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I use a compressor first in the chain on clean sounds. 4:1, fast attack, fast release. I want the transients there, I just want them lower volume and consistent with the rest of the trailing sound.

For bass, compressors are really great. I particularly like the MXR bass compressor with it's LED gauge at the top, it's a perfect compressor.

Then for recording, I've realized recently how important it is to run each instrument individually through a tube pre and a hardware (non-vst) compressor. I picked up a WA76 recently, and oh man does it make everything sound better. Night and day.

So yeah compressors are incredibly important.
 
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