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Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

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Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby BillB » Fri Sep 14, 2018 5:46 pm

I have been wondering about applying a compressor to synth outputs, especially the wilder resonant monos, in order to stop any filter sweeps or sub-bass booms freaking out the mixer/fx/amp/recorder that follows.

Do folks do this as a matter of course? Are guitar pedal compressors up to the (mono-only) job? Googling turns up favourable comments for small rack units like the FMR Audio RNC, but I am mostly a cheap hobbyist so would like to find solutions under say £100. I have a few cheap units which I can experiment with: Alesis 3630 - I know, much derided; and an ART Tube MP V3 - probably equally derided!

But I wondered whether fellow synth-nerds take compressors as read for controlling wilder sounds, and worth investing in, or just watch levels carefully when recording and perhaps use ITB options. Or would maybe use a compressor live. Or....

Your thoughts, as always, would be very welcome.
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby resistorman » Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:06 pm

If you're playing live, a good brickwall limiter would be best. I've almost lost speakers when tweaking synths! You need something with super fast response.
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby nathanscribe » Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:32 pm

I've never found compressors very useful for that job, and have had very little joy with stompbox compressors on synths generally. I do like the EHX White Finger though, that's a good sounding pedal.

Don't bother with the Boss CS-3 unless you want everything to sound like a 4th generation C90 that used to have the chart show on it. No doubt there's a market for that now.

In related news, I used to run a Little Phatty through a Radial JDI and a UA710, which did chunky things to the bottom end. Before that, I tried the same trick with a cheap ART transformer DI and Tube MP, the little blue one, and I thought the ART gear was good fun to play with for the money. Noisy though. Their rackmount VLA stereo compressor is good value as well.
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:01 am

It's funny you should post this query Bill, as I found myself having to reach for a compressor plug-in to tame some filter sweeps on my Prophet 12 recordings only yesterday.

I did try quite several candidates in my plug-in arsenal before I settled on the elysia mpressor, which leveled things out without squashing things too much.

I suspect the hardware version of this would probably be overkill for your purposes though :headbang:


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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby BillB » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:22 pm

Hi all, thanks for your thoughts. I expected the responses to be a bit polarised, from “compression is an essential part of my phat synth sound” to “its absolutely unnecessary with 24-bit recording”. Is the reality horses for courses, and tame the peaks if you need to? Is it a useful element in getting a certain sound, or just a tool to be used to avoid digital clipping.
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby Ben Asaro » Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:19 pm

Compressors can add great colour to a synth! They can also be used to tease out certain aspects of the tone without using an EQ.
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby BillB » Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:32 am

Thanks Ben. Are you using pedals or more high-end rack units to get the effects you are looking for?
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Re: Compressors and Synths - yes or no?

Postby Ben Asaro » Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:15 pm

BillB wrote:Thanks Ben. Are you using pedals or more high-end rack units to get the effects you are looking for?
Typically pedals because at the end of the day it needs to be portable. I use either a Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone or Cali 76, but that’s because I prefer a very coloured compression sound.

Oh, also in line with this, using an overdrive, fuzz, or distortion pedal might also do what you are looking for. An overdrive can add colour and smooth out transients without acting like a VCA.
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