I'm gonna need a good compressor... (kinda long but I need help)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bassman1185, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. Ok, here's the deal:

    I'm in the process of assembling a pedalboard. I got the extra large, extra wide model from Rondomusic.net, which is 29 1/2" long by 15 3/4" wide by 5 1/2" deep. Right now I have a Boss ME50B, which I dig a lot, and a Boss DS-1, which sucks all the low end out of a bass. I'm going to use the DS-1 in conjunction with a flanger or sub-octave to experiment with some wacky synth sounds. I also have a Russian Big Muff Pi on the way.

    I play in a hardcore/metal band with pretty much two levels of dynamics: really loud, and really, really loud, and at my church, where the volume is, ahem, a bit more subdued. With both my band and at church, I try to get a variety of sounds to make things more interesting (hence the multiple effects and pedals). My amp (Kustom Groove 1200) nicely covers all the volume requirements

    My problem arises when I use the different effects. My overall volume often rises (with the flanger or phaser on the ME50B) or drops (with the DS-1). I know that a compressor will help me out quite a bit, but I'm having a hard time figuring out which one will work best for me. Most of the pedals that I'm seeing are either too noisy (Boss and digitech) or don't offer enough tweaking to be useful for my range of music (BBE). I've been researching the Alesis Nanocompressor and the ART Levelar, and both seem like they might work. I've read that the ART sounds excellent for bass, which is cool, but I'm not sold on it actually working the way I need it to. The Alesis seems like it would work great for me, but I read that it doesn't sound so great for bass alone, that it's more of a PA compressor.


    Whatever I get will be mounted last on my pedalboard so that it will be compressing the final signal that will go through my BBE Sonic Maximizer into my amp. I can use whatever suggestions you give me.
  2. D-Bone


    Jul 5, 2006
    What it sounds like is, you're gaining your signal too high in your effects chain. Using a Compressor will get the volume down, but at a price I don't think you're going to like AT ALL.

    Ideally, you should have about the same volume levels coming out of your board as if they weren't even on, unless YOU are intentionally trying to preamp your signal as a BOOST for certain passages in your songs. (And that should be done in either the first or last part of your chain with your desired preamp/boost/EQ.)

    You might want to adjust your outputs and gains on all your pedals first. (This is one of the reasons I DON'T like multi-effects.) You'll still get the same effect tones, but it will be more controllable. Adding a compressor to a volume that is that dynamic is just going to squeeze your sound to the point that it's not going to sound like a bass at all. (Remember the keyboards in the intro of "Blue Collar Man" by Styx?) Clamping the peaks down too tight will cause that. Then you're going to want them to release them very quickly, yet you'll throw another hard note at it, it's just going to do the same thing again and again. You need to get your board's levels under your control.

    There's nothing wroing with using compression, but it won't fix the issue that you're describing the way you have it now. And you're adding a Big Muff Pi too? The whole point of effects is to "marinate" your sound like you would a steak. The compressor won't take the "Garlic" out, once you already have it in the mix. It's might mask a poor "recipe", but you're not going to like it's "flavor" either.....

    Perhaps you might also opt for a volume pedal before adding compression.
  3. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    I think you should consider LA (leveling amplifier) type comps.
  4. Thanks for the feedback, D-Bone. I know that ideally, your volume stays the same whether you're using a totally dry signal or a highly effected one, but I'm just having a difficult time using certain effects or settings and keeping the volume constant. That is my one gripe about the ME-50B: the flanger and phaser are almost not usable because they add so much volume.

    Dunamis: What exactly is an LA compressor? I have never heard that term.
  5. D-Bone


    Jul 5, 2006
    +1 dunamis!
  6. D-Bone


    Jul 5, 2006
    The Flange and Phase are both constantly shifting their EQ settings around. This alone will cause volume peaks and mid swells, due to many things (including your cab's port tuning.)

    This is simply in their nature. These are nice for solo parts, but the bass is far more dynamic than guitar and affects them more dramaticly.

    If/when I DO run either of these in the course of a song, I like both a dry out and a wet out and add/take away from the wet side. This keeps me from losing all bass during the "cycling of the shifts". But you have to run 2 channels to do it. I use these more for recording than gigging......
  7. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    If the fx can't be set to unity, and a compressor is needed after all, you probably want one with full control over ratio, threshold, attack, release, and output level, in order to gain full control over the levels in a way that sounds at least somewhat "natural". A comp or leveling amp with only two controls will put a stranglehold on your sound by the time you set it to manage very different levels.

    If it's just peaks that are a concern, a limiter is the ticket; and fortuitously, a comp with a full set of controls can be set to be a limiter as well.
  8. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    If you need a limiter, you should try the Boss LMB-3 Limiter Enhancer.
  9. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    Pasted in from http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_understanding_compressors_compression/

    "Leveling amplifiers * The leveling amplifier is a compressor with a medium attack time, a medium to slow release time, a high ratio and a low threshold. The purpose of a leveling amp is to be constantly leveling the signal, always in gain reduction, holding the audio signal down in a smooth way (ergo the name). The average loudness of the program audio becomes higher since lower-level sounds are amplified, and louder sounds are leveled off. The slow release time ensures that sound level doesn't drastically change or "pump" up and down as it would with a faster release time setting. Early leveling amps had few controls: Ratio, attack and release settings were all internally fixed. Tube leveling amps are popular for bass, guitars, program mixes and vocals because they exert a smoothing action that works well for many production styles. The Teletronix LA-2 is the classic tube leveling amp."

    LA comps are my favorite and (IMO) do the best job of producing the smoothing you've decribed.

    Examples are:

    Universal Audio LA2A
    Demeter Compulator
    ART Levelar
    Summit TLA-50

    There are probably others but, for me, these are the ones that spring to mind.


  10. EricF

    EricF Habitual User

    Sep 26, 2005
    Pasadena, CA
    You mentioned a volume drop with your DS-1. This is a typical condition with OD/distortion pedals. To stay present in the mix, a volume boost is usually required. If you're noticing bottom end loss with the DS-1, I'd suggest trying something that works better with bass - the Big Muff is a good start.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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