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

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

  1. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Becos Stella Pro -- less than half an hour in, I knew it was every bit as good as I was hoping for based on the reviews here. It's a little smaller than I expected (remembered); jam-packed with controls but they all work great, and despite the near-infinite tweakability it only took a minute for me to get a great result: subtle thickening in the mix. I haven't even looked at the internal jumpers for the tape saturation, and at some point I will tweak those to tighten up the saturated tone, but no hurry because I have other ways to get OD.

    Really, the only nitpick so far is insignificant: takes an audible fraction of a second for the comp to kick in when the pedal's engaged. Seems to be a longer delay than the other pedals I own, but don't hold me to it. Fact is that when I use comp I leave it always on, so it shouldn't affect me whatsoever. EDIT: seems to be a result of Attack set to max. Not sure why I didn't notice with my other comps.

    Previous reviews (particularly scuba's) have gone into far greater depth so there's no need for me to repeat, though I'll update if useful (perhaps about the jumpers). Bottom line: totally happy with the purchase. My compressor choice for each gig (when I opt for compression) has just gotten harder, as the Stella Pro is right there with the other great pedal comps I own: Empress, big box Cali, Smoothie, DE-CL. I'm amazed by how much coolness was stuffed into such a small (and attractive) box*, and the price is very nice. :bassist:

    *Special shout out for the awesome gain reduction LED ladder!
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
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  2. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Yeah yeah. Sweet compressor that Becos Stella is.
  3. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I keep thinking I want to get the Becos Stella. But my acquisition planing got screwed up by the surprise discovery of that Unit 67 which I ordered and the fact my number in the queue for an Analogman King of Tone finally came up after a bit over two years of waiting. Got their famous email with my personal. secret link to place an order this afternoon. So that is going to have to get budget priority.

    So much cool gear. Such limited amounts of time and money. Doesn’t get more “First World problem” than that, right? ;):laugh:
  4. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I had the EQ just a little left of 12. It was just too much on the compression control. I backed it off, and it sounded better.

    Sounded fine fingerstyle, but too sharp with a pick.
    sears likes this.
  5. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Good news! I've got a Himmelstrutz Mr. Nutcracker on the way.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    C'mon man. You missed April Fools Day by a few months. ;)
    sonofshel, Slaymus, MascisMan and 3 others like this.
  7. berman3313


    Jan 14, 2009
    I thought this was a conversation overheard in the office of a urologist.
    sonofshel and scubaduba like this.
  8. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
  9. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Thoughts on the Thorpy The Fat General:

    The Fat General is built in Wiltshire, England and is based on the Dinosaural OTC-201 compressor. As such, The Fat General is quite transparent. It is also very quiet with little to no signal "pumping" action. Adrian Thorpe and Dinosaural OTC-201 creator Dan Coggins collaborated to build the Fat General.


    There are four controls.

    The Mode switch puts the Fat General in Blend mode or Juicy mode. Juicy mode puts the compressor in a state where 90% of the compressed signal is blended with 10% dry signal. Blend mode is a parallel type compression where the device mixes both the dry signal and compressed signal together on top of each other. I definitely preferred Blend mode. More on that later.


    The Sustain knob controls the amount of compression with subtle compressed signal (fully CCW) to a more clamped fully compressed signal (fully CW). With the Mode switch set to Blend, I most liked the Sustain knob somewhere around 9:00 - 11:00 for somewhat subtle but clearly there compression. The kind of compression where you notice it when you turn the device off, but not so obvious that it sounds like an effect. In this setting you get nice smoothing out with some added fatness.

    Here's where it gets real interesting. The knob marked Balance on the compressor itself (interestingly called "Blend" in the included manual) balances the output of the pedal OR the mix of dry and compressed signal depending on which mode you have set the Mode switch. In Juicy mode, the Balance knob acts essentially like a typical volume knob. In Blend mode, the Balance knob moves from 100% dry signal at fully CCW to a parallel mix of the compressed and dry signal as you turn more CW.

    But here's the thing. In Blend mode, there really isn't a great way to dial in any makeup gain. In other words, I liked the tone/compression I dialed in with Blend mode and the Sustain knob at about 10:30. I wanted a balance of signal favoring dry to minimize the overall effect of the compression so I set the Balance knob to about 11:00 which one would assume is more balanced toward letting more of the dry signal through to the output. I loved what I heard, but I was barely at unity gain. As I turned the Balance knob more CW the overall perceived volume increased, but of course so did the compression effect as I was dialing in more wet (compressed) signal. As expected, the feel and tone changed as a result.

    With the Mode switch set to Juicy, the Balance knob becomes an overall volume control but again, unity was not achieved till I had the dial set at 4:00 or higher. That might be fine if you have something after the compression to increase overall output but I definitely prefer having the ability at the compressor device itself to regulate the signal I am sending further down the chain.


    I contacted Adrian Thorpy about this and received this reply.

    So the ratios are a little bit shifted between the two modes. In Juicy mode it goes from 0-90 Wet with 10% dry remaining in the signal. In blend mode the ratio is 80/20 maximum. In blend mode the dry signal is fixed and added to the acw end of the level pot and the wet signal is at the other end but attenuated down so that it doesn’t ridiculously dominate the dry and a relative mix of the two can be had down here in the middle. Are you using an active bass with really high output pickups? if so, that’d be why as they will overshadow the available level through the circuit when bypassed. Short of a redesign (or a mod to the FG) there’s no easy answer other than to use it with a lower output/passive bass.

    The interesting thing is, that with an electric guitar, the dry signal sits above the wet with ease and blended mode has more output than juicy on the whole.

    Sure enough, I am using basses with preamps (9 volt and 18 volt). That said, the Fat General does react differently with a passive bass. It is downright awesome when it is being fed a lower output signal and the make up gain problem is not so much a problem anymore. Maybe a bass specific version will be released sometime. I did suggest to Adrian that would be a fantastic idea and that I would be in line to purchase. :D


    The Treble dial allows you to add in some treble for a little more "sparkle" or to just help vitalize any high end loss that might occur during compression. I'm always skeptical of these types of controls and their usefulness with a bass guitar but on the Fat General, it really works. I found I liked the dial set around 1:00 which did introduce a little more "liveliness" in my sound. You will notice more noise added into the signal as you dial in the treble but that's probably to be expected. The dial is much more useful, and noticeable, than the Treble dial on the Wampler Ego.

    There is a LED that illuminates an orangey yellow color when the pedal is activated. Power is supplied by 9 volt DC which is top mounted along with the input and output jack. The footswitch is true bypass. The enclosure itself is very high quality, rugged, and of good weight. The etched chrome has an upscale feel and the pedal itself is not much taller or wider than a standard MXR type pedal but it is quite a bit taller. The trade off is that you get shielding around the dials to help prevent accidentally knocking them. Quite nice in fact.


    But you probably want to know, is the Thorpy The Fat General actually, well, "fat" sounding? Well yes, yes it is. But not so much more than the likes of other contenders like the Diamond or Milk Box or tube compressors like the Markbass Compressore or Effectrode PC-2A or Retrospec Squeezebox or even the Becos Stella. But it does deliver a nice full and rich effect that remains quite transparent overall. It has a real nice feel to it and is more of a set it and forget it always on type device. It's really fun to play through. I would not call it the most versatile of compressors and it is a bit "fussy" with the control configuration (especially with active basses). Yet it is very appealing and I would be quite happy using it as an always on device. It is more smooth than the Markbass or Becos Stella. Compared to the Diamond, both add fatness but the Diamond does so in a more mids forward bump that you won't get out of The Fat General (which could be a good thing depending on what you are going for). You also get more useable compression with The Fat General. The Becos Stella and Effectrode compressors seem to have a bit more "bite" that the Thorpy doesn't. It's not that the Thorpy is wooly sounding, its very smooth. In Juicy mode, I felt I lost too much of my dynamics but I suspect some readers will really like the feel of The Fat General in Juicy mode. This is especially true if you seek a compressor to overall smooth out your tone. Compared to the likes of the Keeley Bassist or Empress compressors The Fat General will feel darker in flavor which again might not be a bad thing depending on what you are looking for.


    To my ear there was no loss of low end. At higher compression settings I do think the highs are attenuated but the Treble knob is there to dial it back in. My 5 string basses played nicely and I didn't feel like the lows were getting unevenly compressed (or squashed). Nice!

    So there you have it. Fun device. A little quirky, but sometimes that's just the ticket.

    Retail price: $267.66

    Thanks to a fellow Talkbass member for lending me this pedal for testing purposes.
    Dbass35, sonofshel, 40Hz and 4 others like this.
  10. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    Thanks for the Fat General review. If Dirty Duke has one, it's gotta be good!

    Question - when you compare a comp to the Becos Stella, is it only to the Stella, or would your comments also apply to the 2 smaller versions of Stella (the Mini and the Mini ONE)?

    Also, if I may, how does the Pettyjohn Crush compare in terms of tone to the Fat General? To the Drybell Unit67? I realize they all have different features, but I fine each comp has its own inherent thing that it does tone-wise, which is what I'm curious about.

    Thanks in advance, DM
  11. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Inactive

    I am genuinely surprised that there are this many compressors to choose from in the wild. Aside from readers in this thread, a compressor seems to be something that maybe you have one of, but it is often overlooked. I guess I'm also surprised that the marketplace can absorb so much saturation about a pedal that you can't tell if it's on unless you shut it off.
    Slaymus, sonofshel, 40Hz and 2 others like this.
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Would that it were true. I have a modest collection which I expect will continue to grow. And there’s nothing to say that there can only be one active compressor in your signal chain at a time. ;)
  13. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    In many ways all three Becos compressors feel and perform much alike. The Stella though has enough added controls that put it in a different league. Most notably the tone control. When you roll it slightly to the left of center the shift in EQ makes for a perceived fatter tone.

    The Pettyjohn Crush as a more "vibrant" feel for lack of a better word. Not as smooth or dark. The Crush imparts a breathiness or airy feel that isn't there with The Fat General. For these reasons, The Fat General is probably perceived to be the "fatter" sounding of the two.

    The Drybell has way more gain on tap. Of the Crush, The Fat General and Drybell, the Drybell is the most "punchy" sounding. It would be my personal preference of those three.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
    sonofshel and Jim C like this.
  14. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    Thanks for the info/responses, Mr. Scuba.
    scubaduba likes this.
  15. vlad335

    vlad335 Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2003
    Latrobe, PA
    Picked up the Diamond and love the fatness it brings. Love everything about it except one thing, very poor limiting.

    I like to bust into slapping occasionally and this is a no go with the Diamond. First time I did this at a gig everyone turned and looked at me. Trying to figure out a work around.
  16. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    I will not buy another compressor...
    I will not buy another compressor...
    I will not buy another compressor...
    I will not buy another compressor...

    jebmd and scubaduba like this.
  17. Killens84

    Killens84 Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2008
    I keep trying other compressors, to see if I like one better than my Smoothie Opto, but the Smoothie keeps winning for me. I just picked up an Empress early this week. And although it is a really amazing compressor, I still favor my Smoothie. So the Empress is in the classifieds now.
    So far, I’ve owned or used the following:
    Smoothie Opto
    Diamond BCP-1
    Whirlwind OC Bass
    Darkglass Hyper Luminal

    The Smoothie has remained my favorite, with the FEA DE-CL being an extremely close 2nd. The Empress would be my 3rd choice out of all those. All of those compressors I’ve used are very, very good. Any of them would be a great choice, depending on your preferences.
    Fuzzbass, Jim C, speedball3 and 5 others like this.
  18. TheLopp


    Dec 30, 2013
    Ok. I bought a couple of compressors before I started to read this thread but this is just ridiculous. I love compressors that adds something more than just compression and now I got a bunch that really brings out something else. Here’s what I have:
    Becos CompIQ Pro Stella
    Darkglass Electronics Hyper Luminal
    Diamond Bass Compressor
    DOD Milkbox
    Fairfield Circuitry The Accountant
    FEA Labs Dual Band Optical Compressor-Limiter
    FEA Labs Dual Engine Compressor-Limiter
    Lehle RMI Dual Band Compressor
    Markbass Compressore
    Origin Effects Cali76-TX
    Origin Effects Cali76-CB
    TC Electronic SpectraComp

    It’s a bunch of really good ones, it’s even hard to pick a top three but if I have too..

    Becos Stella. Fantastic comp with great features. Tilt EQ and Tape Saturation. Totally awesome. (Runner up with less features but also sounds fantastic. The Accountant)

    Origin Effects Cali76-CB. Parallel comp and side chain hpf is such a great feature, especially for 5-string players! And this one is snappy and clean, it’s on my gig board and I love what it does for my tone. (Runner up, Cali76-TX. Might sound even better but I miss the clean blend at least... and the real estate!

    Darkglass Hyper Luminal. I’ve had so much fun with this one. I love the FET mode and the BUS mode isn’t bad either. SYM is a bit too dark for my taste but I totally get why people love it. A really versatile compressor that gets past the hype and really works. (Runner up for versatility: TC Electronic SpectraComp. Also a great compressor if you get past the make up gain problem.)

    Both of my FEA are great compressors, the Diamond and RMI as well! With the right bass and rigs of course.

    The Smoothie and the Death Ray is on my wish list to at least try. And the Drybell. This is such an expensive thread to me but I love it!
    Fuzzbass, Jim C, frankzap and 7 others like this.
  19. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    Thanks, TheLopp. Reading your post, I now almost feel half reasonable having a half dozen or so compressors! ;)
    kesslari, Fuzzbass, sonofshel and 4 others like this.
  20. extreme


    Mar 20, 2000
    I'd say the work around would be to find a compressor that does limiting really well and run that in front of the Diamond. Use them in combination.