Best compressor for active basses

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by HereIGoAgain, Dec 27, 2014.

  1. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    Please note: I did a search and did not find the answers I was looking for.

    My current compressor is a Boss CS-3. I find it lacking when used with my bass largely due to clipped/distorted sounds I'm getting when I play chords or 2-notes simultaneously, especially the low E and octaves. I also tend to "dig in" somewhat when I play.

    I've checked the OVNILABS reviews and did many internet searches and have not yet found any "bottom line" information when it comes to which compressors are all-around best for high-output active basses.

    I know that "best" can be subjective, so here's what I'm looking for:
    -low/no noise
    -a "flat" setting for tone (or a way to get a "flat" setting)
    -musically usable throughout the entire range of compression and attack ratios
    -I do not want to adjust my technique, adjust the settings on my instrument, hold my mouth a certain way, etc. :D :bassist:

    My absolute hard ceiling for new price is $200.

    Recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    At that price point I'd look for a used empress, diamond or get a new Keeley bassist or onvi FX smoothie.

    Personally, the empress was easiest to use when I first started using a comp due to the led's. The diamond is great but you need to use your ears more (and mine were not ready) no real experience with the bassist (yet) and the smoothie is simply amazing for $200. But my not be "flat" not that its coloring your tone, but it is not completely flat imo.

    You can't really go wrong with any of those.

    Good luck
    blindrabbit likes this.
  3. You should take a look to MXR. The Input knob it´s really works so good for adjusting the different output signal basses, so you´d not having issues with it.
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yeah the MXR M87 would be a solid choice for the requirements given.
  5. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    I did a quick 'net search on the MXR M87, and not even 1 minute in, I'm reading about reliability issues ranging from "dead on arrival" to numerous failures over time. Thanks for the suggestion of the MXR M87, but I need something bulletproof.

    Anything that has the M87 features, but gig-reliable? Thanks again guys.
  6. Gig-reliable for your requirements? Probably the Aguilar TLC.
  7. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    Another vote for the Empress. It's just a great comp and will do everything you're looking for, including rock solid reliability.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  8. Alien8


    Jan 29, 2014
    The empress compressor meets all of your requirements except for price. It has great easy to use features that result in a very transparent sound. It certainly levels the frequency spectrum in a way than other pedals & amps like - both what goes in and what is after it respond well. It works well to subdue a peaky filter or to push a drive pedal into warm break up. Even at high ratio settings it still remains fairly transparent.

    Here's a funny statement: it's a dynamic compressor - lol. The mix control really helps this pedal shine.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  9. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    Again, I appreciate the suggestions. As for the Empress, my price limit is indeed a "hard" limit that won't change by waiting a while. The Smoothie, the Keeley Bassist, and the Aguilar TLC are the contenders so far. Of these three, is any one of them genuinely better at handling active electronics and high signal levels?

    Thanks again guys.
  10. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    I recently purchased an MXR M87 and have had no issues.
  11. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    From what I've read, the MXR's appear to be "hit or miss" in terms of reliability. Some people have gotten good ones.

    I don't want to take a gamble, nor do I feel I should have to, for the dollar amount I'm discussing here. Sorry if that's too blunt.
  12. BazzTard

    BazzTard Inactive

    no gamble with MXR , you are reading OLD version issues. I've had no problems with mine. It's the best fit for your requirements,as many have said. Buy it from a store near you,then if you have problems just swap it out. I say this because I'm new to comps and I really really love my MXR and how the ten LEDs show at a glance what is going on.
    SamJ likes this.
  13. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    I play all active 5 string basses I found the MXR to have too sensitive adjustments just a hair was a huge change and it killed and squashed my B string I dumped it although I love MXR and never ever had an issue with any of them. My favorite pedal board larger size is any of the FEA compressors they are just as good as it gets IMO. Totally quiet, musical on every note, easy to get what you want.

    Other than that I am 100% +++ with the empress, diamond or get a new Keeley suggestions. My bud just got a new Keeley and is in love with it. Says by far the best of the smaller size and may be as good as the bigger ones.
  14. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    I would highly recommend the EBS Multicomp. I have it and love it. It's small, easy to use, quiet and doesn't color your tone.
  15. onda'bass

    onda'bass Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2010
    Buffalo Ny
    Look at FEA if you not in a hurry and add $50-60, I use one w/active ele's works great, dead quiet. Best comp I ever used, you wont be sorry.
  16. carsonchilders

    carsonchilders Carson Childers Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2012
    Lexington, Kentucky
    Never had an issue with mine.
  17. Snaxster


    Nov 29, 2008
    I agree with others' suggestion to try the Empress if you can find it used at your price point.

    But the Aguilar TLC I owned about 2.5 years ago lacked headroom. It would clip when I played through it hard with a hot active bass. My TLC had a warm and musical sound, but low headroom. Maybe the current version features more headroom, but I have not tried it.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  18. mandohack


    May 6, 2011
    MI, USA
    +1 for the Empress... If you can find one used, it's the way to go.

    Sorry, I have no other suggestions in your price range.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  19. Real Soon

    Real Soon

    Aug 15, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    Your ceiling for new at $200...frankly, let me/us advise to you adjust that. Not to pay more for new, but to consider used pedals that would be more than that when new. Why? Because I've gotten 30-60% off on pedals of various price ranges only because the sellers wanted to move 'em. So far, never gotten a lemon, and nearly every pedal I own is used. ~10 pedals total.

    The Diamond and Empress are snazzy. And reliable. And you probably won't find very many used for sale because people love them. But if you do, grab one of those.

    Re: the Boss CS-3, I own one (M.A. Opto Plus modded) and only use it on bass for re-leveling after picking and/or using a hard phaser or envelope filter. It's too much to be a regular compressor, but worth keeping in the arsenal.
  20. How can I know if my TLC is the current version or not?

    And what settings are you using?