Videos: The Basics of Using a Compressor Pedal with Origin Effects

As any musician who’s used a compressor while recording will know, the effect can dramatically change the feel and tone of your playing, as well as open up space in the mix for other instruments to fill. Using compression in your live rig can not only yield those snappy rhythm tones and smooth, sustained leads, but can also bring that studio polish to the stage.

Because the parameters of compressors can be tricky to master, we sat down with Origin Effects’ lead designer Simon Keats, who showed us the ins-and-outs of Origin’s Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor. Built with the goal of bringing a studio-grade FET compressor (like the legendary 1176) to a stompbox, the Cali76 has a Dry Blend knob for true parallel compression, as well as Ratio, Attack, and Release controls.

In the first video above, Simon explains these basic “side-chain controls”—which “will change the way the compressor clamps down and the timing of how it clamps down, and it’s really important to getting a particular sound.”

At its highest and lowest settings, respectively, the Attack control is going to determine whether the compression starts right away or allows the initial transients of your playing come through. As your struck chords or notes naturally decay, the compressor will “recover” or stop affecting the signal.

The Release control determines how quickly the effect recovers, whether or not it is ready to compress the next note by the time you’re ready to play it. And the Ratio sets the level of compression that takes place—how extreme or how subtle the attenuation of the loudest frequencies.

In the second video, Simon shows how to use the Cali76 to even out the dynamics of your rhythm guitar playing—making your lighter and heavier strums meet nicely in the middle. The trick here is to keep your Release and Ratio at about 1 or 2 o’clock, while keeping the attack fairly slow at about 10:30 or 11 o’clock. This will allow the more percussive sounds of your picking to come through, while slightly taming them.

While a compressor can help even out your rhythm playing, different settings will bring sustain to your lead tones. In this third video, Simon maxes the Input level so that more signal is hitting the compressor, while turning down the ratio so that it’s “more natural-sounding” as opposed to overly compressed.

The Release is turned up so that the compressor can react to quick, individual notes, while the Attack is kept low so that the percussive transients of your picking come through. This setting also brings up the quieter subtleties of your fretwork, getting you closer to the sensitivity of an overdriven amp without the distortion.

Another place where a compressor pedal and the Cali76 in particular excels is bringing that elusive “studio polish” to your sound. One way to achieve that polish is to slightly over-compress your signal and use the Dry Blend knob to bring up the compressed signal just enough to sit behind your dry sound. This will just bring up the quieter moments, without making you hear too much of the compression itself.

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