Testing Compressors: Cali, Smoothie, Empress, Diamond, Keeley, FEA, Darkglass, Doc Lloyd, JHS & more

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by scubaduba, May 21, 2018.

  1. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    You looking for clean, or character?
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  2. Somnambulance


    Jun 6, 2014
    Kind of both
  3. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    I've never tried the Becos but it looks sweet.
    Diamond is super fat, too much for me.
    EBS Multicomp is pretty versatile. Underrated IMO.
    Doc Lloyd might fit the bill for nice subtle optical tone enhancement, but I've never used it.
    Smoothie gets lots of love.
    Broughton Monocle 10/10 would buy again.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
    sonofshel and Somnambulance like this.
  4. kasbrey


    Aug 23, 2002
    York UK
    The Becos Stella kind of does both. The tilt eq and tape saturation on top of the excellent transparent compression options make it a great tone sculpting tool. It's very obviously something you don't want to switch off however you choose to configure it.
  5. Somnambulance


    Jun 6, 2014
    I've tried the cali76CB, loved it
    Loved the Diamond Bass Comp Jr
    Broughton Monocle was exceptional
    The DOD Milk Box was nice, as was the newer 280 for a budget toan enhancer

    I guess I've gravitated more towards toan enhancers than transparent compressors.
    sonofshel, loopee, MascisMan and 2 others like this.
  6. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    I just re-read the Doc Lloyd review and it certainly sounds like something I'd like.

    Other "short list" comps I like the sounds of from these reviews:
    • JHS Pulp N' Peel. Great feature set with onboard dirt and DI out.
    • Union Tube & Transistor LAB. Nice simple control set and tone notes sounds promising.
    I'll sell you my Broughton Monocle for $500 firm no OBO. ;)
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
  7. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    Your MB is coming
    Somnambulance likes this.
  8. DirtyDuke

    DirtyDuke Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 13, 2012
    guelph ontario
    Partner Southampton Pedals, Partner CCP
    The Stella is awesome. The pettyjohn is great. The Lab is freaking amazing for 2 dials
  9. rhyharmel


    Mar 15, 2008
    So Cal
    DirtyDuke, were you ever able to send Scuba the Thorpy Fat General for review? Haven't seen it mentioned here other than from you, certainly curious about thoughts on this one.
    Low Down Brown likes this.
  10. Somnambulance


    Jun 6, 2014
    I forgot about that lol, awesome. It will fill out my board wonderfully
    DirtyDuke likes this.
  11. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    If color and a little something extra is your thing, the Pulp N’ Peel is a good candidate. Works really well with either bass or guitar which was a surprise for me.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  12. speedball3


    Nov 13, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I’ve recently (and finally!) had firsthand experience with fat compressor tones. It’s a wonderful thing! The challenge is it came from the built in compressor in GarageBand in the “FET BASS” setting. I just adjusted the threshold to my signal and bumped the gain to make up for the volume loss. Sounded glorious and it sat well “in the mix”... as I played along with MP3s. Nevertheless.... now to find the equivalent in pedal form! :cool:

    It seems the “fat tone” short list is: Diamond Jr (personally only want the small one), JHS PnP, and Doc Lloyd? What else am I missing? Does the smoothie do fat?

    The couple of JHS PnP bass demos I listened to on YT weren’t fat enough but it *might* get there with the dirt set right. Is the Diamond really as mid heavy as Geddy is on that Beato video? I’m guessing that’s Geddy being Geddy but I get worried by the claim that “this is exactly how the Diamond sounds” ;):bored:
    Low Down Brown, sonofshel and loopee like this.
  13. I just wanted to say (again) that the Accountant makes me smile everytime I turn it on. I tried it with my J for a compressed snappy slap tone and it's amazing. Then I've set it to do some light overdrive with my P and it produces a punk tone which I'd use for most of the covers we do. Man, I love this thing.
  14. Low Down Brown

    Low Down Brown

    Jan 8, 2018
    PnP can get pretty punchy. I ran one for a while and loved it...tilt EQ works well and the D.I. was an awesome bonus. Never really got a sound I liked from the 'dirt' until I dialed the gain down and messed with the tilt EQ..then I was able to get a nice warm fuzz that was just dirty enough. It's a great pedal.

    Having said that, I replaced it with the Becos Stella. It's got the same punch, but offers a lot more control with all the knobs and switches...and that tape saturation is super sweet...way more usable than the dirt on the PnP, IMO. Stella definitely is worth the long wait and the $$$.

    Other compressors I've used that do 'fat': Markbass Compressore, EQD The Warden, Whirlwind Bass OC, Union T&T LAB comp. Those all do some tone fattening magic.

    From what others have said here, the Smoothie will do whatever you want it to. I can't wait to find out for myself come November. The Doc Lloyd is supposed to be one mean sounding comp...unfortunately, I've yet to get my hands on one. That perpetually elusive Photon Death Ray is the next on my list if they ever go up for sale again :drool:
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  15. Jim C

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

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I find that "fattening" can happen even with a transparewnt compressor.
    My FEA-DECL in compression mode adds a rounder bottom sound that is just flat out big sounding.
    The "tonal magic" is another term used to describe what non-transparent compressors offer.
    For me (at least with the Diamond and Compressore) this sounded more like a change of EQ.
    I don't think of this in terms of less treble / more bass, but rather a darker tone when the threshold is crossed.
    This may or may not have some "extra harmonic content" added; which is another way of saying the device distorts the signal in pleasing way.

    FWIW, I find that playing along or recording with a compressor is a different feel than a live mix.
    I find that the live mix is more critical than playing along at home or recording with any of the higher end units.
  16. ferarayabass


    Mar 28, 2017

    I find this useful ;)
  17. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Thoughts on the Wampler Ego:

    The Wampler Ego is an OTA circuit encased in a beautiful sparkle gloss enclosure. Many months ago I tried the Wampler Mini and found myself wanting more control over the attack in particular. The Mini only has a switch to control the attack a predefined settings. The full-size Ego has a traditional knob allowing for a much wider range. After spending a lot of time with the Ego I will say I do like the higher range of attack timing the knob affords. Of course with the additional controls comes the trade-off of a larger enclosure.


    There are 5 dials, one LED, and footswitch on the face of the Ego.

    The Sustain knob controls the amount of sustain and compression. There is a useful range across the whole dial. As you turn the dial clockwise you add more effect, essentially adding "color", compression, and lowering the threshold at which the compression is triggered.

    There is no LED indicating gain reduction or point at which compression is engaging. User you ear!


    The Attack knob also has a useful range and controls how quickly the compression takes effect. Turning more clockwise slows down the attack (allowing more initial transient through). I found my personal sweet spot at around 2:00 to 3:00.

    This isn't the ideal compressor to use as a limiter. It is a very useful device for smoothing out your playing and tone, however.

    The Tone knob is essentially a sort of treble adjustment but it is very, very subtle. On bass it is so subtle that I doubt some people will even notice much, if any tonal difference as you adjust the dial. It is there though and turning all the way clockwise does introduce more "sheen" up top.


    The Blend knob allows you to mix of the compressed signal with your original uncompressed signal. 100% clean is all the way counterclockwise, 100% compressed is all the way clockwise. I found my sweet spot with the Blend knob around 11:00 AM for a little more dry signal blended. The blend knob makes a big difference and the amount of clean signal included will have significant effect on the amount of the compression effect you realize. With some compressors I find the blend control having only minor effect on the overall sound and feel of the compression. Not so with the Blend control on the Wampler Ego. It will get pretty "effecty" with the blend all the way clockwise (100% compressor, no dry signal). Blending in more dry signal restores dynamics, transients and really allows for a lot of "punch". Very nice!

    Volume knob controls the total volume output, and provides make up gain as you increase the effect. There is plenty of gain on tap.


    If you want a compressor that is quite simple to use and retains the low end well, the Ego is a great option. It is a punchy feel and doesn't lose any low end and a real nice feel in the mids. Overall it doesn't feel "boomy". Rather, tight and punchy. The bottom end is big, but refined and not muddy. Highs are pleasing. To my ear, there might be a slight bit of treble roll off, but not much. The Ego is very balanced. It makes for a great subtle tone enhancer compressor but you can also dial in a air amount of squishiness.

    The feel and sound reminds me of the Doc Lloyd Photon, the JHS Pulp 'N Peel (without any gain circuit engaged), the fullness and clarity of the Becos Stella, and Pettyjohn Crush.

    Headroom can be an issue. I found absolutely no issue using the Ego with any bass in passive mode. A couple of my basses with 18 volt preamps offered a bit much in output which tended to drive the Ego causing it to distort. Interestingly, that distortion was pleasing and not abrasive. Actually quite useable if that is your thing. Reminds me of what happens with the Diamond compressor when driven too hard. It requires a judicious touch with the input gain.


    The Wampler Ego is pretty quiet. Not silent, but very quiet. I doubt anybody would complain about noise introduced.

    The LED lights blue when power is applied. The footswitch is true bypass and is the silent "clickless" variety. This is my personal preference of foot switch type. Input and output jacks, are top mounted.

    The Ego will run off of 9v or 18v power but is optimized to function best at 9v. Power input is top mounted.


    In summary, the Wampler Ego looks great, performs well, sounds great, and has the essential controls covered. From subtle, to punchy, to more squishy it is all there. It's one of those tone enhancers that you really notice after you've turned it off. I quite like it.

    Retail price: $199.97
    bumble yeti, imabuddha, Rojd and 5 others like this.
  18. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    I haven’t received it yet.
  19. Jim C

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

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Any port in a storm...

    I've misplaced my FEA compressor in my own home.
    I had a last minute call yesterday and wanted to bring a compressor but not that into the Duncan right now.
    While searching for the FEA I found an ancient, red box, 120 volt, MXR M143 that I bought in the 80's.
    It hadn't been turned on in probably 10 years.
    Typical MXR reliability; works perfectly although the switch sometimes produces an audible pop.
    Brought it with the Duncan and the MXR killed!
    Moral of the story: some of the old stuff sounds great and new doesn't always mean better.
  20. AMp'D.2play


    Feb 12, 2010
    Funny that I should see your review of the Wampler yesterday morning immediately after checking one out on 2 different retailers' websites. At the same price point, how would you say it compares to the Keeley Bassist, which was the direction I had been leaning?

    It'll be my first compressor, and as you indicated below, I'm looking for something to smooth things out, and is fairly simple to navigate around the controls. I have active, active/passive, and passive basses, but mostly tend towards passive. (As a side note, one of the retailers suggested a Darkglass HL since he had one in stock, but the $50 price jump aside, might be more confusing for a compressor newb like me - unless it would be head and shoulders above either the Keeley or Wampler.)