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Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter pedal

Two ways to get squishy in one great pedal



by Phil O'Keefe



Compression is such a important part of most modern guitar parts on recordings that it's rare to find a studio guitarist's pedalboard without one. And since hearing those same sounds is often expected by today's live audiences, compressors have become equally popular with live performers too. But there's a problem. All but the most die-hard fans of compression usually only have one compressor on their boards, but what do you do when you need two different amounts of compression for different parts in the same song? It's not uncommon to want modest compression to smooth out your rhythm parts, but also heavier amounts of compression, sustain and a level boost for your solos. Renown guitarist Andy Timmons had similar thoughts, and contacted Carl Martin about creating a dual compressor pedal - the result is the Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter.


What You Need To Know

  • Based on the original Carl Martin Compressor / Limiter, the Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter was developed in cooperation with the former Danger Danger, current Andy Timmons Band and longtime studio guitarist; a user and fan of the original Carl Martin Compressor, he wanted a single pedal with the ability to store and recall two different compression settings. This led to the signature model under review here, which is somewhat similar to two compressors in one housing, or if you prefer (and as Carl Martin correctly refers to it) a single compressor with two presets.

  • Housed in a die-cast metal box measuring 4.72" L x 3.74" W x 2.2" H, the Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter sports the traditional black with purple accents and white lettering, and understated classy appearance of the original Carl Martin Compressor, but with Andy's signature added.


 

  • The controls and the way they work are similar to the original Carl Martin Compressor / Limiter. As with the original pedal, you'll find a Comp control that sets the ratio or amount of compression, with increasing compression (higher ratio) as you turn it further clockwise, with a range of 1:1 to 1:∞. It differs from the original Carl Martin Compressor in that there are two Comp controls - one for each "preset."

  • Each of the two presets also has a dedicated Level control to set the post-compression output volume level. There's up to 20dB of gain available, so you can easily dial up a significant solo boost if desired.

  • There are two additional controls in the center of the pedal on smaller 6mm knobs. Labeled Threshold and Response, these controls are shared by and active with both presets.

  • The Threshold knob sets the level where compression starts kicking in, and covers a 60dB range. Signals that are lower in volume than the threshold point will not trigger compression, while notes that exceed the threshold will be compressed at the ratio set by the Comp knob. Turning this knob up raises the threshold and requires increasingly harder playing to trigger compression.  

  • The Response knob sets how quickly or slowly the compressor responds. Think of this as being similar to the attack and release knobs on a studio compressor, but on a single knob that controls the speed of the compressor's attack and release times simultaneously. The range is from 125 ms when fully counter-clockwise to 12.5 ms when dimed.

  • When fully clockwise, the pedal acts more as a fast, brick wall-style peak limiter, and has a less obvious effect on your overall sound since it's only taming the very loudest peaks. As you turn the knob lower, the pedal acts more as a compressor with signal-dependent attack and release times. For a more obviously "compressed" sound, keep the Response knob set lower, and for more transparent limiting, set it higher.

  • The bypass switching on the Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter has an excellent sounding bypass buffer; a dedicated LED labeled Bypass illuminates when the pedal is active.

  • The left footswitch selects between the pedal's two "presets," with two LEDs (one below each Level knob) assigned to clearly indicate which of the two is selected. This second footswitch and corresponding LEDs are always active, so you can select the preset you want and see which one is selected, even when the pedal is bypassed.
     
  • Another LED is labeled "Busy," and it not only lets you know when the compressor is actively working, but gets brighter the harder it is working. It is a handy visual reference that can help some people get to grips with what the pedal is doing at various settings.

  • The Andy Timmons Signature Compressor has the 1/4" input and output jacks, as well as an industry standard 2.1mm center negative power jack mounted at the top of the pedal. Input impedance is 1M Ohm and the output impedance is 200 Ohm.





  • Battery powering is not an option, and there are no internal trim pots or switches...there's really nothing to see if you open up the pedal.




  • This compressor requires regulated 9V DC 200 mA power from an external adapter or power supply (not included), and the power is ramped up to 12V internally to maintain the same dynamic response and headroom as the 12V powered Carl Martin Compressor. Current draw is 130mA. Make sure you stick to the recommended adapter only to prevent voiding your warranty and frying your pedal.
  • A side mounted 1/4" Remote footswitch jack lets you connect an optional latching footswitch for remote switching of the two presets.




  • As with most compressors, the controls are somewhat interactive, so make sure you try different settings to see what's possible. To that end, the manual does a very good job of walking you though different examples and teaching you how to get whatever it is you're after out of the pedal.

  • This pedal is dead quiet compared to many compressors - and not just pedals; with a quoted signal-to-noise ratio of 105 dB it performs well by studio standards.


Limitations

  • Because the Threshold and Response are shared by both presets, you can't have one Preset set up with a high threshold and heavy compression (limiting) with the other set for a lower threshold paired with light compression.

  • Since they're smaller and lack any the white indicators of the larger knobs, the settings on the Threshold and Response knobs can be difficult to see.

  • It's on the expensive side as pedal compressors go. Then again, it's at the top of the pile in terms of sound.

  • Unlike having two separate compressor pedals, the Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor can not be patched into two different locations in your signal path / pedal chain.


Conclusions

Having two compressor settings in one pedal is really a great idea! It saves on pedalboard real estate compared to using two pedals, and you can use one compressor set modestly for rhythm parts with the other set up with heavier squash and sustain. Country players will love this pedal. From smooth strums to sizzling hot chicken pickin,' this pedal covers it all, and that same versatility makes it useful for a wide variety of other genres.

One slight disadvantage I see in having both "compressors" in a single pedal is that you give up the ability to patch them into different places, but 95% of guitarists probably put their compressors at or near the front of their chains anyway, so this will be a non-issue for most players. The shared Threshold and Response knobs may be a bummer for some and I think separating them would add even more flexibility, but again, most players will probably appreciate the slightly streamlined control set over something more complex, especially since those little knobs are kind of hard to see. You still get plenty of control and the two most important controls - Comp and Level - are duplicated for each of the dual compressor presets, so controlling how much compression, and the resulting compressed signal's loudness will be is easy. The switching and LEDs make it easy to keep track of which preset is active whether you're bypassed or not, and the "Busy" LED helps show what the compressor is doing.  

Ultimately what impressed me the most about this pedal is the sound quality. It's right up there with the best studio compressors, and better suited to guitar than many of them. While any compressor will accentuate any noise already present in the signal, this one is remarkably quiet for a pedal compressor, with very low self-noise.

Once you get the hang of what everything does (and the manual really helps with that), it's easy to use and very smooth and predictable in how it responds. If you just want a bit of fattening, this can turn your notes into plump little Butterballs. Want snappy, poppy Country cluck? You'll find it here. If loads of silky smooth sustain is more your thing, it can do that too. Best of all, you can have two different amounts of compression and level settings a click away with just this one exceptional sounding compressor pedal. The price tag may raise a few eyebrows, but be fair to yourself and give one a listen before you make up your mind. If excellent-sounding compression is important to you, you may well find the premium performance of the Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter more than justifies the asking price.


Resources

Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter ($399.00 MSRP, $279.30 "street")

Carl Martin product web page   

Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter manual (PDF file)   



You can purchase the Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor / Limiter pedal from:

Guitar Center    

Musician's Friend

 

Want to discuss the Carl Martin Andy Timmons signature compressor/limiter? Have more questions? Want to share yout thoughts? Then be sure to stop by this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central.

 

   




__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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mandoshippen  |  November 22, 2016 at 10:03 am
Nice review. Whats a Carl Martin ATCOMPLIM Bass compressor?   Pictures online indicate that it is the same as the Carl Martin Andy Timmons Compressor. Are they the same thing? 
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