Keeley Bassist or all compressors?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by jrbass70, Jan 10, 2022.

  1. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020

    I am new to compression pedals and have been using the Keeley Bassist limiting amplifier pedal. One thing I notice is that it tends to compress more on the lower notes. For example, if I set the the threshold right around 12 o'clock and then play the E and A strings with medium attack I will see the LED light up but I have to attack the D and G strings harder to get compression to kick in. Also the LED light typically stays on longer for the lower strings.

    When testing I am making sure to keep the EQ on my amp pretty flat, as well as my pre-amp (I am using a Sandberg TM4 and a Sterling Ray34 for my tests).

    I thought that perhaps my lower strings were louder (maybe pickup height was a bit off). So - I put a DB meter on my phone and did my best to play equally loud open notes on each string but really didn't notice much DB level difference between strings.

    Curious to know if others see similar behavior. For my taste - I'm not a big fan of the pedal right now. I actually find it easier to not over attack my lower strings - it is the higher strings where I often want to take the bite off especially when slapping. I still want the thump in the low and but am looking to take the harshness off the higher pops.

    Is it possible this behavior varies with different compression pedals or do you find this kind of compression typical as to what one might expect? Thanks!
  2. Single band compressors work on the overall signal. What you're experiencing is normal.

    You could try a compressor with an attack knob. You might also want to look at a multi band compressor like the BOSS BC-1x.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2022
  3. Teryup


    Oct 16, 2019
    What you are describing is fairly expected. Basically all things being equal compression will be triggered more heavily by lower frequencies due to the nature of audio signals. There are a few different workarounds that exist in various compressors.

    Multi-band compressors were already mentioned, these divide the audio signal into frequency ranges that are compressed individually.

    Another solution is to have the ability to blend in the uncompressed signal, and some comps can just blend in uncompressed low-end.

    The third option I am aware of is compressors that allow you to modify how much low frequency content makes it to the detection circuitry, usually through a filter in the side chain.

    One final note is that some people recommend Keeley's similar comp that is marketed to guitar (I forget the name) as better for bass. Apparently the main difference between the two is that they designed the bass version to react more strongly in the lows, which a lot of people consider to be backwards.
    saltydude, dkelley, DJ Bebop and 2 others like this.
  4. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    Thanks - that is helpful. I have also been doing some research and have found that products like Cali76 compact bass compressor has features such as the HPF that reduces compression on the lower frequencies as well as the ability to mix in dry signal.

    This all sounds great but this it really brings up the question - is this really all worth it? I mean I generally don't feel the need too much for compression except perhaps when slapping where I might want to reduce the harshness of the pop sounds (especially if I have an envelope filter engaged). It seems to me I can simply roll the treble down on my bass to help there. I know many swear by pedal based compressors and I have no doubt they are crucial when recording but for live performances I am having trouble justifying cost and space on pedal board for such a subtle effect that I want.

    I guess it's all a matter of personal opinion and taste but perhaps I am overlooking other use cases - if anyone has a differing point of view would love to hear it!
    MattZilla and el murdoque like this.
  5. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    If you like the Bassist otherwise, I'd try the Keeley GC-2 which compresses those lows less. That's right. Their guitar model is a better bass compressor for many people.
    ajn and Teryup like this.
  6. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    How about the Keeley Compressor Plus 4-Knob Compressor Pedal? That also seems to have a dry/blend control...
  7. It's a Dyna Comp/Ross style compressor that operates a little differently than the Bassist/GC-2.
  8. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    Yep - I read more about it online. I'll try the GC-2 - from reading online it sounds more like what I'm looking for. Funny that it's kind of reversed but I guess some folks want more squish on the low end, something for everyone!
  9. jblock


    Mar 20, 2004
    For $50 more you can get the Empress Bass Compressor, which has a side chain HPF, mix knob, and better metering than the Keeley Bassist. And I say that as a huge fan of the Keeley Bassist.
  10. jschulman

    jschulman Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2018
    Long Island, NY
    I use the Becos CompIQ Mini. It's a VCA compressor like the Keeley...they both sound very similar. But I prefer the Becos because it's got a HPF, as well as more precise metering.
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  11. laklandplayer

    laklandplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    USA - Memphis, TN
    The Keely Bassist has circuitry to keep it from over reacting from the low end signal. The GC2 is the guitar version that does not have the low end filter so it reacts to low end and clamps down more readily.
    I use the Bassist with no problems whatsoever. The secret is in setting the threshold to where it barely blinks when you play hard, it does not have to look like a light show for the compressor to be effective. The biggest problem players have is setting the threshold sensitivity and if you set it, and you own and active bass, any EQ boost you make after you set it will affect the sensitivity and make it "choke". So, you have to be mindful of that and set the compressor accordingly to have a great result.
  12. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    I actually keep my compressor at the END of my effects chain so I don't EQ afterwards. As to the GC-2 comparison what you are saying is actually the opposite of what other users are saying. (unless I am misunderstanding your wording). Most are saying that the GC2 clams down on low end LESS...I'll try it out and let you know.
    frankzap likes this.
  13. mrperkolator


    Jan 4, 2020
    @jrbass70 I'm not too familiar with that compressor, but I had a ray. It's preamp had issues on the lower strings. @LowEndLobster showed this in one of his videos. Had I known about how to fix, I may not have sold it.... Have you tried testing the compressor with a different bass? perhaps a passive one? I say passive only to eliminate that particular factor (preamp) in the equation.
  14. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    While I did not with a passive bass I did test with my Sandberg TM4. Also - my Ray34 has a Nordstrand pickup in it (I replaced stock). I don't think it's the bass. As I have researched more, the lack of a HPF is probably the issue. I am going to try some other compressors to see how big a difference an HPF really makes. I'll report tit.
  15. :jawdrop:
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  16. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
  17. Drucifer

    Drucifer Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Endorsements: your name could be here, Mr. Sadowsky!
    It's very easy to notice a bad compressor. It's often difficult to notice a good compressor, until you turn it off and something goes away from your tone. I immediately notice variations in level from string to string, less sustain, less evenness in repeated notes, that I wouldn't have noticed when playing with the compressor on for a while.
    LiquidMidnight and R&B like this.
  18. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Agreed. The Empress v2 actually has a variable side-chain HPF on-board which eliminates the need for an addt'l peripheral. Even a judiciously set HPF on the front-end will minimize the "slamming" on just about any compressor.

    Loring, Jeff Elkins and N4860 like this.
  19. 220_Hz

    220_Hz Supporting Member

    May 9, 2016
    San Diego
    I use an optical comp with blend and currently love it (Oceanid Optical Comp)
  20. jrbass70


    Jun 9, 2020
    OK - I am repor(tit)ing back! I tested both the Keeley Bassist and the GC-2 side by side for about an hour. Here is what I found:

    The Bassist appears to have more headroom. On the Bassist I need to put the gain at 11 o'clock to achieve gain unity whereas on the GC-2 I am right at 12 O'clock. With the threshold - I could go higher on the GC-2 and still get compression to kick in.

    As for the actual difference in how it compresses low vs. higher frequencies, I couldn't see or hear anything different. Perhaps with a true measuring tool there would be something to show but to my ears they were virtually the same and I could dial them in both to perform in the same fashion.

    I think the real value in the test was that as I kept tweaking I was getting to a sound that I was beginning to understand more. Truth be told the low E is much louder in comparison to the other strings (and I have .100, .80, .45, .65 strings which are actually closer in gauge then my setups).

    I think I get it now - and I can see why some people really like it. The thing is I really just don't! I want my low E thumping louder - that's what a bass is supposed to do and feel like in my opinion. I get that this may not make for a great recording and you may attack too hard and cause some harshness but it's all part of playing to me.

    On the other hand, I love the compressor for slap. I actually dialed in a higher ratio and got a nicer sound. Yes, it reduced my lows but also reduced my highs and brought it together. You can slap and not come out too much in the mix, and if you want to come out more in the mix there is plenty of headroom to boost the gain (it does serve as a great boost pedal and when you are boosted it is nice to have compression on so you don't kill everyone's ears during a solo).

    So I think the end - the compressor is fine, it's really just me and how I like to use it. I'm sure other compressors with more advanced features may allow me to dial in an even more pleasing tone but I think for right now I will probably limit the compressor use to slap style. Until I get my hands on something else that may change my mind!

    Thanks for everyone's input and help - hope my experiences help someone else who is just starting out with compression.
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