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Do you use compression?

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Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 726
Topic starter  

I find when I am playing, especially fast - that I tend to sound some notes louder than others, due to picking them harder. I guess compression would be the way to go here, to even things out.

Do most of you guys use compression? It would seem to me that it should be built into bass amps as a standard option, especially on the higher end amps...

Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3995

When I use the Pandora for recording/practicing, I use compression. I use a patch that it has activated the compression. I don't use the original patch, I was modifying some other parameters but I like the tone with the compression.

When I use the amp (an EBS), I don't use compression. It has several filters but no a compressor.

Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3221

Many bass amps have a built-in compressor, but they tend to serve more of a "limiter" function based on where the threshold is set and the "knee" type, as well as how gain is applied. For example, on my Genz-Benz, I can play as quietly as a song needs, but in a different song if I am adding some slap/pop the limiter kicks in and my volume is contained to an appropriate level. This is why the input gain level on many bass amps need to be "set up" before use, to just where the preamp starts clipping on your loudest notes. By doing that, you're also setting the compressor's threshold (assuming it doesn't have separate controls.)

Aside from that, I do not use a compressor for bass. My first bass teacher said I'd be better off learning to control my volume with my fingers and ears.

"Everybody got to elevate from the norm."

Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 66

My first bass teacher said I'd be better off learning to control my volume with my fingers and ears.

I agree with this, at least for home use. I am a huge proponent of people learning to get the tone and volume they want through good technique before they start playing with gadgets and knobs. It is way better than re-learning your technique later if you realize you have a few tunes that only proper technique will help.

However, if you are playing a live gig (esp. if you are going straight into the house PA) or your slap technique constantly causes your amp to clip, I would recommend a compressor of some kind. You don't want the sound guy to muffle the heck out of your signal because you are overdriving his system and you also don't want your sound to be too harsh on the audience.

I am a bit un-schooled on exactly how to dial in a fully-functional compressor (one with attack, threshold, decay, etc. parameters) so I generally use a Fishman active DI box with a dumbed-down compressor built-in (there are a few dumbed-down compressors on the market that consist of only one knob). You might start with something like that.

Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars

Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1435

I have a compressor pedal, but rarely use it. My new amp has a limiter built in, which I have turned on, but it rarely kicks in.

Bass player for Undercover

Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 13

I don't use a compressor - I like to have the ability to explore dynamics manually. I guess I'm just old school - I never had a compressor early on and just learned to play without it.

Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2118

I use a compressor when playing/practicing with the band. It smooths out the louder passages. I don't use it as a hard limiter, so the compression ratio is about 3:1 or 4:1, with the threshold set fairly high. My dynamics come through just fine, just not as loud.

I use the Markbass Compressore, and a friend of mine uses the MX-87. It did a comparison a while back, and found that they were very similar - and both are expensive. I recommend that you try them before buying, just to see if they do what you want them to.

Estimable Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 110

i used to play on a hartke VX3500. that was my only experience with compression. other than a safeguard for the speakers when it comes to accidents i didnt really find it musically useful. now i play on vintage randall bass stuff. and i seem to do just fine, plus i play a bunch of technical stuff (im a metal bassist) and you have to learn to be consistant, in the end, it makes you a better musician.

then again i know some people who swear by compression. the only time where i would see it being useful would be for bright guitars like telecasters and strats with the bridge pos. pickup.

bassist for the crux
Randall RB-125-115 120 watt 15" eminence spk.
Randall RBA 500
2X Acoustic B115's
Peavey T-40
Indiana P-bass