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Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by SixShooter, May 21, 2013.
For a pedal that does this I'd say the Nocturne Brain.
Actually, a compressor is a limiter, but it does more than just "set a ceiling" for the peak amplitude that cannot be breached.
A limiter is a great tool for someone who is literally just trying to keep their levels within a certain range but not mess with any other part of the signal - the lower amplitude stuff is not touched, essentially.
While they are harder to find as pedals, I typically recommend a limiter to folks who don't like what a comp does, just like I recommend a parametric EQ in place of a graphic EQ. The processing is much more minimal when you get everything tweaked to your liking, potentially.
It may not be that in a technical sense but the BBE Sonic Stomp comes to mind. Taking blanket off the amp is a common description.
I stand corrected - at least by someone who definitely knows a thing or two in this field.
And I fully understand your point 11 Gauge, it's just that my perception of compression is more about sustain than killing dynamics, hence my (less than accurate) statement.
If you think about it, if your setting (without compression) is too loud, it will also "sustain", but it will be too loud until the signal tails off. Compression leaves the tail.
Opposite of compress is expand
There seems to be some funny ideas of what a compressor does, it is a non-linear amplifier. It may have a threshold or noise gate (labelled "attack" perhaps) but that it not compression.
Normal amplifiers are linear, the amount of gain multiplication is fixed whatever the input signal size. In a compressor we arrange that small signals get more gain than large ones so that the dynamic range of the output, from soft to loud, is less than it was at the input, it is compressed. The effect is one of increased sustain because the quiet notes are boosted (or the loud ones reduced), hence the knob is usually labelled "sustain".
Turn the knob anticlockwise and you get the opposite, expansion. Now the dynamic range is exaggerated so you get staccato notes. Most compressor pedals do this e.g. Boss CS-3 but they usually have more compression/sustain than expansion.
Hence the potential for the average user to not set it up as would probably serve them best.
I love what I heard a pro guitarist once say about his thoughts on dialing in a compressor - if you can overtly hear the effect, you've got too much compression dialed in!
It definitely is expansion. So it would be any sort of amplification like an overdrive pedal.
It is expansion, but most overdrive/distortion pedals reduce dynamic range, compress the signal.
No, an OD is essentially a linear amp with some clipping which might be viewed as compression, not expansion.
The effect is perhaps easier to understand when used inside a DAW and displayed graphically.
For "expansion" (which a compressor pedal /will/ do) the loud notes are made even louder and the quiet notes even quieter, so you really only hear the note attack and then a short to non-existent note decay. Which you can do simply by muting the strings.
Looks like we're getting somewhere. On the basis of the above, sonically at least, we may infer that the opposite of compression is palm muting
In the broadcast world where we use compressors on mics to limit the peaks, expansion would be complementary to compression. Compression cut the peaks, expansion lifts the very low levels. Your waveform would look tighter around your 0VU mark. It kills the dynamics. It's good for TV because you want to hear everything at low level in a small ****ty speaker. For music, you usually listen a bit louder with a much better system. You want that dynamic.
Expansion does not lift the low levels. In fact it does the very opposite. It makes lower levels even lower. Here is an example of a very typical expander function:
Expanders are indeed the opposite of compressors. The name even tells you so.
The most typical use of an expander is as a noise suppressor. Background noise in a signal is (hopefully) quieter than the actual desirable signal. Usually there is a threshold control so that I only expand the quieter moments inbetween the desired signal. By expanding the dynamic range of a signal an expander lowers the quieter moments in between the real signal, reducing background noise. I can turn up my overall signal to make it louder but I am not left with noise when my desired signal is not active. This is perfect for removing the hum from single coil pickups. When the guitar is playing it basically masks the hum noise. But inbetween songs, that hum could be annoying, so an expander is used to lower the volume of that quieter signal when the guitar is not playing notes.
I also often use expander to make a note shorter, typically a kick drum or tom that rings too long. By applying expansion to a drum mic I can make the tail of the drum hit fade away faster, making a shorter drum sound.
SynMike has got it, thanks for the visual aid.
The compressor/expander inside a DAW can be very sophisticated, allowing one end to be expanded and the other compressed even. Used in recording process to make vocals or other parts stand out etc.
So to keep the SCOPE of this where it belongs, the opposite of a compressor WRT electric guitar (and not TV commercials, drums, vocals, etc.) is a noise suppressor. At least it's the most popular application.
I'm only emphasizing this because IMO many guitarists "don't use compression to compress," if that makes sense. I think it does, since we don't use overdrive to overdrive an amp. OD simulates amp overdrive - if a clipped signal is also mixed with a clipping preamp, IMO it will be sonic doo-doo. Lots of guitarists don't seem to grasp that overdrive is cumulative "per stage" more than it is one stage overloading the next.
...But that is getting off topic...
I've rarely heard a guitarist refer to their use of compression as anything other than increasing sustain, "fattening things up," or "softening the attack." If I ever heard a guitarist explain their usage with anything even remotely verbose, I think I'd temporarily lose consciousness.
That's no fault of ours (collectively, as a community) IMO, since there is such little attempt on the part of many manufacturers to try and educate effects users as opposed to just market stuff to us.
Getting back to the noise suppressor thing - I recently found out that EHX uses comb filter principles for their Hum Debugger. Intriguing and odd at the same time. No wonder the pedal has mixed reviews.