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something i notice of the Boss CS-3 compression sustainer

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  • something i notice of the Boss CS-3 compression sustainer

    It's weird... it sounds different when I put it before the distortion or after. It sounds much better after the distortion. very nice compressor tone. before it loses output. unity gain is at 3 o clock. and the attack is different. the compressor effect quality is not as good. sounds like a cheap compressor. what is the meaning of this ?

  • #2
    Normally compressors are used for CLEAN playing, or perhaps with light distortion. There is little point in using a compressor IF you are also running medium to high gain distortion, because all distortion/clipping effects (distortion, overdrive, fuzz) compress the signal bigly. After going through a distortion pedal, there's not much the compressor can do besides add some white noise and hum/buzz. It all really hinges on how much gain (distortion) you're using on the distortion pedal.


    and the attack is different.
    Yes, sir. This is what compressors do.

    I use a cheap pedal compressor (Aria CP-10) on one song in our band's setlist. I have the compression set fairly high (2 o'clock I think) and yes, I do run it through my tube distortion pedal, but it's a fairly low-gain "light crunch" tone. I play a weird rhythm riff where I slide up to an E note and sustain it for 3 beats and then a little E chord "chop" on the fourth beat. The compressor helps the single E note not get buried and keeps the 'chop' from being too loud. Evens out the volume difference between the single-note part and the chord part.

    You can also use a compressor with light OD to get a sustaining, but not too distorted, "sweet" lead tone that's nice for solos.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by mbengs1 View Post
      It's weird... it sounds different when I put it before the distortion or after. It sounds much better after the distortion. very nice compressor tone. before it loses output. unity gain is at 3 o clock. and the attack is different. the compressor effect quality is not as good. sounds like a cheap compressor. what is the meaning of this ?
      There's not a lot of point to running a compressor after a distortion pedal.

      Compressors DO alter the attack - it takes them a finite amount of time to kick in (with adjustable attack time being a variable on many studio compressors), and when they do, they start messing with the input vs output level by a specific ratio. They reduce waveform peaks that exceed a threshold point, and give you a more limited (sorry for the unintended pun) dynamic range. Distortion essentially does the same type of thing - a distorted signal has the waveform peaks clipped / flattened. There's nothing for the compressor to really do at that point - although it can still be used as a level booster when you use one after a distortion pedal, it's also going to be adding noise - you'd be better off using an actual boost pedal post-distortion instead.

      I suspect you're falling for the old "louder is better" prejudice, and that's messing with your perceptions. Set everything for unity gain, then try it again and see if you're still preferring the sound of the compressor post-distortion, and pay particular attention to the note attacks, sustain and decay, as well as the noise levels. If you still prefer the sound with the compressor post-distortion, then go ahead and keep it there - you won't hurt anything by doing so, other than maybe your signal to noise ratio... but be aware that most people don't run them that way.



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      • #4
        Used after a drive pedal a compressors tend to boost noise levels. Just do an ambient test. Set each pedal so you have a decent 1:1 gain level, then set the drive pedal for high gain. When you kick the compressor on after the drive pedal, the hiss levels go through the roof.

        There are other factors here too. When a compressor is used before a gain pedal it can act like a gain boost. With the comp off you can dial up a crunch sound and compressor on, you can get a sustained lead tone. At loud volumes you can get controlled sympathetic feedback as the strings begin to self sustain. Turn the drive off and you can have a nice jangle to the strings using a compressor only.

        I will make an exception for the Boss compressor however. Last band I was in the guitarist needed a compressor to get a tone closer to mine. He bough the boss and no matter how much we tweaking it we couldn't get a decent sound from it. It in fact did weird things to the sound.

        He wound up giving me the pedal to me when he moved on. I did allot of testing with it and its by far my least favorite compressor pedal and thats based on maybe 50 or more different types I've owned. Even an optical compressor sounds tight and lively in comparison.

        If I had to describe it I suppose the type of compression that comes closest might be a primitive AGC compression.

        The reason it sounds better after a gain pedal is unique to how flabby that Boss pedal is. Other compressor pedals have the kind of recoil that make them better before a drive pedals. The Boss seems to be an exception to that rule. It's as lifeless as it gets placed first in the chain.

        One of these days I need to dig up the schematic and see if there is something there I can modify to make it sound better. There's no problem with its tone. The buffers are fine, but the way the attack, decay and threshold work simply isn't ideal for guitar. For program music maybe, but guitar sends it off the deep end.

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        • #5
          There's not a lot of point to running a compressor after a distortion pedal.
          Live yes, when recording however you often break the rules of effect order. If you use compression on a guitar track "It Is" after drive pedals and when you master a mix you may use multiband compression and always use a brick wall limiter last.

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