Before you start
The CompIQ Twain is a sophisticated device which permits surgical intervention while preserving the dynamics of your playing. A good understanding of compression is normally required to optimally set it up for live performance or studio recording.
These settings are intended as starting examples. They could be used on bass, guitar, or other instruments. They might be more or less fitted for YOUR instrument, so you must explore and find out what works best for you, in your own setup. All controls are highly interactive. Small cumulative and compensating adjustments can render better results than turning knobs to extremes and expect wonders. We explained what we intended with these settings so you would better understand the controls and how they interact with each other.
We advise testing the CompIQ Twain with an instrument amplifier instead of using headphones. Start by playing with it alone then integrate your settings along with your 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.
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 match the Wet, Dry, and Bypass levels, first set all knobs as suggested in the image. You will use the Mix, Trim, and Make-Up Gain knobs for this operation. The position of the knobs may vary slightly 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
Leave the Trim knob untouched after the Dry line and Bypass levels are matched and turn the Mix knob fully to the left for 100% Wet. Set both Ratios to 1:1. Use the Make-up Gains to match the Bypass level. The Make-up Gains are at the buffer level at around 9’o’clock knobs position. With these settings, you should hear the same level for effect and bypass signal. If they are unbalanced, be sure you have the Mix knob set fully to the Wet and slightly adjust the Make-up Gains. 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.
- The Wet line in Stacked mode sums up both compression engines and the Make-Up Gains act in series. Because of that, the Wet and Bypass level should be re-matched when changing from Dual-Band to Stacking compressors but this is not really needed in practice.
- If the input Trim knob is consequently changed, the Wet/Dry and Bypass levels must be re-matched.
- The Dry line is not totally dry in the sense that it passes through the input preamp which can vary the input signal level and it passes the crossover at all times. This also ensures phase alignment from input to output in all compression modes – Dual-band or Stacked.
- Matching levels is more useful if you switch the compression on and off often in a song, and less so if you use the compression/limiting as an always-on effect.
Using the crossover
When setting the crossover separation point, keep the following in mind :
- The string-generated frequencies may fall within one band or the other and the best musical point of separation should be set by ear.
- Twain’s crossover filters are first-order filters, which means that there is a wide overlap of frequencies at the intersection of the two bands. That means that an abrupt, vertical separation of bands, is not possible. As bands are separated at the crossover’s set point, they gently fade out into each other, along with inherent phase inversion.
- The crossover point may actually separate the string’s frequency and they can be processed in the resulted bands. From a broad perspective, it seems that the ear favors a separation point in between 225Hz – 350Hz for guitar and in between 125Hz – 225Hz for bass. Practical needs may differ and the crossover should be set for each intended application.
- Twain’s crossover can be a powerful tool on the Dry line. Due to the complementary saturation engines with independent Level controls and additional High Pass and Low Pass filters for lows and highs, these act like a dedicated preamp for the Dry line only. These can be used to tailor the tone more precisely, complementing the parallel compression – blend more or fewer lows or more or fewer highs on the Wet Line, as needed.
- The Make-up Gains on the Wet line can act 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.
Dry Line saturation
While the preamp positive trimming might be useful to attack the compressors with a hotter signal (and this is more desirable for instrument-level signals), the Dry line is also amplified and may trigger the saturation engines down the line, even if the Saturation knobs are at a minimum. This is directly dependant on how high the input signal level is – for signals up to approx. +2dBu or 0dBV (2.82Vp-p), the Dry Line should stay perfectly clean.
When the preamp is trimmed to boost an already hot input signal is best to minimize the dry injection, unless the added saturation is desirable.
With Cut filters turned more clockwise, the saturation effect becomes more subtle.
General compression tips
- To lower the noise derived from stacking compressor engines who’s make-up gains act in series, try to keep the Lows engine’s make-up gain between 9-12’o’clock. Use only the Highs make-up gain to recover volume from the overall compression.
- Raise threshold instead of make-up gain for making the signal louder while containing noise.
- Lower ratio before raising the threshold to reduce the compression feel.
- Use soft knee and/or slower timing to reduce pops.
- Use faster timing for percussive musical content when compression is used as an effect (country, chick’n’pickin).
- Use hard knee to increase compression feel, before increasing ratio.
- Combine higher ratios with soft knee and/or slower timings, for a more natural compression feel.
- Combine lower threshold with lower ratio to maintain a transparent compression, and vice-versa.
- The hard knee amplifies the compression feel. It accentuates even more if faster timings (both attack & release) are used.
- Soft knee dilutes compression feel.
By its nature, a multiple-band compressor is highly dependent on input frequency content and input level, and because every instrument is differently equipped, these exact settings might sound different than what you expect by reading our explanations.
We advise you to explore the settings one by one, to hear their action. Small adjustments on pairs of controls can make a big difference. It is always best to start with high thresholds, 1:1 ratio, and make-up gains at noon, and then increase the ratios and lower the threshold. To better hear the crossover, amplify the lows make-up gain and lower the highs make-up gain. And vice-versa.
- Dual Band – Light Airy Compression
- Dual Band – Grabby & Plucky Compression
- Dual Band – Saturated Compression
- Dual Band – Sustaining Compression
- Stacked – Dynamic CALIfornia 76
- Stacked – Gluey Sweet Sustain
- Stacked – Warm Clean Optipression
- Stacked or Dual Band – Limiting Lows & Compressing Highs
- Stacked – Gritty Blooming Compression
- Premier Guitar – Victor Brodén Compression
Dual Band – Light Airy Compression
The crossover is set around 250Hz. A lower ratio of 3:1 ensures the compression feel yet being transparent enough. Raising thresholds just a bit further aids in that. The Side Chain Filter is in Low position to free the transients a little. The Lows side is compressed with Soft Knee and Slower Timing, and this also contributes both to transparency and compression feel. To amplify the compression feel the Highs band is compressed with Hard Knee. Slower timings on this side were intended to compensate for the Hard knee. Make-up gains were set to balance the bypassed signal.
On the Dry Line, the Highs were amplified quite a lot at 75%, but they were gently injected with the Mix over the Wet line, for balancing the on-purpose accentuated compression. This results in a crisp and airy compression, which is almost unnoticeable until the playing becomes more aggressive.
Tips & Tricks
- Raising the input in the preamp section will drive the compressors harder, for a stronger feel.
- Switching to Fast timing on Highs or both bands increases the compression feel.
- Switching Highs Knee to Soft will dilute the compression.
- Switching Side Chain Filter to Deep will further add body to the signal.
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.
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.
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.
Stacked – Dynamic CALIfornia 76
We had the opportunity to play with the wonderful Cali76 Compact Deluxe from Origin Effects and loved the Dynamic Control setting as suggested in their manual. We tried to replicate that with the Twain. These are two different technology pedals. The Cali76 compression circuit is based on Urei’s famous FET design, which in Origin’s implementation has a moderate ratio range and relatively slow timings. The Twain is a dual-engine compressor based on Blackmer VCA’s with independent threshold controls, auto-timing presets, and knee selection options – on both engines. However, we got close to the feel & punch and we encourage you to try these settings. We used single-coil guitars to test this, but it should work with any instrument, including bass.
The pedal is put in Stacked mode (mainly because this is the only way to prolong the auto-timings), and the Crossover is set around 250Hz. We use this to inject some shine into the Dry line, but we don’t separate higher than this, because we need some meat to work with. Moreover, we increase the Lows Level a bit as well. The Level on the Dry Highs is increased to the max and the Dry Lows almost completely cut with the high pass filter. This is the most important part of the setting because this way we push up the highs close to the sparklings of the Cali76 which is well known to add to the top end.
The rest of the settings are pretty straight forward. Mellow ratios and the thresholds are raised just a tad. The Side Chain Filter is set to Low, to pass out some of the energy to the second processing engine. The preamp trimmer is raised a little to get more punch from the dynamic circuits which act in series.
Tips & Tricks
- Raise preamp input trimmer to accentuate the 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 hard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Premier Guitar – Victor Brodén Compression
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.”