So I gave into my desires and bought this new compressor. If you search TGP, or just online (compressor shootout) you will find it always at the top of everyone’s list. Well, I am pretty satisfied with my compressor stock: the CS3 does great for acoustic stuff, from strumming to fingerpicking changes, and the Ross clone (like Keeley’s model) is great for smooth electric Jazzy leads. I liked both of these. But one day I let someone borrow my Ross clone and played electric through the CS3. It sounded fine, but on bypass… it sucked major tone. Ehhh, even with the mod, the bypass still sucks!! I never noticed this as I always have it on when I play acoustic, and the tone THROUGH the compressor is pretty good after the mods. And this is where my interest in the Tone Press came to realization.
The main reason I picked this is the reviews online, and the fact they try a dual compression that you can “blend” in your dry signal as to make it sound less compressed. That feature is why it always ranks top among “transparency” in the shootouts. Just for your info the RetroSonic Compressor (also a Ross clone) ranked higher than the Keeley as well, but the TonePress beat it out. So I have purchased one, and have played on it for about 3 weeks. Here is my complete opinion:
Okay, specs on it- volume switch (you guys know what that does), Blend knob and Sustain. Bypass switch is True Bypass and has 9v typical Boss style power supply input. Not bad. On the inside there is a “color” pot which you can adjust with a flathead screw driver or with your guitar pick (as I did :) ). The Blend knob at full counter-clockwise gives ONLY dry signal. Which means this thing acts pretty well as a clean boost. All the way clockwise is 100% compressor sounds. Sustain is pretty obvious for those who have played with a compressor- just levels out dark/light tones from about 8 o’clock to 10, compresses slightly- roundly- at 11 and starts to squash at a very sensitive 12:10 o’clock. That immediate squishing was a little difficult to get past. I like some squish, but not major until about 1.
Straight out of the box, I plugged it in, set all knobs at 12, and played away. I found that it was slightly quieter than my bypass signal, squished some and had no “poppy attack” that is clear on most compressors. After some tweaking, I found that moving the sustain to 11-11:30ish gave a smooth compression and the blend knob about 1:30 gave the best natural attack with sustained- compressed feel for chords and smooth leads. The volume about 1 o’clock to match the bypass volume, or 1:30 for just hint more volume.
But it was “snappy” and bright- much like the CS3 Opto mod- it mimicked an opto compressor. It had a very “tight” compression, not breathy. That was a bit weird as I prefer the Ross sound to the electric. But no worries… it was extremely transparent. It really has no “tone” of its own. What you feed into it is what comes out. Well, sorta. I’ll explain.
I played with this “officially” last Sunday. See, I rather not get a new effect, tinker with it a bit, then jump right into performing with it. I mean, I want to do it, but professionalism says don’t screw with your tone, your rig, when you KNOW what works NOW. Thus I played with this and saw how it affected my sound for a couple of weeks before using it in our services.
I really enjoyed how it flushed my rhythms and chords out. I was a touch disappointed that my normal “jazzy” riffs seemed to have lost some body and added a low gain TS9 to the sound to get it where I wanted it.
Well… to make a long story short… Our worship leader has had some health issues and has taken a leave for the last 8 months. I have been 1/2 of the planning and band leading since then. I am not a master musician (can’t even read music), but have done enough in Nashville that I can write parts for people and teach 3-4 part harmony. So we made it work.
Meanwhile, back on the farm–(back to the present :) ) our worship minister is starting to play with us to “buffer” himself back in, and to relearn how to play with us. The church actually loves our style and wants him back and to use the talent as is. So this guy looks at me after the first service and says “Your amp is that small one? (next to the Line 6 4×12 hehe, hate that thing) It sounds great. Real snappy smooth sound.”
Now, I attribute this to two things- 1) One of the former lead players thought EVERY song was a solo, THE ENTIRE SONG, and every amp had to be as close to 11 as possible. So, not saying much, but just a smooth quiet sound will sound a touch better. 2) My snappy sound was this compressor. The snap that I was “ehhhkkk” about.
When one of the most musical guys I know says “Thats nice” when I do not like my tone…. Make you rethink, right? And this guy does not really come straight out and say “Thats nice.” Its usually, “Service went alright, but there is going to be more practices scheduled in the future after our performance today.”
Now for the happy ending: I opened up the compressor to take a look at the innards. That is when I found the “color” pot. This is when things got interesting. Barber himself says that the unit is shipped with a modern “Snappy” sound with the pot all the way on. (Wow, I should have read the instruction sheet BEFORE screwing with this thing!) He then says that if you prefer a more vintage sound, turn the pot all the way off. Or set it someway in the middle to find your tone. I can’t really explain what this pot does, as its weird. I think its a mix of “tone” and the classic “attack” in one knob. When I push toward vintage, it becomes a touch darker and loosens the compression a bit. I found a great setting just a quarter up from all “vintage” and now am completely happy with this thing. Its almost the great jazzy smoothness as my Ross, but really lets chord work be smoooooth. Best of all, if I want the Ross sound, I just turn the blend knob all the way on- 5:30- and its all compressor with that great sound.
What a nice, versatile compressor.
And “my setting”: volume 1:30, blend 1:30 and sustain 11:30 is perfect for acoustic. I think I would have a boost follow this, a delay then my Verbzilla and I would be perfect for an acoustic show.
next up: Zendrive and/or Stacked Overdrives
Previous compressor article (shootout wannabe ) is HERE
Edit: I was always under the impression that a good compressor is one you do not know is on until its off. Or you don’t realize you rely on it until you don’t have it. My CS3 mod kinda doesn’t fit this. The Ross clone fits 80% of the time. The Barber- and only due to the blend switch- fits perfectly. It rounds out the sound perfectly. I have it on about 80% of the time, and ALWAYS on when playing cleanly. “Set and Forget” compression at its best.
edit: I found a great demo from the awesome guys at proguitarshop.com. I bought the TonePress from them, and you should too :) Enjoy!