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CompIQ Twain Dual Band / Stacked Compressor – Setting Examples and Additional Info

Before you start

Prior to usage, it is important to note that the CompIQ Twain is a sophisticated device that enables surgical intervention for controlling playing dynamics.  A multitude of compression effects can be achieved through minimal adjustments to a combination of its many controls. Because of its complexity, it is better to have a comprehensive understanding of compression controls in general, to optimally configure the device for live performance or studio recording.

The presented settings are provided as initial examples for bass, guitar, or other instruments. However, these settings may be more or less suitable for YOUR instrument, hence it is imperative to explore and determine the best setting that suits your specific setup. It is worth noting that all controls are interactive, and small cumulative and compensating adjustments may produce superior results than turning knobs to extremes and expecting optimal outcomes. We have provided explanations of the settings’ intended purposes to aid in understanding how controls interact with one another.

To ensure optimal results, we recommend testing the CompIQ Twain with an instrument amplifier instead of using headphones. Begin by testing the device alone and later incorporate your settings alongside other pedals.

Twain Block Diagram

To better understand the signal flow through the compressor’s analog engines take a look at the block diagram. You will note that regardless of the operation mode of the pedal – dual-band with variable frequency separation point or stacking the compression engines in series -, the Dry and Wet lines are always signal-phase correct, input to output. The additional level controls for each frequency band on the Dry line (which are part of the Saturation blocks) along with the independent dynamic frequency processing on the Wet line, plus the input Trim Gain that allows either the raise or attenuation of the input signal – they all contribute to giving the Twain an unprecedented power. Think of it not only as a compressor but also as a dynamic preamp. In many ways, Twain is unique.

Block Diagram for the CompIQ TWAIN Pro Dual-Band / Stacked Compressor Pedal

Here is the Twain Manual for your reference. For more in-depth technical info on our VCA line of compressors please take a look at the CompIQ 101 section. If you have particular questions regarding how Twain works, or you would like to share your feedback or your own settings to be added here, do not hesitate to contact us.

Matching the effect and bypass levels

To achieve a balanced signal, it is necessary to match the effect and bypass levels. The Wet, Dry, and Bypass levels should be set using the Mix, Trim, and Make-Up Gain knobs. It is important to note that the position of the knobs may slightly vary due to the potentiometer and parts tolerances.

Matching the Dry and Bypass signal levels

Be sure the Saturation engine’s knobs are all to a minimum because they all have an effect on the Dry line. Turn the Mix knob fully to the right for 100% Dry, then slightly turn the preamp’s Trim knob until Dry and Bypass levels match (Trim’s dial should be around 2’o’clock position). The Trim attenuates -9dB when fully counterclockwise and amplifies +6dB when fully clockwise.

Matching the Wet and Bypass signal levels

For matching the Wet and Bypass signal levels, the Trim knob should be left untouched after the Dry and Bypass levels are matched. Turn the Mix knob fully to the left for 100% Wet and set both Ratios to 1:1. Use the Make-up Gains, located at the buffer level at around 9’o’clock knob position, to match the Bypass level. By doing this, the effect and bypass signals should have the same level. If they are unbalanced, adjust the Make-up Gains slightly while ensuring that the Mix knob is set fully to the Wet. To verify the setting for both bands, turn the X-Over knob left and right – you should not hear any frequency-level changes, which indicate that both bands are leveled.

Keep in mind

It should be noted that the Wet line in Stacked mode puts up both compression engines in series and the Make-Up Gains also act in series (this also has an effect on consecutive amplification noise!). Therefore, the Wet and Bypass levels should probably be re-matched when changing from Dual-Band to Stacking compressors. However, this is not always necessary in practice. If the input Trim knob is changed, the Wet/Dry and Bypass levels might also need to be re-matched.

Lastly, it is important to understand that the Dry line passes through the input preamp and the crossover at all times. This is necessary to ensure signal phase alignment from input to output in all compression modes – Dual-band or Stacked.

Matching levels: Bypass = Wet = Dry

Using the crossover

Considerations for setting the crossover separation point:

  • The frequencies generated by the strings may fall within one band or the other, and the optimal musical point of separation should be determined by ear.
  • Twain’s crossover filters are first-order filters, which means that there is a significant overlap of frequencies at the intersection of the two bands. As the bands are separated at the crossover’s set point, they gradually fade into each other, accompanied by inherent phase twisting which is correctly realigned when the bands are remixed.
  • The crossover point may actually separate the string’s frequency, which can then be processed in the resulting bands. From a broader perspective, the ear tends to prefer a separation point between 225Hz-350Hz for guitar and between 125Hz-225Hz for bass. However, practical needs may differ, and the crossover should be set for each intended application.
  • Twain’s crossover can be a potent tool on the Dry line. It functions as a dedicated preamp for the Dry line only due to the complementary saturation engines with independent Level controls and additional High Pass and Low Pass filters for lows and highs. It can be used to fine-tune the tone more precisely, complementing the parallel compression by adjusting the blend of lows or highs on the Wet Line as required.
  • The Make-up Gains on the Wet line can serve as a tilted equalization, with the pivot variable frequency set by the crossover.

Crossover Frequency/Phase Plot

This plot shows the frequency vs. phase with the Crossover set at 1KHz and input and output matched at 0dBu.

Twain Crossover Phase Shift Plot

CompIQ Twain Crossover Frequencies & Best Saturation Range

Dry Line saturation

When utilizing positive preamp trimming to attack compressors with a stronger signal, it is important to keep in mind that this amplification affects the Dry line as well. This may cause the saturation engines to be triggered even if the Saturation knobs are set to a minimum. The level at which this occurs depends on the input signal level and typically the Dry Line should remain clean for signals up to approximately +2dBu or 0dBV (2.82Vp-p). When applying preamp trimming to an already hot input signal, it is recommended to minimize the injection of dry signal unless the added saturation is desired. Additionally, increasing the clockwise position of the Cut filters can produce a more subtle saturation effect.

General tips for compression

  • To minimize noise resulting from stacked compressor engines with series make-up gains, keep the Lows engine’s make-up gain between 9-12 o’clock, and use only the Highs make-up gain to restore volume from the overall compression.
  • Instead of increasing make-up gain to make the signal louder while containing noise, raise the threshold.
  • To reduce the compression feel, lower the ratio before raising the threshold.
  • Use a soft knee and/or slower timing to reduce pops.
  • For percussive musical content when compression is used as an effect (such as country or chick’n’pickin), use faster timing.
  • To increase the compression feel, use a hard knee before increasing the ratio.
  • For a more natural compression feel, combine higher ratios with a soft knee and/or slower timings.
  • To maintain a transparent compression, combine a lower threshold with a lower ratio, and vice versa.
  • A hard knee amplifies the compression feel, especially when faster timings (both attack & release) are used.
  • A soft knee dilutes the compression feel.

Keep in mind that a multiple-band compressor is highly dependent on input frequency content and input level, and since every instrument is unique, these exact settings may produce different results than what is expected based on our explanations.

We recommend exploring each setting individually to understand its effect. Even slight adjustments to pairs of controls can yield significant differences. It is recommended to begin with high thresholds, 1:1 ratios, and make-up gains set to noon before increasing the ratios and decreasing the threshold. To better distinguish the crossover, increase the make-up gain for lows and decrease it for highs, and vice versa.

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Setting Examples

Dual Band – Light Airy Compression

The crossover point has been set at approximately 250Hz. A lower ratio of 3:1 is utilized to maintain a transparent feel while still achieving compression. Increasing the thresholds slightly can aid in this. The Side Chain Filter is positioned on Low to add some freedom to the transients. Soft Knee and Slower Timing are employed on the Lows side for compression to contribute to both transparency and compression feel. To further accentuate the compression feel, Hard Knee is used for compression on the Highs band. Slower timings are utilized on this side to offset the Hard Knee. Make-up gains are balanced to match the bypassed signal.

On the Dry Line, the Highs are amplified to 75%, but they are gently injected with the Mix over the Wet line to balance the intentionally accentuated compression. This results in a crisp and airy compression, which remains unnoticeable until the playing becomes more aggressive.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Increasing the input in the preamp section can increase the compression strength for a stronger feel.
  • Switching to Fast timing on the Highs or both bands can enhance the compression feel.
  • Switching Highs Knee to Soft will dilute the compression.
  • Switching the Side Chain Filter to Deep can add more body to the signal.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Dual Band - Light Airy Compression

Dual Band – Light Airy Compression

Dual Band – Grabby & Plucky Compression

This is a stronger setting, which is suitable for funky or country playing, not so much usable for open chords. This setting applies very well to a brighter Stratocaster or a mid-punchy bass.

The Crossover is set around 100Hz, pretty low, to bloom up the high energy Lows only. The Ratio on the Highs band is increased to 5:1. Soft Knee and Fast Timing on this side are balancing each other. With Side Chain Filter set to Normal, the compression feel is strong.  That is more accentuated by the Hard Knee on the Lows band, but ease out by the Slower Timing on this side. Thresholds are just raised a bit to free some audio body and just a little of the Dry line with amplified Highs is injected back for more air.

Tips & Tricks

  • Add more transparency by blending in more Dy Highs.
  • Raise the thresholds and lower the Make-up Gain to reduce hissing from amplification.
  • Use the Preamp Trimmer to soften or amplify the feel.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Dual Band - Grabby & Plucky Compression

Dual Band – Grabby & Plucky Compression

Dual Band – Saturated Compression

The intent here is to add harmonic distortions over the compression. Keep in mind, this effect is applied to the Dry-line only and runs in parallel with the compressed Wet-line. This setting is very suitable for soloing with a guitar with humbuckers.

The compression ratio is kept low at around 3:1 and the Side Chain Filter is set to Low, so that transients are not triggering the compression too early and flatten the Lows. Soft Knee and higher threshold on the Lows band dilutes the compression feel on this side. With the Crossover set around 300Hz, some saturation can still be applied on the Lows side. On the Highs band, the compression is accentuated by the Hard Knee and Faster Timing, but raising the threshold leaves a part of the amplitudes free from compression, which helps with general transparency.

The Mix injects a good portion of the Dry signal over the Wet-line, and the saturation is added on both bands. The dry levels on both bands are raised so that the saturation level is increased.

Tips & Tricks

  • Add more saturation grind by raising the Crossover higher and inject more Lows saturation.
  • Add more tubescreamer effect by lowering the Crossover and increasing the Highs saturation along with Highs dry level.
  • Set the Crossover around 300-350Hz for the best results when saturating both bands.
  • Set Side Chain Filter to Normal for more compression feel or to Deep, to dilute the compression in favor of dry harmonics.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Dual Band - Saturated Compression

Dual Band – Saturated Compression

Dual Band – Sustaining Compression

This is a heavy compression setting and as a result will add more sustain. This is also clean and 100% wet compression.

The Slower Timing is set on both bands to raise the release of compression. A very high ratio of 10:1 is set on the Lows side, and the Soft Knee prevents some pumping which may still occur, moreover because the Side Chain Filter is set to Normal. The thresholds are raised higher on both bands to free up the body of sound. The Highs ratio is set lower at 5:1 but it is still a lot of compressing here, which is more accentuated by the Hard Knee. Compression is balanced with the Crossover set to around 200Hz.

Tips & Tricks

  • Raise the thresholds and lower the make-up gains to contain noise.
  • Use preamp trimming to accentuate or dilute the settings.
  • Mix back Dry signal to regain the transients.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Dual Band - Sustaining Compression

Dual Band – Sustaining Compression

Stacked – Dynamic CALIfornia 76

We had the opportunity to experiment with the Cali76 Compact Deluxe, a product from Origin Effects, and found the Dynamic Control setting suggested in their manual to be particularly noteworthy. We elaborated a similar effect on the Twain, which is an entirely different type of technology pedal. Specifically, the Cali76 compression circuit employs Urei’s well-known FET design, which Origin Effects has implemented with a moderate ratio range, fast attack and relatively slow release timings. On the other hand, the Twain is a dual-engine compressor that employs Blackmer VCA technology, and offers separate threshold controls, automatic timing presets, and selectable knee settings on both engines. Despite their significant technological and circuit design differences, we achieved a similar feel and punch with the Twain, and we strongly recommend that you experiment with these settings as well. Although we used single-coil guitars in our testing, we believe that these settings should work well with any type of instrument, including bass guitars.

In Stacked mode, which is the only way to extend the auto-timings, the pedal’s Crossover is set at approximately 250Hz. Our intention is to enhance the Dry line with some brightness, while still retaining a sufficient amount of low-end richness. To achieve this, we raise the Lows Level slightly, and adjust the Dry Highs to maximum while nearly entirely eliminating the Dry Lows using the high pass filter. This particular configuration is the most critical aspect of the setting, as it results in boosting the highs to a level close to the Cali76’s sparkling effect that is renowned for its top-end enhancement capabilities.

The other settings are relatively straightforward, with mellow ratios and slightly elevated thresholds. The Side Chain Filter is set to Low to redirect some of the energy of the Lows to the second processing engine, while the preamp trimmer is increased slightly to add more punch to the dynamic circuits that operate in series.

Tips & Tricks

  • Raise preamp input trimmer to accentuate the general compression feel.
  • Lower the ratio to reduce pumping, and adjust the gains accordingly.
  • Raise the ratios in both engines while adding more Dry to the mix.
  • Add Highs saturation in the Dry line to resemble the drive that Cali76 enters easily when pushed harder.

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Stacked – Gluey Sweet Sustain

This is a subtle setting, where a minor adjustment in the knobs will result in a strong change of the compression feel.

In Stacked mode (where one engine sends everything to the next), and with ratios at an exaggerated limiting setting, the compression feel is controlled through thresholds, side-chain filter, gains, and wet/dry blend. The aim is to have the sweetest compression, at the brink of popping but not quite.

Both timings are slower to prolong the consecutive release and the second engine is set to a hard knee, to keep the signal more in sustain. Part of the raw signal is freed up in the first engine only to be sent to the next for the second compression. There too, the threshold is higher, so we will pass some of the signal compressed in the first engine to be less amplified by the second make-up gain. With limiting ratios, a lot of gains would be needed, and that would introduce amplification noise that we try to avoid. We amplify a little more in the first engine, and that means the second one will deal with a stronger signal, but here the threshold is raised a little higher, for compensation. Now, we amplify a little less in the second, to avoid introducing noise. Use the two make-up gain controls in reverse tandem to achieve the desired signal level.

The side-chain filter is employed in the first engine because we want to preserve more of the lows transients which are partially & progressively passed-through, underneath the thresholds.

The Mix is the master dial. With the crossover at around 250Hz (could be set higher still) we amplify the highs in the dry signal, to brighten up the mix. Saturations are raised in both bands to the level where they are almost inaudible; leave them there to transfer some harmonic distortions to the peaks of the compressed signal.

Tips & Tricks

  • Use input preamp to change everything with one knob.
  • Dialing dry out with the Mix knob will accentuate the compression feel but highs will be washed out as well. Depending on how bright your instrument is, this acts as a master tone control.
  • Tiny adjustments in thresholds yield very audible changes; the same is valid for make-up gains. Each should compensate for its counterpart in the other engine.
  • Using a pick will pluck the sound.
  • Using fingers especially with bass will make everything glue naturally.
  • This setting is very suitable for funky playing or country style.

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Stacked - Gluey Sweet Sustaining Compression

Stacked – Gluey Sweet Sustaining Compression

Stacked – Warm Clean Optipression

This setting is intended to gently amplify the compression feel given by optical compressors, but without distortions that those introduce. The pedal is put into Stacked mode which means the Crossover is not used on the Wet line. It is still available for the Dry line, and that matters, because we chose to inject more Dry Highs to polish and shine up the compression. The compression engines are in now series.

The thresholds are almost to the lowest point for both bands. It means the compressors act almost immediately, and whatever was freed-up in the first engine (Lows) will inherently be compressed in the next. There is no need to high ratios – just around 3.5:1 should be maxing used, but there are no rules here; it is just the noise from one compressor is transferred and amplified by the next, so proper tweaking is required to contain that. Both compressors are slowed down by setting Slower Timing and Soft Knee. To balance the accentuated compression feel of this setting, the Side Chain Filter is set to Low. Setting it to Deep, means more Lows transients are compressed in the next engine.

The Dry Highs are amplified but not saturated and injected boldly over the Wet line. This reshapes the higher frequency content giving this set a natural feel, albeit the whole setting is very aggressive. This also helps to lower the make-up gains and consequently containing the overall noise.

Tips & Tricks

  • Use the Preamp trimmer to accentuate or soften the feel.
  • Set the Crossover higher to inject fewer mids through the Dry/Wet Mix.
  • Play with thresholds in small increments on each side while compensating with make-up gains.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Stacked - Warm Clean Optipression

Stacked – Warm Clean Optipression

Stacked or Dual Band – Limiting Lows & Compressing Highs

This setting is a variation of the previous one. While in Stacked mode, the first engine only compresses the peaks and the second acts as a full compressor. In the first engine, the threshold is raised a lot and it is set to affect just high dynamic strokes. A high ratio of 10:1, Hard Knee, Faster Timing, and Normal Side Chain Filter set this engine into limiting mode.

The next engine is set with a lower ratio above 3:1, Soft Knee, and Slower Timing. The threshold here is also raised to prevent overcompressing and keeping it sound natural. Because both thresholds are higher, the sound has enough energy so less make-up gain is used. this also contains the noise.

A little Dry signal with amplified Highs is added over the compressed Wet line, to balance everything and make the setting more neutral.

The same strategy can be used in Dual Band mode. That will result in even more transparency. The Lows will barely be touched by the limiter while the compression feel will come solely from the Highs engine.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Stacked - Limiting Lows & Compressing Highs

Stacked – Limiting Lows & Compressing Highs

Stacked – Gritty Blooming Compression

With this setting, we tried to achieve a blooming compression with added harmonics grit that is suitable for a mid-scooped pickup (we used a Telecaster with the pickup switch in the middle position, hence combining the bridge and neck pickups). With minor adjustments, this setting complemented the crispy bridge humbucker in the same Tele.

The pedal is put in Stacked mode, and the Crossover is set higher, around 800Hz, to allow proper injection of Lows & Highs saturation. That seems to be a magic spot where both saturations feel right. With ratios set to 4:1 in both engines, Normal Side Chain Filter and make-up gains at noon, we use thresholds to balance the compression level, so noise from consecutive amplification is reduced. Hard Knees were set for both engines and, to amplify the compression feel, we raised the input preamp with +3dB, pushing compressors even more. This gives the compression an elastic feel, resembling an optical compressor. Both timings are set Slower and that adds more to the effect.

On the Dry line we injected saturation in both bands, with more of it added to the Highs (where harmonic distortions feel more musical). Some of the shrills were ducked on the Highs using the Hi-Cut Filter. We did the same on the Lows side to make the grind just barely perceptible. Wet and Dry lines are perfectly evened out with the  Mix knob.

Tips & Tricks

  • Add more bloom by raising the thresholds.
  • Lower crossover for adding grit or raise it higher to soften the grit and pump more bloom.
  • Set the Crossover around 300-350Hz for the best results when saturating both bands.
  • Switch to Soft Knee on both engines to favor more distortions.
  • Raise input level even higher to add more elastic feel.

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CompIQ Twain - Settings Examples - Stacked - Gritty Blooming Compression

Stacked – Gritty Blooming Compression

Premier Guitar – Victor Brodén Compression

Sound demos courtesy of Victor Brodén who wrote an in-depth Twain review in the Premier Guitar October 2020 Pedal Issue, p.116. Recorded direct using a Mbox and running Logic X.

Clip 1 – Dual-Band

Fender Ultra Jazz 4 (60/40 favoring neck pickup). Band 1: Threshold 10 o’clock, ratio 11 o’clock, gain 11 o’clock, x-over 11 o’clock. Band 2: Threshold 2 o’clock, ratio noon, mix 11 o’clock, gain 11 o’clock, dual-band mode, fast timing on the low side, and slow timing for the highs.

“I started out by plugging in a Fender Ultra Jazz 4-string because I wanted to see if I could get a modern, active Jazz bass to sound a little less modern and controlled, both in the highs of the pops and the violent low-end attacks of an aggressively slapped 4th string. And I began using the CompIQ TWAIN in dual-band mode with a 3:1 compression ratio. I switched things up with fast timing on the low side and slow timing for the highs. I was instantly struck by how musical my intentionally heavy squash on the low register sounded. The popped notes lost just a little bit of their inherent harshness and fit better into the line I was playing, a bit like slapping through a tube preamp.”

Clip 2 – Stacked

1985 Yamaha BB3000S, with tone at 50 percent and neck pickup only. Band 1: Threshold 10 o’clock, ratio 1 o’clock, gain 10 o’clock, x-over 8 o’clock. Band 2: Threshold 5 o’clock, ratio 11 noon, mix 8 o’clock, gain 10 o’clock, stacked mode, soft knee.

“To me, the true test of a great compressor is to determine how it can “glue” a track together with a bass line that features long note values. I grabbed an early ’80s Yamaha BB3000S, engaged the stacked mode, set a soft knee, and utilized the wet side of the signal heavily. I was rewarded with a truly old-school fat—but not muddy—tone, where my low notes were warm, and my high notes gained a tremendous amount of body and authority.”

Clip 3 – Stacked & Saturation

1985 Yamaha BB3000S, with both pickups dimed. Band 1: Threshold 10 o’clock, ratio 10 o’clock, gain 10 o’clock, x-over 2 o’clock. Band 2: Threshold 11 o’clock, ratio 11, mix 11 o’clock, gain 10 o’clock, stacked mode, saturation controls 3 o’clock.

“Since the stacked mode put such a smile on my face, I kept it engaged while rolling all controls on my Yamaha to their wide-open positions and playing meat-and-potatoes rock with a pick, and boosting the saturation controls on the TWAIN up to 3 o’clock. The pedal added a pleasant mid-scoop while providing an audible saturation with the bass soloed, but a saturation subtle enough to where it will just add presence to the bass in a track without having a forward, audible break-up like a fuzz—a very usable feature indeed.”

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