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Thread: Compressor?

  1. #1
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Compressor?

    Hey gang. I was playing with the worship band at church on Sunday and afterwards I was chatting with the electric guitar player and he recommended using a compressor with my set up. After I asked him to explain what that was and what it did and he gave a good explanation, I started thinking that it may be a good idea.

    What's the mando-collective consensus on compressors? Good/bad/worthwhile? I am playing my SA with and on board K&K and am using a Fire-eye Red-eye pre/DI. If they are a worthwhile purchase, what is a good affordable Compressor that would fit with my simple set up?
    aka: Spencer
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  2. #2
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I use one on mandolin with rock bands, it makes it easier to control volume when switching from chording to single note lines. Good players step toward a mike or away to do the same thing. For me, the compressor sorta automates that with loud bands. Sometimes, it makes it easier to control where you fit in a mix.

    I started out with just a basic, inexpensive behringer compressor, which worked fine, but is in a plastic case. It was something like $30 when I got it, so not much of a risk in terms of trying one. I now use a compressor built into a Boss AD-10 preamp. The Boss or Behringer units work fine, they are easy to control, you want to use them in a fair subtle way. I have a fancier compressor, a Pigtronix, that I use on electric guitar, it's more extreme that I'd ever use with mandolin. On mandolin, I"m just limiting the dynamic range a bit, not trying to increase the sustain. On electric lead guitar, a compressor helps to increase sustain in front of distortion or overdrive pedals, so a more complex compressor is an advantage there.

    You can probably find a used Boss compressor a guitar center or online easily enough. People buy them and can't figure out what to do with them, or don't like them, and trade them in regularly, I think. I suggest Boss, because they are found all over and are really reliable. Lots of other brands out there should be fine, they are just a comfort zone buying used.

    I never used to like compression, but then I saw a pretty good lead guitarist close up and it was obvious he had massive amounts of compression going. It was effective for him, because he could play single note leads or power chords at the same volume level relative to the band. Obviously, that level of compression means you have no dynamic range left at all, you have to alter note density to give the impression of dynamics, like a harpsichord or something.

    In mixing contra dance bands, I have a mixer with independent compression available on each input channel. It helps in creating a clean mix where you can hear the whole band, if you lightly compress some instruments (guitar, mandolin, bass, maybe flute), and sometimes the dance caller as well.
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  4. #3
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I use them for my band. I’ve only use the ones on digital mixing boards. We use them more as a limiter, to duck the signal, to keep from having to much attack when things get too excited!
    We use them more with our new system, the X32. It is very involved and intricate. Not for the faint of heart. It emulates vintage studio gear as well as modern compression.
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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    FWIW, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds (hits w/ mostly Dylan tunes like "Mr. Tambourine Man") used compression on his Rickenbacker 12-string guitar (lots of treble), to the extent that his Ric signature model includes a built-in compressor. Might be worth looking up.
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    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I've been using the L.R.Baggs Session Acoustic DI with good results.
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    Registered User McIrish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    If you want to use compressor on mandolin, I would recommend the Barber Tone Press. It has a setting for fast FET compression and a blend knob for doing parallel compression. What that means is that you can get the extra sustain and evenness of a compressor without it totally squashing the signal. The Tone Press is the best I've used for instruments. I dial the blend at about 40% wet. Works fantastic.
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    Registered User gspiess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I think it's important to remember that electric guitarists typically use a compressor to get greater sustain, which is counter to how most mandolins are played. A compressor will shave off the top end of the volume and allow you to raise the floor, but it usually comes at the cost of dynamics.
    If you think you need a compressor on a mandolin, I'd first check your volume in the monitor mix: it could be too low, causing you to play more forcefully than you are used to in order to compete to be heard so that you are too loud during the quiet parts; or you might be too loud overall so you blast yourself out on those parts where you are laying into it.
    I have my volume set in the mix so that I can hear myself playing relatively soft. I only lay into it if the other instruments are also playing loud parts; or if I'm taking a solo, where I also tap the boost on my RedEye or Tonedexter. If there is any compression, it's usually the sound guy doing at a digital board, and it's applied to the overall mix.
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  11. #8
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I'll point out that the only reason I use compression (live) is because the pickup (on my go-to live/amplified mando, a Rigel R-100) seems to exaggerate the dynamics when compared to how it sounds acoustically, making it more difficult to play "naturally" – notes pop out a lot more than intended. A little compression, just to make it sound mic'd instead of piezo'd, is quite liberating.

    I used to use an MXR dynacomp (up until it died) – the multiband compressor on the Baggs DI is a lot less noticeable, just getting rid of the "dank!" while retaining the dynamics.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    i once played an open mic and said to my friend who runs it... er... why all the sustain on my mandolin.... yup, compressor! He quickly turned it off. I can see the point for loud bands (i'm in one!) so may experiment and hopefully avoid sustain probs!
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    For the uninitiated, there are many types of compression, and many outcomes. Some are very useful and musically pleasing. Some, not so much.
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Someone gave me a Behringer compressor some time ago and I gotta tell you, all those controls are very daunting. The manual didn't help much,
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Just a few observations from experience:

    Compressors are one of my favorite tools for bringing "forward" an instrument during the mixdown phase of a recording. It's also essential to mastering, but you really have to know what you're doing, not to abuse it.

    However, for an acoustic mandolin playing live at reasonable stage volume with other acoustic instruments, I have never found it desirable or necessary. For one thing, every decibel of compression on an acoustic instrument is one decibel less headroom against feedback. If you don't know what you're doing with a compressor, it's a fast ticket to feedback city on a loud enough stage.

    Make sure you really need one, and you're not just throwing it in the signal chain because you've seen someone else do it. Compression is probably the most difficult technique to understand in live and recorded audio. Take the time to study some online resources to learn how it works.

    The "parallel compression" idea mentioned above is worth trying to avoid losing too much of the acoustic quality of your tone. It can be done by splitting your signal and sending two separate outputs to a mixer, if you don't have a compressor pedal with that function. It's still a risk for feedback though, so a little dab will do 'ya.

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  18. #13
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I think what the guy who mentioned it to me was saying was that since I'm doing a combination of picking and strumming, a compressor would help level everything out so there more volume for the harder to hear stuff and less for the blasting harsher tones that can unintentionally come from picking. Is this an accurate assessment?

    I can say that there is a tendency in this venue for the sound guys to crank it a little more than necessary, and I do feel frequently that my contribution gets a little lost.

    I really appreciate the feedback!
    aka: Spencer
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I think what might be happening is the seemingly non linear response of a pickup vs picking volume...a good microphone gives a realistic representation of what you are picking, where as a piezoelectric doesn’t.

    As I’ve chased a natural sound for amplified shows, I’ve had to spend lots of money and time learning to use high tech equipment. I wish I had just hired a big bouncer to come to all my shows and aggressively “ssshhhush!” everyone, and create a listening environment that classical players are so readily afforded.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post

    I really appreciate the feedback!
    No, no, no...Spencer...no one appreciates feedback!
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  22. #16
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    No, no, no...Spencer...no one appreciates feedback!
    aka: Spencer
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  24. #17

    Default Re: Compressor?

    I have a Tanglewood mandolin with a single coil pick up. It was quiet so I use a Joyo AD2 PreAmp/DI Boxadd a bit of 'gain/volume using input and out pout controls. Iam am finding that the A string comes a cross much louder than the E string which might be just related to the pick up as I guess that might be a fairly cheap thing as we are not talking about an expensive mandolin. Just like to play Open mikes nothing serious. Will a compressor give mesome evening out of the sound between the A and E strings. Using Ernie Ball 10 -38 stainless steel strings. More of a strummer than a picker.

  25. #18
    Registered User McIrish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Quote Originally Posted by raysmando View Post
    I have a Tanglewood mandolin with a single coil pick up. It was quiet so I use a Joyo AD2 PreAmp/DI Boxadd a bit of 'gain/volume using input and out pout controls. Iam am finding that the A string comes a cross much louder than the E string which might be just related to the pick up as I guess that might be a fairly cheap thing as we are not talking about an expensive mandolin. Just like to play Open mikes nothing serious. Will a compressor give mesome evening out of the sound between the A and E strings. Using Ernie Ball 10 -38 stainless steel strings. More of a strummer than a picker.
    It may even it out slightly, but really, magnetic pickups do not work well on a mandolin. The A strings will always be the loudest, due to their diameter. The wound strings never get picked up all that well and the E string is weak. It's kind of the nature of how magnetic pickups work with various string types. If the mandolin sounds ok acoustically, installing a K&K mandolin twin pickup will sound quite even.
    As far as the compressor goes, you'll run into feedback problems from the compressor by the time you even out the strings via compression. I've been there.
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    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    Quote Originally Posted by McIrish View Post
    It may even it out slightly, but really, magnetic pickups do not work well on a mandolin. The A strings will always be the loudest, due to their diameter. The wound strings never get picked up all that well and the E string is weak. It's kind of the nature of how magnetic pickups work with various string types. If the mandolin sounds ok acoustically, installing a K&K mandolin twin pickup will sound quite even.
    As far as the compressor goes, you'll run into feedback problems from the compressor by the time you even out the strings via compression. I've been there.
    Maybe on single coil instruments, but my humbucking equipped Arrow sets up really nicely and sounds very even across all 5 strings. Between careful string gauges and adjusting the poles, it sounds great. Of course part of that may be due to the longer scale length, 15".

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  27. #20
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    I agree with those that say the purpose of a compressor is counter to the way a mandolin is played. I use one on guitar in one band and it is indispensable in that setting. What I do to get the exact same effect on amplified mandolin is simply turn up. This allows me to play gently with great sustain and tone while having room to dig in. The compressor would tame my digging in but I'm not looking for that at all. The compressor will squash dynamics and the mandolin (IMHO) is very much about dynamics.
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  28. #21

    Default Re: Compressor?

    I would say if you're dealing with unwanted spikes while playing, then a compressor is called for. I use one for that purpose on my tele when playing in the praise band. Definitely leave the sustain turned all the way down. +1 on using one with a blend knob so you can keep the tone more natural, they seem to start around $200.

    If you simply want to regulate volume between rhythm and lead playing, then a compressor is not really going to be the right tool. It will squash the loud passages down to the set level and raise the quiet parts up (along with the noise floor). I would experiment with the boost level setting on your Red Eye or put a volume pedal in the effects loop of it. Make sure your monitor mix reflects what's going out to FOH so your volume is appropriate.

  29. #22
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    For what you describe, I agree with those suggesting you are barking up the wrong tree. I can see no positive use of a compressor with an acoustic mandolin.

    "I can say that there is a tendency in this venue for the sound guys to crank it a little more than necessary, and I do feel frequently that my contribution gets a little lost."

    Tell then to turn down! Or get a solid body electric mandolin and a bigger amp than any of the others have...
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  30. #23
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    It seems to me that compression really helps even dynamics from different attacks on the string, especially when there is a mix of fingerstyle and pick. I haven't really seen a need for it on an acoustic mandolin.

    OTOH, a comp for sustain had great value on my single course electrics. A Ross style optical comp was particularly good to my ears.
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  31. #24
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    Default Re: Compressor?

    My signal chain in the studio usually runs mic> JHS Colour Box V2 (basically a Neve strip in a pedal)> Origin Effects Cali 76 Stacked> UA Reverb> UA interface.

    The compressor is mostly used to even out volume and catch some spikes.
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  32. #25

    Default Re: Compressor?

    What does a compressor actually do ?

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