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Do you consider a compressor pedal a "must have"?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by ArcadeNate, Sep 22, 2020.

  1. ArcadeNate


    Jul 6, 2020
    I have gigged off and on for many years and have never used a compression pedal. But from what I understand, they even out volume variance under normal playing conditions. If that's true, it seems like it could turn a good sound into a great sound. Do most pros use these? (I don't consider myself a pro based on the dives I've played.) Are these must haves? Is the difference noticeable at a small club type setting?
    Giraffe, JMV and mikewalker like this.
  2. revd


    Apr 11, 2020
    Here's my reply FWIW:

    I'm been a synth guy for 30 years and a bass guy for one. On synth bass I always use at least one compressor, sometimes two, for evening out and thickening up the sounds, and for sometimes adding the tone of the compressor itself.

    After a preamp, a compressor was the second bass pedal I bought, for basically the same reasons I listed above.

    I've seen folks on this forum say "hey, just learn to play better" but for me it's not like that and I always practice for at least sone of the time with the comp/pedals off (turns out my technique is progressing just fine). For me, the joy is it does what you said - turns a good sound/tone into a great one, better sustain, etc. etc.
    Giraffe, JonnyTFunk, matdras and 15 others like this.
  3. Driven Crane

    Driven Crane

    May 30, 2014
    I use a Markbass Compressore first and a Maxon CP9+ Pro last in the input chain. They are my tone, too...
    dalahorse, aldaa and revd like this.
  4. Bodeeni

    Bodeeni Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    Definitely no, you do not need one. I have two at home and have had a few gigs out of a thousand were I thought I could have used a little leveling. I do not use effects or a compressor as an effect. But I have always been as straight in to the amp and set flat kind of guy. The few times I've tried them at gigs, they sound OK at the beginning but as the night goes on and I start digging in more, the compressor kicks in harder and I get lost in the mix. To me it is not really doing anything, or should be, to my tone.
    I guess the other thing is I spent as long time getting a even attack in my playing.
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Compression has long been a staple of recording and live performance. It's essentially a sub-science and there are literally volumes written on their application(s). It's not a must-have but a decent compressor in the right hands can do some wonderful things.

    Giraffe, JonnyTFunk, equill and 19 others like this.
  6. GMC

    GMC Supporting Member

    Compression on bass...it's as varied a topic as there are bassists and basses. I really don't think that there is a definative answer. However...for my playing, home noodling...making weirdy synth warbles and playing in live church worship events (where I mostly get buried in the mix)...my compression needs are fairly minor. I have a compressor, a very simple device that is geared to give me an array of sound at the flick of a switch. I use an EBS Multi Comp. It's the three way switch that dials in three distinct voicings and it's simple 2 knob layout works for me. I tend to use compression as an effect, not as a leveler or limiter. So what I'm looking for in compression is really an easily dial in for a light compression (more of a clean boost), a medium compression and then a big squish for use after an OC-2 (neatens up the sound) or pre overdrive / fuzz to give the distortion some kick (and helps me find that Square wave tone). For my playing needs, I get more value out of pre and post EQ than I do with compression.
    M0ses and Dara O CARROLL like this.
  7. Szaladin


    Apr 15, 2020
    Hanover, Germany
    That's what they do, basically, yes. You set a certain threshold. Everything that is louder than this threshold is made less loud. But it is not cutting off directly at the threshold. If you have a peak going over the threshold, it will be reduced to a ratio: A ratio of 4:1 would mean that a peak exceeding the threshold by 4dB would be reduced to 1dB.

    So a high threshold, let's say 10:1, would mean that almost everything is pressed down close to the threshold.

    So your signal will be less loud in total. To make this up, you usually give a bit of makeup-gain after the compressor to stay on level. But because of the compressor, everything is getting gain more evenly.

    Then you can also set the attack and release time, which basically say how fast the compressor reacts. Everything that is now bold-type are the usual suspects you can find as settings on the compressor. That is all that the thing does. It is important to understand how the compressed signal is working with the rest of your setup, because there can be a lot of fun.

    You can have a good sound without compresson. You can also turn a nuanced sound of a great bass to rubbish. It will never mess up the sound like a Metal Zone. But you can have more consistency in the level. And if you have gain-applying effects after the compression then you can keep the input gain under more control.

    Many do. But in various ways. Most? Hard to do empirical studies. But it is a very, very common thing and you can find it on the pedal board, in the rack or the amp. But I'd bet money that it is at least half the cases you will find one somewhere. At least only to have it just in case.

    No! And you will not need an expensive one tbh. And it is not necessarily an effect that is noticed straight away. But it is good to have. You get control on what the drive is getting. You can even out little volume differences from plucking. Sharp peaks should also go. And for a pumping sound you can even use more than one in different places. Just set the ratio relatively high and the make-up gain to a reasonably high level. It will sound a little artificial, but yeah.

    If you overdo compression, you will lose dynamics. Some people mix the compressed signal with the dry signal, at least during recording.

    Depends on the club.

    Small heay metal basement club setting the PA to 11 filled with 50 yelling metalheads? No.

    Jazz club where everyone can hear whether you play softly or not? Yes.

    Rockmusic somewhere in between? Yes-ish. Might be nice to have a chorus with very consistent bass 16ths (compression) but articulated fills in the verse (not so much compression).

    And of course the compression can be used to shape the sound. But the synth guys usually know really well about acoustic modeling and parameters ;)[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
  8. I think it depends on the other gear you use. With my Mesa d800 and darkglass gear I don’t feel the need for a dedicated compressor, they add compression already and I’ve always been more the type to use subtle compression anyways. I giggled with an SWR 750 for a long time and the limiter on it was great so no compressor with it either. Running into the Avalon u5 I do prefer to use a compressor Pedal in front of it though. Overdrive/pre amps in particular often don’t need it because they add compression already. But compression is normally very useful on the back end when when recording wether it’s a plug in or like a nice LA2A or distressor or whatever the studio has. Also a lot of the nicer venues to play FOH house compresses the bass anyways. Lot of the venues I play have a DBX rack compressor Back by the board that they use for bass.
    Kaplan and Seashore like this.
  9. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    I vote that we need a compressor sub forum.

    madjazzbass, obieito, bcbckr and 7 others like this.
  10. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    I've never ever used a compressor and most other players I know never use one lve. If you have very good technique and an instrument without dead spots you should not need one. If you're using heavy distortion, that's a slightly different story.
    Revolver likes this.
  11. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Compressors certainly do 'even out volume variance', but they do so much more than that. Consider this, almost every bass track you heard has some compression on it. Almost every song you heard is compressed. This it not done to fix the tracks. It is there to enhance it. It makes the song more cohesive, fatter, punchier, more mellow, whatever. Compression, when done correctly, changes the feel of the music.

    I often read posts where people think that compressors are there to cover-up your poor technique. I feel the opposite. You cannot truly enjoy the benefits of compression until you have a good control over you picking attack and fretting technique.

    I also believe that one of the reasons why tube amp lovers dig their sound is because they induce soft-knee compression. Same thing with flats: less dynamic range, more thump -- sounds like a compressor to me. Really digging in? That's driving the pickups, and amp into limiting. Adding some overdrive: you are adding compression. Even speakers compress as the load approaches max. My point is, bass players use compression more than they realize, even if they never touch a compressor.

    So, yes, I have a favorite compressor, and it is always on. Mine is set for very mild compression. It is multi-band, so it controls the lows separate from the highs. There is only a slight difference in tone/feel when it is off vs on. But boy, can I hear the difference, playing solo or in a mix. The effect is huge. I often hear compliments on how punchy and big my bass sounds. I am sure there are lots of elements in that, my technique being chief among them, but I know my compressor is adding a lot to the sound.
  12. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    For me? No.
    It may be user error (or user brain power), but I've never been able to use a pedal version in a way that I like.
    The biggest reason is that it gets rid of dynamics. I like controlling my quietest and loudest dynamics with my playing.
    I have liked using one to even out or slightly boost solo parts. But not enough to give up real estate on my pedalboard.
    I love the old school tube compressors that recording studios use, in the hands of the skilled technicians. But I have not been able to use a compressor effectively (correctly?) In a live setting.
  13. dab12ax7ef


    Sep 25, 2011
    Yes! Compressor pedal is important for me. Specially for working with less than expert sound guys, and low stage volume situations.
    It’s crucial to have attack and release controls so I can still have dynamic attack before it kicks in. That helps with the “it kills dynamics” complaint. I have an FEA on my board.
    Zbysek and jdh3000 like this.
  14. Wanker_Joe


    Sep 26, 2017
    When I'm playing through an amp at a small gig/jam/whatever or at home I never use comp. Never felt like needed it to be honest. However, through a large PA or when recording? Compression is necessary in my opinion. But I don't use a pedal then, instead I use what's on the FOH board or in my recording setup.
  15. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I've been playing almost 50 years without one so I'll vote no.

    BUT - you're asking the wrong question. It doesn't matter whether someone else needs it, it only matters if YOU need it. Some people need a pedal board the size of an air craft carrier to achieve their musical goals. Some people plug straight in. Neither are wrong. You can't play bass by committee, you need to figure out what is right for YOU.
  16. It's a must-have for me. It's not about "evening out" my playing, it's about the overall band mix. I play stuff on the "screaming metalheads" end of the spectrum so the guitars are naturally very compressed (distorted) and the drums are loud, fast, and even. I need to be able to fit in with the paradigm. @Nephilymbass makes a great point about compression coming from various sources. If my amp head offered a more compressed sound, or if I was playing less inherently compressed music, I might not need or want the pedal.
    jdh3000 and Nephilymbass like this.
  17. Bonafide

    Bonafide Rodney Gene Junior Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2002
    Austin, TX USA
    Band In A Box, Nick Silver Pickups, Free The Tone...More
    'Must have'? No. Not under any situations. Useful to have? Yes, sometimes it is.
  18. Lagado

    Lagado Suspended

    Jan 6, 2020
    I consider it a "don't want." If you have an even technique and sensitivity to dynamics, I wouldn't bother putting yourself in a box.
  19. MD-BassPlayer

    MD-BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I don't "need" one, but I find them useful and really enjoy my FEA Labs DE-CL, add a Noble tube DI and that's pretty much a world class signal path in a transportable format.
  20. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    I own a Pigtronix compressor, so I have it available, but it doesn't live on my board (and I'm only recording at home now, so I'm using one in the DAW). I don't think a compressor is necessary, but I can tell you that the best I ever sounded live was when the sound engineer for the theater went ahead and brought his own down from the booth and ran me through it. I sounded like a million dollars the whole run.
    jdh3000 likes this.

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