Compression and Distortion settings

I really like the sounds I can get with extreme distortion and compression. However like many things Elektron, those effect blocks have familiar parameters that don’t give expected results.

For example I wanted to have a scene where I could switch from full on distortion, to not so much distortion. So I set the scene to drop the distortion down, then because of the loss of volume, I went to the compressor and tried every possible setting, and it just didn’t work. I tried setting the mix to zero - so no compession, and then tried to raise the makeup gain to make up for what the low distortion lost in volume - nope, this added distortion that wasn’t previously there? Almost every setting for the compressor would make sense if the compressor was before the distortion, but the manual says it is after the distortion. ???

A simple scene to have either a “ton” or “none” distortion, should be easy, but I have not gotten this simple thing to work where the volume of each scene is the roughly the same.

Does anyone have any experience with this mystery?

Describe a more detailed test case (since volume-settings can vary the results a lot) and I will try to have a go at it this weekend. :slight_smile:

Are you sure the distortion pattern isn’t driving the outputs as well? Maybe reduce the volume of that one then you won’t have to work as hard to boost the ‘clean’ patch to the same level?

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Here is a basic case, which makes me think the distortion comes after the compressor.

  1. Make a new project - so a clean init - whatever basic kit that generates.
  2. Make a techno-ish pattern, Kicks on 1, 4, 8, 12 - hats on 3, 6, 10, etc - maybe a snare in there.
  3. Start with distortion. Set the Amount to 127 (full), Sym to -30, DOV = 0, delay and verb to pre. There is no delay fed into any sound on the Init kit, but that verb needs to be there for some real pumping.
  4. Go to Compressor. Thresh to 64, Attack and Release at default values (.3 and .4), set the Ratio to Max, Sidechain to OFF, Mix to full 127, leave Vol at default 64.

So, now you get some good pumping, with medium distortion.

If you push the threshold up (so less signal gets compressed), the distortion increases on the few peaks that make it through - that seems wrong. If you push the makeup gain up, you get way more distortion. The amount of distortion should be set in the Dist section. Once you get a good sound with the threshold (under 64) so you can hear all the drums - MUP should just boost the volume of that signal, but it does not, it adds distortion.

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Here’s where it gets weirder.

Set up a scene. The first parameter you want to adjust is set the Distortion amount to zero. So of course you get a quiet signal. So go to the Compressor and boost that makeup gain to get a clean signal back up in volume - but guess what, boosting make up gain removes signal - first distored peaks then zero signal at higher levels.

I can replicate a good distortion/compression with my hardware, and then trying to do the same on the ARII is just baffling. ?

It really feels like the distortion is post compressor, but that doesn’t explain everything.

There’s a lot going on, here.
If I really wanted to control distortion, I would concentrate on p-locking MIX, MUP, and VOL of the compressor. For the most control, you really have to concern yourself with the individual instrument levels, AMP, and OVR settings, too.

Keep in mind that the compressor adds a ton of makeup gain. This absolutely slams the output, which accounts for the loads of extra overdrive you’re hearing.

When you feed asymmetrical distortion (SYM) into the compressor with high makeup gain, the signal is absolutely obliterated, making it look like a thin pulse-wave.

Before:
image

With negative SYM values and extreme MUP setting:
image

By the way, the SYM setting is active even when the dist AMT is zero.

I treat the AR’s efx section as an integral part of the instrument; I’d just twist knobs until it sounds good.

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So what I have found from tinkering with the settings of both distortion and compression is that if your distortion does not have any Sym offset (keep it at zero) then the MakeUp Gain parameter seems to act as one would expect. Once you add some SYM, then the MakeUp Gain works strangely - I get get it where below 64 is zero volume, above 90 is zero volume, but anywhere in between is a variety of volumes.

I don’t think the issue I’m seeing is due to the compressor being overdriven and generating it’s own distortion, because with SYM set to zero, I can really blast the MakeUp Gain without volume decreasing, it does increase as you would expect to a very high output.

Thanks Gliched for pointing out the way SYM affects all this.

I’m seeing what you are seeing, although without any SYM the MakeUp Gain seems to behave normally and doesn’t introduce more distortion at high settings - certainly not audio cut-outs like the Sym parameter introduces!

seems like if you are driving your compressor all the way down to 64, your source signal seems like its low to begin with. why not set your levels first and compression as well with make up gain, and then set your desired distortion amount afterwards. I bet you won’t have to approach anywhere near that amount of distortion in order to get the crunch you are looking for.

I think starting with distortion to 127 is just adding volume to the signal and its not hot enough to distort to your desired amount which is why you need it to be set so extreme in the first place.

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I did a recording with the test case you described. Please check if the result matches yours. It sounds to me that it is raising the volume to an already distorted signal and adds more distortion (due to clipping output) when I raise the MUP too much. Which what it should do AFAIK. Or maybe I misunderstood you or my result…??

I’m going to retest this, but the results you are seeing are not the same as mine.

If I have SYM set to anything other than zero in the distortion block, then Makeup Gain on the compressor, can cut out the signal at high, or low settings, but not medium settings. I think this is what Glitched was seeing as well.

what you’re seeing is normal. you can drive the distortion circuit, and you can also drive the compressor circuit. the whole thing is analog, so you can drive any of the circuits anywhere on this unit.

Changing the Symmetry will cause distortion to happen sooner since it is moving the DC offset of the waveform to one side. so you will clip sooner when the waveform increases in amplitude.

all your compressor settings sound like they are extreme. 127 distortion, MAX ratio, Threshold down to 64 thats HALF way down and then trying to crank make up gain to max to push out volume. if any of those setting change, say in a scene that changes the amount of compression your getting, you will blast your roof off lol.

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