Today, we will use the C165a VCA compressor to improve the sound of a fairly simple bass guitar. We will not only work on the dynamics, but also explore the tone shaping capabilities of the plugin by making use of its limiter and saturation circuit. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Here’s the initial example track:
The bass sounds fine, however it could definitely use some more power and presence – time to change that!
We insert an instance of C165a on the bass guitar track. The adjustment of the THRESHOLD is as easy as it can get: simply turn the knob up or down until the yellow LED above is lit. This works similar to an input gain detector and makes sure that always the ideal amount of compression is applied to the incoming signal. Since we want to even out the dynamics of the bass guitar we leave the COMPRESSION control at its maximum setting. You might have noticed that there is no control for the ratio. This is intended and is equal to the original hardware unit this plugin was modeled after. However, that doesn’t mean that the ratio is static; rather its value adjusts itself depending on the overall amount of gain reduction. An ATTACK value of 10 will give us a consistent sound, while the activated AUTO switch will thankfully adjust the RELEASE time automatically, depending on the audio material.
One way to get a big bass sound is to use a limiter after the compressor. Luckily, the C165a features a built-in limiter section, which can also add some nice overdrive to the signal. We turn it on by clicking on the corresponding LIMITER switch below the OUTPUT knob, and then raise the LIMITER control to about -0.3dB. Now we can freely crank the OUTPUT all the way up without risking any clipping – in fact, this rather extreme setting will introduce just the right amount of saturation that will give our sound “the edge”.
Tip: If you’re looking for even more dirt and drive you could optionally set the SIDECHAIN to INTERNAL and play around with the different EQ bands. This can have a massive impact on the amount of audible distortion so better be careful about this!
The interface of the plugin should finally look something like this:
Let’s now listen again to the example track with C165a engaged:
While the original bass guitar was pretty dull and unspectacular, it eventually really cuts through the mix, and makes the whole song more convincing!
You can download the preset for C165a VCA compressor here: C165a_Rocking_Bass_Preset.FXP.