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Effects item created by Jamvan, Feb 2, 2016
Pros - Simple,tone print,can be outrageous
Cons - Compression effect
my pre-amp has a great compressor that I use as clean "transparent" compression. The spectra comp on the other hand I use as an effect and it is great as an effect. The tone prints are easy to use and go places way outside the boundaries of normal compression.
If you are looking for an effect and a way to make other effects really got crazy you will love this thing.
If you are looking for studio compression in the form of a pedal with classic controls than you'll be a lot happier with the Keeley.
Pros - Compact, well built, low price
Cons - Noisy, requires TonePrint editor to make usable, unnecessarily complex
In a quest for simplicity, TC Electronic has finally listened to the plethora of bassists who have been clamoring for their award-winning SpectraComp multi-band rack or head compression in a pedal. The SpectraComp is a single knob pedal that has default parameters specifically designed to highlight the highs and tighten the lows across a bass guitars primary frequencies. However, TC may have overshot their quest for simplicity in using one knob as it turns out, if you don't like the default settings, you're going to need to get really comfortable with their TonePrint editor which incorporates every multiple possible frequency, threshold, attack and release settings.
For reference: My signal chain is as follows:
Bass => Volume Pedal => SpectraComp => VT Bass Deluxe => Amp
Cables are George L's
Power is via T*Rex Fuel Tank Jr. with dedicated cable for each pedal.
First Impressions: This thing is tiny! Meets my needs for a small footprint, that is for sure. I'll go on to say that I was hoping for a 'good-to-go' out of the box on this one but, again, similar to the HyperGravity, I notice when increasing the compression, the corresponding gain increase introduces a lot of noise that is not present when using my other compressor (BBE OptoStomp) at similar volume levels. I'm also hearing what sounds like distortion (breaking up/farting sound) in the low end as though I'm using some light tube drive effects. Again, not present on the low end when A/B-ing my other compressor. I was hoping I wouldn't have to go into the Toneprint editor to try and figure out what default setting(s) I have to change but it looks like I may have no choice. I recall reading that the HyperGravity has some default gain setting turned on that I'm hoping is all it is.
Going into the TonePrint Editor, there is an "Auto-Makeup Gain" setting that was defaulted to "On" so I turned that off in the hopes that that is all it would take and my noise issue would be addressed. I will say that it did get rid of the noise that I was hearing but, as I feared, it also got rid of ALL the volume of the pedal so I could barely hear my sound when I engaged it. I can already see where the limitations of one knob are going to create a huge issue for a lot of us. So, in order to address this, it requires deeper settings exploration in the TonePrint editor to understand how to manage the volume effect of the pedal across the sweep of one knob (which is being used for multiple settings). Precisely what I don't want to have to do with my free time. If I thought the Empress had too much tonal flexibility, step into the TonePrint editor and prepare to be overwhelmed.
As you can see in the TonePrint Editor screen capture below, there are more TonePrints available for the SpectraComp than what is loaded through TC's mobile app itself. The mobile app only shows the BassCompander which is a combination compression/noise gate TonePrint. I cycled through some of these (BassCompander included) to see if there was a faster end to a better solution and what it did was confirm for me that the Default setting is, in fact, a pretty darn good compressor setting, aside from the noise I was experiencing, comparatively speaking.
In an attempt to trouble-shoot the noise outside the TonePrint editor, I pulled it off my board and just ran it alone in front of my amp. Interestingly, this greatly reduced the noise. Now, the only thing I'm running on my board is a volume pedal (Ernie Ball MVP) and a Tech 21 VT Bass Deluxe set on the "Fat Tube" preset, which is warm, but I wouldn't call it distortion or overdriven by any means so I wouldn't think there would be enough gain to create or accentuate any noise. Even though, it appears that all things point to the VT as the origination of the noise if it went away when I wasn't using it. That being said, the fact I DON'T have any noise with the BBE OptoStomp tells me there is an errant threshold setting within the SpectraComp that is the highlighting that and accentuating the noise....which brings me back to the TonePrint editor. Gah!
For those of you out there with an intimate knowledge of compression ratios, thresholds, attack and release settings, gain settings, blends, knees, etc. across multiple bands, I have to believe this is your preferred world to live in. For the rest of us without an Audio Engineering degree, this is rocket science and way more complexity than a single knob implies.
I live with a lot of TC gear and the SpectraComp on my BH500 head is immensely usable with one knob so I'm not sure why it's so hard to take this great function out of the head and add it to a pedal (I've purchased both the HyperGravity and the SpectraComp). To ward off the inevitable question, I prefer my compression at the beginning of my signal chain, post bass, so having it on the head (without an effects loop) doesn't work for me. I do use it a little bit to smooth out any hotness coming off my effects but the majority of my compression comes from my pedal at the front of my chain.
Just one other observation sealing the deal for me as it relates to this promoted "simple" one-knob pedal. Finding parity gain is really quite difficult on the SpectraComp as the gain settings really push the front of my amp pretty hard as it clips at a much lower overall gain setting on the head. If you run your compression at greater than, say, 9 o'clock, good luck finding parity gain as the volume reduction when you turn the pedal off is fairly dramatic. It's almost as if this pedal could be better suited as a boost pedal versus compression. So while it seems that it could be a good pedal for some, "out of the box" simplicity is NOT what I'm finding. You will likely need to spend some time in the TonePrint editor to find any real-world usability from this pedal. Obviously, YMMV, but I've spent enough time with it to realize it's more hassle than it's worth for me so it's going back.