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Do I need a compressor? Update - I've got one!


ossyrocks

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Whilst new to bass, I'm still practicing every day for at least an hour, mostly with my little Rumble 15.

 

However, I broke out "the big rig" yesterday and found that I struggled to control the dynamics of the beast with my Precision. Maybe I was just too loud overall for the house, don't know, but I wondered if a compressor would help me to balance my tone/dynamics a bit. I have an audition/try out coming up for a pop/rock/soul covers band in the next week or two. This will be my very first time playing bass with other musicians, and after playing through the big rig yesterday, I wondered if a good compressor would help me, especially in a band context.

 

I understand guitar compressors pretty well, having had a few, but they never really made it to a permanent position on the board, but I think bass is a whole other kettle of fish.

 

Who uses one? What does it do for you? What might it do for me?

 

And.... what do you make of the ones in this round up? https://www.guitarworld.com/features/best-bass-compressor-pedals

 

Fire away, I can take it.

 

Cheers,

Rob

Edited by ossyrocks
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I'd say it is worthwhile but you might want to spend some time getting used to it before playing out with it as they can be set badly and make things sound worse. Also, different compressors can sound suprisingly different so it might be worth nerding out at www.onvilab.com and deciding if you want one to be transparent, tone enhancer, limiter, adding sustain, etc. and if you want metering, simple vs complex, digital vs analogue, optical vs tube vs VCA vs FET, side-chain, multiband etc. 

 

Ones I've owned that I'd recommend: Cali 76 Bass, FEA Opti-FET, EQD the Warden, Markbass Compressore.

 

And a couple I've owned that I wouldn't recommend so much: Pigtronix Philosopher Bass, MXR M87 (it's very likely these didn't sound that great for me as I didn't know what I was doing with them and set them badly).

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As I play less frequently nowadays I find a compressor extremely helpful - I used to hate the things so this is only a recent revelation, maybe 2-3 months old, and I'm on my 3rd compressor already. The Origin Cali76 Compact Bass is outstandingly good, but since I don't like to have too much money tied up in pedals I built a clone of the ThorpyFX Fat General which sounds awesome...

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I didn't use a compressor for years and years but when I was making recordings during lockdown, a friend of mine who runs a sound reinforcement company and also writes and records to a very high level, suggested some particular compression settings to make the bass sit in the mix better, after I sent him the demos to listen to. I applied these settings and was suitably impressed. This got me thinking that if that worked for recordings, then it must work for live work, especially given that pro FOH engineers use it. After listening to many YT demos and reading a fair bit, I settled on the MXR M87. It was within my budget and I liked what it did. Like a recording, I have at the end of my signal chain, pre amplifier to mimic that effect that made my recorded bass sit better in the mix, in addition, any inconstancies in level that come from my FX are evened out into the bargain (I had them set up by ear to be the same as the dry signal, but the VU on the M87 showed that they weren't the same at all). Also takes care of any 'hot spots' on your fretboard. My compressor is on all the time.

 

A word of warning. Compressors have been a source of, let's be polite, heated discussion on BC in the past. Hopefully, this thread won't descend into one of those.

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19 minutes ago, ezbass said:

A word of warning. Compressors have been a source of, let's be polite, heated discussion on BC in the past. Hopefully, this thread won't descend into one of those.

 

It will. It's as inevitable as Thanos :D

 

@ossyrocks This topic has been covered many time on Basschat as EZ alludes to above. It's definitely worth doing a search to see what turns up, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about compressors and compression in general so take some of what you read with a massive pinch of salt. 

 

But in short, no, you don't need one. BUT... if you understand what they do and how to use them then they will make your bass sound more consistent and polished, and, depending on which type of compressor you go for they can add a ton of punch and/or character to your tone too. FWIW, I always use them as it just makes the bass 'feel' better to me. 

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IMO, If you want to focus on the music instead of your dinamics flaws, it can be very helpful. Compression must be understood to be wisely used. You might need to test several settings before finding what works best for you. 

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I wouldn't be without a compressor on my pedal board. But as others have said, you need to find the one that suits you. I use compression as the main means of my tone shaping. 

Best place to start is a tc electronic Spectracomp... cheap s/h, comes with a bunch of toneprints (presets) you can download so you don't have to worry about being able to set one up properly, only one knob so can't go wrong, and later you can edit in the app if you want to experiment with it in more detail. 

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5 hours ago, Boodang said:

I wouldn't be without a compressor on my pedal board. But as others have said, you need to find the one that suits you. I use compression as the main means of my tone shaping. 

Best place to start is a tc electronic Spectracomp... cheap s/h, comes with a bunch of toneprints (presets) you can download so you don't have to worry about being able to set one up properly, only one knob so can't go wrong, and later you can edit in the app if you want to experiment with it in more detail. 

Even though I have a spectracomp and find it a very good compressor I think it's more an advanced user tool. One can use the tone prints and get away with it, and never really know what's going on or how to achieve it in another compressor. On the other side it can be overwhelming if you start editing a multi band compressor. I would rather have a cheap, simple but very capable boss lmb3 (in case you're on a tight budget) were you can set ratio and threshold. 

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@A.G.E.N.T.E. Makes a good point about budget. If money is tight and you’re experimenting with compression, something like a Behringer pedal might not be a bad start point, not robust at all, but an affordable gateway product and probably a clone of one of the name brands https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0605 https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0592 

 

Just for balance, there is the other end of the price spectrum with the often revered Cali76 https://origineffects.com/product/cali76-compact-bass/

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Based on decades of buying gear, I’m not one to skimp on it, as it always ends up being a false economy. I’d rather buy a good one now and get to know how to use it properly. The Cali76 seems to be getting a few notable mentions, so maybe that’s what I’ll get.

 

I am playing a vintage ‘73 Precision through a Mark Bass rig, so I need to do them justice.

 

Thanks for all the input so far, it’s really useful.

 

Rob

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8 minutes ago, ossyrocks said:

Based on decades of buying gear, I’m not one to skimp on it, as it always ends up being a false economy. I’d rather buy a good one now and get to know how to use it properly. The Cali76 seems to be getting a few notable mentions, so maybe that’s what I’ll get.

 

I am playing a vintage ‘73 Precision through a Mark Bass rig, so I need to do them justice.

 

Thanks for all the input so far, it’s really useful.

 

Rob

You can't go wrong with the Cali 

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1 hour ago, ossyrocks said:

Based on decades of buying gear, I’m not one to skimp on it, as it always ends up being a false economy. I’d rather buy a good one now and get to know how to use it properly. The Cali76 seems to be getting a few notable mentions, so maybe that’s what I’ll get.

 

I am playing a vintage ‘73 Precision through a Mark Bass rig, so I need to do them justice.

 

Thanks for all the input so far, it’s really useful.

 

Rob

There's one for sale in the classifieds for £220 which seems about the going rate. If you don't like it you could probably sell it for a similar price. 

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11 minutes ago, SumOne said:

There's one for sale in the classifieds for £220 which seems about the going rate. If you don't like it you could probably sell it for a similar price. 

Very true.

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49 minutes ago, SumOne said:

There's one for sale in the classifieds for £220 which seems about the going rate. If you don't like it you could probably sell it for a similar price. 

Hmm, they are £269 new inc. postage, so for an extra £40 I could have a new one.

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2 hours ago, ossyrocks said:

Hmm, they are £269 new inc. postage, so for an extra £40 I could have a new one.

You could... and then decide you don't like it and loss that £40 in resale... but I doubt you'd not like it to be honest! Great, great pedal. The one in the classifieds is no longer available anyway as I've just shipped it out!

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if you want to spend as little as possible your best bet might be the behringer bass limiter pedal. This is a type of compressor that works well in a live setting to keep your dynamics under control. If you can stretch to something costing a little more, the tc spectracomp is a great choice. 

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I think compressors don't just do one thing, they do all different things depending on how you set them up, where you run them in your signal path, and how that interacts with your playing style.

 

More than any other type of pedal, I think there's technique involved in using compression, so getting one might not immediately solve your problem until you've figured out what works for you.

 

Are you a finger style player, or a pick player? Do you use a lot of overdrive, or play clean? What other effects are you using?

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6 minutes ago, Vin Venal said:

I think compressors don't just do one thing, they do all different things depending on how you set them up, where you run them in your signal path, and how that interacts with your playing style.

 

More than any other type of pedal, I think there's technique involved in using compression, so getting one might not immediately solve your problem until you've figured out what works for you.

 

Are you a finger style player, or a pick player? Do you use a lot of overdrive, or play clean? What other effects are you using?

Finger style, but this audition may require a pick on some tunes, no overdrive, no other effects. 

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1 minute ago, ossyrocks said:

Finger style, but this audition may require a pick on some tunes, no overdrive, no other effects. 

OK cool, sounds like a compressor up front with a reasonably low threshold and ratio might smooth things out.

 

My problem with compression is it got in the way of the interaction between my pick and overdrive, and I never really play clean. Also my compressor had like 4 knobs, which is too many for a bassist to handle imo 😅.

 

A one knob job after the drive is right for me, as even though I don't use them the way many bassists do, a little bit of compression makes your tone sound more massive and dramatic imo.

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1 hour ago, Jean-Luc Pickguard said:

if you want to spend as little as possible your best bet might be the behringer bass limiter pedal. This is a type of compressor that works well in a live setting to keep your dynamics under control. If you can stretch to something costing a little more, the tc spectracomp is a great choice. 

 

I've not tried the Behringer myself, but it's a clone of the Boss LMB-3, which I have just been bigging up on another thread a minute ago :lol:.

 

The LMB-3 a very underrated comp pedal IMO and a great starting point for those new to compression. 

 

 

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You don’t ‘need’ a compressor, but stick a decent one in your chain, spend a bit of time getting used to the settings, and it should sound better.   I had the LMB-3 for a while and it’s great,  but then got a Hyper Luminal and realised you do get what you pay for.  There’s a lot of hair splitting between the top end compressors, and I don’t think you really get the full benefit until you’ve played and experimented with them for a while. 
You sound like you have a really decent bass and rig, so you probably don’t want to get a budget compressor, as your clean tone is probably great as it is. 

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18 hours ago, ossyrocks said:

Based on decades of buying gear, I’m not one to skimp on it, as it always ends up being a false economy. I’d rather buy a good one now and get to know how to use it properly. The Cali76 seems to be getting a few notable mentions, so maybe that’s what I’ll get.

 

I am playing a vintage ‘73 Precision through a Mark Bass rig, so I need to do them justice.

 

Thanks for all the input so far, it’s really useful.

 

Rob

Well, if you don't mind shelling out for something decent, check out the Aguilar TLC. There's an Andertons video on YouTube where they go through a bunch of Aguilar pedals so you can hear it in action.

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1 hour ago, Boodang said:

Well, if you don't mind shelling out for something decent, check out the Aguilar TLC. There's an Andertons video on YouTube where they go through a bunch of Aguilar pedals so you can hear it in action.

 

The Aguilar TLC is a very transparent compressor, which isn't a bad thing if that's what you're looking for. However, if you're looking for a compressor that adds some punch, character or tonal magic to your sound it's definitely one to avoid. If you're looking for those qualities the Cali is the obvious choice. But there's plenty of options available depending on the style of compression that the player wants. 

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Buy a spectra comp one knob compressor to start with.
They sound great and secondhand are great value for the quality.

They appear regularly on the market place.

Run through a few of the settings and see where your at, many people stick with them though.

There’s some really good presets in the App and they take seconds to change.

The other bonus is they have a tiny footprint for the pedal board.

if you love what it does you can look at more expensive all singing and dancing models and get your money back on the spectra comp if you decide to sell.

 

 

 

 

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  • ossyrocks changed the title to Do I need a compressor? Update - I've got one!

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