Mild overdrive as compressor?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Inconnu, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. Hi!

    I know that in theory, an overdrive compresses your signal. If you take the logic of that fact and think of it backwards, could you use an mild overdrive pedal and set it just before the sound breaks up, and use it as a compressor... meaning that only the loudest notes would distort a little? Would that help reduce peaks as well?
  2. Calebmundy


    Apr 5, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: DNA Amplifiers, Lākland Basses
    I find that my Sans amp set with every knob (except "presence"-gross) at noon gives me a great compressed sound.
  3. Knettgummi

    Knettgummi Guest

    Sep 28, 2011
    Sure, this would work. My overdrive is almost always on - nice saturated tones when playing softly, grindy when I "dig in". I've even run overdrive after fuzz at times to rein in the fuzziness and round off the harmonics.

    A lot of compressors strive to be as transparent as possible, but if you don't mind a little grit in your tone an OD could serve some of the same purpose.
  4. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    +1. An overdrive compresses by chopping off the peaks of your signal, which by definition is going to result in distortion. This can be a bit tricky though, because in doing so, it introduces new harmonics, which can mess with the ear's perception of loudness.

    This is compared to a compressor, which will actually change the volume of your loudest notes without otherwise modifying the signal (generally ;) ).
  5. Knettgummi

    Knettgummi Guest

    Sep 28, 2011
    Exactly. Your results will vary (greatly) depending on what kind of overdrive you're using - a very gentle soft-clipping circuit can saturate your tone without adding too much overtones, wheras a harder clip or something like a wrapping or rectifying waveshaper (more likely to be labeled a distortion) can alter the signal more noticably.

    It also bears mentioning that if you want to reliably reduce signal peaks, a compressor will offer controls that let you dial into that result more easily.

    To simplify a little: think of an overdrive as a type of compressor that raises the sound level before going into the effect, actively squashing the signal, wheras a compressor attenuates the peaks first and then raises the level after the effect to compensate. This means that the OD is likely to affect your signal more, while the compressor will sound cleaner. In the end, both effects will even out the signal dynamics.
  6. I remembered reading this brief thread a while back and thought I'd resurrect it after a little experiment that turned out well at a jam the other night.

    I wasn't getting the best sound or a great deal of volume using my EB-O through an Ampeg into an unmarked 810 cab (surprisingly!) so, I switched in my Marshall Guv'nor (original, black with red stripes model) with the gain about 2/3, the bass and mids maxed and the treble a tad under halfway. I set the volume to the desired level and got a spectacular tone! Playing softly fingerstyle gave a lovely retro 'burpy' sound, but diggin in had just a little bit of grit and a snappy top end. Stacking an ashdown drive after it sounded great too.

    Obviously I'll need to play around with this a while longer, but there is definitely potential for this to become my 'go-to' sound, I LOVED it!
  7. eeyorebass


    Jan 2, 2008
    The new version of the VFE White Horse, has a knob to blend between a clean compressor side and an OD side. Essentially, as I understand it, letting you choose how much compression you get from the opto comp and how much from the natural compression of the OD.