube) power amp into a Bergie 210 or some such cab. To keep the volume of my slap consistant with the rest of my volume, would it be a good idea to put a comp in between the high output and the separate power amp? I want to keep my lows as pure as possible, but when slapping and popping I usually feel like my volume is going all over the place. Of course, I am working on technique, but for most of my projects I just use mostly fingerstyle and don't get enough practice with slapping and popping. Would this configuration work? If so, what compressor should I look at? I was thinking the ART mic preamp with compression, because I could use it for a bit of home studio work as well. Would this be a good choice? Also, if this would not work, what would you suggest?
  8. Good to be aware of the fact that the higher frequency portion of your signal is where the strong transients are and hence where all of your punchyness is. So, fast acting compression applied to this band of ƒ can lead to a loss of attack. Bad news for slap.

    Otherwise, sounds like you have a grasp of the concept. Personally I would be selecting a compressor with fully adjustable attack and release times - so perhaps the ART isn't ideal.