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compressors for guitar tone Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 5th August 2009
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

compressors for guitar tone

As you know, many guitarists have top of the line compressor/sustain pedals (such as Ross, Keeley, etc.) employed as actual effects in their chain - to get that chicken pickin' guitar sound heard in country and jam band styles, as well as a generally even, round tone. Most of these guitarists insist that even the best of the best studio compressors, when inserted into the effect chain, DO NOT accomplish the same thing for their tone. Apparently, there's something different about the comp/sustain pedals that gives this unique sound to the high degree they require. I haven't had time to test this yet, but before I do, does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Old 5th August 2009
  #2
Gear Addict
 

There is a difference between compressing before hitting the amp and compressing after the mic. The former is recording a (more) compressed source and the latter is compressing a recorded signal. If the former is done properly you won't need to compress the recorded signal as much (or not at all even) as you might otherwise have to.

In terms of the pedals available there are so many boutique makers selling good stuff there is a huge choice. That said, in my experience there are better options available: get something like the Little Labs Multi Z or the Creation Audio Labs MW-1 and use that to interface one of your line level studio compressors with the guitar signal before hitting the amp. Particularly if you have a channel strip with the option of side chaining the eqs and filters you can get some great results, zoning in on the frequencies that you want to hit. This option is also far less noisy than most of the compression pedals available (particularly with single coils).
Old 5th August 2009
  #3
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RedWallStudio's Avatar
 

Funny, electric guitars are something I almost never compress. I also rarely listen to the amp up close any more than just to get basic tone. I have a closet next to the control room and the guitarist will play in the control room listening to the tone on my monitors... for me there really is no other way. I will throw a 550b in the chain if I want to make tweaks... much easier than constantly adjusting the amp & mic position.
Old 5th August 2009
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Hmmm, both very, very interesting posts. Thank you. Lately, when recording live bands in the studio I've had a few extra Avalon 737s sitting around unused (feeling a bit guilty about it too, since I've always loved 'em). Next time I have a country or jam band using comp/sust pedals on guitar, maybe I'll insist on replacing the Ross and Keeleys with 737s in the chain (before the amp, of course) and see if we can get the same exact sound - or better.
Old 5th August 2009
  #5
You need the correct signal to drive the Avalon - best used as an "insert" device on a console.

The compressors you mention are used in your guitar chain, but I'd venture to say that when people cite useful compression, they're more often referring to outboard compressors like 1176's, LA3's or Distressors.

I love compression on electric & acoustic guitars - I use Retro 176's with wonderful results.
Old 5th August 2009
  #6
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
As you know, many guitarists have top of the line compressor/sustain pedals (such as Ross, Keeley, etc.) employed as actual effects in their chain - to get that chicken pickin' guitar sound heard in country and jam band styles, as well as a generally even, round tone. Most of these guitarists insist that even the best of the best studio compressors, when inserted into the effect chain, DO NOT accomplish the same thing for their tone. Apparently, there's something different about the comp/sustain pedals that gives this unique sound to the high degree they require. I haven't had time to test this yet, but before I do, does anyone have any thoughts on this?
True ...stomp box pedal will be different from whats in the studio. And every pedal is different, and every studio compressor is different.

It's just the way it is.
Old 5th August 2009
  #7
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
Hmmm, both very, very interesting posts. Thank you. Lately, when recording live bands in the studio I've had a few extra Avalon 737s sitting around unused (feeling a bit guilty about it too, since I've always loved 'em). Next time I have a country or jam band using comp/sust pedals on guitar, maybe I'll insist on replacing the Ross and Keeleys with 737s in the chain (before the amp, of course) and see if we can get the same exact sound - or better.
The 737 comps might be a bit sluggish for that use. The Ross or Keeleys might sound better. Just because the 737 comps are outboard doesn't mean that they are going to be the best tools for every use.

That said, having a nice comp before the amp is sometimes really cool. Sometimes I would rather have the sound of a dynacomp. It all depends. Compressing the guitars in the mix can sound good or horrible, depending on a lot of factors.
Old 5th August 2009
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tommy_asakawa View Post
You need the correct signal to drive the Avalon - best used as an "insert" device on a console.

The compressors you mention are used in your guitar chain, but I'd venture to say that when people cite useful compression, they're more often referring to outboard compressors like 1176's, LA3's or Distressors.

I love compression on electric & acoustic guitars - I use Retro 176's with wonderful results.
The guitarists I mentioned were most certainly referring to the pedals, some of them claiming that they've put various high end outboard comps in their chain and the results were never as satisfactory as those pedals. Anyway, it's just an area I haven't explored. I usually use compression only on the whole signal when recording guitar (my comps include 737/747, Fatso, Distressor, 176, AM660, 1176, LA2A, BAC-500, and a few others, so there's a wide variety of flavor, obviously). The only compressor sustain pedal that I own personally is the Electro Harmonix Black Finger, which is IMO the best of the bunch, mainly for its coloration and tone enhancement. The thing is, the Black Finger doesn't lend itself to the whole chicken pickin' sound; even at its most extreme settings, it doesn't quite achieve that plucky, taut, popping style... fine with me, that's not why I bought it. As far as my personal recordings go, I don't want the guitars sounding like that (i appreciate it, it's just not my style). When I record a band, they show up with their sound already intact - by way of pedals, performance and equipment. That's the same for most of us... our job is to just capture that sound (for better or worse) and make it "professional".
Old 5th August 2009
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
The guitarists I mentioned were most certainly referring to the pedals, some of them claiming that they've put various high end outboard comps in their chain and the results were never as satisfactory as those pedals. Anyway, it's just an area I haven't explored. I usually use compression only on the whole signal when recording guitar (my comps include 737/747, Fatso, Distressor, 176, AM660, 1176, LA2A, BAC-500, and a few others, so there's a wide variety of flavor, obviously). The only compressor sustain pedal that I own personally is the Electro Harmonix Black Finger, which is IMO the best of the bunch, mainly for its coloration and tone enhancement. The thing is, the Black Finger doesn't lend itself to the whole chicken pickin' sound; even at its most extreme settings, it doesn't quite achieve that plucky, taut, popping style... fine with me, that's not why I bought it. As far as my personal recordings go, I don't want the guitars sounding like that (i appreciate it, it's just not my style). When I record a band, they show up with their sound already intact - by way of pedals, performance and equipment. That's the same for most of us... our job is to just capture that sound (for better or worse) and make it "professional".
As far as I know there are few enough ways of correctly interfacing line and instrument level gear. The Little Labs and the Creation Audio boxes are the only two I can think of that do it all in one. I think Fuchs recently released a reverb unit called the Verbrator which can also do that. Just sticking a line level comp into the chain isn't going to work properly. You essentially need a DI box that converts to line level signal and then a reamp box after the outboard to get things down to what they should be. I can't see many guitarists owning the correct tools to do this properly.
Old 5th August 2009
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Butcha View Post
As far as I know there are few enough ways of correctly interfacing line and instrument level gear. The Little Labs and the Creation Audio boxes are the only two I can think of that do it all in one. I think Fuchs recently released a reverb unit called the Verbrator which can also do that. Just sticking a line level comp into the chain isn't going to work properly. You essentially need a DI box that converts to line level signal and then a reamp box after the outboard to get things down to what they should be. I can't see many guitarists owning the correct tools to do this properly.
I own a Radial JDI Duplex, would that work or does it have to be an active DI?
Old 5th August 2009
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
I own a Radial JDI Duplex, would that work or does it have to be an active DI?
I don't know, to be honest. The Little Labs and the Creation Audio boxes were designed specifically for this task. When plugging your guitar into the LL the impedance that the pickups see is that of the amp, while with the Creation Audio box there is a variable impedance control. Both boxes have separately functioning reamp circuits (which allows you to DI and reamp at the same time effectively) which is pretty much what you want to do here.
Old 5th August 2009
  #12
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gwailoh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedWallStudio View Post
Funny, electric guitars are something I almost never compress.
I don't usually compress electric guitars either. But, it's a style thing. If you're going for that hyper-clean but LOUD, percussive thing, like the chicken pickin' cited by the OP, a stomp-box compressor before the amp can prevent transients momentarily driving the amp into overdrive, which creates a kind of crackle that you definitely don't want. They can also be helpful if the guitar isn't set up right, for instance, has one string which is a hair louder than the others. Just my two cents of course.
Old 5th August 2009
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Using a line compressor in the instrument chain can effectively allow you to use compression as an eq of sorts. This is particularly true if you can side chain the filters and eq (multiband compression). Many outboard comps have way more accurate/complicated controls than a pedal would have, giving even greater flexibility and allowing you to compress in ways quite different for the standard squish of a pedal comp. A lot of outboard is also capable of being a lot more subtle than a pedal.
Old 6th August 2009
  #14
They are different flavors. To me a pedal is a special situation kind of deal. I do use one for that "chicken picken" thing. Also when I do things with volume swells I put one before my volume pedal. It can sometimes add something to slide or if I'm hitting the guitar with a pencil.

I don't like it when I'm playing rhythm or for most tones (pedal comp is more of an effect to me). I prefer compression after the amp. I find with great amps I don't need a comp pedal... the amps have a nice natural compression to them. I do like compression and the way it sounds tho. I tend to favor 1176, LA2A kind of vibe.

They don't replace each other IMHO.
Old 6th August 2009
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for all the great & insightful responses, guys.
Old 7th August 2009
  #16
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janek 68's Avatar
I love compression , i use compressor with my guitar even with good rich sounding amp (Analogman is my favourite) but only with clean/crunchy sounds.Then i use compression in DAW and after DA conversion - hardware compressor to taste.It`s all question of taste...
Old 7th August 2009
  #17
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compression happens... a comp before a clean amp is one thing.. overdrive pedals and overdriving an amp compresses. and after the amp compressors do a different thing.

I like using very small amounts in all places.. a little before an overdrive stage (stomp box or amp..or both) and one after the amp ... I L O V E the Altec 1612 for use as a pre and comp for mic'd amp... it a limiter with fixed 20:1 and can be set either fast or slow. high threshold keeps what peaks are left from hitting the converters too hard.. and if you want the classic huge sound get it squishing a little.. classic Leslie West and Fresh Cream sounds...no matter what guitar rig I am recording I start with the Altec as the pre/comp.
if it starts to pump send it a bit less low end.. it will add the fat if you want it.
Old 7th August 2009
  #18
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crypticglobe's Avatar
As always... I suggest trying it yourself and see what you like. It all depends on what you are going for. I do actually prefer the Keeley compressor... it totally rocks.

I have been known (depending on the tone I want) to do no compressors at all, Keely in front of amp... no other compression... compressor in chain (1176 or Distressor usually), keely in front of amp and compression in signal chain... heck... whatever!

I am also a TERRIBLE finger picker... so when doing that... I always have the Keeley on too even out by poor technique...

rock on...
Old 7th August 2009
  #19
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
The most important difference between a stomp box compressor and one applied afterward is that the stomp box is part of the instrument. The guitarist is playing it as much as he's playing the pick, or the strings, or the speaker. He's reacting to the effect of the sound, consciously or not, and using it to make a decision about how to attack and balance each note.

No amount of post processing can replace that.
Old 7th August 2009
  #20
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latestflavor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyrockyhorror View Post
I own a Radial JDI Duplex, would that work or does it have to be an active DI?
to get from instrument to mic level / impedance you can use the JDI. you may have to go through your pre to get to proper line level voltage before hitting an outboard comp.

not sure if you can use the JDI in the reverse, to get back from line level to instrument impedance. i use a jd-7 to reamp, but i think the X-amp is same thing but smaller. anyone here successfully use a JDI in the reverse?

keep in mind if youre looking to use outboard comps before your guit amp to think in terms of impedance; its not all about signal voltage. you would be surprised these days how many people seem to have passed this key principle over.
Old 8th August 2009
  #21
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big country's Avatar
 

I'm kinda thinking the closer you smooth and push the signal the better ( simpler yet more precise )
the next gen. is the pickup doing the compression
think tapered Pot meets long throw dielectric capacitor
meets coil but with out the pot

that or if they made wire insulator that gets thiner at the end of the coil slipery of C "wa la" of Ta in the wax butter goodness
need to work on that self poting dealy

Ive been wrong before but thats OK

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Old 8th August 2009
  #22
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latestflavor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by big country View Post
I'm kinda thinking the closer you smooth and push the signal the better ( simpler yet more precise )
the next gen. is the pickup doing the compression
think tapered Pot meets long throw dielectric capacitor
meets coil but with out the pot

that or if they made wire insulator that gets thiner at the end of the coil slipery of C "wa la" of Ta in the wax butter goodness
need to work on that self poting dealy

Ive been wrong before but thats OK

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if closer was what all needed, we would all have active electronics in our guitars and sadowsky would be bigger than fender. certainly dimestore electronic junk in most pedals could fit into a small chamber on the guitar, if there is in fact one cheap flavor you'd love to live with forever that you don't change your mind next week. too many switches on the guitar though, pedals still better (for someone who hates pedals this is saying a lot).

i applaud your forward thinking, but some guitar players (like me) almost meet something new with harsh skepticism these days.
Old 8th August 2009
  #23
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big country's Avatar
 

well on a les paul they tec. have 4 pickups it only looks like 2
Old 9th August 2009
  #24
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illacov's Avatar
 

I have been getting some sick results with my newest arrival to my studio, my Gates Solid States Man.

Throw a 58 or a 47 sounding condenser on the amp, condenser would need a pad definitely and turn on the expansion and compression, fast attack on the compression release circuit, input turned up to taste, output turned up to maybe 12 oclock or higher.

I had it running thru my ART PRO VLA which was acting as a dumb converter for XLR to 1/4" (I need to get some inline attenuators!) and it was clipping the opamp stages, which didn't sound bad when you pimped it just right. But other times, I just turned down the output on the Gates and it got rid of the opamp distortion but also lost a bit of the tone.

This thing has tone whether or not you're compressing or expander, oh boy does it sound fukkin GREAT!

That chicken pluck thing and chugga chugga stuff, basically anything percussive sound really cool with this bad boy inline!

I also liked it for Rhythm and long leads. It just really has a sweet retro tone to it and man for this thing to be a little younger than my parents it is frickin QUIET!

I can't wait to throw it on Overheads.

I had my SM58 about 6" from the grille and when I was trying the condenser 47 (lost to the SM58 too dark!) I had it about 18 inches back. I really liked the SM58 4 feet away for overdubs with a ambient tone. Oh boy was I digging it!

Next time I hit the lab up, I'm going to try the SM58 direct into the Solid States Man and see what I get. Oh boy I can't wait! I had a dream about that thing!

Peace
Illumination
Old 9th August 2009
  #25
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Fletcher's Avatar
Before I left Mercenary I saw a notice that Radial was going to be building and distributing the Burgin McDaniel "Komit"... which is one of the absolute best compressors I've found for guitars.

I don't like to get pigeon holed into "this box for that sound"... which has so far happened twice. In my world, Purple Audio MC-77 for bass, and BMD "Komit" for guitar.

As always, YMMV.


Peace.
Old 9th August 2009
  #26
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Stitch333's Avatar
 

didn't retrospec make a stompbox La2a back in the day?
Old 9th August 2009
  #27
Gear Head
 
Voodooskull34's Avatar
 

For great guitar tone i usually suggest to crank a non-master volume amp such as a Vox or Marshall Hiwatt ecc.
Non master volume amps have tremendous dynamics but when cranked tone becomes very naturally compressed and crunchy, I suggest to don't use compressor before the amp becouse it kills a bit the dynamics in the pick attack wich is the great deal of a great Vintage amp.
Insted a great comp after the mic pre is necessary! it densify the tone and erases the unmusical aspects.
try a La-3a or La-2a a Retro sta, also a germanium comp sounds great, I also use a Adk cla-1 a great dirty comp.
try a vox ac30 without a pedal compressor to get that tone!
Currently I'm eperimenting with an La-2a on a boosted cranked Plexi with a wha and it is incredible How the comp work in conjunction with the wha, it gives some darkness and some texture to the wha tone and makes it very very cool.
Old 9th August 2009
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voodooskull34 View Post
For great guitar tone i usually suggest to crank a non-master volume amp such as a Vox or Marshall Hiwatt ecc.
Non master volume amps have tremendous dynamics but when cranked tone becomes very naturally compressed and crunchy, I suggest to don't use compressor before the amp becouse it kills a bit the dynamics in the pick attack wich is the great deal of a great Vintage amp.
Insted a great comp after the mic pre is necessary! it densify the tone and erases the unmusical aspects.
try a La-3a or La-2a a Retro sta, also a germanium comp sounds great, I also use a Adk cla-1 a great dirty comp.
try a vox ac30 without a pedal compressor to get that tone!
Currently I'm eperimenting with an La-2a on a boosted cranked Plexi with a wha and it is incredible How the comp work in conjunction with the wha, it gives some darkness and some texture to the wha tone and makes it very very cool.
Excellent post!

...and Welcome!
Old 9th August 2009
  #29
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

Someone already mentioned it above, but compressing BEFORE the amp is VERY different than compressing AFTER the amp. That being said, EHX made a pedal called "The Black Finger" which was a pretty damn badass compressor pedal. In fact I've used it on vocals to great effect in the past.
Old 9th August 2009
  #30
Gear Head
 
Voodooskull34's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tommy_asakawa View Post
Excellent post!

...and Welcome!
Thank you very much!

I'm very excited when someone makes a thread about guitar tone!
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