Awesome compressor pedal alert! This pedal won out against 5 others to secure a spot on my studio pedalboard. In today's video, we take a look at the Carl Martin Comp/Limiter, explain what compressor pedals do, and discuss why you might need one! Ready for things to get nice and squishy? Let's jump in and take a look!
Carl Martin Comp: https://amzn.to/3Bya75H
Carl Martin DC Drive: https://amzn.to/3owJudI
Ibanez AZ Guitar: https://amzn.to/3FdwrUr
Series One Head: https://amzn.to/2Ya4Y5c
Studio Zilla Cabs: https://bit.ly/39Xz2DC
Hi! You're here with Luke from GuitarIQ.com. Today we're talking all things compression. I’m a little bit of a fanatic when it comes to compressor pedals—I have about five or six of them lying around the studio, as we speak. And in today's video, we're going to look at the #1 pedal that has beaten all the rest to secure for itself that all-important compressor spot on my studio pedalboard! So we're going to look at what that pedal is, what it sounds like, we’re going to talk about what compression does, and why you might want to use a compressor pedal in your setup. And, finally, we're going to look at where to place compression on your pedalboard and how to use it in conjunction with some of the other pedals you might have.
So, if that sounds interesting to you, then please click on the Like button to let me know about it. And as we go through this video, of course, feel free to leave any questions, or comments, or feedback in the comments section below. (I’m usually pretty good at responding.) And, finally, if you are looking to take your playing a little bit deeper, then I encourage you to head over to GuitarIQ.com to check out some of the great learning resources we have waiting for you over there. Everything from books on fretboard memorization and chord theory to scales, exercises, and workouts for guitar. And, of course… much, much more! So if any of that sounds interesting to you, then please mosey on over to GuitarIQ.com at your leisure and take a look. And with that, let’s jump into the video!
So here is the Comp/Limiter by Carl Martin. Before I dive into this pedal, and twiddle some knobs and, chat about a few things, and check out some different settings, let's just hear this thing in action. I've set up some nice light compression here. So here is my clean tone and then I'll bring the pedal in...
So, as I mentioned, this is the Comp/Limiter by Carl Martin. This is the compression pedal that's won the all-important compressor spot on my studio pedalboard. The Comp/Limiter is part of a recent series that Carl Martin have released. All of the pedals in this series have the same kind of look and feel and form factor about them. They all sound great, at least from the ones that I've had the privilege of trying out. And the Comp/Limiter, of course, is no exception. This is labelled as their ‘Danish High-End Compressor’, which somehow manages to sound really premium and also really delicious at the same time. The Comp/Limiter, from what I can tell, is basically a reissue of one of their well-known compressor circuits. It’s just re-housed in this smaller enclosure with some simplified controls—which is always a good thing.
Speaking of the controls, it couldn't be easier. We just have compression here on the left, which controls the amount of compression (or the ratio) that's happening. And we have the level, which controls the makeup gain. So let's just play some chords, and twiddle a few knobs, and see what we can get out of this magical little box of compression. For those of you who care about such things, I'm playing the same setup as I did last time. This is the Ibanez AZ guitar, running into a 50w Series One tube head, into a Suhr Reactive Load. And for my cab simulation, I’m using the Studio Zilla Cabs by Get Good Drums. And here's what it all sounds like…
Okay, so right off the bat, you can hear there's a fair bit of compression there. As soon as it starts going above 12 o’clock, it starts getting a little bit too compressy for me. So the way I like to set this is to dial it right out and then look for that point where the compressor starts to kick in...
And then I just dial the makeup gain to compensate for the volume loss.
And that brings us to a really important point about using compression. When some people talk about compressors, they tend to describe compression as an effect that makes the quiet parts louder. And that's certainly a byproduct of what compression does. But the way that it achieves that is by doing exactly the opposite. Compression works by making the louder parts quieter and as we decrease the dynamic range, by attenuating the loudest parts or the peaks in our signal, we then have to compensate for that volume drop by turning everything back up again. And as we turn the overall level up, those transients roughly stay where they were and all of that quieter information gets amplified. So in essence, we’re reducing the dynamic range then turning up the makeup gain to compensate for the volume drop. And that makes everything louder, including all of the quiet stuff.
So why is that beneficial as a guitar player. Well, the irony of compression is that by reducing the dynamic range we can actually make our playing sound a little more dynamic. And that's because all of the quiet stuff, the nuances in our playing, become a lot more audible. And, in doing that, we even out the contrast between the lows and the highs. So the overall effect is that our playing sounds a little smoother and more consistent. The additional benefit of compression, of course, is that it increases the overall perceived sustain that we're getting from our guitar. Now, it doesn't actually increase the sustain of our guitar. (Unless your amp is turned up to a level that the guitar is starting to feedback.) It just, again, makes all of the quiet stuff more audible. So as the notes are ringing out you can hear that sustain a lot more. And the final benefit of compression, for me, the reason I pretty much leave at least some light compression on all the time, is that, to me, it really enhances the feel of the guitar. I feel like I'm fighting the guitar neck a little less. The notes and the resonance feels a little more lively to me. And it's just a more enjoyable playing experience.
Now, compression is really one of those polarizing effects. A lot of players love it—some players really don’t. In my opinion, for the players that really, really don't like compression, most of the time what they're responding to is the sound of ‘over compression’. When that dynamic range is really being squashed within an inch of its life. When things start sounding overly compressed and unnatural. And the guitar starts to lose a lot of its character. So to finish up, I just wanted to show you some examples of how the Comp/Limiter works in conjunction with some other pedals. Firstly, I just wanted to demonstrate some real-world examples of how I'm using this pedal. But, secondly and more importantly, I’m hoping that this will give you some ideas for using compression at home in whatever pedalboard setup you're running.
So, the first thing I wanted to talk about was using compression in conjunction with some kind of preamp-style pedal. Now, this is a very simple Echoplex-style preamp by the guys over at Dunlop. I essentially just have a gain which can either boost or attenuate the signal. And this is really helpful for two reasons. Firstly, when I engage the preamp pedal it gives me the nice sound and character that the preamp imparts on the signal. So it gives me a bit of a tonal enhancement that I quite like. And, secondly, it allows me to control how hard I'm driving the compressor pedal. Now, this is really helpful. Particularly, if I'm using lots of different guitars. With a guitar that has lower output pickups like a single coil tele or strat, for example, I might drive the compressor a bit harder. But with a guitar like this which has humbuckers that are a fairly high output, I might back the volume off a bit. So, essentially, running a pedal like this into my compressor (and the subsequent gain stages that I'm stacking after the compressor) allows me to control pretty much everything from the first pedal on my board. I can leave the compression and the gain pedals set in the sweet spot where I like them. And I can control how hard I'm driving everything just from the preamp.
So, let me give you an example of what this sounds like. I’ve set this to add just a nice little volume bump to drive the compression a little harder. And this is what it sounds like…
So, hopefully, you can hear that this is just driving that compression a little bit harder. It’s adding a little bit more saturation. And, to me, it's just enhancing things a little more. And the combination of these two pedals (or these two types of pedals) often plays really nicely, regardless of the type of guitar and amp that you're using. Another way I really like to use pedals in combination on my board, is to use compression to drive my overdrive pedals in a similar way that I'm using the preamp pedal to drive my compression. So let me demonstrate what that sounds like. First of all, I'll switch off the preamp and compression circuits. I'll engage this RC Booster here and I'll stack that with the DC Drive. Now this is off camera. It’s one of the Carl Martin pedals that I demoed in the previous video. So I'll link to that in the description, be sure to check that one out! Here's what these pedals sound like by themselves...
Hopefully, you can hear how the combination of the Comp/Limiter and some kind of preamp pedal, like this Echoplex here, really work to drive the input stage of those overdrive pedals in a really pleasing way. It gives us a really nice bump in saturation and sustain. So, hopefully, those last few examples have been able to demonstrate that compression can be a really useful tool to have on our pedalboard. It doesn't have to be that overly compressed ‘chicken picking’ or funk sound that we might often associate with the use of compressor pedals. We can use it in a much more subtle way just to get some nice nuanced enhancement happening from our guitar tone.
So what do I think of the Comp/Limiter, is it something I recommend? Is it something I think you should buy with your hard-earned money? Well, I certainly can't answer the latter of those two questions for you—that’s something you have to decide for yourself. Probably, the highest praise I can give to this pedal, is the fact that out of all the pedals I have here in the studio, this is the one that's won out that compression spot on my studio pedalboard. I really like how it looks, it feels really sturdy, I obviously like how it sounds, and I really, really like the simplicity of this pedal.
The current trend of compressor pedals seems to be erring towards the side of complexity. A lot of pedals now are giving us control over the ratio, the threshold, the makeup gain, the attack and release, the clean blend, and such and so forth. And all of that is fantastic. (Particularly, when you're in the studio and you're recording lots of different sources. Because the compression we want on a snare drum, for example, is very different to the type of compression we want on vocals, or piano, or bass guitar.) With something like this, which is designed for guitar players, I’m more than happy to let Carl Martin deal with a lot of that heavy lifting under the hood. And just give me some simple controls on top to dial in some nice, light compression at the start of my pedalboard chain. To me a nice, simple setup like this is very conducive to just getting a sound you like quickly and easily. And then concerning yourself with the more important stuff, which is actually recording and making music! So a pedal definitely worth checking out, that is my look at the Comp/Limiter by Carl Martin.
Well, that’s it for this video. A big thanks to the team over at Carl Martin for sending me their Comp/Limiter to check out. To clarify, this was not a paid promotion, or a sponsored advertisement, or anything like that. No money has changed hands. All thoughts and opinions, as always, are my own. If you did like this video, then please remember to do all the things: Click that like button, subscribe to the channel, leave any questions or comments you might have in the comments section below. And, finally, just another reminder. If you are looking to take your playing a little bit deeper, then I encourage you to head over to GuitarIQ.com to check out some of the great books and learning resources we have waiting for you over there. That’s it from me. Thank you for watching and I hope to see you in the next video!