What exactly does compression do?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by slapcracklepop, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. slapcracklepop


    Jun 28, 2005
    Boston, MA
    The title says it all. Thanks :bassist:
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Suck out all your tone!! ;)
  3. specplyrz

    specplyrz Inactive

    Nov 11, 2005

    GOOD ANSWER! :smug:
  4. Compressors control gain by controlling the amplitude of the sine wave......blah blah.....the up shot is you can slam the strings as hard as you like, and the volume remains constant.

    Thats really only a 50c answer...........notwithstanding any negative effects on tone.

    dg :)
  5. mlove


    Jun 12, 2005
    it makes your' dynamics more consistant.
  6. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA

    But in all seriousness, I used to like compression, but now it's really annoying because i'm very dynamic. The good part is that it adds sustain.
  7. Here's a link, it has a graph which is helpful.

    My experience with compression is mostly with cheap pedals like DOD/boss, and little box units like an alesis.

    If you want a compressor to increase your sustain you may be disappointed especially if you have a bolt-on bass without much sustain to begin with. Basically with a stompbox, youre not gonna get much noticable sustain without using lots of compression. Lots of compression means you need to turn up the gain knob and add a bunch of noise and distortion(the bad kind not warm tube kind) from the cheap buffer amp on the stompbox.

    What you can get is a percussive sound or "chunk" at the beginning of your notes by playing with the attack and release. This can sound really cool or really horrible depending on what you like. If you like to "dig in" and hit the strings hard you might like it. If you use a really light attack then you'll probably hate it.
  8. Compression, basically takes the high levels from you sound, reduces them then brings the whole thing back up again. it squashes the loudest peaks and boosts the quieter levels
  9. JJBluegrasser

    JJBluegrasser Wannabe Snazzy Dresser

    Apr 17, 2003
    USA, Raleigh, NC
    I'm an engineer, so I like to dork out on all the technical explanations pretty frequently. In that mind set, I never really used compression for a reasonably long time (I'm only 27, so even in my wildest dreams, my experience isn't even close to that of some of the posters here). I used it on my upright because slapping used to blow people of the room.

    Recently, I played electric in a production of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and they put us directly on the stage. The whole time, they kept saying "can you please turn down the instruments," especially the bass. I couldn't get my volume at a place where I could hear and they couldn't hear too much, and it was very frustrating. Finally, I used a little bit of compression (not squash your tone settings, but mild optical compression...there are knobs on these things for a reason) on the signal, and suddenly things got a lot better.

    See, what was happening was that MOST of the time, the bass was fine for the show, but every once in a while, I'd dig in, or some notes would ring louder and cross over into the vocal parts, and to the theater people, that all meant "TOO LOUD."

    So my answer for "What exactly does compression do?" Well, in my estimation, it evens things out a bit. How much is up to you. I couldn't even really tell mine was on, but it definitely made a difference. I'm using it all the time now that I've seen the value up close. You could do the same thing with a more consistent right hand approach, and a perfect bass, but for those of us in the non-ideal world, it can be a valuable tool.

    IMHO, FWIW, etc,
  10. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Inactive

    Nov 20, 2005
    When used correctly it gives you an edgy attack with increased sustain without overdriving or distorting your sound.
  11. Tedintheshed

    Tedintheshed Inactive

    Oct 8, 2004
    Columbus, Ohio
    Here is a response from Pete that I modified slightly that really helps answers this question, IMO.

  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As you say - more consistent technique would be an answer to this problem, but if not, surely a limiter, rather than compressor would have been the better tool?
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    There you go again, inveterately dissenting. Compressor, limiter, whatever. If it works, it works, and that's the bottom line.

    As for your comment on technique, nobody's perfect...not even you. Besides, compressors aren't always used to cover lapses in technique. Some people switch from fingers to picks to slapping a lot, and if they're like me, they will often do it all in the same song. A compressor keeps your bass from blowing out PA speakers. Hell, just last night, I prevented my bass from blowing out my friend's PA. It was starting to sound like I was blowing the woofers when I played hard, so I turned up the ratio to 3:1 from 2:1 and problem solved. In addition, it will also keep your bass from getting lost in the room when you play quietly.

    You have this idea that a compressor robs you of your dynamics, and nothing can be farther from the truth. It evens them out a little, but trust me, you can easily tell when I go from quiet to loud. You CAN use it to rob you of your dynamics, but most people are smart enough not to set them to a -30 db threshold with a 20:1 ratio.

    If compressors had no use, then why do almost all bass players who are well-known for being great technicians use them? Dave LaRue at one time had 3 compressors going in his rack, and for all I know he still does.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Ask Jim K !! ;)
  15. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Houston, TX
    I'll just email Tony Levin to tell him to stop using all those compressors and sit down and practice because he obviously needs the practice with his use of compression :eek:

  16. There aren't many, if any professional engineers that don't use compression on the bass in the mix. I'll bet your signal at gigs is being compressed at the FOH desk without you even knowing most of the time! And furthermore, nearly every bass tone you hear and aspire too on your favourite CD has been compressed during mixing and mastering.

    And on the contrary, compression does not rob you of your tone, in most cases it adds to it! Learn how to use a proper compressor and it will become your best friend. and like someone else already mentioned, just because you have one doesn't mean you have to turn all the knobs up full.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Before this gets out of hand - I'd just like to say that it was JJBlueGrasser who made the comment about technique - not me!! :)
  18. JJBluegrasser

    JJBluegrasser Wannabe Snazzy Dresser

    Apr 17, 2003
    USA, Raleigh, NC
    That's a good point, Bruce, if I were only talking about limiting the "turn the bass down" notes. The compressor was also helpful, because at lower volumes, I could still hear the softer notes, which kept me from turning up to hear myself. A good point nonetheless. I guess it depends on a players particular technical eccentricities:)

    Hey now:) I like my compressor...
  19. Thanks for quoting me, Ted. It seems like I was not in the best mood :bassist:

    I post about compression because I hope it helps dispel rumors and the like. I'm also a jerk because I think that "compression" should be treated differently than "a compressor". Compressors often have other circuits in the box and that causes confusion over what the compressor does. A "Blak Magik Super Comprexor" might have one or more gain stages in addition to a compression stage, but believe me, a compressor doesn't amplify anything. it might have EQ or some tonal coloration. With any luck it is not the compression stage doing any of the tone shaping.

    I learned to evaluate compression using test equipment and good metering. Much of the time compression is almost impossible to hear. It is difficult to explain, but IMO some of the best sounding compression is when you can't even tell it is there. All is does is keep the peaks from causing problems downstream.

    Compression as an effect is pretty cool, but it is a pretty rare use of compression when you look around the audio world.

    Again, it is cool to be quoted!
    Got Compression?
  20. Tedintheshed

    Tedintheshed Inactive

    Oct 8, 2004
    Columbus, Ohio
    I quote you Pete because when you answered the question for me, it opened up a whole world of understanding. It is simple to understand, well writen and factual. I hope that it is that way for others too.

    As for your mood, bro- I didn't see it that way. You were very helpful and understanding.