Proposal: An Actual Compressor Guide

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by remcult, Jul 21, 2020.

  1. remcult

    remcult Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2012
    New Jersey
    So I've got an idea that I don't have the expertise for: there seems to be a real desire for a guide to compressors. The same questions come up again and again, and it seems to be an effect type/tool that many people swear by but also eludes many others (myself included to some degree).

    How comprehensive the guide gets would be up to the contributors, but I was thinking a sticky made by a few authors would be best, where the main types of compressors are gone over and defined (tube, optical, FET, VCA) in a relatively straightforward way that would make sense as an introduction to the type, with pros and cons and why some people prefer using one over others.

    For instance:

    word words words. words words words words. words. words words words.

    For: some people with [preferences]
    Not For: other people with [different preferences]

    Then, a short-ish breakdown of popular choices by size, price range, type, transparency, etc. This could also come with short notes (say a sentence each) on different models. Maybe just for very notable ones, maybe not.

    For instance:

    Solid Mini Optical Compressors in the $150-200 range
    This one by A Company
    Another by Some Other Company
    Can't Forget The Old Favorite by Yet Another Company

    What do you think?
    NinjaPyrate and Jakeman like this.
  2. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Austin, TX
  3. remcult

    remcult Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2012
    New Jersey
    that's in the ballpark of what I mean, and is helpful, but not quite. I like those reviews, but I was thinking something for people who genuinely want to narrow their choices with just the essential info for options and some background, and then from there (if they want to dive deeper) can check out sites like that or reviews from @scubaduba
    NinjaPyrate likes this.
  4. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    I've been adding pro's and con's to the reviews on my site which might be a step in the right direction:

    Here's some thoughts:
    1. As I have reviewed compressors (now nearly 90 I think) I have come to terms with the fact that what compressor might seem to be a slam dunk for one would be less than ideal for another. Preference plays a huge part of the decision making process.

    2. What instrument(s) people use has a huge impact on what type of compressor will work best. Passive vs. active. Open and bright pickups vs. inherently dark sounding pickups.

    3. Level of familiarity and experience with compression has a huge impact on a recommendation.

    4. What type of compression you are looking for. On the surface level you have compression for smoothing tone, helping control dynamics, limiting spikes, "tone magic", etc. Then you have another level of optical vs. tube vs. VCA etc.

    5. Signal chain placement. People PM me all the time with questions about compressors and often it comes down to how a compressor is reacting due to where it is placed in a signal chain. A compressor that might seem to be killer first in a chain might not work so far down in a chain — or at least react noticeably different.

    6. What is a "solid choice" to me might not be to you. For example, in the mini category I would consider the Broughton Monocle and Becos CompIP Mini to both be solid choices. But the fact that the Monocle is nearly impossible to find on the market might not make it a solid choice right? What criteria makes for a top choice? Format, size, price, availability, jack placement, power requirements, noise level, versatility, tone control, attack control, ratio control, threshold control, release control, side chain, auto timing, parallel compression, soft/hard knee, input gain, "tone magic" (what even is that varies from person to person), etc. etc.

    Cutting to the chase, at best compressor reviews provide commentary around the inherent qualities of a device. At worse, a review leads someone astray due to difference of interpretation of what it means to be "fat", or "punchy", or "transparent", or harping on qualities that don't matter to the user.

    I do my best to communicate the inherent qualities and attributes to hopefully help the user determine if it would be 1) of interest and 2) suit their preferences and 3) be workable in their configuration. People ask me all the time to publish a "Top 10 list" and I have resisted to date because I can almost guarantee that my top 10 will not be yours even if our setups were identical.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2020
  5. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    frankzap likes this.
  6. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    sears and frankzap like this.
  7. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    After reading all the compressor reviews I think I've come to the conclusion that there could be maybe 10 compressors on the market and let that be it :)

    Pick a couple of each type, discontinue the rest!
    Frodolicious, frankzap and remcult like this.
  8. remcult

    remcult Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2012
    New Jersey
    I understand your points, they make sense. But it sounds like you're saying that diving in-depth into compression/compressors is the only way, when just about every topic on is capable of being "dumbed down" for beginners. Of course a top 10 list wouldn't be objective or absolute, and of course some people would interpret the language used differently than others, but I don't see that as meaning that a beginner/generalist guide (that chooses to focus on some criteria and doesn't make any pretense to being the end-all be-all guide to compressors) would be an impossible or pointless endeavor. It would be like teaching a beginner's course on physics (or English lit, or any subject), where some important things are glossed over to be covered later on or looked into by those who show an interest.

    But like I said, I don't have the knowledge/expertise for this, so if people aren't up for it, fair enough.
    NinjaPyrate likes this.
  9. crguti


    Feb 14, 2011
    Why not just asking, ‘I think I want a compressor but i don’t know for what or why’.
  10. As a beginner (20 year acoustic guitar/banjo player), while I like to nerd out and dive in deep, picking a first bass compressor is pretty confusing. I've spent hours reading reviews from and as well as listening to comparison videos (with headphones on) where a beginner can't here much difference. Adjectives like fat, smooth, and punchy don't really have meaning yet when it comes to bass and fattening or smoothing my tone sounds like a good thing but I don't really know. Different reviews have conflicting info - because people have opinions. I've gone back and forth many times, and at this point I feel like I should pick up a Keely Bassist or Markbass Compressore, which I understand are very different pedals (I was sold on the Spectracomp for a while but am now unsold). A beginner guide would be super helpful for a newb like me - reading 100 reviews isn't really getting me there.
  11. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    I think ovnilabs top compressors for each price range plus the descriptions he has on the different types pretty much does this.
    I think an updated list of favorites per price range could do beginners alot of good.
    They can then look at the reviews of suggested compressors where it will describe the character, explain what it does and type of gear/tone goals it is suitable for. Yes some things might go over their head but they can skim over that stuff. I think the reviews on that site and scubas both have some very simple descriptions in their reviews amongst the more detailed stuff.
    There is just too many options and variables for a straight forward silver platter service.
    eriky4003 likes this.
  12. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I honestly think compressors may be one topic where you can’t really dumb it down very much and still have it remain informative. You can read about parameters and what each control does till your eyes glaze over. But until you sit down with a compressor and your bass and rig and really put some time and critical listening into it, it isn’t going to ever make sense. YouTube demos are going to be mostly useless because YouTube itself puts so much compression of its own on the audio to save bandwidth that you aren’t going to hear the the nuances and subtleties of the compressor being demoed anyway.

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