I recently borrowed a buddy's Keeley compressor trying to find one that will work for me. I'll admit that I have never really understood how a compressor works. I love the sound of it when my OCD or my other overdrive/distortions pedals are on but when I switch out of them it's completely muffled and sounds like I'm playing behind a wall. I've tried different settings but when I do that the overdrive lacks. What am I doing wrong? Is it just the nature of the beast or what? Would I possibly have better luck with a compressor in my rack? Help please.
Post by benttop (Steve) on Apr 7, 2007 18:53:51 GMT -7
The thing about compression is, if you can hear it doing something, it's either a bad compressor or you have it set entirely wrong. The hallmark of great compression is that you can't hear it if you don't know it's there. Unfortunately that makes it all the harder to learn how to use.
What a compressor does, in simplest terms, is try to keep the signal at the same level, all the time. That means if you set it so, it will chop the attack right off your signal, but then as your sound starts to decay, it will start raising the output level and "sustaining" the sound. The trick is to get the thing to sustain the most without utterly killing your attack.
I suspect that's why you aren't having any luck - you have it set so the attack is squashed down way too much. With a compressor, subtle is better. Dial the attack back up to where you can hardly tell the compressor is doing anything. Then set the sustain however you like it. I'll bet switching it in and out you'll be able to hear a difference, but someone walking in the room and not knowing it's on won't be able to tell.
Of course YMMV. Everyone hears something different, and some guys LIKE to squash up the attack. That's fine if that's what you're going for.
I have two great compressors here: a Demeter Compulator and a Humphrey Audio Atom Smasher (modded Boss compressor). The Demeter has one knob that controls sustain, and a volume control. The attack is preset at the factory, and if you want to change it you have to take the back off and twiddle a screwdriver adjust pot inside. I find it to be very transparent because they set the attack so it doesn't squash everything. The Atom Smasher has (from memory) five controls - attack, sustain, bass, treble, and volume. For me it's harder to work, because I tend to get too much attack and I can hear it. So even though it's a great compressor, I lean towards the simpler unit just because it's easier for me to operate. Here again, YMMV. Hope that helps.
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