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Defln'tlon: A compressor reduces the dynamic range
ot a signal by attenuating peaks and amplitying valleys.
A limiter only restricts the peaks ot a signal. This unit
combines elements ot both.
Compressor mounted in a Vector-Pak card module
prior to installation in the pedalboard project (No.
Level of Difficulty: lntermediate
Compression and limiting have been used for mony years
in studio s, radio stations, commercials, communications,
and mony other applications. Dynamic range reduction
prevents overloading oftapes, thus minimizingdistortion:
increases the apparent sustain of stringed (percussive) in-
struments; and improves intelligibility with speech and
PA systems. When play ing guitar through a compressor,
for example, single-note lines or fuli six-string chords
sound equally lo ud.
While not an extremely critical circuit, please note the
This project uses a CLM6000 opto-isolator. Refer to
the Genera³ lnstructions section at the beginning of this
chapter before attempting to solder this part in place.
Keep all wiring as short and direct as possible, espe-
cially those wires going to Jl, R6, and R7. Keep input
and output leads at least 1 cm (1/2") away from each
Shield the wires going from pad D to R7, tenninal 2,
and from pad A to R6, tenninals 3 and 2.
Using the Compressor
In many ways, compressors ale at their best when used
subtly. Use the minimum amount of compression neces-
sary to get the effect you want. Guitar players should
note that a compressor only increases the apparent sus-
tain of a guitar; i.e., it cannot make a string vibrate any
~onger, but instead amplifies the string more as it decays.
. Plug instrument into Jl and patch J2 to your amp.
Start with both controls ful1y counterclockwise.
. Fast attack, s³ow decay response
. 10:1 compression ratio over 50-dBrange (see Spec-
. Also functions as compressing preamp for convert-
ing low-Ievel signa1s to compressed, high-Ievel sig-
. Choice of line-Ievel or low-Ievel operation set by
. Operates from t9 to t15V
. Separate compression and output controls
. Suitable for recording or stage use
. Excellent frequency response characteristics
. For line-level operation, recommended R8=220k
. For low-level operation, R8=lM
. For maximum sustain, use 1M for R8, even willi
line-level signa1s. The tradeoff is mOle noise, especially
when preceded willi other electronic devices or when
used in conjunction willi an instrument that bas a built-
in instrument preamp.
. Running the compressor at t15V increases the
amount of sustain slightly.
. Tum up output for a preamping effect. At extreme
clockwise positions you may encounter distortion. Re-
turn control to about halfway before proceeding to next
. Tum up compression until you notice a drop in
level. The level drop corresponds to the amount of gain
reduction introduced by the compressor. Increase out-
put to compensate for this drop. Subtler instrument
sounds should naw be mOle prominent.
. With extreme clockwise settings of the compres-
sion control, the soundwill getnoisy andpossibly rough-
sounding. Avoid overcompression.
. For absolute minimum noise, do not use any
electronic devices (fuzzes, etc.) before the compressor.
With moderate amounts of compression, including a low
noise preamp in the signal chain before the compressor
will introduce an acceptably law amount of noise. How-
ever, in most cases the compressor should come first in
the signal chain.
In Case of DifficuIty
. Noise: Reduce compression control. Feed instru-
ment directly into compressor.
. Distortion: Reduce output control. If distortion
persists, reduce compression control, and return output
to original setting (or until distortion occurs). Make SUTe
you aren't overloading your amp.
. No compression action: First, remember that
compressors ale not supposed to add much coloration to
the sound; compare compressed sound willi bypassed
sound to determine whether the unit isn't compressing.
If compression still isn't evident, che ck 011 for proper
orientation and installation. Check IC2. Check compres-
sion control setting.
Compression curve, R8=lM. When R8=220k the
curve isn 't as dramatic, but I still recommend this
value for line-level applications to keep the noise
Current consumption: t5mA
Frequency response (any setting of compression or out-
put control): tldB, 50Hz - 20kHz
Output headroom: 14V pk-pk
Compression ratio: 50dB change in input level yields
5dB change in output level; 60dB change in input level
yields lOdB change in output level (R8=lM)
Compression curve: see Figure 5-46
Artwork for the foil side of the circuit board,
shown 1 to 1.
How it Works
To fulIy understand how ibis project works, reread the section in the be-
ginning of ibis chapter on how the CLM6000 opto-isolator works.
The input couples into ICIA through C3 and R9. R8 sets the maxi-
mum gain of ibis op amp stage, but the overall gain is variable because of
the photoresistor connected in paraIle! with R8. More light on the photo-
resistor reduces the gain of ibis stage: less light gives more gain.
The output of ICIA takes iwo different paths, one towards ICIB and
the other towards IC2. We'lI Iook at IC2 flrst. This op amp is a high-speed,
uncompensated op amp whose frequency response is .lirnited by C2. The
signal from ICIA couples into IC2 through C4, compression control R7,
and R5. The output of IC2 then dñves the LED half of the CLM6000, so
the LED bñghtness corresponds to the loudness of the signal from your in-
strument. As more signal goes into IC2, the LED gets bñghter, which re-
duces the gain of IC 1 A and sends less signal to IC2. Thus, as the in'put sig-
fial increases, the compressor is constant1y trying to tum itself down,
which is what keeps the signal output mOle or less constant in the face of
widely varying input voltages. This action takes place so fagi you don't
beaT the effect as something choppy, but rather as a smooth, compressing
effect. R7 determines the amount of signallevel going into IC2. Letting
mOle signal through tums on the LED that much sooner, resulting in gaju
reduction at lower signallevels for more compression.
Because we've cut the gain of IClA down via the above-mentioned
compression action, we need to add someampliflcation to bñng the signal
level back up again at the output. This is ICIB's function. R6 sets the gain;
CI limits the high-frequeocy respoose of this stage to prevent instability.
The output floro this amp couples through C6 to J2, the output jack. R3
tñes to keep C6 tied to ground; ibis prevents you from heañng a loud pop
when you plugsomething into the output.
Dl and D2 ale polañty reversal protection diodes, while C7 and C8 add
rower supply bypassing and decoupling.
Component layout for the compressor.
Project No. 8 PARTS LIST
Resistors (a11 ale 1/4W, 10% tolerance, except as noted)
R4, R5 47k
R6 100k audio taper pot-controls output
R7 100k audio taper pot-controls compression
R3 220k (line level), 1M (low level)
Capacitors (rated at more than 10V for -!;9V power supply)
CI, C2 2OpF (polystyrene preferred, disc acceptable)
C3 O.22J}F (mylar preferred, disc acceptable)
C4 2J}F, electrolytic or tantalum
C5 -C8 l OJ}F, electrolytic or tantalum
RC4739 or XR4739 duallow-noise op amp
LM201 uncompensated op amp (substitutes: LM301
IN4001 or equivalent silicon diode
CLM6000 opto-isolator(manufactured by Clairex)
Open circuit 1/4" mono phone jack
Knobs, case, circuit board, 14-pin IC socket, 8-pin IC
socket, wire, solder, etc.