Gilmour Compressor (or Compressors!) Questions

RMosack

Supporting Member
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5,157
I'm trying to get some feedback on type and location, not brand or favorite model number.

From what I've read over the years, Gilmour has been known to play with all sorts of different compressors, and sometimes more than one in his rig at any given time. I've read that he's tried them both before and after his fuzz/drive pedals.

There are also various types of compressors available over the years:
- OTA (Ross, Dynacomp, Armstrong)
- VCA (Keeley Compressor Pro, Boss CS-3)
- FET (Cali76)
- Optical (e.g., Diamond, Bearfoot FX, Strymon)
- Tube/Valve (Effectrode)
And among these some can be parallel, with a mix feature for the dry signal. Some can be multi-band too.

So given all of that, I have a few questions for those in the know:

1) What type of compressor is best pre gain, and why?

2) What type of compressor is best to put post gain, and why?

3) If going for the classic county type Dynacomp squish thing, is it best to put the comp before or after the gain?

4) If you had to have a comp pre gain and another post, which one would be the "always on" and which would be the one added for effect as needed?

I hope these questions don't sound to stupid. But I think reading the answers to all four as a group might be a bit informative. Certainly will be for me!

Thanks!
 

LikeAMotherF

Silver Supporting Member
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2,630
I can't speak to how DG uses his gear.

And I don't know enough about compressors to have a clear opinion on questions 1&2.

But I can give some input on question 3! My main use for a compressor is basically for some squish/chickenpickin type stuff. I've found that I prefer it *before* the gain.

As for question 4- again, I have never done that. But I imagine that if I *did* want two compressors, one post and one pre gain, and one was going to be "always on"- I reckon I'd want that one first.

That's because I like to ramp up the volume a tad as I ramp up gain. So when I stack pedals, I keep the lowest gain closest to the guitar, and then have one or more pedals following for gain staging. As I progressively step on dirt pedals, I want the gain to ramp up, as well as volume. So I think an "always on" compressor after dirt would act as a limiter in this scenario, and while my gain ramps up, my output would stay put.

That's also why I keep my compressor for chickenpickin before my gain pedals- I like to up the gain and volume a little while getting that singing sustain that the compressor gives me.

But I think that if I were going to commit to two compressors, I'd keep an "always on" before the gain, and then keep a really heavy, Dynacomp type after the gain. I would use that for those moments and for when I want compression to be a not-so-subtle effect.

Just my $.02. I'm interested to hear what other, more experienced players will have to say!
 

71strat

Member
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8,976
I know back in the old days they often used to run a Tube Compressor/Limiter like an LA 2A into a solid state limiter like an 1176LN for recording.
Limiter can do compression, but compressors cant necessarily do Limiting.

So Id say an Optical Tube Compressor like an Effectrode PC 2A, into either a Roger Mayer RM58, or a Mayer 615, or an API Tranzformer GT/EQ.
One would use the Limiter at the end to control the volume. Brick Wall.
While I dont have the Effectrode, I do have the RM58-615, and an EHX Blackfinger Optical Tube Compressor, retubed with NOS Mullard I61s.
Another thing to watch out for is noise. A little goes a long way.

I was going to get the Effectrode, and still might. I got the Blackfinger in 2004, and its worked great as a drive pedal, Ive never had 1 problem out if it, and I got used to it. I then got both the 615-RM58 3 years ago and combining them with eh EHX, and got used to using them together, and they work/sound more than good enough together for my purposes

The 615 into the RM58 also sounds great.

Then there's the Cornish OC1 Optical Compressor. Havent used that one.

Effectrode PC 2A into Roger Mayer 615-RM58

Considering the Compressor, and Limiter are doing different things, Id say both would stay on. All the limiter is doing is limiting peaks, and keeping everything even. The compressor is helping give you more grit/compression/sustain, louder signal ect.

 

AceBSpankin

Prince of Ales
Supporting Member
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4,442
I sure don't have the answers to all your questions but...
Buy the Effectrode PC-2A.
It is amazingly quiet and super easy to setup for a killer tone!!
 

RMosack

Supporting Member
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5,157
Here is his latest board



He has 4 comps there, not sure of the signal chain

Me? PC2A third in the chain after Cornish LD1 and Wah. I hear Cali rocks but I would consider this later down the line. I would buy the LA1A but am out of space and power on a PT Grande

https://www.effectrode.com/products/effects-pedals/leveling-amplifier/

I have 4 Effectrode pedals btw...quite happy
Thanks. I've seen that pic before. I guess the whole point of the thread was which compressor TYPE, and WHERE?

Those are his current compressors. I know he's used others in the past, like the CS-2. I'm fairly certain that he uses that Cali76 thing just for slide, but I could be wrong.
 

RMosack

Supporting Member
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5,157
I have been experimenting with two compressors and multiple delays, in the attached link:

https://www.thegearpage.net/board/i...-for-80s-session-tones.2167695/#post-30898050

You can check out the, Kit Rae, Gilmore site, for all his various pedal rigs over the years, with settings. I stumbled upon this, after I started playing around with delays and compressors.

YMMV
Thanks for the link. That was an interesting thread on studio, rack type compressors. I was kind of wondering about pedal compressor placement and type.
 

RMosack

Supporting Member
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5,157
www.gilmourish.com has an enormous amount of detail about Gilmour’s gear history, as well as many gear reviews and articles on how to get his sound on a budget.
Thanks. I've poked around there quite a bit. He has a nice entire section on compressors, plus some compressor-centric commentary spread out here and there. He even goes into very great detail on how he thinks Gilmour used TOO MUCH compression on some of his more recent stuff (e.g., "5AM"). Blasphemy!!!

I think he even went into some detail somewhere in there on how Gilmour had placed compressors years ago. Some commentary on how the compressors were a bit "mid chain", but mostly used for cleans at that time, so it kind of didn't matter if they were after drives. But he doesn't really get into anything about why you would put a certain type early or later in the chain.
 

Demioblue

Supporting Member
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1,262
But he doesn't really get into anything about why you would put a certain type early or later in the chain.
Isn't that more about the type of compressors you have that matters? boosting a signal with a compressor usually has the comp before drives, and limiting signals will have the comp after the drives. Usually the compressors are different.

A limiting amplifier will have it's UI centered around light gauges that show limits of signal thresholds. So something like the Keeley Compressor Pro, would be one such comp, as is the large Cali76TX, and the Boss CP-1X. That's normally used after the drives.

A compressor sustainer, would have it's focus based on: (you guessed it) sustain. So usually anything with a sustain knob, as a general rule of thumb, it's thrown in front. The Keeley Comp Plus is one such pedal. The Cali76 Stacked is another such pedal, as is the Boss CS-3.

But I think some pedals these days have the lines blurred. The Wampler Ego, I think can serve both rules though it's better suited for the sustainer role IMO. In fact most can, I believe, just that there are some which are specifically meant for one or the other roles.
 

drbob1

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
26,539
There are very few true tube compressors, because it's a really expensive way to run things. Having a tube gain stage is completely different. Generally they're in the "variable mu" camp, which means that the actual gain of the circuit is manipulated. Manley charges $3k for theirs, IIRC.

Optical compressors are great for subtly evening things out and adding a little "sheen". They're super easy to use-just increase the input gain to get them cooking and balance the output. They don't usually offer attack/release but may have very basic controls like that. The amount of compression is dependent on the program material so they generally don't make you choose that. They work well at the end of the chain to even things out without stepping on them.

A brick wall limiter can be based on OTA, FET or VCA, but the quintessential one is the 1176 in the studio. It's to prevent the signal from overloading anything in the recording chain, but can be used to smooth everything out flat. Always used at the end. Perfect for slide where you're not wanting dynamics from picking, but maybe will put a volume pedal after it (hence the Origin Slide Rig).

The Dynacomp and related are super simple, basically a very high compression ratio and only control of input gain and output volume. They're "effect", you'll hear and feel. It gives you a little more control if you find one with an attack parameter. That allows the initial impulse of the guitar to get thru before the compression kicks in, which makes it feel more present rather than super squished. These always go at the front of the signal chain. I'm not a fan because they completely destroy dynamics.

So, that leaves a grab bag of OTA, FET and VCA based compressors from a raft of different companies. I have no idea what Gilmour uses, but to get those soaring leads without losing any dynamics I'd go with a fast compressor (OTA, FET, VCA) at the start, something with at least an attack control and preferably with compression ratio as well, set for medium compression, moderate attack, fast release. Then I'd put an optical compressor set for light compression at the end. I think I'd avoid a limiter, just because of the effect on dynamics, unless I was only using it for the parts where I wanted slide like sustain without dynamics.
 

Kit Rae

Member
Messages
1,214
So given all of that, I have a few questions for those in the know:
Here are some Gilmour specific replies.
What type of compressor is best pre gain, and why?
By pre-gain, I assume you mean combined with gain. I suppose that depends on the song and the type of gain the comp is combined with, but most of the comps Gilmour uses are all just different flavors of the same thing. The comps he combined together, or used with his overdrives in the 1980s and 1990s were typically the Dynacomp and CS-2. CS-2 is my favorite. In the 1990s and 2000s he switched to the Demeter Compulator, which is great clean or with a Tube Driver. The only one of the more recent comps he has been using - last 5 years or so - that I own is the Cali 76. That's great with a Tube Driver too, and that's mostly how he used it.

It was actually quite rare for him to use a comp with a high gain fuzz or distortion like a Big Muff, other than the 1990s era when he used a comp and a Rat together a lot. I think he may have used a comp with his Boss HM-2+Boogie lead tone in the 1980s too.

2) What type of compressor is best to put post gain, and why?
If we are strictly talking Gilmour here, I don't think he ever used a comp after a gain pedal at the same time. He did have a comp in the middle of his signal chain in the late 1970s, but I think he only used it for his clean tone on a few songs - mostly the intro to SOYCD. It could have gone just about anywhere in the chain for that.

3) If going for the classic county type Dynacomp squish thing, is it best to put the comp before or after the gain?
I'm not sure what "classic county" type sound you are referring to for Gilmour, or do you mean in general? For Gilmour, the comp always ran into the gain pedals. The 1980s is when Gilmour regularly combined a compressor with an overdrive or fuzz distortion, and his compressors have been first in line ever since. The Dyna or CS-2 were used for his super compressed clean tones. Sometimes he used both at once for a bit of drive, and sometimes he ran one into an overdrive for his light drive tones. In the 1990s he switched to the Demeter Compulator, which had a gain trimpot on the side to add a bit of drive. He had it set quite high on his 2006 tour, and I think the same for his 2015/16 tour.

The best way to understand how used DG used comps is to look at his song-by-song signal chains for Pink Floyd's 1994 tour and the 2015/16 tour. The '94 tour is here.
http://www.kitrae.net/music/David_Gilmour_Tone_Building_1B.html#PulseSignalChains
The 2015/16 signal chains are here on the forum.
 

RMosack

Supporting Member
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5,157
Here are some Gilmour specific replies.

By pre-gain, I assume you mean combined with gain. I suppose that depends on the song and the type of gain the comp is combined with, but most of the comps Gilmour uses are all just different flavors of the same thing. The comps he combined together, or used with his overdrives in the 1980s and 1990s were typically the Dynacomp and CS-2. CS-2 is my favorite. In the 1990s and 2000s he switched to the Demeter Compulator, which is great clean or with a Tube Driver. The only one of the more recent comps he has been using - last 5 years or so - that I own is the Cali 76. That's great with a Tube Driver too, and that's mostly how he used it.

It was actually quite rare for him to use a comp with a high gain fuzz or distortion like a Big Muff, other than the 1990s era when he used a comp and a Rat together a lot. I think he may have used a comp with his Boss HM-2+Boogie lead tone in the 1980s too.


If we are strictly talking Gilmour here, I don't think he ever used a comp after a gain pedal at the same time. He did have a comp in the middle of his signal chain in the late 1970s, but I think he only used it for his clean tone on a few songs - mostly the intro to SOYCD. It could have gone just about anywhere in the chain for that.


I'm not sure what "classic county" type sound you are referring to for Gilmour, or do you mean in general? For Gilmour, the comp always ran into the gain pedals. The 1980s is when Gilmour regularly combined a compressor with an overdrive or fuzz distortion, and his compressors have been first in line ever since. The Dyna or CS-2 were used for his super compressed clean tones. Sometimes he used both at once for a bit of drive, and sometimes he ran one into an overdrive for his light drive tones. In the 1990s he switched to the Demeter Compulator, which had a gain trimpot on the side to add a bit of drive. He had it set quite high on his 2006 tour, and I think the same for his 2015/16 tour.

The best way to understand how used DG used comps is to look at his song-by-song signal chains for Pink Floyd's 1994 tour and the 2015/16 tour. The '94 tour is here.
http://www.kitrae.net/music/David_Gilmour_Tone_Building_1B.html#PulseSignalChains
The 2015/16 signal chains are here on the forum.
Awesome. Thanks.

Based on all of that, the simple conclusions for me are.
- He generally put them first, no matter which kinds they were.
- He didn't really bother with comps post gain (most people don't!), so I won't worry about that at all.
- There are some instances in which they were pre gain with a drive pedal engaged (or amp like the Boogie), and you laid those out.
 

Kit Rae

Member
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1,214
- There are some instances in which they were pre gain with a drive pedal engaged (or amp like the Boogie), and you laid those out.
Not just some. From the 1980s onward when he used pedals for drive or overdrive, he nearly always had a comp on before it.

The rare instances are of him using a comp with a high gain fuzz or distortion pedal. There are only a few confirmed instances I can recall him doing that, like when he used a Rat, and some of the CN outro solos on the 1994 tour.

Also, I should point out that I am only talking about his live rigs here. We have no idea what he did in the studio, but I would assume he followed the same practices.
 
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RMosack

Supporting Member
Messages
5,157
Not just some. From the 1980s onward when he used pedals for drive or overdrive, he nearly always had a comp on before it.

The rare instances are of him using a comp with a high gain fuzz or distortion pedal. There are only a few confirmed instances I can recall him doing that, like when he used a Rat, and some of the CN outro solos on the 1994 tour.

Also, I should point out that I am only talking about his live rigs here. We have no idea what he did in the studio, but I would assume he followed the same practices.
Thanks for clarifying. I think you made the point well. I just missed the mark quite a bit in my mental playback. I guess the "not just some" comment should relate to high gain or fuzz tones. But as you stated, comp before lower drive or gain sounds was a huge thing for him for the past 40 years.

Great stuff! Thank you.

I'm going through the process of changing up my Gilmour-inspired board, so stuff like this is huge. I know I could sit there all day and try loads of combinations pre and post. But I figured I'd ask the experts, especially in the context of a master that's already done it for a half century (Gilmour).

I have my "other board" for everything else. And that one has an ES-8. So pedal order stuff there is easily swapped around. But the Gilmour board doesn't have this facility. I wire it up and live with it.
 

89strat

Member
Messages
1,182
Assuming that Gilmour didn't use compressors post gain, to answer the initial post gain question, I've been trying out the Mooer Yellow Comp which I guess is based on a diamond optical compressor after my RAT. I'm not 100% sold on it, but I prefer my compressor after my drives, just haven't found the right one yet. I have used a Dyna Comp in the past, which I thought sounded and felt really good, but is noisy. Also, a comp with a blend, like an ego compressor, tone press, xotic sp, something like that I would think would sound pretty good also.
 




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