Compression as Distortion?

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penguinpajamas
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Compression as Distortion?

Post by penguinpajamas » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:10 am

So I often hear people refer to musicians like Clark and Justice's music as showing ridiculous amounts of compression, specifically on their basses. What confuses me though, is that people often attribute a certain sound to compression when all I hear is distortion, although it seems to sound like very compressed distortion.

A couple examples that come to mind are: basically anything by Justice, and this Clark song Future Daniel at about the 1:04 mark:
https://youtu.be/vazBxk_avxc

I've been trying to wrap my head around how extreme amounts of compression could be used to create a distortion effect and I think I may have figured it out. Overdrive, for example, increases the gain of a signal until it's beyond the limits of what the circuit can handle, clipping the signal into square waves and adding harmonics.

Is it possible that you could achieve distortion through compression in that a compressor with infinite ratio and a low threshold will essentially clip anything above the threshold, making the signal into a square wave in the same sense that an overload pedal would?

Please let me know if I'm on the right track here or if I'm totally off base.

- Charlie

yur2die4
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by yur2die4 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 5:49 am

I'm probably not the best person for this subject, but I will point out that in many cases the original audio already has some drive or fuzz or something on it. Or it might even have something as unnoticeable as a fan noise in the background.

If you compress in various ways, the quiet parts with those details start coming through more strongly and might sound crunchy or dirty, even those the aspects were already in the sound... just that in their natural form it was not as noticeable.

On top of that, depending on how you process a channel afterwards also (lower bit depth for an example), those elements which were compressed and brought out much more strongly are suddenly angry.

If you were simply to distort those sounds without compression, you might instead just get 'more noise' at the peaks, and the sound kinda getting more present at the middle loudness parts, and the really quiet (a fan noise from a computer picked up on mic for instance) would either be nonexistent or full on noise.

Tarekith
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Tarekith » Mon Mar 28, 2016 6:47 am

Fun fact, Ministry used to use 8 compressors in a row for some of their heavier distortions on guitars. As mentioned, overdriving them helps with this, along with REALLY short attack and release times to get the compressor to chatter.

Leonulf
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Leonulf » Mon Mar 28, 2016 8:01 am

Tarekith wrote:Fun fact, Ministry used to use 8 compressors in a row for some of their heavier distortions on guitars. As mentioned, overdriving them helps with this, along with REALLY short attack and release times to get the compressor to chatter.

Another good example is Led Zeppelin's Black Dog - Jimmy Page's guitar sound is not an overdriven amp but a rack compressor pushed hard into an overdriven sound.

You could also look at compressor circuits as a form of an amplifier since they do amplify the signal (in addition to the compression of the signal). Some compressors also have both input gain and the output (makeup gain) so there may even be multiple gain stages where this can be achieved.

jlgrimes
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by jlgrimes » Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:49 am

penguinpajamas wrote:So I often hear people refer to musicians like Clark and Justice's music as showing ridiculous amounts of compression, specifically on their basses. What confuses me though, is that people often attribute a certain sound to compression when all I hear is distortion, although it seems to sound like very compressed distortion.

A couple examples that come to mind are: basically anything by Justice, and this Clark song Future Daniel at about the 1:04 mark:
https://youtu.be/vazBxk_avxc

I've been trying to wrap my head around how extreme amounts of compression could be used to create a distortion effect and I think I may have figured it out. Overdrive, for example, increases the gain of a signal until it's beyond the limits of what the circuit can handle, clipping the signal into square waves and adding harmonics.

Is it possible that you could achieve distortion through compression in that a compressor with infinite ratio and a low threshold will essentially clip anything above the threshold, making the signal into a square wave in the same sense that an overload pedal would?

Please let me know if I'm on the right track here or if I'm totally off base.

- Charlie
The song you played everything sounded overly compressed (or programmed with no dynamics to begin with) especially the lead. The drums were compressed a good bit as well. The bass definitely was distorted.

That said, the whole track sounded squashed.


But that said people often do compress to get distortion. Fast attack and release settings with high ratios can introduce distortion and certain hardware compressors were kind of known for their distortion effects.


Extreme limiting often will distort your signal, that is one reason why it can sound so bad when overused but at the same time some people use a little limiting on individual tracks to phatten them up. I'm not sure how similar it is to overdrive though. I would imagine overdrive being more intense distortion.

I would think though if you want to distort something you are better off with a dedicated distortion effect but that said if you need to control the dynamics and want to add a little distortion too why not try abusing the compressors.

NoSonic822
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by NoSonic822 » Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:57 am

compression is distortion.....anything that changes a wave's structure is distortion.....wave amplification is distortion :twisted:

NoSonic822
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by NoSonic822 » Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:59 am

Inversoundzzz wrote:compression is distortion.....anything that changes a wave's structure is distortion.....wave amplification is distortion :twisted:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion

Stromkraft
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Stromkraft » Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:54 am

jlgrimes wrote:certain hardware compressors were kind of known for their distortion effects.
Supercharger from Native Instruments explores this territory.
Make some music!

Stromkraft
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Stromkraft » Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:01 am

Inversoundzzz wrote:anything that changes a wave's structure is distortion
Anything that alters a waveform at all is distortion, but what is addressed here is a specific type of musically beneficial distortion. Distortion is a wide and complex field and the number of plug-ins that set out to mimic certain controllable forms of beneficial distortion, usually with some focus on saturation, are numerous. This includes compressors.
Last edited by Stromkraft on Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Stromkraft
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Stromkraft » Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:05 am

By the way, the current April issue (CM228) has "Distortion Secrets" as theme.
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NoSonic822
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by NoSonic822 » Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:56 am

Stromkraft wrote:By the way, the current April issue (CM228) has "Distortion Secrets" as theme.
sweet linnk cool

i just looked for midi LFOs on the Max4L community bu i think i want to make my own , is it hard....? :?:

Stromkraft
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Stromkraft » Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:21 am

Inversoundzzz wrote:
Stromkraft wrote:By the way, the current April issue (CM228) has "Distortion Secrets" as theme.
sweet linnk cool

i just looked for midi LFOs on the Max4L community bu i think i want to make my own , is it hard....? :?:
If you own a Max license you can always start out with devices that exist (or go 30 days with the demo). I think people experienced with Max development in the Max For Live forum would have more to add on how hard Max development is.
Make some music!

doghouse
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by doghouse » Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:20 pm

Distortion as we tend to think of it, like fuzz and overdrive pedals or cranking guitar amps, is created by clipping the signal. That in itself compresses the signal like the way a limiter would.

Using any audio effect to create distortion is easy, drive the levels high enough so that it clips. OK, it's a little harder with plugins because there is deliberately a lot of headroom inside Live (and all DAWs), but with real hardware diming the input and output levels will do it pretty much every time.
Last edited by doghouse on Thu Mar 31, 2016 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

NoSonic822
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by NoSonic822 » Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:46 am

Stromkraft wrote:
Inversoundzzz wrote:
Stromkraft wrote:By the way, the current April issue (CM228) has "Distortion Secrets" as theme.
sweet linnk cool

i just looked for midi LFOs on the Max4L community bu i think i want to make my own , is it hard....? :?:
If you own a Max license you can always start out with devices that exist (or go 30 days with the demo). I think people experienced with Max development in the Max For Live forum would have more to add on how hard Max development is.
i thought if i owned Live Suite that I own Max too no?

Stromkraft
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Re: Compression as Distortion?

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:42 pm

Inversoundzzz wrote:
Stromkraft wrote: If you own a Max license you can always start out with devices that exist (or go 30 days with the demo).
i thought if i owned Live Suite that I own Max too no?
Max For Live, not Max. Max is installed as is, but to develop yourself or make certain kinds of changes to existing devices you need a full license. I'm not familiar with the details as I also only have Live Suite. in Live Suite or if you get it separately for Standard you can use Max devices fully as they are as any other device or plug-in.
Last edited by Stromkraft on Thu Mar 31, 2016 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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