Hey Warden, your compressor's distorting

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Winton, Aug 2, 2021.

  1. Winton


    Nov 21, 2017
    Tokyo, Japan
    I bought the EarthQuaker Devices The Warden compressor used from online. I was so excited when it arrived.....until when I plugged in and started playing, the first note I would play would distort. After that, it wouldn't. But each time I turned the Ratio knob, it would distort the first note. Of course, the louder I would pluck or turn up the volume, it would distort every note I would play. Here are the various combinations I did to make sure it wasn't just me or the bass:

    - played on my active 5 string Ibanez BTB845V (new battery)
    - played on my active MM Stingray 4 string (semi-new battery)
    - played on my passive Squier CV60 precision bass
    - I plugged it into my power supply along with other pedals
    - I plugged it in with an individual 9V power supply
    - compared it with my TC Electronic Spectracomp, Boss CS-2, Boss LMB-3.....no problems with either of them even when I pluck hard on fretted low notes on the E string

    Same thing happened to me when I bought a used MXR M282 Dyna Comp Bass. I was able to return that through the app so I'm able to do the same with The Warden. The Warden has an internal thing so it makes the 9V into 18V so it should have plenty of headroom. But since this is the second time this happened since the MXR M282, I'm just wondering if I'm missing something or not using it right.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
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  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    What kind of bass? What kind of electronics in said bass?
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I've tried lots of compressors, and they all are capable of distortion (if I hit them too hard). Compressors are definitely not one of those effects that sound good at every knob setting. The secret is to dial in the "sweet spot" where you are subtley compressing without distorting.

    Where do you have the Sustain knob on your Warden pedal? If you reduce the Sustain knob (say, to about 9 o'clock) does that reduce the distortion?

    Is this your first time using an "optical" style compressor? One of the quirks of optical compressors is that they have a "memory" and they sort of "learn and adapt" to your playing style. The very first note you play, the compressor has no "memory" of your playing, since it hasn't heard you play yet. An old recording studio trick for optical compressors, is to play a few notes just before the count-off of the song. This "warms up" the compressor, activating its memory so it can start adapting to your playing style, and that first note of the song won't be the first the compressor is hearing of your playing. You won't be starting the song with a "cold" compressor.

    tl;dr any compressor will distort if you over-do it. I think you are just being too heavy-handed. Back off on the knobs and try to be more subtle in your settings. Additionally, optical-style compression just might not be the right "flavor" of compressor for your tastes; you might prefer a more "clinical" style of compression that doesn't have the "memory" feature.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
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  4. Winton


    Nov 21, 2017
    Tokyo, Japan
    They're listed in my original post. All original electronics.

    Okay, that's what I was wondering. Since it's an optical compressor (and yes, it's my first optical compressor), maybe the whole "memory" thing is just something I was ignorant of. I didn't realize it's such a common thing that you'd have to play a few notes before recording a track!

    I had my Sustain knob on my Warden in the middle first, then very high, then very low. I think I just needed to tinker with it more before assuming that it's broken (btw, is the MXR M282 an optical compressor?). Like I said, this has never happened with the other compressors. I usually play relatively light, but since it began distorting, it got me concerned so I began testing its limit by plucking very hard on the lower notes. And, as I've mentioned (and edited) that this has never happened to me with my Spectracomp, CS-2, and LMB-3, so it got me concerned.

    I'll play around with it a little more tomorrow to get a feel for how it works.
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  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    The other possibility that occurs to me, is that the distortion isn't actually coming from the Warden itself, but from whatever comes after the Warden in your signal chain. You say you are "testing its limit by plucking very hard on the lower notes" so maybe you are distorting your amp or your speaker cabinet?
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  6. Winton


    Nov 21, 2017
    Tokyo, Japan
    Yeah, very possible, but I was doing an A-B comparison with the Spectracomp and the Spectracomp didn't distort at all. After making this post, I connected directly into The Warden to my amp and still the same thing. So I think what you said first about the optical comp "learning" my playing first might be it. I'm playing a lot lighter (as I usually do) and turning the knobs more and it's getting better already! I might have to use the Spectracomp instead when playing hard thumpy flatwound Pbass lines (or just play lighter even when playing that).
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  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    The test to find out what's distorting, is the Level control of the Warden. If the distortion is equal no matter how you set the Level, then I think the distortion is coming from the Warden. But if the distortion increases as you increase the Level control, then I think possibly the Warde is making your volume louder, and this volume increase is causing something else to distort, later in your signal chain.

    There is a myth that compressors always by definition make our bass sound have quieter peaks but in fact, depending on the specific compressor (and how you have set the knobs) they can sometimes make your peaks louder.
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  8. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Yeah. The catch is sometimes problematic with compressors. You have to find the sweet spot. That's why ones with a blend knob are so great. Blending in your clean signal helps cover the initial catch, and adds back a bit of the tone you get without it, while still keeping your level relatively consistent.
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  9. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Sounds like you’re overloading the input on the Warden. Something not hard to do when you’re putting an active bass into some pedal compressors.

    If you tried @Mushroo ’s earlier suggestion and determined it definitely isn’t the compressor, your next step is to try to isolate the distortion source(s).

    Try backing off on your Ibby’s volume knob for starters.

    Compressors (and many othr pedals) will distort if they’re fed low voltages and current. So meter your power jack and make sure it’s delivering 9V max with a minimum of 31mA.

    Your power supply may also introduce distortion. Compressors do their thing with whatever signal they’re given. So dirt in = dirt out. So try a different power supply if you have one. I’ve got a nice Cioks multi-output power supply for everyday use. But I also keep a known good 1Spot and old BOSS PSA wall wart handy for pedal testing purposes.

    Same goes for anything front of it in your signal chain. If the preamp in the bass is generating otherwise inaudible distortion, a compressor will enhance it. So maybe try another bass, install a new battery in your bass, try a different power supply, cord, etc. to see if anything shows up you can isolate.

    Worst case scenario is your bass and Warden just aren’t going to get along. It sometimes happens with some bass and compressor combinations. (My Spector and one Ross type compressor I have are like that. “They jus’ don’t git along.”) So if that’s the case, your only alternative is to flip the Warden and try something else. Which is no big deal. The Warden is a popular compressor and not difficult to unload should it sadly come to that.

    Minor note: some compressors can become really cool sounding distortion boxes at the right settings when when paired with the right instrument. That’s because nearly all compressors pack some serious boost on their makeup gain stage. So while it’s not the most obvious or common way to use a compressor, some people swear by using their compressor as a dirt box.

    Luck! :thumbsup::)
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021