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Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

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Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Jay Menon » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:46 pm

I've noticed that when amplified, even an excellent acoustic guitar tone can have a spiky transient associated with plectrum attack, whilst strumming. I'm not necessarily talking piezo quack - my two gigging guitars have a LR Baggs Lyric microphone and a magnetic Taylor Expression System.

I'm therefore thinking a compressor with a rapid attack and release time would work well to tame that initial spiky transient...

Most dedicated guitar compressors (exemplified by the Boss stompboxes) do not however, have attack, release and ratio controls...

I wonder is there a cost effective mono compressor you would recommend that has these more conventional controls...?

Expert opinions most appreciated.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Richie Royale » Wed Jan 22, 2014 4:24 pm

I'm not an expert! but this has a variable attack.

https://robertkeeley.com/products/compressor/4-knob-compressor/

A bit pricey though.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Jay Menon » Wed Jan 22, 2014 5:17 pm

Thanks Richie. I would imagine however, that taming that spiky transient would require adjustability in terms of both attack and release. There are a couple of reasonably priced ones out there, and considering that it would be for live use, I rather suspect a fairly basic one should do the job...

Any more opinions please…?
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby shufflebeat » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:31 pm

Most compressorsI I've come across have been either heavy handed or too bland to be of much use. What I'd love is the 'Transient Killer' which is included with Reaper but in pedal form.

My favourite solution, which I feel I drone on about far too much, is the Fishman Aura Blender which, although it does have a v useful compressor on board, actually uses the transient as part of the sound, just breaks it up a bit so it has texture rather than that horrible plastic crack.

It all depends on getting the right 'image' (a bit like an impulse response) for your guitar/setup.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Random Guitarist » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:08 pm

There's always the joyo dyna compressor. That has a separate attack control and is reassuringly cheap. I bought one a while ago for my acoustic guitar but have to admit I've not used it enough to form a strong opinion yet.

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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:38 pm

Cost effective is a matter of perspective, but the Effectrode PC-2A is extremely fast and sounds, well, incredible. Great on electric guitar and bass, haven't tried it myself on acoustic but every reason to think it would do what you want in a very nice way.

In addition to the peak reduction and output knobs, there are two internal trim pots which provide control over attack and knee, which you might find useful.

A million miles away from the pumpy squash of a Boss/Ross type compressor, more like a studio unit like an 1176 or LA-2A (hence name, I expect).

It's valve, it's a stompbox, it's cool!
It's also not very cheap, and requires 12V at 350mA centre-positive power.

For me, if it was steam powered I'd still have it on my board... it makes everything sound better to the extent that it's just unfair on people who don't have one :-)
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby damoore » Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:08 pm

I wonder if a softer plectrum might give better results. The problem with a compressor is it is going to give variable results depending on how loud you are playing. It is not going to control the click when playing soft, or at least not to the same extent, and for me that would be when I wanted the click least.

Your other option would be to use a gate, but that is only going to work on detached notes - once the gate is being kept open by sustained notes it won't suppress the click.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mister Natural » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:30 am

JM - I'm reluctant to use a compressor on an acoustic live as the tendancy toward feedback could get crazy quickly.

best of luck
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Jay Menon » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:30 am

Thanks guys for all your replies - I'm going to try a whole bunch of stuff and shall report back...
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby grab » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:29 pm

You could always try an RNC-1773. It's not pedal-shaped, but it's got jack connectors so it's guitar-friendly. If your guitar has an onboard preamp (as most piezo-equipped instruments do) then chances are it can plug straight in. And it's very reasonably priced.

If you're only using the compressor to cut transients, you shouldn't have problems with feedback.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Helmutcrab » Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:39 pm

I second grab on the RNC recommendation.

I suppose the thing you need to worry about with acoustic guitars and compressors is transparency. Some will be a little heavy handed for this application. The RNC has a 'supernice mode' which is incredibly transparent even under heavy compression. However i have not tried it with acoustic guitar myself but in any price range it would be the first i would try here. I remember recording a cello before and the cellist swore by it. It is small, light, relatively tough and can work in unbalanced mono or stereo. It is fast but not forward looking so will miss the fastest transients but again i am not sure how relevant that is for acoustic guitar.

Are you being amplified by a P.A/mixer or do you have your own acoustic amp ?

If you are going straight to desk/P.A or if going into a dedicated acoustic guitar or line level amp you could try a passive D.I box instead of a compressor. Again, haven't tried it myself for this application but passive D.I's do attenuate transients to some extent and work instantaneously. They range from about £80 - £180 for a decent one last i checked. It all depends on how much control you want. The compressor will allow you that but a D.I might do just enough and it means you don't need to set levels on a compressor. I don't know if you have used them before but compressors can take some getting used to but once you understand them they are a very powerful tool in controlling unruly signals.

If you are using an acoustic with a built-in, battery powered preamp, then a passive D.I would be what i would try out first. They are always really handy in a live situation anyway, in case of preamp/amp failure and allow you to run cables over great distances without noise build up. You can just take it straight to desk. They work with line level or low level hi Z signals. A passive D.I will produce a smoother sound due to the transformer's natural compression. Radial engineering have plenty advice on their site about this :

http://www.radialeng.com/comparing-dis.php

Cheers,

Peter
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Helmutcrab » Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:37 pm

Actually, Jonny's PC 2A recommendation looks like a nice possibility too. Valves ( and a transformer ? ) and one control simple peak reduction should work very well live if it is transparent enough for acoustic guitar.

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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Helmutcrab » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:27 pm

Helmutcrab wrote:

Are you being amplified by a P.A/mixer or do you have your own acoustic amp ?

If you are going straight to desk/P.A or if going into a dedicated acoustic guitar or line level amp you could try a passive D.I box instead of a compressor. Again, haven't tried it myself for this application but passive D.I's do attenuate transients to some extent and work instantaneously. They range from about £80 - £180 for a decent one last i checked. It all depends on how much control you want. The compressor will allow you that but a D.I might do just enough and it means you don't need to set levels on a compressor. I don't know if you have used them before but compressors can take some getting used to but once you understand them they are a very powerful tool in controlling unruly signals.

If you are using an acoustic with a built-in, battery powered preamp, then a passive D.I would be what i would try out first. They are always really handy in a live situation anyway, in case of preamp/amp failure and allow you to run cables over great distances without noise build up. You can just take it straight to desk. They work with line level or low level hi Z signals. A passive D.I will produce a smoother sound due to the transformer's natural compression. Radial engineering have plenty advice on their site about this :

http://www.radialeng.com/comparing-dis.php

Cheers,

Peter

Hmm, think i had a bad day, not the best advice from myself

Might be interesting to see what if any effect a passive d.i has ( if a one is at hand live ) into the mic input on an acoustic amp or P.A but other than that compression and eq would be the things to try. Passive d.i's wouldn't be the best d.i as a back up for onboard pre failure i think as they have lower impedance compared to active d.i's. Best would be a dedicated acoustic d.i. Passive would work straight to p.a from preamp if amp broke.

Think i should leave the advice to the experts though !
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby CS70 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:26 pm

Hm.. can't you adapt your technique? A softer attack? Is it down-strumming or up which gives the problem?

Actually I wouldn't advise soft picks as they're much harder to control.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby bequick_x » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:29 pm

Definitely your plectrum.

Do you play with hard picks?

I use a medium pick (0.6m Dunlop nylon) so I can still really hit my guitar but also do some picking.

If you have a soft pick (0.46mm) it will get rid of that 'harsh' attack sound. I really feel that a compressor live would either be too soft or it will be detrimental to your playing.

Buy some different thicknesses of picks and experiment (and record yourself).
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby grab » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:31 pm

The problem with soft picks is that whilst you do get less transient, you also get less sound, and you (relatively) get more "thwap" of the pick flipping across the string, at least if there's a mic anywhere near. Perhaps if you're using a particularly heavy pick then downgrading to a 0.7 or so would help, but going ultra-light is just going to leave you with nothing but the flicking, page-ruffling kind of sound of the pick going over the strings, especially if there's a mic involved.

If you've got a full band with bass and one or two other guitars, sometimes all you want is that strumming noise, almost as percussion. Sometimes you'll do that to rhythm guitars with EQ anyway, where they'd be trampling all over the other instruments otherwise. But if the rhythm guitar is key to the sound, and particularly if there's only one guitar there, I think a soft pick isn't going to help you.

How's about losing the pick altogether and trying fingers instead? The sound of flesh on strings is somewhat different, and a bit more rounded. And changing technique between using relatively more nails or flesh lets you vary the tone.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mixedup » Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:48 pm

The Joe Meek Floor-Q would be worth a look if you're still entertaining the idea of a compressor.
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Re: Compressor for Live Acoustic Guitar

Postby Helmutcrab » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:57 pm

Hi mixed up,

I am a fan of the older meeks so bought the new PMI version of the MC2 stereo compressor and it is quite aggressive even on the mildest settings. It is very grabby. I don't know if it is the same compressor as the floor Q, but i think it might be. I spoke to Allen Hyatt about it ( who was very helpful with settings etc ) but was still unable to get any subtle compression. It does do a nice lively mild pumping modulation on cleanish electric guitar if you get it just right ( if your into that sort of thing ) but it is all to easy to squash the signal and i do not feel it can do transparent at all imho. It really can't compete with my RNC in supernice mode for transparency and lacks the nice colouration of the older meeks i have ( old Fletcher meeks, C2 and VC1 ) and both are superior compressors imo capable of subtle compression or high energy squashing.
The old meeks are great on drums and i remember being disappointed with the new mc2 on parallel drum bus ( flat in comparison and lacking sparkle ).
Saying all this i have not tried a floor Q. Have you tried one with acoustic guitar ? I would be interested to know how it got on.

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