Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Is your new effect pedal not doing what you hoped?
Regularly I see posts from people complaining that they bought an envelope filter, compressor, overdrive, or other dynamically-responsive pedal, and they say it sounds like crap. It sounds nowhere near as good as other people claimed it would. They wonder why there was so much hype; they wonder whether the unit they bought is broken or bogus; and they wonder if they're doing something wrong, or if the pedal "just doesn't like" their brand of instrument.
The huge majority of the time, the real problem is that the pedal was designed to operate optimally with a certain range of input signal level, and the instrument at hand puts out a signal that is too high or too low (on average) for that ideal range. Even pedals that have a "sensitivity" knob often do not have enough range in that control to effectively match up with all instruments or playing styles.
You'd think that every pedal designer would take into account all the various instruments that might be used with their product; but as far as I can tell, mostly they are content if it works in a range that they think is common, or whatever works with the instruments they happen to have on hand. Additionally, adding an active level-adjusting control to the input of a pedal increases the number of parts used, which increases the cost to build it--so most pedal makers (both large and small) leave off this function just to save themselves some money. This is such common practice that it actually surprises me when I find a pedal that doesn't have this limitation.
So before you give up on that effect, whatever it is, try adjusting the volume of the signal you feed into it. Turn down the volume knob on your instrument, or use an external boost pedal to turn your levels up or down, going into the pedal in question. Also try using more dynamic or less dynamic playing. Usually these methods will allow you to find the ideal input range for that effect; then you can decide whether you want to adapt your signal path (using other pedals or preamp settings) to make it work for you, or if it's a pain in the butt and you just want to sell the problematic pedal.
At least this way you will know exactly why it wasn't working, and whether it was something you could have easily and conveniently corrected.

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