The term compensating is one that is often referred to but not always fully understood. It is normally used with reference to lower brass instruments (eg. Euphoniums & Tubas) which are either 'compensating' or 'non-compensating' models. There is a common misconception that if an instrument has a 4th valve* it is compensating, but that is not necessarily the case. I'll try to explain exactly what it means as clearly and concisely as possible, although that's easier said than done!