Audio Compression...

Now that I'm getting back to music as a profession, my tone and volume is more important as a trio performing in small venues than as a five piece rock band playing at outdoor concerts. My cousin did a gig at a patio bar of a local restaurant the other night and the first thing the manager said was "Keep the volume down."

I get that. I walked around the venue to listen to the loudness and levels of the piano, drum machine, guitar and vocals then came back to make suggestions. For now, all the music came through 2 speakers on stands near the band. Louder near the front and not loud enough in the back.

The manager said the volume near the band was okay. I suggested moving the speakers further apart so the coverage near the back would better without having to make things louder. My cousin mentioned he has 2 satellite speakers not being used. That's perfect and all we need to do is make some extension cords for power and sound and we can place them on opposite sides of the venue for better coverage.

To keep levels under control, I'm thinking about some audio compression. It's something that gets used in nearly all processed media we listen to. I've been researching audio compression recently for where and how it gets used, also what benefits it will give in a live performance. Basically... it makes the sound more uniform where the peaks don't exceed a preset level and the lower sounds are raised making the music program sound fuller. The music is literally compressed into a volume range.

For me, it will even out my volume so finger picking style is the same volume as slap style. I bought an inexpensive compressor and will experiment with that.

Some videos on compression are 20 to 50 minutes long... too much for an example. I found a good example that takes less than 3 minutes to make the point.

A good explanation is a singer getting very close to the microphone and then backing away a foot or two. The compressor will compensate for both conditions so he/she will have the same level.
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Comments (18)

I use a Boost, Equaliser and Compressor in that order. Then a Blues Driver to get the right sound for me.
All that into a Marshall MG30. The pickups always need adjusting first. You probably don't need all that with a Bass guitar though.
Are you using any of the digital effects that are built-in to the MG30?
I will never do without compression again. Its one of those things that you dont miss it if you never had it but once you have it, you will never do without again. I use it on lots of stuff from guitar to bass to vocals. My power amp and active sub woofer got protection by compression.
Track, what brand/model are you using?
I purchased an analog unit from Amazon and honestly cannot hear any difference.
The test was only a few minutes, low volume and my bass has active pickups/circuitry.

I'll try it with my other guitar that's similar to a Fender Jazz Bass.
I am just using what is built in my fx processor. Different models can vary a lot, I heard them like you said, cant hear any difference per your output and others you have to watch how much you apply because they can be aggressive.

Generally what you are looking for is not coloration of your sound, but a tightening of it, less pops, bursts, and if you set the compressor up to do it, it can raise your lower levels and act as a sustainer. I got a boss that is run of the mill but it got a sustain control and you can have anywhere from very little to a note singing all day long. The tradeoff is that the more you set up for sustain, you can add color in your sound and intensity so you may want to back off the gain a bit.
You were asking about compression.
I put a bit of time into getting the sound right. After a lot of adjustment to strings and pickup settings I found that, to take one example, the high E string was quiter than the B string so I got a Boost and Compressor which was recommended, but that didn't work to my satisfaction so I got a Boss EQ GE7. After a lot of fiddling I got it right, every string is now playing with equal volume. I still like to use all four pedals because of the overall sound, sustain and gain.
You also asked about other effects. I experimented with every available effect but don't use them.
Fair enough. Merlot & Track, thanks for the input.

After listening to many YouTube sample videos, I bought 4 different types of pedals to experiment and none of them work as I expected.
My position is bassist in a duo or trio playing small venues. I'm using a copy of a Fender Jazz bass direct into an Acoustic 100 watt amplifier with one 12: speaker. I listened to some rehearsal sounds and it's the tone I want, but I think compression may be needed in a low-volume setting to tame the peaks.

I tried a very low-end compressor and the effect (to my ear) wasn't doing anything.

Also, If I play in a duet gig, I considered an octave pedal to add an octave up filling in where we didn't have a guitarist.
The FLAMMA FS08 Polyphonic Octave Pedal failed as it colored the sound with harmonics.
The Boss Octave OC-5 has a grainy texture... also not desirable.
My next experiment will be playing the parts on a guitar to see if the one octave down reads better.

Two other pedals had flange, delay, reverb... all made me queasy when they distorted.
The GE7 is so useful, hey. I got one too and love it. I use it outside my rig to fix my overall sound if need be where I just run straight to the board (light years ahead of the board eq).
I would look at a BOSS CP-1X Compressor. The do not color your sound yet work very well, they have a led light ladder on them letting you know how much it is compressing. If I was looking for a compressor now, that is one I would look at. Not sure what to recommend for a octave pedal as I don't use that effect much, though a 8 stringed bass could do what you are looking for plus its an excuse to get another bass lol.

As another poster suggested, a eq pedal can be helpful too, though for bass, you would probably want a mxr 10 band eq as the boss ge7 is tuned for guitar frequencies more so than bass.
I have two Acoustic B100C amplifiers with 4-band EQ and a notch control. I'm already getting the tone I want. Adding a graphic equalizer (to an amp with a graphic equalizer) doesn't make sense to me.

Most 6-string basses have a low B and a high C.
I own a 6-string bass and had some custom gauge strings and go from E to E, with guitar tuning. The luthier who worked on it took those strings off and put a standard set on, so I'm going to restring it... sooner than later.
Because of the size of the neck, a 6-string bass has amazing resonance.

I took a quick look at the BOSS CP-1X Compressor effects pedal and didn't see it mentioned being useful for bass. I'm out on appointments today and will do more research later. Thanks for mentioning it.

Compressor link:

Amplifier link:

54 years ago, I was playing through a SUNN Coliseum bass amplifier, 440 watts RMS and 880 watts peak at 2 ohms. Four Electro-Voice 15" speakers in 2 cabinets.

Mine was an early release and had an all silver face.
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Damn !?!!

Where do you get the Energy...?
.. music... kitchen design ..
CStonehenge life support...
And saving the world from Trump...

Wait.... ORANGES! [ .am eYe right..sigh

I'm avoiding oranges and orange juice due to the sugar content.
After 3 rounds of steroids (remember the itchy leg episode) my sugar levels are way up, so I'm avoiding 'all things sugar' including flour & bread products. Sadly, that includes Biscotti cookies, pasta and pizza.

You left out model helicopters... Batteries charged and I'm heading to the flying field for a few hours.

Yes. And I'm aware you R older ...

After a 3 mile walk & changing the cat litter, among others...
.eYe require a power nap ..

Now then; once upon a 1976 , blue oyster cult & mahogany rush
Teamed up to see how much $uction they could create inside a
5,500 seat auditorium in Springfield MO ....
...eYe had to leave within the hour ... Nauseous sound
Seriously powerful suction.
I dislike concerts in large venues because the sound systems they use are TOO FREAKIN' LOUD.
Seriously, when the volume is so loud that is blurs your vision, there is no enjoyment in listening. ALWAYS I go to performances with industrial strength ear plugs.
Track, I saw a video demo on the BOSS CP-1X that actually made sense.
The guy was playing a Telecaster and picked lightly, nearly inaudible, then strummed hard.
He did the same licks with the compressor on and you can clearly hear the quiet notes that were raised to a good level and the highs didn't peak out of range.
thumbs up
I saw a 'shootout' between the BOSS CP-1X against the MXR Dunlop Bass compressor.
Several different styles and bass guitars and to me the MXR had a clearer sound.

Both under $200, the plus with the BOSS is it has a self-contained 9 volt battery so I don't need a power supply with only one pedal.
I do have a battery connector with the correct polarity to run a pedal without plugging wall power.
I wouldn't depend on the battery. They're really only for testing purposes.
If you leave the cables attached it draws power and will go dead overnight.
My bass has active pickups so I always remove the plug then not playing.
The BOSS is said to run for 3 hours on battery.
It would be my only pedal and probably be on top or near the amp as I don't intend to be clicking it on and off. I wasn't planning to run power to a pedal board.
Decisions, decisions...
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created Feb 24
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