Dunlop is very proud to announce the release of the MXR M87 Bass Compressor. We took all of the functions of a classic recording studio compressor and put them into a stompbox the size of a Phase 90, allowing you to take it anywhere, from rehearsals to the stage. Its array of controls—Attack, Release, Ratio, Input, and Output—allow you to fine-tune your sound, from subtle peak limiting to hard, squashed compression. Its transparency allows your full dynamic range to shine through until your signal reaches the compression threshold, indicated by the ten highly visible gain-reduction status LEDs. With its CHT™ Constant Headroom Technology, you have heaps of headroom for clear performance.
Acclaimed bass player Billy Sheehan had this to say about it: “Finally, a five-knob compressor in a pedal. I’m a compression aficionado, and this box kills! All parameters are tweakable.”
Click here for the official MXR demo of the Bass Compressor.
We asked Senior Engineer Bob Cedro to give us an overview of compression and answer some questions about the Bass Compressor itself. Afterward, Bryan Kehoe talked to us about the Bass Comp on guitar.
What is compression?
Bob Cedro Compression compacts the size of a given signal, and there are a few ways to do this: downward compression, upward compression, and dynamic range compression. Downward compression reduces the level of loud signals while upward compression increases the level of quieter signals. Dynamic compression does both. All three types of compression make a decision as to when and how much to increase or decrease the level of a signal by comparing the signal to the compressor’s internal reference, known as the threshold.
Who uses compression and why?
BC Musicians and sound engineers generally use compression in three ways: to compress signals in the studio, to compress signals onstage, and as an actual effect.
In the recording studio, compression is one of the most useful tools you can have; every recording device, whether analog or digital, has a finite dynamic range, or signal size, in which it can faithfully capture and recreate a signal. A signal that goes above or below the medium’s dynamic range will result in distortion or excessive noise floor to be heard upon playback. Compression solves this problem by automatically adjusting the signal level to remain within the recorder’s dynamic range. Louder signals generally create more problems than quieter signals in the studio, so downward compression is the most common solution.
Over the years, compression has also become an indispensable live-performance tool. As in the studio, the Front of House sound engineer can apply a compressor to an individual instrument or to the entire mix in order to help the audience hear loud passages comfortably and soft passages clearly. Musicians can also use their own personal compressor to control their stage volume and dynamic range, making their instrument more easily heard in the stage mix, so they don’t have to play as hard. All of this allows for a better performance, individually and collectively.
Compression is also used by many guitarists as a special effect to increase the sustain time of notes and chords. This sustain effect can be taken to extremes with fast attack and slow release settings that quickly lower the attack volume of a note or chord and then slowly raise the volume up during the sustain, creating a dynamic volume swell. Fast attack and moderate release settings create an attack squashing, hammer-on and pull-off sound-leveling effect popularized by country chicken pickin’ style guitar players sending their signal into the through the MXR DynaComp compressor.
How did you squeeze so much technology into such a small size? Would this have been possible 10 years ago?
BC We call it a compressor because it also compresses electrical components! The M87 would have been possible 10 years ago, but the M87 definitely benefited by today’s availability of smaller parts at reasonable costs.
What makes this compressor particularly good for bass players? Is it only for bass players?
BC In general, compressors help every instrument, from vocal chords to didgeridoos, sound their best during recording and live performances, so the M87 Bass Compressor works excellent on guitar as a special effect, soft or hard compressor, or transparent peak-limiter. Bass guitars, however, produce a very large dynamic range of powerful low frequencies, which can be very problematic both when recording and when playing live. Because of this, many bass players are very familiar with using compressors to create a tight, punchy, sit-in-the mix bass sound. And with the bass player in mind, we created the small, live-performance-ready, studio quality MXR M87 Bass Compressor.
“…many bass players are very familiar with using compressors to create a tight, punchy, sit-in-the mix bass sound…with the bass player in mind, we created the small, live performance-ready, studio quality MXR M87 Bass Compressor.”
How does this compressor compare to the others we make, such as the Dyna Comp?
BC The DynaComp is a time tested, internationally used-effect that has been applied to virtually every guitar playing style. However, the two-knob wonder that is the DynaComp produces, by design, a more aggressive and in-your-face highly compressed sound than a finely tuned, tonally transparent studio compressor. The M87 can do both, from the very compressed tones of the DynaComp to transparently smooth compression and peak-limiting with tonal clarity. The downward compression of the M87 is the ideal method for preserving your playing dynamics while keeping aggressive attacks and signal peaks under control, and the 10 gain-reduction status LEDs let you easily see and adjust the Bass Compressor’s gain reduction to your precise needs. All in all, separate controls for Attack, Release, Ratio (4:1, 8:1, 12:1, & 20:1), Input and Output, with Constant Headroom Technology™, make the MXR M87 Bass Compressor the most versatile, studio quality, compact compressor on the market today.
“…the most versatile, studio quality, compact compressor on the market today.”
Now, here’s professional guitarist/tonechaser/Dunlop TV host Bryan Kehoe‘s perspective on the M87 for guitar:
A compressor is a very subtle device and is more for an experienced player. The “effect” a lot of the time can be felt by the player more than heard. Originally designed for bass, we found during early testing that the M87 sounded fantastic on electric as well as acoustic guitars. You can go from subtle transparency to over the top squish and bloom.
When used sparingly on an acoustic guitar with transducer/piezo style pick ups, we found it helped smooth out the dynamics and added a shimmer and chime, bringing out a pleasant spectrum of frequencies that we felt were missing when bypassed.
“…we found it helped smooth out the dynamics and added a shimmer and chime, bringing out a pleasant spectrum of frequencies that we felt were missing when bypassed.”
The first thing we tried when we plugged it into an electric guitar was see how it would work with a slide. We found that when we increased the release knob, it held out the notes longer with a beautiful singing sustain. Also, increasing the attack knob and input gain gave it just the slightest bit of graininess that added some attitude to the guitar’s tone.
When employing a Nashville chicken pickin’ style, we increased the attack a bit and decreased the release, and you could barely tell the thing was on until you turned it off. The fast release gave the notes a nice percussive sound that easily went from one into the other with out squishing the tone down. It can also be utilized to get some screaming tones when run in front an overdrive, for some nasty leads.
“…you could barely tell the thing was on until you turned it off.”
Legendary guitarist/ producer Pete Anderson said it best recently when commenting on the transparency and versatility of the M87. “…it’s the Dumble-ator! It turns any amp into a Dumble, with a click you get instant Hi-Fidelity!”