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Steve Harris Compression

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by J03YW, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. J03YW


    Nov 23, 2012
    What kind of compressor could get me close to Steve Harris's tone? Backstory: Steve uses heavy compression and lightly brushes his (rather heavy) flatwound strings and gets a real clicky and bright tone. Please don't recommend crazy expensive stuff, please!

    EDIT: Forgot to mention that my TCE BG250 comes in the mail tomorrow, could the spectracomp get close?
  2. With that setup, don't expect a Harris tone out of the box. I would know, as I have the BG500 combo. The compressor is dynamic but not as dynamic as several thousand dollar tube studio compressors (as per Steve's setup).

    Little of his tone is in his compression. It's mostly in his feathery touch and modified precision bass. The rest is a little amp grit, compression, and pushing 12s and 18s.

    You could get a Harris-esque tone with treble up, mids flat (or a tad cut), bass flat, tube tone a tad, and tweeter tone up a bit.
  3. J03YW


    Nov 23, 2012
    Thanks for saving me a little money there.
  4. You sir, must have not listened to any of his isolated tracks. The only compression you hear is done by the producer at 0:39-0:50 (of this song The Trooper) Im just using this song as an example. Listen to others....i dont hear light compression....never mind heavy


    Mind you i haven't listened to EVERY one,,,,but ones i have...they all sound like this (to me)
  5. Anyways IMHO...tone is achieved in the gear your using....way before recording. Compression is a process that intentionally reduces the dynamic range of audio signals. Google it.
    Its a good read!

  6. freu


    Dec 7, 2010
    On 'where eagles dare' steve played a 4*12 Marshall closed cab with eminence speakers, just mic sound, thats adds a lot of compression.
    hiwatt tube preamp, lots of compression.
    DBX 160 compressor, compression.
    Compressor added during the mixing and mastering.
    the end, heavy compression.
    Grimoire likes this.
  7. bassie12


    Aug 23, 2008
    The thing to remember is when high quality studio gear is used to do lots of compression, it doesn't necessarily need to sound very compressed at all if the driver knows whats he's doing.
  8. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    This sounds very compressed to my ears. Maybe its the nature of youtube.
  9. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    That's the thing exactly: a good compressor, used properly, results in a very articulate "uncompressed" perception of the sound. Most people's ideas of what compression sounds like is from abuse, and from comps that are not very good.

    Harris not only uses an old 160, he keeps a spare in the rack as backup--so I'm guessing he thinks it's an important part of his sound.

    Just in case anyone wonders, the current and recent models of dbx 160 are a completely different circuit than the one Harris uses (commonly called the 160 "VU").
  10. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    A set of groundwound or flatwound strings also helps. I can pull off a similar sound out of my P-bass which has grounds on it through my BG500-210. I'll try your settings later.
  11. davidjackson


    Sep 10, 2011
    The Harris tone is from the heavy flatwound strings that are very high tension. The clicky aspect of the tone is from the action being set so low. The Harris tribute bass (I own one) has a big fat neck and a Badass 2 bridge to cope with the high tension strings.

    If you aren't playing with flatwounds that are that low and 'stiff' you are going to struggle to get close to his tone.

    I think compression is a bit of a red herring in all of this.
  12. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Yep that it. Add some sloppy technique to that and you are ready to rock
    joebar likes this.
  13. listen to this man he knows! thanks Bongomania for all your help in the past. rtslinger
  14. Thank you

    Wasn't even gonna go into the studio time I have put in to know what I'm talking about. I'm going to just leave it at that
  15. Bongo's point is a good one. Harris' sound IMO doesnt have any "heavy" audible compression. So.....whatever
  16. This might be a better example:

    Anyone who tells you there is no audible compression going on there doesn't know what a 160 sounds like.

    The 166 can get you in to the ball park for cheaper. If you are using one of the new ones with the attack/release knobs turn them off(set to auto). High ratio, set the the threshold so you can control the amount of 'smoosh' in the attack with your playing style.
  17. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sound like a hard limiter set-up with about 10dB of dynamic range. Super compressed.
  18. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    It also doesn't sound like a feather touch, but rather a heavy pluck which generates all the fret-click.
    It's amazing how sloppy he plays at times, listen to the chording at around 2:05, you can hear the E-string ringing along.
    indodust and joebar like this.
  19. triviani


    Oct 23, 2010
    Nice thread, some good info. Missed it 4 years ago.

    joebar likes this.
  20. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    steve isn't a gear hound. apparently not a technique hound either lol.

    it really is in the fingers and how he attacks the strings IMO
    crapusername likes this.