Miscellaneous Rumbles

Compressors

1

What compressor pedals ya'll using, and why?

2

Xotic SP compressor. It's small, versatile, transparent and true bypass. Good looking pedal too.

3

I’m using the compressors in the Eventide H9’s. (I still have a Dyna Comp, however, just coz I like it too much to get rid of it.)

4

Oh man.

I've evolved to two compressors on my main board, one before drives and dirt and the other after them. In the pre-dirt position I currently have the Empress Compressor - a very full-featured, adaptable/tweakable, "transparent" and possibly a bit cold/antiseptic tool. Why do I use it? For all those reasons.

But when I want more personality and distinction there, I can sub in the:
• MXR Studio Compressor (their take on the 1176, and the sweetest modestly-priced comp I know of, also a great small size for a crowded board),

• the Wampler Ego (among other things, the dandiest chicken-pickin' squeezer I've had my hands on, and expertly competent at anything else you'd ask a floor compressor to do),

• the big yellow Diamond (probably my all-time favorite juicy compressor - it simply makes everything sound better, and very FAT - but it's not what you'd call transparent, with its handy EQ tilt function, nor would you want it to be).

This pre-dirt compressor position sees a lot of swapping, mostly because I seem to get tired of the characteristic behavior of any single compressor, and/or just want to hear one of the others there.

The after-dirt position is much more stable. There I have the Xotic SP, an even smaller box than the MXR, though with fewer controls. It's another magic box. Whatever you play through it simply sounds better, don't ask me how. Essentially three settings on the outside of the pedal (light, medium, or heavy compression), apparently with a trimpot inside (which I've never used), plus volume and clean-blend. No matter what you do, you can't make it sound bad. (Which is also true of the Diamond, but not of the Empress.) I doubt if this one ever leaves my board.

If I had to point someone to a really high-quality compressor at a reasonable price, something that stands up to fully pro units and delivers lasting satisfaction, it would be between the Xotic and the MXR.

I'm perfectly happy with all these compressors (though the Empress, frankly, bores me), but I'm fixin' to spend my up through more expensive floor stomps that occupy a middle ground just below studio rack compressors. These are 300.00 - 500.00 pedals - a lot to pay for a floor compressor. I'm anxious to see if they'll boot any of the other favorites I've collected after playing with LOTS of compressors for many years.

Included in the expensive batch (which I haven't heard yet...): Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe (and the Origin SlideRig Deluxe); Pettyjohn Crush; Effectrode PC-2A; Bondi 2026. I have high hopes for the Origin Cali76, as it's supposed to be as close as you can get to the UA1176 in a compact pedal - and my ears like the characteristic smoothness and gloss of the 1176, whether or not it's "transparent."


Perhaps more useful is a list of compressors I've tried and moved along, most because they didn't move me. That includes:
• MXR DynaComp: actually, I still have mine, the first comp I bought - in 1979 - and in some ways it's the granddaddy. But it's noisy and pretty easy to hear its deficiencies in comparison to newer better gear.

• DOD Milkbox84: cheap but good, but not good enough. Grainy-sounding.

• Barber TonePress: first "parallel" comp I had, which mixes the compressed signal with dry. A good idea. But after awhile I realized the compressor part of the box was really undistinguished.

• JangleBox. Has that one over-compressed McGuinn 12-string trick down cold, but it was mediocre as a general-purpose compressor. I understand the new JangleBox3 is supposed to be way dandier - but it takes up three pedals' worth of space. That's a non-starter for me.

• Maxon CP9Pro+. Really a fine compressor, kinda combines characteristics of the fabulous Diamond (fat-sounding) with more tweakability, like the Empress. I just found when I tweaked it, I made it sound like the Diamond, except the Maxon was actually more "transparent". And that's a good thing. But it didn't make me sound better. I have nothing bad to say about it, though - and it's a very nice size.

• Keeley 4-knob. Ehh, so what.

• Keeley Compressor Pro. I had such high hopes for such a highly-hyped handsome box, by the self-proclaimed master of pedal compression. And for awhile I seemed to like it. But when I compared it critically to the Empress and the MXR, it didn't stand up to either. It's warmer and has more character than the Empress, but is also grainier and audibly pumpier in operation - and it didn't have the character of the little blue MXR. So, alas, off it went.


Why do you ask?

5

I've never really been a compressor guy in a live context...i like being able to exploit the extreme end of my dynamic range. IMO most stompbox compressors don't have the control set to be truly effective. when i want to compress, i have a Rane stereo compressor in my rack that i like, but i still want e.g. separate attack and decay controls. the only really relevant thing i have to say is that i didn't like the Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone much at all.

6

Oh I forgot that one, which I tried for about 10 minutes. What a turd!

7

Keeley Compressor Pro

8

Xotic SP compressor -- a great little box that got me back into using a compressor. It's first of the seven pedals on my main board.

Just for the hell of it I've recently cobbled together a second board using a few pedals that were sitting around doing nothing. It includes a Rocktron 'Surf' compressor/tremolo box -- a strange combination in one pedal, but it sounds surprisingly good to me.

9

Are you talking about a live or a recording situation Sean?

Live, that little Xotic SP is just dandy. Great control with the three-level compression interface and blend function- everything from invisible smoothness to full-on vacuum cleaner. Just can't set it to sound bad. Perfect for your glossy blisspop sensibilities.

For the studio, do it afterwards with a plugin or rackmount. Always sounds better.

10

I've got one of the old "Ross" compressors from way back.

An old guitar buddy had it in a bag of "gear and stuff," and didn't want it, so he handed it to me.

I scored!!!!!!!!!!!

...------

11

Wow! Thanks so much, fellas for all of your wisdom and input! I've never been a big comp guy, but love the sound of one. I've been using a ( head down in shame) Line 6 Constrictor that I got in a trade, and it's pretty nice sounding, but now I want "better". That xotic seems to be getting a lot of love...isn't it sort of a Ross inspired pedal? Maybe I should start hiding cash for that!

12

I'm also an Xotic fan. Great little pedal that has made up for my experience with a Boss CS-whatever-I-don't-care-it-was-awful.

13

Evidently I'm decompressed. I'll have to check into one of these myself.

14

Three Leaf Audio. Perfectly clean with TONS of head room. Switchable "Vintage" Modern" compression profile. Separate input and gain controls.

It's 'always on'.

15

What compressor pedals ya'll using, and why?

– hilosean

For Gretsch; Xotic SP, because it plays nicely with the original Gretschbuckers on my 5120.

For Rickenbacker 360/12 string; the original black Janglebox, and the JBII. Both I think have been discontinued. So you ask "Why two JBs?" The answer is because sometimes I run the guitar in stereo where the neck pickup is routed to the stage left amplifier, and the bridge pickup is routed to the stage right amplifier, each having its own compressor.

16

Most of the pedal compressors on the market are of the MXR/Ross variety with various tweaks. Super spongy with weird pumping/breathing sorts of stuff going on. Fine if you want to sound like Phish, or "Under the Bridge," but very artificial to my ear.

I find the Orange Sqeezer type circuit much more useful. Retains all the snap and pop of the attack, but evens things out without getting into that funny sustain thing. The BBE Orange Squash can be found pretty cheaply and sounds pretty good, but my current favorite is the Hartman.

If you're really serious about compression, you need a rack unit. I'm not that serious.

17

I've been using the Origin Effects Cali 76 for a few years. To my ears it does a magnificent job of all the things compressors are supposed to do...... Does things better than previous compressor pedals I've owned (Barber, Keeley, C. Martin.....). Expensive, but I love it.

It is large (8" x 6"). It has been discontinued and replaced by the Cali 76 Compact Deluxe.

Assuming the compact version does everything as well as the original, I would love to get my hands on one. I'm still in the process of trying to rationalize/justify said purchase.......

18

I'm trying to stay away from hearing the big Origin, Dan - I do NOT want to tear a board apart to make room for it (or decide what I'd leave off), so I'd rather not know.

I've noted that while reviewers and players universally love the Compact (which is my next adventure), at least a couple have said it isn't QUITE everything the big one is.

Maybe we can chalk that up to owner resentment of a newer, smaller, less expensive pedal that replaces their behemoths. Since you have the senior model (which all agree is a marvel), you can take that attitude!

19

I just kept it simple and went with the classic Boss Compressor Sustainer CE-3. Used at $50 after shipping. There are lots of boutique pedals out there but thought Boss is tried and true so I’ll stick with that. It’s a fine pedal for what I use it for.

20

Most of the pedal compressors on the market are of the MXR/Ross variety with various tweaks.

That seems a little like saying all electric guitars are of the Tele or Gibson ES variety, since those were the first of their lineage. It's technically true in a chronological sense, but it doesn't say anything useful about the modern iterations of either.

Whatever their heritage, comps like the Xotic, the Wampler Ego, and the Diamond are so refined and optimized as to bear only superficial resemblance to their Ross/MXR forebears.

Super spongy with weird pumping/breathing sorts of stuff going on. Fine if you want to sound like Phish, or "Under the Bridge," but very artificial to my ear.

Anything can be overused, but pumping is sometimes a desired compression effect - I think of the intro lead in "Hey Nineteen" as a textbook example, and it's the signature component of the chicken-pickin' effect classically asked of guitar comps. It may not be "natural" - but neither are guitars running on electricity

Retains all the snap and pop of the attack, but evens things out without getting into that funny sustain thing.

I know what you're saying here, and there are certainly times a guy needs less obvious compression, and I don't think anyone appreciates aliasing, artifacts, attacks that don't quite catch the transient, grainy jerky releases, flattened tone, and other residue of bad compression. But I think those are more down to the quality of a pedal's design and manufacture than its "type." Parallel compression alone - being able to blend the compressed and dry signals in order to retain attack - goes a long way to keep a more "natural" sound. (Though having a parallel path doesn't automatically make a comp a good one: uncompressed signal mixed with bad compression is still bad compression.)

As for that "funny sustain thing," all I can say is "horses for courses" - or "taste is subjective." Either way, increased clean sustain is often one of (if not THE) main things a guy comps up for.

If you're really serious about compression, you need a rack unit. I'm not that serious.

Well, in that you've determined what kind of compression best suits you, and found a pedal that delivers it, I think you're more serious than you let on!

While most (but not all) good rack units offer a range of controls that make them more adaptable/flexible/versatle/applicable to other instruments, there ARE pedals (Empress, Keeley) which approach this level - and deliver the goods as well as many rack units.

Because by no means are all rack comps good. Many (maybe most, especially in the low and middle segments) are mediocre to generic at best. Basically functional but certainly undistinguished. They have lots of knobs, and maybe multiple channels - but they can be subject to the same tonal flattening, breathing, pumping, and stuttery graininess of their floor counterparts.

All those knobs also make it easier to dial in a bad sound (and thus harder for a guitarist to use) than a good pedal whose control scheme and range of functionality has been thoughtfully and carefully optimized for guitar use.

In that light, what we're comparing here is the designers' ears and taste, the decisions they made for us, and how well their designs were executed.

We want the circuit to respect our tone - be "transparent" to it - but we're also paying for that bit of personality or character the design imparts.

21

I've had a compressor for a decade and never used it. I have it as the other side of my old original Route 66 pedal. The boost side is too dirty for my tastes and takes my signal where I don't want it, even with unity gain set. The compressor however, also set pretty low, makes the tones out of all my guitars bloom a bit and even up as they are designed to do. I don't use it on my modeler at all, only with my tube amp. I tell ya, a Projet through a Hotrod Deluxe with slight compressor and slight delay is a thing of beauty...

22

Good tube guitar amps ARE compressors.

23

What are the differences between compressors?

I was playing a bass through a Boss GT-001 with a patch that is just a compressor into an EQ, trying the different compressor types which I think are all designed for guitar.

Except for the DynaComp, they all either sounded indistinguishable from the Boss or they were some version of nasally.

I guess some of them split the frequencies and do different amounts of compression on each part of the signal?

The models on there are Boss CS-2, Dan Armstrong Orange [which was mostly lower in volume], MXR DynaComp, then they have Hi-Band, Light, Fat, Mild and Stereo. The controls for all the models are Sustain, Attack, Level and Tone.

24

Good tube guitar amps ARE compressors.

– Billy Zoom

This is true.

25

Maxon CP9Pro+. Really a fine compressor, kinda combines characteristics of the fabulous Diamond (fat-sounding) with more tweak-ability, like the Empress. I just found when I tweaked it, I made it sound like the Diamond, except the Maxon was actually more "transparent". And that's a good thing. But it didn't make me sound better. I have nothing bad to say about it, though - and it's a very nice size. - Proteus<

I'm a CP9Pro+ man too. Been using it now for several years. It's general "transparency" is definitely it's star feature, providing you understand that the term does not necessarily imply a kind of "invisibility". IOW, it does have a character of it's own, and to my ear at least, that character is a most welcome kind of warm analog presence that solidifies the tone, volume and sustain, without getting in the way of the basic acoustic signature of whatever guitar/amp combo you may be currently using. One of the best pedals I own.

BTW, I recently bought an MXR Dyna Script reissue, just to have on hand for classic Tele/Dyna tones, whenever I feel the need for those nostalgia inducing Jerry Reed type licks. All of the classic squeeze with none of the artifacts (tuning in AM radio signals) of the original unit. Cool tool...


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