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So I need a little help with compression... I've been listening to a lot of Chris buck and I love his clean tones. The sustain he gets (even in GuitarRig) is really expressive and his cleans aren't sterile. I know he uses a Cali76 compressor. So I tried using a couple of compressors too to help improve my clean tones and, even at the lowest setting, I just didn't like what I was hearing (I tried the Keeley compressor plus). It felt a lot like a lot of the sound was being sucked out (I had the level up to unity but still) and I just couldn't get along with it. It felt really weird. I don't use a pick so maybe the difference was accentuated? Anyway, let me know if you have any tips on what I may have been doing wrong. Thanks! :)
 

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A considerable proportion of compressors have the trait that they seem to "suck the bite" away. Keep in mind that the brunt of the harmonic content is situated in the initial pick attack - which is what causes the compressor to instantly reduce its gain. What comes after the initial attack has much less harmonic content, so it sounds like there's this dull note with no bite that lasts and lasts.

This is why a number of compressor-makers have begun including a "Blend" control. This lets you mix in some of the uncompressed sound with the compressed. Since all the treble content is intact in the uncompressed version, mixing some of it in results in a sound which keeps the brightness of the initial attack, while still permitting the continuing sustain (or illusion thereof) of the duller decay portion of the picked string.

Note that any 3 or 4-knob compressors that have a control labelled "Attack" do not alter how quickly the compressor suppresses the initial pick attack. Rather, such controls actually govern the gain recovery; i.e., how long it takes for the full gain to be restored after being suppressed in response to the first note picked. Slow gain recovery is useful for having held notes sustain longer, but if you start top pick quickly it can make the initial pick attack seem lost....which is part of why companies label it "Attack". If you pick slowly and allow space between notes, you will hear the initial pick attack of every note played. Gain recovery is an aspect of compression that depends on how you play, as much as how the knob is set.

In contrast, being able to blend in some of the uncompressed signal provides an initial pick attack which is unaffected by whatever the gain-recovery time is or is set to.

Finally, keep in mind that if you are attempting to mimic a performer's recorded tone, you may be listening to something that is processed in parallel in multiple ways. Even if the recording is "live off the floor", the engineer may have run one copy of the track through heavy compression and mixed it with a second copy using post-production EQ-ing. IN other words, don't beat yourself up over not being able to nail it live. The artist themselves may not be able to do so either.
 

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I don't know too much about compressors, but using your fingers would definitely have an impact on the overall sound/compression level. I use the Xotic SP COmpressor which has a blend knob. Works great for me and my style but yours will more than likely be a whole lotta different.

EDIT: See above for more detail lol
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I don't know too much about compressors, but using your fingers would definitely have an impact on the overall sound/compression level. I use the Xotic SP COmpressor which has a blend knob. Works great for me and my style but yours will more than likely be a whole lotta different.

EDIT: See above for more detail lol
Thank you! Yes, I'm curious about redoing the test and having the blend knob up higher than half way. The new JHS whitey tighty looks like a cool compact compressor and it has that blend knob. The sound I want is the opposite of the super squashed chicken pickin' sound. Almost as if you wouldn't notice the compressor once it's on (well, almost I guess, realistically speaking). I can't afford the Cali76, so I've been looking for a more affordable but still fairly transparent option.
 

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Thank you! Yes, I'm curious about redoing the test and having the blend knob up higher than half way. The new JHS whitey tighty looks like a cool compact compressor and it has that blend knob. The sound I want is the opposite of the super squashed chicken pickin' sound. Almost as if you wouldn't notice the compressor once it's on (well, almost I guess, realistically speaking). I can't afford the Cali76, so I've been looking for a more affordable but still fairly transparent option.
I have the compressor plus, I like it better than the sp compressor which I've also had.
They are very similar sounding except the compressor plus has all the controls n the front and the sl has the hidden dip switches. I generally leave mine in an always on kind of position. Which is sustain around 9 o'clock and blend around 3 o'clock.
 

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The sound I want is the opposite of the super squashed chicken pickin' sound. Almost as if you wouldn't notice the compressor once it's on (well, almost I guess, realistically speaking). I can't afford the Cali76, so I've been looking for a more affordable but still fairly transparent option.
Check out some of the optical compressors on the market. You might find them more to your liking.
 

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Maybe he has a touch of drive helping then?

If you dont like the compressor, I would try very low drive next.
 
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You can try 6 different compressors and they might all be totally different. It takes a bit of reading and trying (and experimenting and dialing). Moreso than drive/gain pedals, the controls on compressors seem to be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. Of all the compressors I've bought (probably 8 or so), I've liked and kept half of them.

As @mhammer mentioned, the blend control is a godsend on some of them, depending on what you're trying to do.
 

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You want to learn about compressors? Yes, it's somewhat geared towards bass, but there are a TON of information pages about what different types do, recommendations within budget ranges, etc. on this excellent site Compressor Reviews

Bottom line for me, there isn't anything I would want under ~$250. I use the Empress, and it is very clear and just fattens things up a wee bit, but you're looking about 3 bills at L&M.
 

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Maybe he has a touch of drive helping then?

If you dont like the compressor, I would try very low drive next.
Yeah I'm going to try the KTR I have as that always on thing inateai of a drive since I just got a POT and a Timmy from the forum here for those reasons. I think that should really help.
 

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You want to learn about compressors? Yes, it's somewhat geared towards bass, but there are a TON of information pages about what different types do, recommendations within budget ranges, etc. on this excellent site Compressor Reviews

Bottom line for me, there isn't anything I would want under ~$250. I use the Empress, and it is very clear and just fattens things up a wee bit, but you're looking about 3 bills at L&M.
Thanks! Yeah, i've heard that compressors can a pretty expensive part of your rig. But if that is what it takes to get the right sound. I'll try the low drive thing first and then maybe save up for a Call or an Empress.
 

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Do you like the sounds of the first Dire Straits album. Keeley and bare fingers for Knopfler.

I am not sure what you are after, and I have never fully understood how compression works.

But my favourite is the Diamond. I also have the Strymon which is very neutral, but I prefer the tone knob of the Diamond to add a bit of colour -- either way, light or dark. Both are what I call "transparent" i.e. they can be set so that I can't even tell they are on, then I adjust from there to suit the guitar and amp. Mostly, taming anomalies that stand out in lower level gear. My best gear doesn't need it.

As far as using compression to sculpt tone, I dunno, I would never do that. My best cleans come from my best clean amp, nothing more.

EDIT: BTW, I use the Diamond for my bare finger stuff.
 

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Do you like the sounds of the first Dire Straits album. Keeley and bare fingers for Knopfler.

I am not sure what you are after, and I have never fully understood how compression works.

But my favourite is the Diamond. I also have the Strymon which is very neutral, but I prefer the tone knob of the Diamond to add a bit of colour -- either way, light or dark. Both are what I call "transparent" i.e. they can be set so that I can't even tell they are on, then I adjust from there to suit the guitar and amp. Mostly, taming anomalies that stand out in lower level gear. My best gear doesn't need it.

As far as using compression to sculpt tone, I dunno, I would never do that. My best cleans come from my best clean amp, nothing more.

EDIT: BTW, I use the Diamond for my bare finger stuff.
My favorite for the OPs desired sound is the Diamond as well. Although I usually look for that chicken pickin' sound, so I use a Boss CS3.
 

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Diamond user here too. I also have the Strymon and I can dial in and get the same effect from both pedals but I find the Diamond more neutral sounding if that makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hadn't really looked into the Diamond but I'll check that out as well! I use a Blackstar Artist 15 for my cleans so it's a good start but I was just womwonder if I was missing something in my clean tone. Especially with single coils.
 

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So I need a little help with compression... I've been listening to a lot of Chris buck and I love his clean tones. The sustain he gets (even in GuitarRig) is really expressive and his cleans aren't sterile. I know he uses a Cali76 compressor. So I tried using a couple of compressors too to help improve my clean tones and, even at the lowest setting, I just didn't like what I was hearing (I tried the Keeley compressor plus). It felt a lot like a lot of the sound was being sucked out (I had the level up to unity but still) and I just couldn't get along with it. It felt really weird. I don't use a pick so maybe the difference was accentuated? Anyway, let me know if you have any tips on what I may have been doing wrong. Thanks! :)
Could be too much compression (sucks the dynamics out and, as mhammer said, accentuates the dull sustain vs the attack).

Note most basic 3 knob compressors are all pretty much the same circuit, and have a fixed mediumish attack setting (the attack knob is really a release; how long after getting triggered does the compression last - sometimes called the sustain knob for obvious reasons). Try using a bit less; dialing it down a bit.

Optical compressors tend to have slower attacks allowing that harmonic-rich transient to survive more or less intact but then giving you additional sustain. I am thinking this is what you might wbe after... but a basic 3 knob one; there are more fully featured optical comps as well.

The expensive units are more full control (not all) like a studio compressor and I do not recommend them if you don't understand compression, but if you want transient peak control (I do, but sounds like you don't) then you need a fast attack and short release and a threshold control so you can just 'nip the tip.'

Adding reverb and/or chorus and/or a little bit of drive (like not noticable hair, but more peach fuzz) after the comp (the KTR - you said you had one above - is a good candidate for this because it is one of few drives that does not compress at all) can add some harmonics back and prevent the sustained note from sounding too dull.

I've been sitting on an idea for a dirty comp but there's too many projects in the queue ahead of it. Not a new method of compression; kinda surprised nobody does one already, for guitar I mean (or maybe I missed it, there was an obscure vintage pedal but that's all I have seen, never got to try it tho). Keep quiet there mhammer.
 

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The
Could be too much compression (sucks the dynamics out and, as mhammer said, accentuates the dull sustain vs the attack).

Note most basic 3 knob compressors are all pretty much the same circuit, and have a fixed mediumish attack setting (the attack knob is really a release; how long after getting triggered does the compression last - sometimes called the sustain knob for obvious reasons). Try using a bit less; dialing it down a bit.

Optical compressors tend to have slower attacks allowing that harmonic-rich transient to survive more or less intact but then giving you additional sustain. I am thinking this is what you might wbe after... but a basic 3 knob one; there are more fully featured optical comps as well.

The expensive units are more full control (not all) like a studio compressor and I do not recommend them if you don't understand compression, but if you want transient peak control (I do, but sounds like you don't) then you need a fast attack and short release and a threshold control so you can just 'nip the tip.'

Adding reverb and/or chorus and/or a little bit of drive (like not noticable hair, but more peach fuzz) after the comp (the KTR - you said you had one above - is a good candidate for this because it is one of few drives that does not compress at all) can add some harmonics back and prevent the sustained note from sounding too dull.

I've been sitting on an idea for a dirty comp but there's too many projects in the queue ahead of it. Not a new method of compression; kinda surprised nobody does one already, for guitar I mean (or maybe I missed it, there was an obscure vintage pedal but that's all I have seen, never got to try it tho). Keep quiet there mhammer.
The Fairfield comp can be set very dirty, at least on bass. Had it on my board briefly to use that way on a couple tunes, would do again.
 

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The Fairfield comp can be set very dirty, at least on bass. Had it on my board briefly to use that way on a couple tunes, would do again.
I meant the specific cuircuit type that does the compression ( eg Optical, which is not what i am looking at but as an example). I know there are dirty comps out there, thats not the point so much as in the bargain. Not sure what the Faifield is, will go look it up later to see, but most comps can be set to distort, just not usually a good sound IMHO.

Isnt drive inherently adding compression?
Not necessarily and to varying degrees - see the Klon/KTR , and (so people tell me, somehow I have yet to actually try one) the OCD. VS, like, just about anything higher gain eg Boss distortions and heavier drives, which is very squishy. But you have little control over the nature of the compression ( usually fast attack - clipping based artifact after all) and what i am looking at is a rather simple compression circuit that i can control the nature of in terms of responsiveness just that the side effect is some small degree of hair. Like not enough that youd use it in place of an OD pedal ( never mind distortion) so much as ‘coloured’ vs ‘neutral’ as the studio guys would say, ie with additional harmonic content ..... but maybe it could be driven harder into that area. I’ll see when I breadboard it. It will also depend a lot on what i use for the drive and recovery gain stages specifically. I aim to keep that simple but we will see. I’m not even close to getting actually moving on that.
 

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Check out some of the optical compressors on the market. You might find them more to your liking.
For an always-on compression that isn’t adding much of an “effect”, optical is a good way to go. I have a clone of a Rothwell Love Squeeze that works pretty well. Looks like the originals aren’t too expensive these days on Reverb.

The Ovnilab site @keto mentioned is an excellent resource. Just take out the “s” from the “https” that this forum always seems to add to links.
 
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