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How to use a compressor pedal?

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I have an old Boss cs2 that I've had laying around in a box forever. I finally pulled it out today and hooked it up. How the heck do I use this thing? I'm not sure where to set the controls, and is it usefully when playing with distortion? Help! :dunno:

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Tekker    1

A compressor is basically equivalent to turning the volume down when the signal goes above a certain level.

The basic controls on a "typical" compressor (not the boss pedal) would by threshold, ratio, attack, and release.

Threshold: is the volume level (in dB) where the compressor will turn on. If the volume goes louder than the threshold level, it will start getting turned down.

Ratio: how much the volume gets turned down by (in dB). The ratio is a ratio of input / output, so a ratio of 10:1 means that an input of 10dB will produce an output of 1dB. Higher ratio = more compression.

Attack: how long the compressor turns on when the volume goes above the threshold (in miliseconds). Longer attack time = slow "turn on" response.

Release: how long the compressor takes to turn off once the volume has dropped back down below the threshold (in miliseconds). Longer release time = slow "turn off" response.

The Boss pedal has three controls: level, attack, and sustain.

Level: This is just a basic master volume, so you only have two controls that affect the compression level. I have never used the boss pedal, so I can only take a guess as to what the other controls do, but here is my best semi-educated guess. :D

Attack: This will definitely determine how fast the compressor turns on, but since there is no release control, I would image this also will adjust how fast the compressor turns off as well.

Sustain: This is likely a combination of the threshold and ratio controls. Either that or one of them is held at a fixed value and the other one is controlled by the sustain knob. Whichever the case maybe, more sustain = more compression.

Distortion already has a lot of compression, so the effect of the compression will be much less. To get a feel for how the compressor works set your guitar amp to a clean channel and set the level on the Boss CS2 to the middle position. Then try the extreme settings (all the way left or all the way right) for the other two knobs to get a feel for the range of sounds the pedal gives and how changing one of the knobs will affect the sound.

-tkr

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raybaro    0

Great and helpful response tekker, I have a question.

I have Toneport UX2 and the compressor doesn't seem to run the same way. It only has 2 knobs and there Threshold and Gain, here's a pic.

ImageShack - Hosting :: 34356221ai3.jpg

I can't seem to hear the difference, I aslo read that it can be used as sustain. Could my noise gate have something to do with it?

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Noodler    1

I hope it's OK to ask something here, which I think is relevant.

The Boss Compressor seems very "sterile." It seems to do something to the guitar's sound that also occurs if you use a phaser or chorus. It makes it sound kind of super-smooth/ rounded off:

CS-3 Compression Sustainer- Sound Samples

Other brands of compressors seem to "colour the tone" in a nice way. The T-Rex is my favourite. It's like they compress the sound but make it jangly or a bit overdrivey as well:

Comp-Nova- Sound Samples

What is the difference, and what is the quality about the T-Rex or this one, that I like? Is it the compression, or something else?

Here's another one I'm looking at buying:

Juicer- Sound Samples

But they're harder to find (and more$$$ ) than the Boss. Would the Boss sound like the others with different settings?

Also, doesn't a compressor also make soft sounds louder too? So if you are playing chords and single notes funkily, it puts all your playing out at a comfortable volume, even if you slap some notes and gently hit others?

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Tekker    1
I have Toneport UX2 and the compressor doesn't seem to run the same way. It only has 2 knobs and there Threshold and Gain, here's a pic.

I have never used the Toneport (so again this is just a guess), but I would assume the threshold is really the only thing that will control the compression. Likely it has a set ratio, so you just adjust the threshold to get more (or less) compression. The gain is probably the overall volume control.

I can't seem to hear the difference, I aslo read that it can be used as sustain. Could my noise gate have something to do with it?

The more you time you spend with different effects the more you will be able to hear the differences between them. Whenever I get new plugins for mixing, I always go back and remix an old song so I can hear the new stuff in context with something I mixed using my old plugins. This way I have a direct and easy comparison between the two. In addition I'll also load two of the same tracks side by side putting the old plugin on one track and the new plugin on the other track, make adjustments to both and then switch between the two tracks to hear the differences.

Yes, compression does add sustain.... I'll come back to this point after answering Noodler's question.

The noise gate essentially mutes the volume after the volume has dropped below a certain threshold. So this would not be used for sustain, but for removing buzz/hiss/noise when you're not playing.

Also, doesn't a compressor also make soft sounds louder too? So if you are playing chords and single notes funkily, it puts all your playing out at a comfortable volume, even if you slap some notes and gently hit others?

This is another control on the compressor called "makeup gain". The basic operation of the compressor is to reduce the signal above the threshold, but in turn this allows you to turn the overall volume up, which will raise the volume on the soft sounds. Some compressors have an automatic makeup gain, so that as you compress the volume will be raised automatically.

Now, coming back to the sustain topic, this is how compressors add sustain. By making the quiet sounds louder, when you hold a note out the note will not die off as quickly (because the volume of the tail has been raised up).

This increase in sustain also works great on other instruments, such as bass guitar, drums, etc and gives the them more "punch" (like the chest thumping kick drum).

What is the difference, and what is the quality about the T-Rex or this one, that I like? Is it the compression, or something else?

Compression in its basic form is just a volume control (no sound, just turning the volume down), but there are so many different compressors out there that sound very (very) different from each other. So the specific sound of the compressor will be affected by the the design of the compressor and also by the electronic components they used.

In analog devices especially, the electronics used will affect the sound greatly. I've read a lot about changing simple things like capacitors to a different type while keeping the value the same and the sound will change. So there are a lot of factors involved.

As another example, look at guitar amps. The basic purpose is to amplify a guitar signal, maybe add some distortion. Yet most amps sounds very different from one to another (even on a clean setting). This is due the design of the amp (the type of sound they were going for) and the components they used in the amp.

Just like guitar amps, there are many different approaches to compressors. Even in plugins different companies have different approaches to compression, reverb, EQ, chorus, etc... and this completely removes the "electronic component" element since it's all just computer code. So the design will determine how it is going to sound.

I've never built a compressor, so I don't know any of the specifics, but hopefully that gives kind of a conceptual idea of the differences.

But they're harder to find (and more$$$ ) than the Boss. Would the Boss sound like the others with different settings?

I haven't used any of them, but I'm going to say no. Each compressor will sound unique (unless they used the same design and components).

-tkr

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Noodler    1

Thanks Tekker, yeah that helps. I once asked a guy, "If everyone likes Marshall Plexi's so much, why do Marshall come out with new amps? Why don't they just make the exact same model as used by Hendrix, for instance?' The answer I was given to that is just like you said, "They may have used a certain 0.01uF capacitor made by a specific maker who has since gone out of business, and every little component even if rated the same, depending on the maker, will produce a different sound ."

So it looks like finding one of the non-Boss compressors for me, as a matter of taste.

Thanks.

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Boss CS-2 Vintage pedal no longer manufactured by boss works like a charm for me. I would never play with out out it. Not only does is smoothen out my effects pedals but my distortion pedal too. I used a metal zone and it works great when I put the compressor in front of it.

Settings will kind of vary a little since you're using a different set up; different guitar, cables, amp, cab and pedal arrangement can be a big pain for amateurs. Searching for your favorite sound will turn you into a tone geek if your not careful. :-) Your talking one of them.

All I can say is the CS-2 is the best choice especially if you're using a lot of hi end ear piercing distortion. A lot of metal guitar guys are using the cs-3 compressor but it in no way owns the cs-2 from what I've read so far. Never owned the boss cs-3; a later version of the cs-2 but I've tried it a few times and got close to what I was looking for.

The best way to find what you're looking for is to buy it used off ebay. I'll probably purchace the cs-3 down the line and maybe a dynacomp just to get a feel for both. Hope I was helpful.

Edited by Compressorman 910

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