compresed or uncompressed overdive please explaine?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by rouss, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. rouss

    rouss Member

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    Could someone give me an example of compressed vs uncompressed distortion or overdrive(songs / bands).I hear the term used alot. Ps- Im a big fan of Keith richards and his rythem playing in the stones . Would that be more compressed or uncompressed( sorry, I know that kind of covers a lot of different tones over the years)
     
  2. harpinon

    harpinon Silver Supporting Member

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    His is more uncompressed. An uncompressed overdrive will have more bite. Slight acoustical properties. A compressed overdrive will have less attack and a smoother texture.
     
  3. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    The Stones mostly used tube amps that were overdriven, so there was always compression. But it was not done externally, it was the natural compression that valve amps by nature have.
    Also, the Stones recorded much of their work in studios during a time when studios were equipped with tube compressors, so the entire mix was often compressed.
    Not horribly compressed the way modern music is, but still with a bit of compression.
    Back when rock music was being recorded, tube compressors were commonly used, and tube compression is not harsh and apparent like modern day compression is. It was nearly invisible.
    Compression during the rock era was mostly used sparingly and was transparent. During the 80s that started to change, and by the 90s music was being compressed to the point of absurdity.

    Also, any time you get distortion with semiconductors, you are also getting compression. You get distortion by saturating a gain stage, and in doing so you are in effect compressing the signal, because you are driving that gain stage beyond its capacity, which means you are hitting the signals head against the ceiling. When you push a transistor, a tube, or an op amp to the point of saturation you are squeezing the dynamic range, which is compression.

    When you use a stomp box for compression, you are limiting the dynamic range without distortion.
    80s country music with a lot of chicken pickin is a good example of a lot of stomp pedal compression.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  4. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Overdrive basically is compression. When you hit an amp with more signal than it can take, it clips off the tops of the waveforms. This "clipping" produces "distortion". In general, it's actually an unwanted thing but for guitarists it turned out that certain amplifiers did this in a musically pleasing and practical way (practical because it produces more sustain and an evenness of tone).

    The harder you hit the amp, the more the waveforms clip, the more distorted the sound gets. BUT, because the signal is already maxed out as soon as it starts clipping, "more clipping" doesn't give you more volume, only more saturation.

    The aural result is that the tone has less dynamic range, meaning the overall difference between the loudest and quietest things you play will be less than with an uncompressed signal. Or, to translate it to playing, it means that after a certain point, no matter how hard you hit the strings (or turn up the volume knob) it just won't get any louder.

    When you use a lot of high gain distortion, the signal is already ramped up so much that basically, you can't play quiet - no matter how gently you pick the strings the sound is still distorted and the same basic volume as when you pick normally or harder.

    So when people say "uncompressed overdrive" what they mean is a tone where the dynamic range is preserved as much as possible while still having some hair on it.

    I'd say, it's not black and white, but a matter of degrees. But generally speaking, as Rockledge noted, as we go through the decades, guitar tone, having gotten more and more driven, has gotten more and more compressed. We compound that fact by using EXTERNAL compressors though so even an uncompressed guitar tone comes out with less dynamic range that it did originally. So not only is the guitar tone more compressed naturally due to the gain, but it's compressed in production too. This means it's really difficult to tell on songs.

    I'll give you a great example though - listen to the lead on "Nowhere Man" by The Beatles. The original guitar tone was likley pretty dynamic, but they used a compressor to basically squash it. It has this "pumping" sound to it. Once you get used to hearing it, you'll notice it all over the place.

    HTH,
    Steve
     
  5. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    Nowhere Man is an excellent example, because it is one of the few times the Beatles used compression a bit obviously. In most cases compression that you can hear pumping was considered undesirable, that is a case where it actually added to the sonics of the song.

    Compression is really one of those things that, unless you have a background in electronics and/or acoustics, is very hard to describe. The best thing you can do is find some online description of how compression works and read it thoroughly, then go to a music store when it is not real busy and have a salesman walk you through how to use a compressor and have him show you what it is capable of.
    Describing how compression behaves electronically and acoustically doesn't really paint a good picture of what it actually sounds like.
    I suggest trying out an MXR Dynacomp if you can, because it has a very strong compression level and has simple controls. Once you figure out the two basic controls on compression the other controls available on them will make better sense to you.
     
  6. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    But when to it comes to the difference - I would pesonally say my experince is that a more compressed overdrive gives you less note articulation. You tend not to hear the pick attack so much, and you notice less difference between a note played on the G-string and the same note played an octave higher.

    With a compressed overdrive all notes all seem to blend together (when playing lead).

    For me, my Marshall amps have been very non-compressed (even at full gain) while an Egnator or a Bogner I had were both much more compressed. My gut tells me Mesa Boogie is generally more compressed. Such amps tend to sound darker and fuzzier to me than a Marshall.

    A compressed overdrive can be described as the sound one gets by adding an overdrive pedal to the gain stage of Marshall - I think it is just a matter of degree as to how hard into clipping that first gain stage is being driven.
     

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