Along with having a quality bass amp having decent compression is an integral part of creating a desirable bass tone. We have compiled this list of the best bass compressor pedals so you can master your sound.
A standout feature of this compressor is that it has three different modes. One mode is FET which is an analog type of compression. It also uses BUS which uses solid-state compression. SYM is the last mode that is unique to Darkglass products.
The main controls for blend, time, output, and compression are robust knobs that are sensitive enough for fine-tuning. It has touch controls for selection and ratio that look and feel sturdy. The touch controls add elegance to this stompbox.
There is always a chance that something could go wrong with these touch controls with heavy gigging. You will have to take care of this compressor.
This is an expensive bit of kit but a premium product attracts a premium price tag
This compression pedal has 5 control knobs for input, output, attack, release, and ratio. These controls give the user total control over their sound. This pedal uses FET based compression but actually sounds more like a VCE pedal as it doesn’t color the tone much.
The total control is fantastic if you know what you are doing. However, this pedal is not exactly easy to use for beginners. You will need to spend some time playing and tinkering with the settings to get the sound you are after.
There are three controls on this unit. They are release, output, and compression which controls the ratio. There is no attack control so you must deal with what you get out of the box. The attack is set to a reasonably subtle level. The internal optical circuitry supports this subtle tone.
This pedal is sturdy and will survive a long time if it’s thrown around for gigs. It also looks great with a contrasting black and white finish.
This is a fantastic entry-level compressor that costs around half of our top pick. It is definitely worth your consideration if you can forgo a few extra bells and whistles.
You can’t go wrong with a Boss pedal for any type of effect. They are one of the biggest names in guitar stompboxes. The BC-1X maintains the high level of authority you would expect from Boss. If you already have other Boss pedals this compressor is likely a smart choice for you.
One thing we like about this pedal is that you can crank the dials all the way up and you won’t notice inconsistencies. You also have a lot of control over your parameters with 4 control knobs.
This pedal has classic Boss toughness and won’t let you down in the studio or at a gig.
This stompbox has studio-quality VCE components that have a clean signal. There is also a built-in limiter to protect your amp or speakers.
The controls are easy to use with 3 knobs for compression, threshold, and gain. These parameters are usually enough for the average user to create an awesome sound. Your playing controls the attack and release parameters. This means it adapts automatically to you. You may like this easy to use system but not so much if you’re a control freak when it comes to pedals.
If you’re on this page, you likely already know the basics of what a compressor does for bass guitars. We can delve deeper to broaden your understanding with a few facts.
A compressor controls your dynamic range. The compressor does this by regulating the volume and gain. It does so through many parameters. In a nutshell, lower volumes get boosted, and high volumes get limited. The benefit of using a compressor is the signal comes through with stabilized volume. A stable signal is great for your sound and to avoid peaking.
A secondary effect of many compressors is to boost the signal of your bass. Boosting helps to eliminate signal noise when using high gain. It also allows you to toggle the signal volume up during sections where you want your bass to be louder.
There are a few terms to get familiar with for a bass compression pedal. We won’t bore you with the technicalities, but it’s nice to have a basic understanding before you make a decision. If you’re after something more in-depth, you can find a lesson on audio compression here.
VCA - Stands for ‘Voltage Controlled Amplifier'. This type of compression has fast reaction times without affecting the tone of your bass. This creates a cleaner signal than FET at the expense of not providing extra tonal value.
FET - Stands for ‘Field Effect Transistor'. This type of compression works as fast as VCA and also gives the signal a little tonal color. Therefore, FET style compressors will provide a more distinct sound.
Tube/Valve - This is an analog style of compression which provides more tonal color. The reaction time is slower than for the other common compression styles. Valves provide a more natural warm tone.
Some compressors only have a few knobs to control their input and output. Some are a lot more complex. Let’s take a look at what these pedals can do.
Attack - How fast the compression takes over your signal. 0ms attack squashes the signal instantly. A slower attack of 2ms+ allows a little more expression to come through.
Release - How long until the signal returns to normal after compression. Longer release times sustain longer and more naturally. A short release time means the signal gets compressed and doesn’t follow the signal decay.
Blend - The ability to send a processed signal and a dry signal at the same time through the output of the compressor.
Threshold - This determines the volume at which compression should begin. Any signal that is louder than what the threshold is set to becomes compressed. Anything lower will not be.
Ratio - The amount of compression. For example, a 3:1 ratio means that for every 3db of input that exceeds the threshold there is 1db of output.
Limiter - A limiter is an inclusion designed to protect speakers. It squashes any signal that is over a certain threshold to 1db to prevent damage to amps and PA gear.
Knee - A hard knee has instant compression one over the threshold. A soft knee has a gradual application and provides a smoother sound.
This is a matter of personal preference and it will take a lot of tweaking to find a sound that you are happy with. It is generally best to start with a low compression setting and work your way up.
A good starting point would be to have a ratio of 2:1, a fast attack time of 0ms, and a long decay of 150ms. Then you can turn the dials as you play a few notes to get a feel for what each parameter does and what you like.
There is an endless debate about whether an analog signal is superior to a digital one. It boils down to your taste and what you want to get out of your gear.
Analog compressors used to be the only type available and were very expensive. The first digital compressors were also rubbish. However, the emulation is spot on now for modern digital compressors. They have more headroom but do not have that typical tonal warmth that an analog signal has.
If you want the tonal characteristics of tubes then an analog compressor is a good choice for you. Conversely, most users would be happy with the compression available from digital units.
All of these compressors are of high quality. It really depends on what you want to get out of your pedal and how much you are willing to spend to make your final decision.
If you have a big budget The Darkglass Hyper Luminal is our favorite. On the other end of the spectrum is the Ampeg Opto Comp. These are both great pedals and you won't be disappointed with either choice.
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