Bass compressor pedals are effects processors that lower the input signal’s dynamic range, reducing the natural dynamic inconsistencies that can be heard in any bassist’s playing.
A bass compression pedal can be used in live performances as well as in the recording studio. They’ll take your tone to the next level if you treat them appropriately, providing you with the right amount of dynamics consistency without damaging the groove. Everyone can understand it, especially a gigging bass player who is always subjected to sub-par PA systems.
Table of Contents
Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass
The Cali76 bass compressor is a high-end pedal inspired by Bill Putnam’s Urei 1176. The Cali isn’t the first to try, but it succeeds in reproducing the classic sensation in a stompbox format the best. Cali76 offers a variety of compressor effects pedals, some of which have a custom-made output transformer and others which do not. They’re all top-notch.
The build quality of the Cali76 bass compressor is exceptional, from the huge knobs to the circuits and the metal housing. In terms of construction and dynamic range, the pedal is simply exceptional. Input, Output, Dry, and Ratio are the four knobs on the control panel. The ratios vary between 4:1 and 20:1. The jewel-like LED metre can be used to track the level of compression. To offer you a visual reference of the gain reduction being performed, the LED light changes from orange (below threshold) to orange (moderate) to yellow (max compression).
If your pedalboard allows, this pedal can be supplied by a 9V DC adapter or an 18V DC converter for more headroom. The lows have been slightly lowered, giving the overall tone a crisp quality. The movement is silky smooth, to say the least. The inherent tone is rarely harmed despite excessive compression. Although the footswitch has buffered bypass, switching is silent and the noise floor is quite low. The Cali76 is transparent once more, yet bright enough to avoid sounding sterile. There are a couple drawbacks to the Cali76 bass compressor: For clinical or surgical accuracy, it’s not the best pedal for bass guitar. The LED jewel lamp is attractive, but it lacks detail and responsiveness.
The Compact Bass version does not have separate Attack and Release knobs, although the Deluxe version has. For tweakers, the controls are bliss, however a blend option would be fantastic. None of it is a deal-breaker, but at this price point, nitpicking is unavoidable. This is the Best Bass Compressor Pedals in 2023.
Dunlop M87 MXR Bass Compressor
- CHT Constant Headroom Technology for clear, clean performance
- True bypass
- 10 gain-reduction status LEDs
MXR has crammed a studio-quality analog FET compressor into a standard-sized bass pedal that sounds great and doesn’t color your tone. Many pedal-format compressors have too few options to allow you to dial in the settings you want, but the M87 Bass compressor has five control functions: Attack, Release, compression Ratio (selectable between 4:1,8:1,12:1, and 20:1), as well as independent Input and Output level controls. Bottom line, assault time can be set anywhere between 20 and 800 milliseconds peak amplitudes, while the release time can be set anywhere between 50 and 1.1 seconds.
The ratio knob enables you choose between some of the most commonly used compression ratios, with 4:1 and 8:1 being the most common, without sacrificing too much dynamic range. The input serves as a threshold control, determining when the compressor kicks in (when the LED display illuminates), while the output manages your make-up gain. The M87 may also be used as a limiter because it has a 20:1 ratio, allowing you to soft restrict your output volume, for example, to protect your speakers. MXR’s Constant Headroom Technology (CHT) ensures that you have enough of headroom for all of your dynamic needs until you approach the compression threshold, at which point the 10 LED display illuminates, indicating how much your signal is muted when the compressor starts operating. When other compressors kick in, they add a lot of hiss to your sound, but the M87 is nearly silent in this aspect. It has a full bypass circuit, a compact footprint, and is completely transparent.
The MXR M87 bass compressor comes with a comprehensive set of settings that allow you to fine-tune it to your satisfaction. It contains a five-knob control arrangement that includes attack, release, and ratio, as well as an input control (which acts as a threshold control) and an output knob that sets the make-up gain. When you set the threshold (using the input control), the 10 LED display illuminates to let you know when the compression kicks in. It contains a real bypass circuit that prevents your tone from deteriorating while the unit is turned on, and it may also be used as a limiter.
When compared to a 1 or 2-knob compressor, the MXR M87 can be more difficult to set up for the inexperienced, but the versatility it provides is undeniable. Few bass compressors on the market provide you as much flexibility over compression parameters as this one. This is an excellent compression pedal for any bass player who wants to learn more about compressors. You essentially get noiseless compression with full control over all compression parameters and a very transparent tone. This is the Best Bass Compressor Pedal in 2023.
Boss BC-1X Bass Compressor
The Boss BC-1X is a multi-band digital compressor that’s jam-packed with clever pro-grade technology. It has multi-band compression, which splits your signal into distinct frequency bands, processes each separately, and then recombines the signals at the output. This means that low-end peaks will only cause low-end compression, not middle or high-end compression, resulting in a cleaner, more transparent tone.
The BC-1X has a simple four-knob control interface that gives you quick access to the most useful compression parameters: Threshold, Ratio, Release, and Level. At most settings, the multi-band processing works well and has a low noise floor. It produces a bright, clean sound with no perceptible loss of bass or treble frequencies. The lows are tighter, and the high-end is pushed forward in the mix, yet the result is never unpleasant. It doesn’t fare as well as other compressors at hard peak limiting, but it excels in all other areas, with notably outstanding results when slapping and popping.
The BC-1X is a four-knob digital multi-band compressor. Threshold controls the level at which the compressor kicks in, Ratio controls the amount of compression, Release controls when the compression ends, and Level controls the make-up gain. Internal conversion of the 9V DC input to 18V ensures that you never run out of headroom and avoids distortion problems from high output basses. The tube compressor also uses a bright and easy-to-read 16 segment gain reduction indicator to show the amount of compression applied at all times through input level for signal processing.
This is a modern compressor for the modern bass player, jam-packed with features that help you sound great even if you don’t read the manual. Bass compression is simple with the BC-1X. With only a little coloring of your core tone, it sounds bright and punchy. This is the Best Compressor Pedal for Bass Guitars in 2023.
TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor
The Spectra Comp is another example of TC Electronic’s simple-to-use, high-quality pedals contained in the tiniest enclosures. It’s a multi-band digital compressor squeezed into their “mini” enclosure. It simply has one control knob to handle your compression requirements. In TC’s opinion, a one-knob compressor becomes a versatile tool by supporting their TonePrint function. This feature allows you to send one preset compressor from your iPhone or Android to the pedal, effectively giving you access to hundreds different compressors at the push of a button. Using the TonePrint Editor on a Mac or PC gives you access to a variety of parameters, allowing you to fine-tune the Spectra Comp’s compression settings before loading it to your pedal. The sound quality varies depending on the TonePrint you’ve loaded into it, but in general, it’s fantastic with a low noise floor.
The Spectra Comp is a one-knob digital multi-band compressor in a small housing. It includes the TonePrint function from TC Electronics, which gives you access to dozens of compressor presets. The build quality is excellent, and the footswitch is real bypass. This is the most basic compressor pedal you’ll discover; it simply has one knob to adjust, making it ideal for compressor newbies.
By holding your phone to a pickup and beaming a TonePrint to the pedal, a new tube compressors preset is loaded. If you like what you hear, keep turning the knob. If you don’t like it, switch to another preset and load it. It doesn’t get any easier. However, because the TonePrint Editor allows you to tweak it to your satisfaction, compression experts may fine-tune the behavior of the Spectra Comp with more accessible options than any other compressor.
Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal
- Threshold control: variable from -30 to -10 dBu
- Slope control: variable from 2:1 to infinity
- Attack control: variable from 10ms to 100ms
With the TLC Bass Compressor, Aguilar Amplification has designed a well-thought-out compressor pedal. This is a simple and transparent compressor with a full set of controls packed in a small, tough blue housing. Its configuration has four control knobs that allow you to fine-tune the majority of compression parameters: Threshold controls the level at which the compressor kicks in and has a wide enough range to suit many kinds of instruments, not only bass guitars. Level is effectively the make-up gain.
Slope affects the compression ratio, whereas Attack influences how quickly you reach maximum compression. The Attack has a fairly small range (10ms-100ms), and such short attack lengths typically produce effects that are too faint to notice. They’re best for percussive performances, but less so for playing long, sustained notes. The Slope control determines the compression ratio required, ranging from 2:1 to infinity, allowing the TLC to be used for both harsh peak limitation and milder smoothing of dynamic peaks.
When using the TLC, your tone remains relatively clear, with no perceptible colour or “warmth” that some may appreciate, though the lows are slightly tightened while the highs remain unaffected by the compression. The TLC is an all-analog compressor that compresses using Aguilar’s unique Trans Linear Control circuitry (thus the TLC), which they claim will improve your dynamic response. This is most likely a tweaked VCO circuit in practice. The TLC, like any compressor, boosts the noise floor a little, but it’s nearly undetectable.
There are four control knobs on the TLC: Level controls the pedal’s output level, which ranges from -infinity to -3dBu, Threshold controls the point at which the compressor engages, which ranges from -30dBu to -10dBu, Attack controls how fast the compressor responds when it reaches the threshold, which ranges from 10ms to 100ms, and Slope controls the compression ratio, which ranges from 2:1 to infinity. True bypass is available on the TLC, which is always a welcome feature. The TLC is made to exact specifications and is encased in a tough container. You may also use a 9V block battery to power it.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
- Input sensitivity ranges from -10 dBu to +2 dBu making it a perfect fit for...
- Maximum gain reduction of 21 dB, with enough make-up gain to return your...
- Attack toggle switch changes the timing of the onset of compression and...
Electro-Harmonix has released the Soul Preacher Nano, a miniature of their iconic Soul Preacher Compressor/Sustainer from the 1970s. It was a good pedal, however it worked better on guitars than it did on basses. This isn’t to suggest that bassists didn’t love the Soul Preacher; it simply required a few tweaks to make it stand out as a bassist’s compressor. That’s precisely what they did. The Bass Preacher compressor was created by tweaking the Soul Preacher compressor to better suit modern bass players. It’s built like a tank because it’s housed in the same shell as the Soul Preacher Nano. The Bass Preacher has a two-knob arrangement, with a Volume knob for make-up gain and a Sustain knob for compression ratio.
A three-way switch allows you to choose between quick, medium, and slow attack times. The Bass Preacher improves on the original Soul Preacher in two ways. First, they increased the range of control for the Sustain knob, allowing for finer adjustments of the compression ratio from light to medium. This is similar to allowing for a higher threshold, which is important if you don’t want your dynamics to be compressed too much, resulting in a lifeless bass tone. Because of the larger compression range, less make-up gain is needed, resulting in less noise.
The pedal’s frequency response has been improved as well, resulting in a punchier bass end and less noticeable high end. The highs decrease sharply above 5 kHz, which helps to filter out the hiss that the Soul Preacher was infamous for producing. With all of these enhancements, the Bass Preacher is still a little noisy, especially when the volume knob (make-up gain) is cranked up, but it’s not as awful at lower sustain (compression ratio) levels. The Bass Preacher adds a lot of color to your tone, yet it’s always thick, punchy, and musical.
The Bass Preacher is a tonally versatile all-analog compression pedal. Its input sensitivity ranges from -10dBu to +2dBu, making it suitable for both passive and active basses. Volume (make-up gain) and Sensitivity are the two control knobs (compression ratio). A three-way dip-switch can be used to change the attack times. It comes in an EHX nano-sized enclosure and can be powered by a 9V battery or a conventional 9V power supply. It also has a complete bypass circuit, which means it won’t diminish your tone when you’re not using it.
The Bass Preacher’s compression sound has a lot of character, and it’s versatile enough for the no-frills bassist who just needs a straightforward and easy-to-use bass compressor pedal at a reasonable price. Because of its tiny size, it will undoubtedly find a home on a packed pedalboard. This is a wonderful option if you’re seeking for the best bass compressor pedal on a tight budget.
TC Electronic Spectra Comp Bass Compressor
The Spectra Comp is another example of TC Electronic’s simple-to-use, best compressor pedals contained in the tiniest enclosures. It’s a multi-band digital compressor squeezed into their “mini” enclosure. It simply has one control knob to handle your compression requirements. In TC’s opinion, a one-knob compressor becomes a versatile tool by supporting their TonePrint feature.
This feature allows you to send one preset compressor from your iPhone or Android to the pedal, effectively giving you access to hundreds different compressors at the push of a button. Using the TonePrint Editor on a Mac or PC gives you access to a variety of parameters, allowing you to fine-tune the Spectra Comp’s compression settings before loading it to your pedal. The sound quality varies depending on the TonePrint you’ve loaded into it, but in general, it’s fantastic with a low noise floor.
The Spectra Comp is a one-knob digital multi-band compressor in a small housing. It includes the TonePrint function from TC Electronics, which gives you access to dozens of compressor presets. The build quality is excellent, and the footswitch is real bypass.
This is the most basic compressor pedal you’ll discover; it simply has one knob to adjust, making it ideal for compressor newbies. By holding your phone to a pickup and beaming a TonePrint to the pedal, a new compression preset is loaded. If you like what you hear, keep turning the knob. If you don’t like it, switch to another preset and load it. It doesn’t get any easier. However, because the TonePrint Editor allows you to tweak it to your satisfaction, compression experts may fine-tune the behaviour of the Spectra Comp with more accessible options than any other compressor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need a Bass Compressor?
A compressor should be one of the first pedals on a bassist’s shopping list. Squeezing your sound into a narrower band may seem contradictory at first, but it will make your bass more easily heard, or “cut through the mix,” meaning you’ll be able to turn down your volume and still hear yourself in a busy band situation. In principle, a compressor will not change your fundamental tone; it will only affect the volume of your playing’s extremes, but in practise, you will lose some frequencies when you use it. This is more of an issue with some pedals than others.
Compression keeps your signal warm and free of distortion or clipping, resulting in a smooth and consistent bottom tone. A compressor will make your playing sound richer, smoother, more even, and more professional at the end of the day. A compressor is useful with bass playing when switching between playing techniques, such as fingerstyle to slapping, in addition to smoothing out your sound. Because slap bass requires you to smash and pop your strings significantly harder than fingerstyle or with a pick (because to the broader dynamic range), a compressor will keep your tone pleasant and even if you transition from one style to the other during a song.
When used to smooth out the volume variations caused by effects that vary your dynamic range, such as auto-wah or synth pedals, a compressor should normally be one of the first pedals in your signal chain, although it can also be put later down the signal path. Adding a compressor to your setup can boost your bass’s sustain – it makes quiet sounds louder, but it also makes any mistakes in your playing more evident.
Can I use a guitar compressor pedal for my bass?
While you can technically use a guitar compressor pedal for your bass, it may not produce optimal results. Bass compressor pedals are specifically designed to handle the lower frequencies of a bass guitar.
How do I set up my bass compressor pedal?
Every bass compressor pedal is slightly different, but generally, you would start by setting the threshold and ratio according to your needs. You would then adjust the attack and release controls to fine-tune the compression effect.
Can a bass compressor pedal improve my tone?
Yes, a bass compressor pedal can significantly improve your tone by providing consistent volume levels, enhancing sustain, and preventing sudden volume spikes.
Can I use a bass compressor pedal with active pickups?
Yes, you can use a bass compressor pedal with active pickups. However, you may need to adjust the threshold and ratio settings on the pedal to account for the higher output level of the active pickups.
Should I place the bass compressor pedal at the beginning or end of my signal chain?
The placement of the bass compressor pedal in the signal chain depends on your personal preference. Placing it at the beginning can help control the dynamics of your bass before it hits other effects like distortion or modulation. Placing it at the end can help manage the overall dynamic range of your signal chain.
Does the type of power supply affect the performance of my bass compressor pedal?
While most bass compressor pedals can operate on either battery or AC power, some bassists argue that an AC power supply provides a more consistent performance. Batteries can slowly lose voltage as they discharge, which might subtly affect your tone.
How can I prevent my bass tone from sounding too squashed with a compressor pedal?
To avoid over-compression, which can make your bass sound squashed or lifeless, start with a low compression ratio and gradually increase it until you achieve the desired effect. Also, carefully adjust the attack and release times to maintain a natural sound.