Compressors (again, I know) - Cali76 vs Darkglass vs Empress vs Keeley vs some more

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Roman Jakobej, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. Roman Jakobej

    Roman Jakobej

    Dec 10, 2016
    Hi, I've been reading posts on this page for quite a while but registered only a few minutes ago. I'm currently thinking about selling my MXR M87 bass compressor (I know that there was a similar thread) and, obviously so, I want a new one, so I (kinda) narrowed my list and would like to know your experience, recommendations and general opinion. Sooo... at first I was pretty much decided for Cali76 compact bass (the TX/ TX-L version is way too expensive and currently unavailable, just second hand), I love the blend function, ATT/REL button and HPF seems very useful + it looks extremely cool
    Darkglass SuperSymmetry - Darkglass are just the best, no one comes even close with the overdrive pedals and B7K is the best pedal for me and I've heard lots of great reviews about their compressor
    Empress compressor - I've heard even more positive things about this one, the only issue is how it looks (gee)
    Keeley compressor pro (seems better than the bassist compressor)
    FEA dual engine compressor limiter (or other models from FEA)
    OVNIFX Smoothie (recommended by
    Diamond BCP (I don't really like how it looks... shallow and unimportant, I know, but...)
    and I've heard some interesting things about the Warden from Earthquaker Devices and Deep Six from Walrus Audio.
    But honestly I'm deciding between the first 4 pedals but I want your opinions.
    As to what I'm looking for, with my band we're playing sort of a modern rock/post-grunge with some progressive elements, so it's about lot of heavy riffin', I play with my fingers (even though I consider learning to play with a pick at least at certain parts to enhance them), it's usually about my B7K being engaged but sometimes I experiment with flanger, reverb or delay, so... looking forward your opinions :)
    P.S. obviously, I'm aware of and have read all the reviews there :)
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
  2. Adamixoye

    Adamixoye A PT Pro is cool for worship, right?

    Apr 9, 2012
    Occasional Beta Tester for Confusion Studios, Singular Sound, and Source Audio
    I made the jump from the M87 to the Empress, running into a B7K (now B7KU). I mostly play finger style. I love the Empress and its control, especially the metering and the parallel compression. The blend and the greater range in the attack and release are why I made the jump, otherwise they are similar.

    I have not owned the others. The Empress is wonderfully transparent. That's what it probably should come down to for you. The Empress is transparent, the Diamond famously isn't (albeit in a good way) and the other models are at various points in between (as I understand it). So do you want the transparency or not?
  3. If you don't like the looks of the Empress or Diamond, then consider getting a custom etch or paint-job – they're both awesome pedals.

    But more importantly than that...

    What do you want your compressor to do for you? Tone-shaping, add some fat, bring up softer nuanced passages, knock down the spikes with some hard limiting...?
    blindrabbit likes this.
  4. Bassheart365

    Bassheart365 Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2014
    Northern California
    "A good bassist determines the direction of any band." - Ron Carter
    My first pedal compressor was the Empress. My decision was influenced by the ovnilab site, and talkbass posts. I was looking for something transparent and intuitive. A mix knob was on my must-have features list. The Empress did not disappoint. But then the Cali76 CB came out. Two things pushed me to buy the CB: smaller form factor than the Empress, and high pass filter knob, which essentially allows you to vary the amount of compression applied to the low end. Anyway, I sold my Empress as soon as I used the Cali76 CB a few times. It can be even more transparent than the Empress with the hpf knob and takes up less real estate on my pedal board.
  5. Welcome to TB.

    So what do you want that your MXR isn't doing or you wish you had more of? That should narrow your choices down significantly.
  6. Great idea BR!

    And, yes, manners... I forgot mine.

    Vitajte v TB, Roman!
    Roman Jakobej and blindrabbit like this.
  7. kat888

    kat888 Guest

    Oct 13, 2015
    But it's YELLOW
  8. Roman Jakobej

    Roman Jakobej

    Dec 10, 2016
    The whole 'I don't like the design' is really... well not important as far as the quality of the pedal goes. If it's a great pedal than to hell with how it looks. The design of the pedal is really for my eyes only as people are not going to be on the stage looking at what you use (hopefully)

    I heard that supersymmetry is darker and more focused on the low end which may suit my style but CB has the HPF. Generally I would like my tone to be fatter and also to bring up some softer passages as we have those in songs and I want them to be hearable (let's say harmonics with flanger and/or delay - I want them to be as loud as the low notes + I want sustain obviously becuase they tend to be slightly unnoticeable now) and yes, generally to improve my tone.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
  9. Roman Jakobej

    Roman Jakobej

    Dec 10, 2016
    And thank you for welcoming me here :) As to MXR, I read somewhere somebody was complaining that it tends to sound different from time to time with the same settings. It happened to me quite a few times that without any settings changes, my rig sounded different (worse) as opposed to for instance a rehearsal before, when everything sounded just perfect. It might have been the MXR. When I bought it I knew nothing about compressors (the 'general' knowledge I had was that it makes louder parts quieter and vice versa + it makes notes last longer) and I bought it because it's one of the best sellers, so it's gotta be good, right? (duh) I've been learning a lot about equipment in general, so compression too and MXR just doesn't suit me. It may be that I need some really good-quality time adjusting it (as I have rehearsals with my band 70kms from where I live so generally I don't have too much time with my equipment but I have brought all my pedals home finally) and its famous for being difficult to set properly. So I guess MXR can sound good in the hands of somebody like Bongo.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
  10. kat888

    kat888 Guest

    Oct 13, 2015
    If you want fat and shiny ... Diamond BCP-1.
    SV777, blindrabbit and Roman Jakobej like this.
  11. The Diamond is what you want then if you are trying to keep costs down. If you can spend the money, the Cali is also supposed to be pretty good. FEA Opti-Fet would also be a good choice, but again a bit spendy.
  12. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    I advise against the Symmetry. It's a very subtle pedal. Based on your budget and listed interests, the Smoothie can do much of what the Symmerty does, and then some. I've owned both boxes, but not at the same time. If you want something a bit more squishy, I've found the SGFX Horizon to be a nice pedal for tone enhancement with a little darkening (but not much at all) and decent thickening, and very simple controls.

    I don't know enough about the other boxes to comment. I did own a Diamond a while ago, and watched videos of the others, but I don't feel confident commenting in more depth based on that, so I'll leave it up to other users.
    IngloriousOz and blindrabbit like this.
  13. Dejavu_Jones


    Mar 20, 2013
    I am with the same dilemma as Roman now. Cali Compact / Empress / FEA DECL (I'm even on the mail list for the last one). But my fourth option is "Do I really need a compressor that much?" Usually I cease this irritating ucertainity with some practice routine. I guess I will pick Cali Compact after all - ratio knob suits me better than Empress's switch. DECL's limiter side is exactly what I need, but I don't know how to wait until it will be available again and not to spend money. There are so many units to try!
    Roman Jakobej likes this.
  14. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Markbass is amazing and the tube warms it up too.
    Shadowkast, joeypee and Berger912 like this.
  15. anotherhomeysan


    Jan 9, 2015
    The Seymour Duncan Studio demos and feature set put it on my GAS list. Has a blend knob.
    Bobby Bass, project_c and Zoobiedood like this.
  16. slamsinger


    Feb 8, 2009
    Coventry RI
    I use a ovni fix smoothie compressor and that little beast is a fantastic pedal
    I would love to try the cali though for sure ... I'm thinking noble preamp into the cali 76 would be a amazing setup
  17. IngloriousOz

    IngloriousOz Supporting Member

    Jun 1, 2006
    SLC, Utah
    I've used the Empress, CaliCB, the Compact Deluxe, the SuperSymmetry, the MXR M87 and the Boss CS-2 & CS-3. If you have the money then just skip ahead and get the Cali Compact bass because even though all of the compressors mentioned in this thread are fantastic and bring a lot to the table - being on this site (Welcome by the way!) is only going to torture you until you can try one out, and it won't disappoint.
  18. IngloriousOz

    IngloriousOz Supporting Member

    Jun 1, 2006
    SLC, Utah
    I love the Symmetry but I have to agree with you, it's excellent at what it does but it's so subtle and unspectacular that sometimes it seems like you you have to try and coax something out of it just to know it's doing it's thing.
    blindrabbit and monsterthompson like this.
  19. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    Welcome to TB. To add to the confusion, check out the Lehle dual band, which I haven't tried but gets very high marks and may cost less since you're in Europe.
    Roman Jakobej likes this.
  20. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    Yeah. It did a really nice thing, but there wasn't much room for adjustment given all the knobs on it. If it didn't do what you wanted right out of the box, it wouldn't be tweaked into doing anything else. I'd have been okay with mine but I got another box (Accountant) in trade which got me thinking about what more I wanted out of compressors.
    blindrabbit and IngloriousOz like this.