Being a bass player may seem like an easier job. But, it’s also very easy to mess up on this instrument, either because of lack of experience or playing on an average quality instrument. Regardless of the situation, one of the best bass compressor pedals may help you get more confident in your playing ability.
There are two things that bass compressor pedals do for your sound. In this article, we’ll go over both. I will explain how the compressor interacts with your signal, as well as give you my top recommendations as to what you should buy, depending on your budget, experience, and bass.
6 Best Bass Compressor Pedals - My Top Picks
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Equipped with a blend feature, attack, gain, and compression controls, the Seymour Duncan Studio Bass Compressor is a pedal you need in your arsenal. Whether for live performance or studio work, it can handle a wide range of clean and overdriven sounds, by managing their output.
The four-knob format shouldn’t be hard to use regardless of how much experience you have. The quality of the build is premium. That means that it can handle plenty of traveling abuse.
I like this pedal in almost any situation. But, I think I find it most useful for metal. It does an excellent job of picking super low notes. Since a lot of metal songs use lower tunings, the compressor can provide necessary tone and output corrections in more genres than others.
Furthermore, it’s more reasonably priced than similar compressor pedals, even though it may not be as feature-heavy as others.
2. MXR M87
A very well built and highly dependable compressor, the MXR M87 is a favorite of the pros. This pedal contains FET transistors that offer enough versatility and plenty of control.
The five-knob interface has the attack/release controls, input/output controls, and a ratio control knob. You can use the attack and release to customize your sound and create a unique compression type that will suit your instrument and style.
I also like the LED gain reduction meter. It’s small but visible under any lighting conditions due to its positioning at the top of the pedal. That’s quite the high-end feature on an affordable bass compressor.
Last but not least, the M87 bass compressor has a slim design, which means that it won’t take up much real estate on your pedalboard. Always a good thing if you like your effects.
I think that the TC Electronic Spectracomp is one of the best choices for beginner bass players. If you haven’t invested much time into studying tone, frequencies, mixing, then this may be the pedal compressor for you.
It has a straightforward design. As it stands, the Spectracomp is a multiband compressor that comes pre-calibrated for every bass player’s needs. Once activated, the compressor applies a light compression that most beginners would find helpful.
However, although it looks basic, the Spectracomp has TonePrint technology. It allows you to use a phone app to load various prints or waveforms that apply different types of compression. In a sense, it does everything for you, as long as you don’t mind using an app for it.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have to know much about compression since every available print is well-explained. All in all, the small frame and tonal clarity are also important highlights, but I’d say that the TonePrint technology makes the most significant impact.
4. Boss BC-1X
Designed in classic Boss fashion, the BC-1X is an impressive bass compressor pedal. It boasts an LED meter and four controls for gain, release, ratio, and threshold. They’re close to each other for quick adjustments on the fly.
Although there are enough cheaper pedals that come with more features, these four are more than you’ll need to give yourself a consistent output.
Since the BC-1X runs at 18V, you should have no problem using this pedal with active pickups. That can be a problem with cheaper compressors as they won’t always handle a hot output well.
The pedal also benefits from Boss’ extensive experience in this field and its intuitive circuitry. It’s built to last and to handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
The Darkglass Hyper Luminal compressor pedal features three modes. It also has a blend control, a USB interface, and a gain reduction meter. It’s pretty high-end in terms of features but still midrange priced. And that makes it the right choice for both beginners and pros.
I also like the output control knob, which also helps maintain consistency. The Hyper Luminal does a great job of minimizing the risk of volume spikes and can also enrich the tone of any bass guitar.
If you’re looking for something that can help you get punchier highs and more consistent mids, this may be the pedal for you. Maxing out both blend and compression will allow you to cut through the mix.
At the same time, you can also achieve a more subtle tone. It’s not the heaviest or sturdiest of compressor pedals by any means. And, because of that, it may be considered a bit expensive.
However, due to its dual connectivity, and use of three unique Darkglass compressor tones, it should serve professional bass players well.
6. Aguilar TLC
Many regard the Aguilar TLC as the ultimate bass compressor. It has high-end circuitry and an extended low-frequency response capable of handling even the lowest of notes. Also, it’s a very intuitive compressor pedal.
The ratio has almost infinite adjustability, and the threshold can be adjusted between -30 to -10dB. You can also get between 10ms to 100ms attack as well as more volume control than you probably need. I would recommend this pedal for the most demanding bass players as well as complete amateurs.
The Aguilar TLC is one of the few compressor pedals that can save you from on-stage embarrassment in almost any situation. And, the durability of the steel casing and the high-end TLC circuitry adds even more value.
That said, the pedal doesn’t feature a release control. It’s not the worst thing in the world and not a dealbreaker. But, some players might need this control. So if that particular knob is vital to you, then perhaps the Aguilar TLC is not your jam.
Understanding Compressor Pedals
Primarily, a compressor pedal does something referred to as sonic squeezing. That’s a technique that controls the dynamic range of the bass guitar.
In essence, it amplifies softer sounds to sound louder and softens louder sounds. As a result, you get more consistent output.
Many believe that a compression pedal is there to make the output more forgiving to inexperienced bass players. However, it is also there to improve the overall sound during both live performances and studio recordings.
That’s not to say that it can’t act as a safety net. Players with poor technique and precision, and those who play cheaper instruments, swear by their compressor pedals.
The Compressor Ratio Control Is the Most Important Knob
How you use it based on your play style is what makes or breaks the compressor effect. The most common settings seem to be either a 2:1 or a 4:1 ratio. But what does it all mean?
Well, the compressor pedal ratio sets the rate of the signal compression.
The threshold is also critical. Based on the threshold you set, the ratio and signal compression kick in during specific situations. Lower thresholds activate the signal compression during soft playing, think tapping, or light fingering techniques.
A high threshold is what you would use if you want the compressor to kick in only when you’re playing more aggressively – say strumming or picking.
The Importance of a Good Bypass
Even though a compressor pedal doesn’t add any special effects to your tone, a poorly designed one can still spoil your sound. It can lower your output considerably, and in some cases, it can even add unwanted noise and distortion.
Since a compressor applies corrections, boosts sustain, and improves the overall tone, it’s best if you don’t skimp on yours. And, it’s even more vital that you look for true-bypass pedals. This way, whenever the compressor is not actively working to correct your tone, it won’t affect the signal chain.
Stop Overthinking and Get One Already
The only real downside to a bass compressor pedal is that not enough bass players realize how much they need one. It makes things better, no matter how much in control of your instrument you are.
And, as you can see, the best bass compressor pedals are not necessarily that expensive. As a bass player, you won’t need as many stompboxes in your setup as your lead guitarist. Besides, the faster you get one, the more time you’ll have to understand how it works and how to configure it.