Truly an essential tool in the arsenal of a bass or electric guitar player, a decent level of compression sets the amateurs apart from seasoned veterans. Today’s list of the Top 13 Compressor Pedals for Bass has been put together to help understand the importance of the effect in the life of a bass player.
We’ll talk about state-of-the-art pedals from brands like Keeley Electronics, MXR, Boss, Darkglass, Origin Effects, Seymour Duncan, Source Audio, EBS, Aguilar, Whirlwind, Empress Effects, and Tc Electronics.
Perhaps before diving deep into the list we’ve prepared today, it would be a good idea to answer a few questions about the importance of compression and how it can be a good inclusion in your current setup as a bassist.
Top 13 Compressor Pedals for Bass 2023 (All Budgets & Types)
1. Keeley Compressor Plus
Here’s a great pedal to experiment with if you want to add a compressor to the pedal board.
Keeley has an immensely customer-friendly approach in that they make sure they listen carefully and incorporate the feedback and requests of their customers into their products which is the secret behind their worldwide success.
Many of the controls on this little black box cater to the demands of the modern musician. Whether using single coil pickups or humbuckers, the built-in settings help you adjust accordingly. In addition, the versatile Compressor Plus sounds equally great with guitars and basses.
On the top left of the interface is the “Sustain” knob. Especially noticeable during chord work, when the sustain knob is turned up, the tails of the chords linger on longer due to the added sustain. Turning the sustain control down will reduce the compression, and the initial strum or pick attack will be more profound while chords fade away more quickly.
- Level & Pickup Switch
The pedal’s overall output can be increased using the “Level” knob. The volume decreases when the compression amount is enhanced since the louder notes get quieter. This can be compensated by increasing the level, so you get a compressed signal but at a higher volume. Another great addition to the pedal is the pickup switch. Depending on your instrument, you can use the switch to choose between single coil and humbucker presets. Further adjustments can be made using the available knob controls.
The “Tone” knob on the Keeley Compressor pedal affects the higher end of the compressed signal. Again, as the Compressor dulls down the highs, the tone knob can compensate for this loss of high frequencies by adjusting the brightness of the tone. Adjusting the tone knobs on your guitar with this control can also help achieve the desired results.
The “Blend” knob is valuable if you want to throw in some of the original guitar signal on top of the compressed sound. So, suppose the playing intensity is being suppressed, and the compression makes things overly mellow. In that case, you can increase the ratio between the two signals making the compressed signal more subtle.
- Connections & Dimensions
The pedal measures 2″ by 2.35″ by 4.41″ and weighs 0.58 lbs. On the right side of the pedal is a quarter-inch mono input. A quarter-inch output is found on the left of the pedal. Finally, the unit has a top-mounted 9V power input sold separately. Unfortunately, the pedal isn’t battery-powered.
The range of compression on this pedal is pretty impressive. And if you’re worried about the loss of tone or volume when you crank the compression up, you’ll notice that the pedal gives you plenty of controls to make up for any such loss in tone. The selector switch is a great feature when using the Compressor with different pickups.
The pedal is a bit noisy, as some users may notice that even in bypass mode, the noise floor seems enhanced. This noise gets even more noticeable during quieter passages of play. However, experimenting with a noise gate pedal might tame these unwanted sounds as the pedal works well otherwise.
2. TC Electronics Spectracomp Bass Compressor
It just doesn’t get simpler than the Spectracomp Bass compressor from TC Electronic.
The device uses the same concept as a regular electric guitar compressor, such as TC Electronic’s own Hyper Gravity pedal. The Sprectracomp uses an MD3 or Multiband Dynamics algorithm, which can also be found in System 6000, TC Electronic’s solution to studio production.
The tool has gained immense popularity among producers worldwide for its pristine quality and the ability to deliver a signal that is nice and leveled but not noticeably compressed. One look at the Sepctracomp Bass, and you’ll notice how simple it is. However, the pedal has many aspects that are bound to surprise you.
- Sustain Knob
The pedal has a solitary sustain knob that acts like the threshold control for the compression. You can decide how much compression to apply to your audio signal here. The relationship of the sustain knob to the level of compression is inversely related. The higher the sustain value is set, the lower the threshold.
The unique thing about the MD3 algorithm is how it affects the compression at different frequencies. The Spectracomp has a multiband compressor on board. Usually, a compressor pedal will apply the same amount of compression throughout the audio signal. If the Compressor is set according to the lower strings on a bass, you’ll get less compression on the higher strings. Conversely, if you put the threshold according to the higher strings, the low strings may get too much compression. So, to combat this, the Spectracomp has three bands of compression that work separately on the highs, mids, and lows.
- Tone Print
The friendly people at TC Electronic work hard to collaborate with different artists and musicians to mirror their sound preferences and characteristics and make them available for you and me to download and assign to our pedals. The “Tone Print” app has been specifically designed to turn your existing pedal into a signature pedal in a few easy steps.
The minuscule pedal has a quarter-inch input on the right side and a quarter-inch jack on the opposite side. Also on the right is the 9V power input for the power supply sold separately. Finally, next to the power jack is a USB Mini-B port that can be used to update the pedal’s firmware.
At 1.9″ x 1.9″ by 3.7″, the pedal is highly compact and hardly occupies any space on your pedal board. Cleverly engineered to house a 3-band compressor, you don’t need any more controls apart from the single sustain knob. Access to Tone Print adds to the experience, especially when you download your favorite bass player’s patch onto the pedal.
Having limited controls makes the pedal more straightforward to use. However, perhaps a volume knob could be a handy addition, as you can’t avoid having the volume go up as the compression effect increases. This essentially makes the unit act like a signal booster pedal.
3. MXR Bass Compressor M-87
This ivory-white bass compression pedal is a force to be reckoned with thanks to its feature-rich presence.
In the M-87, you get that classic studio compression sound in a compact unit measuring just 2.12″ by 2.62″ by 4.37″. Also hidden inside the metallic exterior is MXR’s CHT or Constant Headroom Technology, which gives you some piercingly clean sound delivery and more room to work with.
The pedal is laid out nicely with a wealth of controls and some metering options to know different aspects of your audio signal at any time. Designed specifically for some of the more demanding bass guitars, the pedal will give you good value for your hard-earned buck.
- Metering LEDs
From the very top, you’ll see a strip of 10 LEDs labeled from -20 to -1. At a glimpse, the LEDs help indicate the amount of gain reduction on your signal. Another great thing about the metering strip is that you can check your compressor response time based on how the LEDs act.
- Release & Attack
“Release” is a time-based control that determines how long the compression continues to linger on as the signal from your instrument dies down or fades away. The “Attack” knob controls the time the compression takes effect as soon as a signal is fed through.
- Output & Input
The great thing about the M-87 pedal is that you get controls for “Output” and “Input.” You can set the input gain of your audio signal by turning the aptly named Input knob. The output knob controls the overall volume of the effect. This can help your output signal cut through the mix more easily.
Labeled as “Mix” on some pedals, the “Ratio” knob controls the original and compressed signal ratio. There are 4 options, including 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and 20:1. Here, 4:1 is the mildest setting while 20:1 is the most extreme mode.
- Connections & Footswitch
On the pedal’s right are the quarter-inch input knob and the 9V power input (power supply sold separately). The left of the pedal has the output jack to route the signal to an amplifier or the next pedal in the chain. The pedal has a true bypass, so when the footswitch isn’t pressed, the tone has no coloration. Pressing the switch activates the unit. The nearly blue light illuminates to indicate that the pedal is on.
Owning the M-87 will eliminate your bass compression worries. The pedal is versatile, with individual-level knobs for the input and output. You also get tons of controls to shape the compression of your instrument the way you want, and an LED strip takes care of your metering requirements.
The pedal tends to be a bit noisy on some pedalboards, with some hissing here and there. However, you should be fine if you have a noise gate unit added to the setup. Also, considering the slightly wider form factor, MXR could’ve figured out a way to fit a 9V battery compartment inside.
4. Boss BC-1X Bass Comp
We can’t have this list of pedals without including Boss’s interpretation of a decent compression unit.
The BC-1x is another pedal that works on the principle of multiband compression. The added advantage of such pedals is that they automatically adjust to the varying frequencies in the audio signal and apply compression accordingly. The result is a more “natural” sounding bass compression.
This Boss pedal at your disposal means you can now experience studio-quality sounds on a live stage without much fuss, thanks to the friendly user interface and easy-to-control parameters. It’s easy to set the compression the way you like and still cut through the mix with the BC-1x.
The pedal has a 9V power input at the top but can also be powered by a 9V battery. The unit can be opened by loosening the thumbscrew at the base of the footswitch to reveal the battery compartment. The “Check” light on the interface shows that the pedal is on. However, it also indicates when the battery is depleted by dimming. If it doesn’t turn on, you need to replace the battery. The pedal is also flanked with quarter-inch input and output jacks.
- Level & Release
There are four nicely aligned knobs on the interface. Starting from the far left, the “Level” knob has a prominent function in controlling the output level. Next to it is the release knob which controls a time-bound parameter. After playing a note, you can adjust how quickly or slowly the compression effects settle down. Increasing the release by moving the knob clockwise makes the sound smooth and well-gelled while turning the other way makes separate notes more profound.
This control allows you to set the ratio between the original and compressed signals. Moving the knob to the far right sets the ratio between both signals at 1:1. Going further clockwise, you’ll notice that the ratio of the compressed signal to the input signal drastically increases, producing a more intense effect.
- Threshold & Metering
On any compressor pedal, the “Threshold” control adjusts the signal level at which compression should occur. You can lower the threshold by turning the knob counterclockwise. A higher threshold is achieved once the knob is turned the other way. Remember that as you apply compression, the louder sounds will get quieter, and the softer sounds will get more enhanced, so the proper balance needs to be maintained. However, the multiband aspect of the pedal makes things a lot easier in that department. Finally, the light strip under the knobs lights up to show the amount of compression. A higher level of compression will lead to more LEDs illuminating.
Boss has done an exceptional job with its BC-1X compression pedal. The pedal has all the controls needed to get a decent compression level. The level knob is there to compensate for lost frequencies, and the multiband processing makes it easy to have everything sound even and natural. Also, having a battery-powered pedal is always great.
All in all, a great pedal to grace your pedalboard. However, if you already have a release control at your disposal, an attack knob wouldn’t be too bad of an option, which this pedal lacks. I’m not saying it’s a deal breaker but perhaps something for the people at Boss to consider for the next iteration.
5. Keeley Bassist Compressor
Keeley gives you great value for money if you’re in the market for yet another pedal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for effects like Distortion, Overdrive, Chorus/Modulations, Delays, Echos, Filters, Auto Wah, Boost pedals, or Compressors, Keeley Electronics has something for everybody, and the prices aren’t that high either considering the quality and features you get.
Regarding their portfolio of compressors, they have a wide array of effects units like the Aria Compressor Drive, the Compressor Pro, and the Compressor GC-2 Limiting Amplifier. But none is more ideally suited to you bass fanatics out there than the Bassist Compressor we’re discussing today.
- Connection Jacks
The pedal’s layout of connection jacks is quite basic. You can connect the quarter-inch cable from your guitar to the input on the pedal’s right. The output signal can be sent to an amp through the quarter-inch port on the pedal’s left. On the top of the device is the standard 9V power input, and the LED in the center of the interface lights up in blue when the pedal is activated.
Those who have worked with compression pedals will quickly pick up on what the “Compression” knob does. Marked with 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 10:1, and ∞:1, the compression control sets the ratio between the original signal and the compression, with 1:1 being the lowest setting. At the same time, ∞:1 refers to a hard limiter or, in other words, no volume increase over the threshold level.
The second knob on the interface is the “Threshold” control. The values on this knob range from -50 to +10. You can set the level you want the compression to trigger by raising or lowering the threshold value. You’ll hear the compression coming into effect at a lower setting more often. You’ll be able to play more aggressively at a higher value before the effect becomes active. The unit also has a multifunctional LED that lights up in green when there is an absence of compression and illuminates red when compression is in effect.
A helpful control on a compression pedal is the “Gain” knob. You may notice that there is a loss of level or volume once the dynamic signal is compressed. To compensate for this, you can play around with this knob to have enough compression and volume when playing live or in a studio setting.
You’ll find all the characteristics of a good bass compression pedal in the Keeley Bassist Compressor. The original signal remains nice and transparent, the low noise circuitry is relatively silent, and at the same time, you get great articulation in your bass sounds. The clarity and how the pedal responds to different playing styles are impressive.
There will always be those who may prefer the warmth of a tube compressor, but it’s a matter of preference. Perhaps the only thing one would want to change on this pedal is the crazy bright electric blue light, which makes it challenging to see where the knobs are pointing.
6. Darkglass Hyper Luminal
This compression pedal has the most innovative ways to execute some features.
Apart from the four control knobs that cover all the necessary adjustable parameters a compression pedal should have, the pedal also features some through-metal sensors to adjust some aspects of the pedal. This way, the pedal avoids clutter, and well, let’s face it, it looks way cool!
And once you get bored of going through the plethora of options, which will not happen anytime soon, you can further customize the behavior of some controls on the pedal and also download more sounds (apart from the three available modes). Indeed, the Hyper Luminal will serve you for years to come.
The “Blend” controls help perfectly balance the dry and wet signal. Keeping it in the noon setting will give way to equal parts dry/wet while moving it clockwise will increase the wet signal. You can completely turn the compression off by moving to the far left.
Darkglass has gone with a single knob for setting the “Attack” and “Release Time” parameters. Keeping the knob at noon means you’ve set equal values for attack and release. The fastest attack is achieved when the knob is turned to the left, while the quickest release time can be set by turning the control to the far right.
- Output & Compression
The “Output” knob has two applications. Firstly, you can use it to compensate for the volume level that dips when compression is added. Secondly, you can use it as a boost control and give your signal a boost to help it cut through the mix when the situation demands it. The compression intensity can be set through the “Compression” knob.
- Ratio & Modes: BUS, FET, SYM
The touch-sensitive “Ratio” sphere, if you will, can be tapped to set the compression ratio. The next sphere helps choose one of three available modes. The first mode is the “BUS” setting, inspired by the SSL Master Buss Compressor plugin. This mode sounds transparent and accurate, gluing your tone together, but it can get more aggressive if required. The next mode is the “FET” setting which emulates the FET Compressor Plugin and brings a lot of punchy goodness, thickness, and character to your tone. Lastly, the “SYM” setting is about the original Super Symmetry Compressor that adds girth to your bass’s tone.
- Dark Glass Suite
Downloading the Dark Glass Suites opens doors to a new world of modification. For starters, you can change the way the time knob works. You can change the relationship of the attack and release parameter to inversely proportional or directly proportional and have it function as an attack or a release knob. You can also apply a high pass filter on the three available modes.
The pedal offers blend, time, compression, and output controls which help shape the tone of your bass guitar right down to a T. The functionality of the pedal is only enhanced by the metallic sensors that change the modes and compression ratio. Having access to the Dark Glass Suite makes the pedal fully customizable.
This offering from Dark Glass could be the ultimate bass compression pedal. It comes with all the bells and whistles and more. If you had to point to a lacking feature, though, you might say that having it powered by batteries could be the icing on the cake.
7. Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass
Purely designed for your bass guitar, the Cali76 is a full-featured unit with many advantages.
Judging by its look, you can tell how versatile and comprehensive this device can be with its dual rows of multiple knobs. Mentioned on the rugged metallic chassis are the words “Studio Grade. Class A. Low Noise” so you know you’re getting a very quiet unit that does what it says and operates at a premium level.
Adding to the aesthetics of the Cali76 is the “Jewel” metering light in the center of the unit. With its multiple-colored illuminations, the light is programmed to change its color to red in the absence of compression and orange when compression is present. The light also changes in brightness to indicate gain reduction.
Hidden inside the pedal is a top-of-the-line input preamplifier that works as a bridge between the instrument and the compressor section. The “In” knob adds gain to the audio signal. As you turn this control to the right, the compression amount increases, and so does the gain. Any aggressive played note at this level will cause the signal to clip. The “Out” control can adjust the level of the output signal being delivered through the pedal’s output jack and can also act as a boost control to enhance a passage of play.
The aptly named “Ratio” knob determines the ratio between the original signal and the compression effect. In essence, the amount of gain reduction versus the increase in signal level can be adjusted here. When the knob is turned to the left, it will cause a rise of 19% in the output when the dry signal is doubled. However, turned to the left, the same percentage of compression will be applied at a mere increase of 3.5% in the input signal. So, for mild compression, you can turn the ratio down, but if you want a more pronounced level of compression, this is when you need to turn the ratio up.
The “Dry” control allows you to add more dry signal to the compressed sound. This knob should be used in combination with the Out control for the best results. The right balance can give way to amp compression while keeping most of the integrity of the original signal intake.
Setting the right amount of attack and release is crucial to your sound. If the correct levels of both are not maintained, you’ll hear a lot of noise and unwanted distortion in your overall tonality. Some pedals have separate attack and release controls where attack sets the time it takes for the Compressor to come into effect, and the release value determines how soon or late the compression stays/fades away. However, the “Attack/Release” knob on the Cali7 blends the two controls. On the far right, you get the most attack time, while moving counterclockwise will reduce the attack and increase the release time.
If you need to set the cut-off frequencies for some high-pass filtering, the HPF knob is your friend. Are you looking to add more girth to your sound? Simply turn the knob towards the right to hear more of the lower frequencies by raising the cut-off frequency. You can experiment with this control to make it more suitable for percussive playing styles, like slap bass.
With six adjustable controls at your disposal, what more do you need? The Cali76 gives you separate in and out knobs which makes setting your inputs and outputs the way you want them. The blend knob gives you a smooth mix of attack and release times. In addition, the gem light does an excellent metering job.
There’s not a lot wrong with this one. Let’s face it, all the necessary parameters are there and more. But a guy can dream, I guess. What if the Cali76 was also battery-powered and came with software that could give you more control over the behavior of some of the knobs? Well, that would be perfect!
8. Seymour Duncan Studio Bass Compressor
Another Compressor pedal designed specifically for bass, this Seymour Duncan offering is worth trying out.
Painted all black with a little red here and there, this nicely laid out unit measures 1.45″ by 2.6″ by 5″ and weighs 0.67 lbs. According to Seymour Duncan, the pedal is ideal for aggressive pick attacks and bass runs that involve delicate single notes. The Bass Compressor will even out whatever you play and sound natural simultaneously.
When you’re about to add a compressor to your effects chain, you might stop and wonder where to put it. You’ll usually see a compression pedal placed at the start of the signal chain. However, there is no harm in experimenting. Putting the unit even after dynamic pedals and filters may deliver fruitful results.
The “Blend” knob helps set the amount of dry signal that can be heard in combination with the compressed one. You’ll notice that you can adjust the dry signal level to the extent that it can be heard over the compression threshold, making the overall sound more natural and snappier.
- Low/Full/Mid Switch
You’ll also notice a metallic switch between the knob controls labeled “Low,” “Mid,” and “F.” One may think of this as somewhat of an equalizer. Depending on which frequencies are being quelled by the compression, you can use the switch in combination with the blend control to send some of the suppressed frequency range back into the mix. So, in the “Low” setting, all frequencies under 200Hz will be enhanced. In the “F” or full position, equal weightage is given to frequencies throughout the spectrum, and in the “Mid” mode, frequencies between 159 Hz and 1.5 kHz are emphasized.
You can set the time it takes for the compression to be activated through the “Attack” control. Although simple in its use, setting the attack level is critical. For instance, if you wish to accentuate your pick attacks or slaps while playing bass and want the rest of the signal to be compressed, you can lower the attack time to let such transients through before the compression comes into effect.
- Level & LED
The “Level” knob balances the compressed and bypassed signal. The control can simply be used to compensate for gain reduction or as a boost option to enhance your signal. In addition, the status light below the frequency switch turns on when the pedal is active and turns off in bypass mode.
Surrounded by a red ring, the “Compression” knob is the ultimate control on this pedal. The dynamic range of the compression can be set here. You can adjust the attack level as you set the compression to find the sweet spot making things balanced. One thing to note here is that if you’re increasing the compression value, the attack must be kept to a minimum to eliminate unwanted noise and annoying tonal artifacts.
- Power & I/O Options
This bass compressor runs on 9 – 18V of power but can also be juiced by a battery if a power outlet isn’t nearby. Plugging the quarter-inch cable into the top-mounted input will turn the unit automatically on in battery mode. Also on the top panel is a quarter-inch output jack to send your signal to an amp.
This pedal offers a wide array of variations, at the heart of which is the compression knob. The frequency switch is cleverly engineered and does a good job of throwing any lost frequencies back into the mix. With all the parameters you can control on this one, it’ll surely become the go-to pedal for your bass compression needs.
It may seem a bit complicated to newbies. Something like the single-knob Spectracomp may be of more utility. It all depends on what you prefer, though, as some musicians may seek out a complex pedal to have access to every single parameter to get the sound just right.
9. EBS MultiComp Blue Label
The MultiComop Blue Label from EBS is undoubtedly equipped to fill the void of a compressor on your board.
Billed as an analog compressor pedal, the Blue Label offers a variety of modes with mind-boggling accuracy. Contrary to the usual one-band compression some pedals offer, this EBS unit boasts dual-band capabilities, as can be seen, mentioned on the user interface.
Having multiple bands of compression adds a new dimension to how a pedal interprets sounds. You’ll also be able to set how sensitively the unit reacts to high and low frequencies. Not only that, but there are plenty of knobs to adjust different parameters to manufacture your sound.
- Active/Passive Switch
Very important to the functionality of the pedal, there’s an “Active/Passive” switch on the right side of the pedal. If you have a bass with active pickups, you can press the button to set the pedal to active mode. The same setting is also suitable if the pedal is part of an effects loop. However, if your instrument has a passive pickup, you can keep the button unpressed.
As you would’ve guessed, the “Sens.” knob sets the Compressor’s sensitivity. Moving this knob clockwise will increase the sensitivity of the Compressor. This essentially means that the compression will be triggered at the slightest transient. Moving the knob counterclockwise will relax the compression level.
Similar to the blend or mix knob, the “Comp.” control sets the ratio between the original signal and the amount of compression. Although not labeled as such, the knob can set the ratio between 1:1 and 5:1, depending on where you set it. A clockwise turn increases the value.
The “Gain” knob on the Multicomp Blue Label functions the same way as on many other compressor pedals. There are two ways to use it. You can compensate for the gain reduction by increasing the gain level or turning the gain up to boost any passage of play.
- Mode Switch
The pedal offers three different modes. If you’ve been searching for a unit that delivers the warmth of a tube compressor, the “Tubesim” mode is designed to satisfy your urge. In “MB” or multiband mode, the pedal applies compression to treble and bass frequencies differently, offering dual compression bands. Finally, in the “Normal” mode, the unit functions as a normal signal band compressor.
Within a single pedal, you get the characteristics of a tube simulator and a solid-state unit thanks to the available toggle switch. A dual-band compressor is also under the hood with variable settings for treble and bass frequencies. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can operate the pedal in normal mono band mode.
Indeed a handy pedal to have in your arsenal, the EBS comes with some exciting features. The unit is also battery power however, unscrewing 4 screws every time you need to replace a battery can be very annoying and time-consuming.
10. Empress Effects Bass Compressor
The beautifully crafted, glittery blue Empress Effects Bass Compressor is impressive.
The pedal brings back everything good about its predecessor, the original Compressor, released in 2011. You also get a few other goodies in the new iteration, which make it the ultimate pedal to satisfy your compressor needs.
With so many controls on offer, the interface is laid out in a vertical orientation. The pedal has been purposely designed with many adjustable parameters after taking feedback from the masses. Musicians who stay away from overly simplified compressors will surely get a kick out of this one.
The “Input” knob is handy as it allows the user to adjust the level of the input signal entering the compressor circuitry. Next to it is the “Output” knob which has nothing to do with the amount of compression. Instead, any loss of gain can be made up using the output knob.
When an input signal attempts to go past the set compression, the “Attack” value can be varied to set the speed at which the Compressor reacts. Turning the knob clockwise increases the attack time. This parameter can be adjusted between 50µs and 50ms. Next is the “Release” knob, which determines how fast or slow the compression effect lingers on till it returns to its original state. The value can be set between 50ms and 1s.
- Mix/SC HP
The “Mix” knob allows the user to set how much of the dry signal is heard compared to the compressed signal. Moving to the extreme right will let you hear 100% wet signal. Turning the knob to the other extreme will cause the compressed signal to be eliminated, and only the dry signal will be heard. In the noon position, however, you can have parallel compression, which allows you to throw some of the original signal back in the mix. The “SC HP” or Side Chain High Pass knob controls how much of your low end the Compressor sees. Since the lower end of the spectrum hits the Compressor much harder, the high end sometimes gets through untouched. Turning the knob clockwise will shift the compression’s focus onto the treble frequencies.
Just below the dual rows of knobs are two switches. The first switch gives access to three different compression ratio settings including 2:1. 4:1 and 10:1. The 10:1 setting exhibits the most aggressive compression. Finally, the “Tone + Color” switch helps cut or boos the mid and adds a bit of saturation to the tone. Hidden inside the pedal are dipswitches that can be flipped to turn this saturation on or off.
- Metering LEDs
On the pedal’s right side are two sections of LED strips. The first section, labeled “Gain Reduction,” has 10 LEDs marked between -1 and -25. Aptly named, these will indicate how much of the gain is reduced due to the compression. The following section has 5 LEDs marked -2 through -18 and shows the “Input” level.
Let’s face it, this pedal from Empress seems to be the most gifted device on the list. You get a whopping eight parameters to play around with to dig deep into the compression applied to your tone. In addition, you have internal dip switches to fine-tune things even more and a column of metering LEDs.
Starting as a beginner musician, you might want to steer clear of something so complicated. Perhaps something that requires fewer choices might be right up your alley. Still, if you love to find a tune and like the challenge, go for it.
11. MXR Dyna Comp Bass Compressor M282
Simple but effective, the Dyna Comp is designed especially for die-hard bass players.
In all its white polar glory and contrasting black knobs, MXR’s Dyna Comp has been dubbed responsible for delivering “the most iconic compression sound in music history,” which is a bold claim. However, now bass players have a slice of the action thanks to the release of the M282 pedal.
For a pedal with 4 knobs, this one is relatively small in size. Measuring just 2.12″ by 2.62″ by 4.37″, you will find plenty of space on your pedal board to make room for it. The unit can be powered by a 9V power supply sold separately. Unfortunately, you can’t power the M282 with batteries.
- Clean & Output
With the “Clean” knob, you can set the mix between the dry and wet signal. If you feel that the compression is affecting your original tone, the knob comes in handy to add more of the input signal to the Compressor’s output. The “Output” knob is like a master volume control and adjusts the compressed signal’s volume.
- Sensitivity & Tone
You can increase or reduce the amount of sustain by adjusting the “Sensitivity” knob. Turning the knob clockwise will increase the sustain. The “Tone” knob is the pedal’s mini equalizer. You can use this control to cut or boost the midrange at the 1kHz mark.
Contrary to how the parameter is managed on other pedals, the Dyna Comp has a separate “Attack” button on the top of the interface. You can speed up the attack time by pressing the button. When the button is unpressed, you’ll see that the compression will react a lot slower when the signal reaches the threshold level.
The iconic MXR Dyna Comp sound is no longer limited to electric guitar players. The M282 is dedicated to bassists worldwide and does an excellent job of delivering some natural-sounding compression. Also, the pedal is very compact yet has all the tones you need to dial a decent sound.
The attack button gives the user only two settings to choose from, so there’s no freedom to fine-tune this time-based effect further. Other than that, an excellent all-around pedal to try out.
12. Source Audio Atlas Compressor
The Atlas Compressor from Source Audio is designed for basses and electric guitars.
The device is much more versatile than the usual four-knob pedal because it houses 6 different compressor engines. The unit can also be hooked to a computer to act as a compressor unit for your DAW, allowing you to make real-time adjustments.
Furthermore, you can pair the Atlas Compressor with your mobile device through the Neuro Mobile application and make various changes instantly. If you look closely, you’ll see that the pedal has multifunctional controls that can make many adjustments.
- Preset Switch
In the center of the four knobs sits the preset selector switch. The switch allows the user to choose one of three compression presets, including Studio, Optical, and Dual compression. But that’s not all. Pressing the Alt button and flipping the switch gives you access to three more presets from the second bank. This means that you get a total of 6 compression presets on this fantastic pedal.
The pedal is loaded with I/O options. On the right are two quarter-inch jacks labeled Input 1 and Input 2. The first input can accommodate a bass, electric guitar, or line instrument. The second input can also take in any of those options or allow connectivity to a device with the Neuro Mobile App installed. In addition, the pedal has a top-mounted 9V power input next to which is the USB port for connecting to a computer or mobile device. Lastly, a 3.5mm input jack is also on the top for an external Source Audio device.
The pedal’s left side holds outputs marked Output 1 and Output 2. Output 1 can help establish a connection between an amp or the next pedal in the chain. Both outputs can be used together to connect to different amplifiers for stereo applications.
Next to the 3.5mm control input is a small alternate function button. Pressing the button and rotating any of the four knobs on the interface will adjust the secondary parameter assigned to that knob. For instance, the Ratio knob also works as a tone control, as discussed below.
- Threshold/Makeup Gain
The top left knob on the compressor pedal adjusts the “Threshold” control. The compression will occur earlier when the knob is turned clockwise. When set at a higher setting, more transient sounds may get through for the compression to come into effect. The knob doubles as a “Makeup Gain” control. So any gain loss during compression can be adjusted by moving the knob to the right.
Turning the “Ratio” knob clockwise gives way to more aggressive compression. On the other hand, as you rotate the knob the other way, the Compressor becomes more subtle. In its alternate setting, the knob controls the “Tone.” You can cut or boost the treble value set at 4461Hz by default. The frequency can be further altered through the Neuro App.
You can adjust the dry and wet signal mix through the “Blend” knob. The user can achieve a 100% wet signal on the far left and a 100% dry signal on the extreme right. By pressing the Alt button and turning the knob you can access the “Attack” time parameter. This will set how soon or late the compression comes into effect.
The “Release” knob does the opposite. Adjusting this parameter decides how soon or slowly the compression eases away. The release time can be speeded up as the knob turns clockwise and slows down when rotated in the other direction. The release control’s alternate function is setting the pedal’s “Output” level.
The user interface on the pedal is very cleverly managed. The alternate button helps reduce clutter and essentially makes this an eight-knob pedal. Also, apart from the prominent three modes, a second bank of presets can be accessed through the alternate button. All in all, the device has a lot to offer.
With all the I/O options on the Source Audio Atlas Compressor, the pedal isn’t Midi controllable, which is one aspect that could be improved. Also, if batteries could power the unit, it would’ve been even more portable.
13. Whirlwind OC Bass Optical Compressor
A uniquely designed unit, the Bass Optical Compressor can be a great asset in your pedal collection.
Engineered to cover all ends of bass compression, the device offers variable attack speeds, dual modes of compression, and a couple of knobs that complement each other well to shape the tone of your bass guitar. In addition, the sound is punchy and natural so you can use the pedal in your studio or during a gig.
The form factor is rather interesting. The raised sides ensure that the knobs are nice and protected, and the slanted footswitch contributes to the ergonomic design of the pedal. The Compressor comes with an 18V power supply which can be connected to the top-mounted power input. Also, on either side of the power, the jack is a quarter-inch input and output.
- Output Level
The first of the two knobs controls the “Output Level.” In other words, you can set the pedal’s overall volume through this control. Any loss of volume due to the compression process can be overcome by boosting the output level and setting the volume as required.
- Input Gain & Gain Reduction Meter
The “Input Gain” knob controls the amount of compression. Turning the knob to the right increases the compression. Since the gain is reduced as the compression increases, the pedal has a strip of LEDs for metering purposes. Labeled 15, 9, and 3, these lights depict how much grain reduction has been applied.
- Attack Switch
Between the prominent red knobs, there are two switches. The first one adjusts the “Attack” time of the Compressor. There are three settings to choose from. In “Fast” mode, the compression reacts instantaneously. In the “Med” or medium setting, some of the original attack passes through before the compression takes effect. Finally, in the “Slow” mode, more of the original signal is let through before the compression begins.
Next to the attack switch is the “Compress/Limit” switch. In the top setting, the Compressor does what it’s supposed to and quells the transients and boosts the lower signal. The limit setting is a bit more aggressive and adds a more significant compression load. Once again, the output level knob comes into play for volume adjustment.
This is a decent bass pedal with two essential knobs and just enough switch controls and variations to adjust the compression on your bass signal the way you like. Also, the sound characteristics are great, as there’s no loss of treble of bass frequencies, and the sound is profound and punchy.
Contrary to what you may think, the Whirlwind OC Bass Compressor doesn’t have a true bypass. So, even when the pedal is in bypass mode, you’ll notice some coloration in the sound. Also, the knobs and switches take some getting used to till you find the sweet spot.
Aguilar DB 599 Bass Compressor
After the Spectracomp unit, the Aguilar DB 599 seems to be the simplest-looking pedal on the list.
Fitted with just a few knobs, this one makes no tall claims. Everything is upfront and in your face. There aren’t any hidden dip switches or buttons to toggle different modes. What you see is what you get. A friendly and compactly sized unit designed to compress your bass signal.
Voiced perfectly for the lower register of the frequency spectrum, the DB 599 has preselected settings for attack, release, and ratio, so you spend less time fiddling with loads of parameter knobs and more time playing your favorite instrument. In addition, the rugged metal casing is designed to withstand the test of time.
- Comp & I/O
One of the only two available knobs on the pedal, the “Comp” control adjusts the compression amount. The compression amount increases as you turn the knob in the clockwise direction. If you wish to turn the compression down entirely, turn the knob to the extreme left. The pedal is fitted with a quarter-inch jack on either side of the bass input and amp output. The 9V power input is mounted on the top of the unit.
- Gain & Footswitch
Any loss of gain caused due to compression can be brought back to your sound through the “Gain” control. You can also use the Gain knob to boost your overall sound. With a single footswitch, there’s nothing to it. Pressing the switch activates the unit, which is indicated by the blue LED on the user interface. When the footswitch is unpressed, the unit is bypassed.
With just two adjustable parameters at your disposal, this no-nonsense pedal is ideally suited for beginner and intermediate players who are still learning the complexities and variables of compression pedals. Simply add the amount of compression you need, throw in the gain that got compromised, and you’re all set.
The simplicity of the DB 599 means that you get minimal controls to work with. Separate controls for mix/blend, attack, and release are nonexistent. Furthermore, the unit comes with a hefty price tag which may put off some users who prefer more comprehensiveness in a compressor.
Is it worth getting a compressor pedal?
Being an essential addition to your pedalboard, compression pedals are surely worth buying. A decent level of compression is just what you need if you’re looking to even out your sound signal and add more sustain to it. Regardless of using clean or dirt tones, the pedal narrows your signal to make it sound more focused.
Does a compressor pedal make you sound better?
A handy tool to reduce the dynamic range of your audio signal is a decent compression pedal. As the name suggests, the compression effect compresses the signal making the transient sounds quieter and quieter sounds louder. You can set the effect to create subtle or dramatic changes to your tone.
But something to take into consideration is that while the noisier parts of your signal are quelled, the noise floor is also raised. For this reason, compression is handy, too, as it encourages clean playing and makes your sound more profound and meaningful.
Why do I need a compressor pedal for bass?
A compressor pedal has a similar effect when used with Basses. The louder notes will get suppressed while the overall sound signal is squeezed. This beefs up the sound resulting in a more punchy and smooth bass tone. Compressors are especially handy when playing slap-style bass.
Any shrillness in your sound caused by percussive playing can be adjusted with adequate compression. While compressor plugins are handy in a studio setting, compressor pedals are often used in live settings due to their portability and ease of use.
If simplicity is what you crave, the single-knob Spectra Comp unit by TC Electronics is as simple as it gets. However, like the EBS Multicomp, the Spectra Comp pedal also offers multiple compression bands. The dual knob Aguilar DB 599 and Whirlwind OC Bass are close seconds in terms of simplicity in the layout, although the OC Bass unit also provides three modes of attack.
The Empress Bass Compressor has all the controls you need to adjust the compression on your bass at a micro level. You get multiple modes and plenty of metering options, so you know where you are at a glance.
Not to take anything away from the other pedals on the list, as they are worth mentioning due to their phenomenal performance and wide range of compression. It all comes down to the user’s preference at the end of the day. Perhaps the more you read about these units, the more you’ll be able to narrow it down to make the final decision.
Sultan Zafar is a guitar player from Islamabad, Pakistan. He has been playing music with various mainstream musicians for over 20 years. He is a song writer and music producer. These days he spends his time exploring different music genres and collaborating with fellow musicians on various projects. Read more..