Cali76 Bass Comp VS my current setup : improvment or not ?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Fenflex, Dec 29, 2017.

  1. Fenflex


    Apr 13, 2017
    Hey guys, some advice is needed about my currrent GAS.

    I'd like to know what you think about the trade I'm planning to do.

    Some context :

    - I play only 5 string basses in standard tuning BEADG, 45-135.
    - I play in an alternative rock band.

    I currently use a MXR M87 along with a Boss LS2 in MIX mode so I can blend the two signals (a heavily compressed one and my dry signal).
    My dry signal is set lower than the compressed one so when I REALLY dig the string, the full punch of the dry note goes over the squish of the compressed note, if that makes sense.

    My idea was to get the Cali76 Bass comp to reproduce that with a smaller footprint, get some more fatness (it sounds fatter to me, according to YT demos), and I like the idea of the LPF it has.

    I precise that I can't test the Cali because no store have it in my area.

    So what do you guys think, worth the try or not ?

    Thanks :)
    movinngruvin likes this.
  2. geolikezik


    Mar 13, 2016
    Cali76 CB is definitely worth it, SD Studio Bass is also a cheaper alternative to achieve the same goal. Test it if you can, the frequency band selector blend is really great.
    portal bottom and Fenflex like this.
  3. Jonny5bass


    May 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Unequivocally yes. After wanting one for a long time I finally treated myself and got one thinking I’d probably just flip it. After plugging it in for the first time all notions of flipping it evaporated. It’s one of the few that really lives up to the hype.
    imabuddha, markmck79 and Fenflex like this.
  4. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Thats one of the few compressors I have not tried. I really wish I could buy one and A/b it with my FEA to see which one I'd prefer. Unfortunately I don't have the cash to do that.....or do I...

    I really like the features of the CB and the top mount jacks. I think it would give the FEA a run for it's money.
    Jonny5bass likes this.
  5. If that thumb bass in your picture is what you’re playing let me offer some personal experience. Thumb basses have some natural compression as part of their sound already. I don’t feel the need for compression for most tones though some basic limiting can be good if you want your signal to consistitantly hit the amp hard without clipping it. However I do like a compressor specifically for creating synthy tones. For example using the compressor to squash my signal and add sustain before an octave and fuzz in order to get closer to an analog synth type of vibe.
    Fenflex likes this.
  6. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Washington DC
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    The FEAs have more tonal magic. That said because of footprint and jack placement, the Cali CB is my go-to gigging compressor.
    willsellout and Fenflex like this.
  7. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    That’s good to know. I really love the DB-CL. It’s a super versatile pedal. I do like top jacks though.
  8. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member

    I like the parallel compression feature of the Cali76 CB. It works very well for me. I also like the HPF feature. It allows me to control the low end envelope, from big and billowy to tight and punchy.
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  9. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Washington DC
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    That's why I love the FEA Opti-fet. The sidechain EQ allows for even more compression sculpting.
  10. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Washington DC
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    If you are fully taking advantage of the amazing features of the DB-CL, then no comp comes close. A few too many knobs for me personally but I get the amazing allure of its control set. I am more of a DE-CL and Opti-fet guy.

    Don't get me wrong - I do love the Cali and it's always on when I play live.
  11. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Honestly the way I play I don’t really need all of its features. I keep the ratios low for the most part as use it as an overal smoother at the front of my chain. I do like the added fullness it adds and the even response across all the strings. Sometimes with the thunderbird the treble side can get attenuated from what it sounds like. The DB-CL helps a lot with that. But that’s reall all compressors I think isn’t it?
  12. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    You have provided excellent reviews of the FEA, Empress, and Diamond.
    Don't you think the Cali should be included in the shoot out to complete your mission...
  13. Fenflex


    Apr 13, 2017
    Just got the Cali76, definitely worth it !

    Thanks guys !
    imabuddha and Fuzzbass like this.
  14. Grahams Groove

    Grahams Groove If it feels heavy, it's heavy. Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2001
    Boulder, CO
    Well, I guess I'll throw my hat in the ring with some initial thoughts. As always, I write the way i talk - too much.

    Compressor history: MXR M87, Smoothie, Diamond BCP-1, PWNZOR. Currently have a FEA Opti-FET and a recently acquired Cali76 CB. I gave a lengthy comparison of the Diamond & FEA here. I felt like the Cali76 was an obligatory purchase since it's considered one of the best in that upper tier of pedal compressors. It's understandable why it's seen as such, and there are plenty of standalone reviews for those who need a refresher.

    The first thing that struck me after dialing in the Compact Bass and comparing to the Opti-FET, is how fat and punchy the FEA remains through a range of low to medium compression. The FEA is more tweakable, which comes at the cost of more board space. With that said, it makes the Opti-FET more capable of fine tuning than the Compact Bass. A run down of the controls is probably helpful to see how they compare:
    • The Cali 76 "In" is equivalent to the FEA's "threshold".
    • Both have a "Ratio" knob, although the Cali76 apparently starts at 4:1 where the Opti-FET starts at 1.5:1 according to a review in BassPlayer. (I would defer to @boomertech on this.)
    • The Cali76 and FEA have "Out" and "Gain" (respectively) to balance the output volume.
    • The FEA (IMO) has a significant advantage with the independent Attack & Release, which is combined on the Cali.
    • Finally, they both have incredibly useful sidechain EQ features. Again, the FEA has the advantage with 3 bands where the Cali76 has the single HPF for the low end. With that being said, they both work extremely well and improve the tone shaping for each pedal. These are crucial to avoiding unwanted attenuation.
    After flipping my Smoothie (which i loved), I was oddly convinced that I didn't want or need a "dry" knob on compressors, as it sometimes makes things sound unbalanced and mushy if used poorly. That said, I think it's an essential feature on the Cali76. When I started comparing the two I had the ratios both set in the lowest 15-20% of the range, relatively slow attack and fast release times, and side-chains set so that the lowest notes on E weren't causing over-compression and attenuation of the highs. The input/threshold was set to trigger compression for a second or so beyond the attack, without slamming the front end and getting unnatural amounts of squish or sustain. This was giving my jazz bass some nice added pop on the attack, and a bit more evenness and punch from the strings, especially when playing near the bridge. I hate when compressors roll off highs, and both of these do a nice job of maintaining crisp top end and bite without sounding harsh. (Note: I only have the first "warm 1" switch engaged on the Opti-FET, so it is running on the cleaner side of it's capabilities without the high-end rolled off via the dip-switch.)

    The goal was to compare the purely compressed signals, and this is the biggest difference between the two compressors to my ears. With no dry signal dialed in to the Cali76 the FEA sounded a bit thicker through the lows and low-mids compared to the Cali76. The volume was the same, but the FEA sounds fatter to me. This is not to say that the Cali76 is thinning things out. In fact, it may be that the Cali76 is a slightly more balanced from lows to highs. They both bring some added roundness and fatness to your signal, but the Cali76 is more about precision, clarity, and even response across the strings. In comparison, the Opti-FET wants to bring some more character to the table. It's very subtle, but it's certainly audible when you have them side by side. The other major thing I noticed is that the Cali76 seems to have a more audible and distinct 'pop' to the attack, which is often described in reviews. I can still get the bite I want in my attack from the FEA, but to my ears this sweet attack and even response is what makes the Cali76 such a nice compressor. I will say that the FEA is more my flavor after some initial testing. I liked the magic of the Diamond, but wanted something more subtle. The FEA offers that, along with first-class compression, where the Diamond really falls short.

    Dialing in some dry signal with the Cali76 was worthwhile, as it starts to open up the lows and introduce some more sizzle into the attack. This gets it closer to the fatness of the FEA's lows & mids, but the overall sound gets more open and loses a bit of that focused punch that you get from the fully wet/compressed FEA signal. For those wanting that parallel compression, the Cali76 does a beautiful job of it. If, however, you want some tone-magic and harmonic fatness, the FEA may be more your flavor. They both have incredibly low noise-floors, so that's a wash. I think the Opti-FET's X-factor is in that really subtle thickness. It seems like the more I turned up the volume on my amp, the more I could hear/feel that extra warmth and presence in the low-mids. All that said, I'm splitting hairs and will be happy with either - or both. Can I keep both??

    The shorter version:

    The Cali76 adds a nice little pop and sounds impressively even across the spectrum. If I wanted a precise, crystal-clear compressor that could tighten things up and round things out without getting in the way, I would go with the Cali76. It's also a bit easier to tweak on the fly.

    The FEA is a great choice for those wanting studio-esque compression with options to add some subtle and incredibly tasteful warmth/color. It feels like the Opti-FET is somewhere on the spectrum between the Diamond and the Cali76. It doesn't get in the way, but it does impart a hint of character that complements my basses' natural sounds while tightening everything up a bit.
  15. JohnPativens


    Sep 20, 2005
    Your Cali76 review reminds me exactly what Bongo wrote about the MXR M87 on his blog when it came out.
  16. Grahams Groove

    Grahams Groove If it feels heavy, it's heavy. Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2001
    Boulder, CO
    Interesting - I could see them being in a similar ballpark, since they're both pretty transparent.

    I would say the MXR sounds slightly sterile in comparison to the Cali76, though. And the MXR can get in the way by over-compressing and attenuating things if you have the threshold perfectly set and then bump your signal/lows going into it. The threshold on the M87 seems notoriously touchy.

    Also, the Cali76 has a more distinct attack and a natural bit of smoothness, where the MXR sounded more "airy" to my ears. Still, the MXR is no slouch...
  17. JohnPativens


    Sep 20, 2005
    Yes, I haven't tried a Cali76 yet but each review or YouTube demo makes me think it's a direct upgrade of the M87, just not +150$ better.
    xroads likes this.
  18. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    Thank you for that review and comparison!:thumbsup:

    Grahams Groove likes this.
  19. Fenflex


    Apr 13, 2017
    My new setup including the Cali, lightweight, heavytone !

    Polytune mini2 > Cali76 CB > B7K Ultra
    Powered by a Volto 2

    Can't wait to test it on my gig rig ! :D

    Attached Files:

    imabuddha likes this.
  20. I haven’t owned a Cali 76 but I have gotten to use a freind’s a bit. I think it’s far better than the setup you have mostly because I didn’t really like the MXR m87 and returned it to get the Markbass compressore. I think the Wampler Ego looks awesome and has the blend knob as well but I haven’t actually played that one myself.
    chechunka likes this.
  21. Primary

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