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

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

  1. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Thoughts on the Amptweaker Pressurizer:

    The Amptweaker tagline is "good tone comes from tweaking". The PressuRizer from Amptweaker is true to that having great tone AND a whole lot variables to tweak. It is quite unlike anything in the market I've ever experienced and I mean that in a good way. First, it's a compressor. But it's also a limiter. It's also a boost pedal. Its super power might be what is called Bloom. More on that later.


    Amptweaker is the company founded by James Brown who designed amps at Peavey® for 18 years, and did some pedals there too. James mostly did guitar amps, including the Classic 50/30, the 5150, XXX, JSX, etc. but also did a few bass amps. He did a rack mount tube head called the Alphabass. He also worked at Kustom® AmpRead more about James and the company here: About Us His experience is clearly in the unique design and function of the PressuRizer.

    Let's start with the functions of the PressuRizer.


    The Volume knob is master volume to set the overall output volume. There is plenty of volume on tap.

    The tone knob boosts the highs or cuts mids of the compressed tone. Straight up noon seems pretty neutral. Counterclockwise produces a deeper more "bassy" low mid heavy sound. Turning it more clockwise introduces more highs and seems to reduce some lows. I really liked the knob at about 11:00 for a real full, big and punchy sound. The tone knob only affects the compressed signal.

    Turning the Sustain knob more clockwise increases compression and sustain. The feel is very natural and not grabby but certainly adds compression you notice. I liked the knob around 10:00 - 11:00 for subtle but noticeable and usable compression.

    The Blend knob mixes dry and wet signal. All the way counter clockwise is full dry unaffected signal and fully clockwise is 100% wet affected signal. I really liked the blend at about 10:00. The blend knob is small and has a tiny notch position marker. On a pedalboard you would never be able to see where you have the dial set. I'd prefer having a larger knob and some sort of visible position marker.

    The Bloom switch activates compression after the initial attack and has a fast and slow bloom setting. It offers a really unique feel when activated. Essentially it lets all of the initial attack through and then blooms in the compression either slowly (when switch is set to slow) or fast (when switch is set to fast. Don't think of it as a dip and swell type of feel. No, this is full out letting the attack through and then kicking in the compressor later. With the dry/wet dial set all the way clockwise to fully wet signal this bloom sounds very strange and unnatural. It's really unusable but that's not how it is intended to be used. Start blending in more dry signal and and you get a real nice punchy, full, and robust sound and feel. Fully wet it's kind of strange because it makes the signal completely go away when you play hard. But that lets you only hear the dry attack at first, and then the compressed signal blends in, so it just sustains without compressing the attack. When I was talking with James about the Bloom feature prior to receiving the pedal I was honestly quite skeptical. But after playing with it I really like it. Seems to add more bigness and is great with pick style playing in particular. Very natural and doesn't clamp down on that initial pick attack.

    When I spoke with James, he had this to say:

    "I used a THAT chip set, which is the same parts used in DBX stuff, and while tweaking it out I found I could OVER compress it enough to get the compressed signal to be basically gone. Blend it to the dry, and you get dry at first, followed by compressed signal that lasts. Plus since the Tone only affects the compressed part, it helps you dial out the midrange that compression tends to add, or make it get a little brighter as the note dies off and becomes naturally darker. The result is you can make it get louder over time like a hollow body, or you can make it sound really natural like there's nothing on there. If you crank the sustain and set it wet, it's like using an envelope follower trying to sound like a big violin swell....nothing at first and then the note comes in so you need to blend it more than half and half dry to get an even blend. If you mix it half and half, you get a bloom, hence the name. And then the output FET Limiter circuit is AFTER the blend. So it affects everything and lets you do a bit of limiting on that initial attack too."

    The Limit switch activates a FET type limiter with soft or hard knee AFTER the wet/dry blend. There is an internal gain knob inside the enclosure to adjust the gain associated with the limiter. Adjusting that gain knob has a lot of affect on how the limiter interacts with your signal. How the Limit feature interacts with the Bloom feature is pretty cool too. This FET limiter has a very rounded breakup, similar to output tubes.

    When you first plug in the pedal and press the true bypass foot switch it will light orange. This is standard mode. Pressing the foot switch again turns off the compressor. The foot switch is the smooth non-click variety.


    On the right side of the pedal is a boost dial. All the way counterclockwise is virtually no boost (off) and all the way clockwise provides a nice amount of gain. It's boosting the effected signal so you get exactly the sound of how you've dialed in the pedal only louder. You activate the boost with the true bypass foot switch. Press and hold the switch for a couple of seconds and you've activated the pedal in boost mode on which is identified with a green LED. When the LED is lit green, the pedal is in standard operation but then tapping the foot switch once and you've activated the boost which is indicated by a red LED. Tapping the foot switch again you return to standard compressor (non boost).


    The enclosure itself is metal and quite small at 2.7" wide by 4.65" long. It's about the size of the Forest Green or Hyper Luminal and less tall than the Ampeg Opto Comp. It's a unique enclosure in a few ways, not just its steampunk inspired design. First it is held shut by one threaded screw at the end of the pedal which is easy to twist open making battery changes simple and fast. Yes, the pedal will operate on a 9-volt batter. Secondly, the bottom of the enclosure has tie-wrap holes used to mount on hole style pedalboards. Nice feature.



    Input/output jacks are side mounted and the 9 - 18 volt power input is located on the right side. The pedal can operate at 18 volt power and I preferred operating it at 18 volts. At 18 volts it does seem to operate with more headroom and has a different effect on the limiter function with less distortion. The manual says you will experience a more dynamic feel at 18 volts and I don't see that as a marketing gimmick. I don't think my ear was tricking me so I think it is safe to say that the pedal sounds even more open and fuller when running at 18 volts.

    It is very quiet though not quite as silent as the FEA units but better than many tested already in this thread.

    There is no threshold/gain reduction LED meter.


    The PressuRizer is a great option for bassists desiring a multifunction compressor tuned to not mess with your attack. That can't be emphasized enough. I liked how much punch and natural compression I received but also how smooth it remained and never felt clamped down. Words like natural, flexible, dynamic, big, and smooth are keywords describing the PressuRizer in my opinion. I really enjoyed tweaking it and found so many usable and dynamic tones and compression types. Emphasis on "tweaking" though I quickly found that "tone in my head" which for me meant Tone at 11:00, Sustain at 10:30, Blend at 10:00, Limiter off, and Bloom on slow. It might seem complicated but with a little time there is a lot of versatility and unique tone shaping on tap. People who want a little compressed distortion will dig the limiter function, especially at 9 volts. I wouldn't describe it as a transparent compressor especially since there is considerable interaction between the Bloom control, limiter (the breakup colors the tone), and sustain. There is coloration but to my ear, it is pleasing.

    I had no issue with headroom with any of my basses. It's not the most simple compressor to operate but is rewarding to dial in. The Amptweaker PressuRizer makes for a very nice sounding and performing always on compressor/limiter + boost, albeit a bit unconventional.

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  2. Xandrell


    Aug 23, 2014
    I think the WA76 is excellent. I use the line driver because it's imperative to get the right input level and impedance to operate correctly on a leveling amp. The SVT 2 Pro and WA76 work well together, and to me, much better than the Distrerssor.

    SVT2Pro Rig.
    PunkRocker33133 and Fuzzbass like this.
  3. 96Brigadier

    96Brigadier Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2015
    Even though I own one, I'm still impatiently awaiting the review ;).
    Fuzzbass and Low Down Brown like this.
  4. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
  5. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Me too! I've been twisting knobs on mine for a week. Still not at that perfect spot yet, especially when adding in the limiter function. I'm more of a fan of simple compressors because if there is a knob, I have to twist it. It's in my nature. The BC-1 was great in that regard. Turn the one knob until it sounded good...add in make up gain. Done.

    But the FEA is good....really probably too good for my needs.
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Keep in mind that the limiter function is a nice-to-have, not a must-have. Well... that's true for me, but if it also happens to be true for you, then that simplifies the pedal significantly. :)
  7. 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
    Great review on the AmpTweaker, @scubaduba
    You tempt me to try other compressors... That and the Hyper Luminal sound really intriguing. Not today, though.
  8. Frodolicious


    May 29, 2018
    Omaha, NE
    That is a great review on the PressuRizer! Mine is still new, but it is so different from the Opto Smoothie that to me it is worth keeping both. The bloom feature is unique and really cool. My preference is to keep it at 9V, and have either soft or hard limiting to make it a bit more of a gritty/unsmooth compressor. Excited to see if it fits in a band mix
  9. Killens84

    Killens84 Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2008
    I’ve been loving my FEA DE-CL in the one week I’ve had it so far, but I’m still excited to read Scuba’s review on it. I’ve only ever owned an OTA Smoothie, a Diamond BCP-1, a Cali76-CB, an Opto Smoothie, and now the DE-CL, but I can say the DE-CL has immediately won me over. That’s not to say those other comps weren’t great.
    scubaduba and Fuzzbass like this.
  10. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I've owned:
    • Markbass Compressore - Sold because it was just too complex for me. Never did get it just right. Power supply was a pain too. Not a good "starter" compressor. I'd probably love it if I had one now.
    • MXR M-87 - Used for about a year. Great compressor. Loved the metering. Was slightly noisy.
    • Keeley Compressor Pro - Another great comp. Set it on "Auto" and soft knee and let it work its magic
    • G-Lab BC-1 - Possibly still my favorite compressor. Dead silent. Set some switches and adjust the "Compression" knob and I got what I wanted. Loved the three channels too. Had the second channel set up for more aggressive play.
    • FEA Labs DE-CL - Still early in the game with this one. In initial testing against the BC-1 it seems more transparent, especially in the top end. It's more tweakable for sure, but that's not a good thing when you're a knob twisting junkie like me. I really do better with making limited choices work better than I do with choosing between multiple options. But it's a great comp, only limited by my ability to get it to do what I want.
    We have a great thread here. Maybe we need to start for various compressors for how to set them up. :)
    Low Down Brown, Slaymus and Fuzzbass like this.
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    This is fun. I won't try to expand on Ovnilabs or scubaduba, but here are mini-reviews for the pedal compressors I own (or have owned), in order of purchase:

    1. Empress Compressor -- my first pedal comp, and it was a bullseye. Better than some rack comps I've owned
    2. Diamond BCP-1 -- loved that little extra sumthin' with my passives; way too squishy with my hotter actives
    3. Origin Cali76 G-P -- "big box" Cali. Limited edition: G for Germanium boost (extra sparkle), P for Parallel processing (dry blend). Love the extras, but performance is amazing even without them. Probably my favorite, but it's HUGE!
    4. OvniFX Smoothie -- I got the Tough version because I wanted a comp with a little sumthin'. Love it
    5. FEA DE-CL -- love this one too: excellent feature set; impressively transparent even without dry blend
    All comps mentioned are quiet. Empress, Cali, FEA are super transparent; Smoothie Tough can also be transparent (dry blend!)

    P.S. Gotta mention compressor number zero:

    MXR Limiter -- bought it decades ago... haven't used it in decades. Has threshhold, attack, release, output controls, no indicator except on/off. Decent performance, but tone is on the dark side. Haven't used it for two reasons: fixed 10:1 ratio, non-removable power cord (three prong wall plug).
  12. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    Anybody have a recommendation for a compressor to pair with an active 6-string set up with tapewounds?

    I guess I'm looking for something with no/little signal noise, that can help with sustain, and plays nice with warm mids. Something good at balancing out my high notes with my low notes without changing my attack too much.

    I know the Cali76 is regarded is one of the top pedals to have but it sounds like the compressor I need to finally nail the tone in my head. I'm sure the Empress, FEA, and Smoothie compressors are all other fine options but what else should I consider?
    ferarayabass likes this.
  13. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Of all the comps I've had, the FEA DE-CL and the G-Lab BC-1 were the quietest. I hear no discernible noise from either of them.
    Robertron likes this.
  14. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Perhaps something with a controllable decay although that feature is disappearing as the "attack dependant" is coming more populat for general use as they work very well.

    How much sustain?
    Natural decay or extra?
  15. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA

    I just noticed something that seems wrong to me. Here's the simplest test I could come up with.

    Create a preset with only one effect, doesn't matter what, and set it disabled. Save the preset.
    Create another preset that is identical, but then drag the disabled effect down so it's on path B.
    Go into the mixer block of the split, and turn the B Level all the way down (-60dB).

    Now both presets should sound identical. One has no path B, the other has a Path B but it's turned all the way down.
    But, the preset with the split actually sounds about 3dB softer. I can make them sound identical by turning mixer A Level to +3dB.

    Am I missing something here? Why do I have to boost the A Level? It almost seems like cable loss is being modeled.
    Does anybody know what's going on? It's making it hard to balance levels between presets with and without split paths. Plus it just feels wrong.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  16. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    Not too much extra sustain and natural decay would be best.
  17. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Was this meant for another thread maybe?
    ferarayabass and Fuzzbass like this.
  18. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Plenty of options.

    FEA DB-CL or Opti-Fet (darker)
    Hyper Luminal BUS mode
    XTS Fermata
    Keeley Bassist
    There's a few...
    ferarayabass and Robertron like this.
  19. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    Thanks! I was considering the Smoothie and DB-CL as well. Especially the Smoothie because of its form factor and price.

    Tapewounds have such a different character in the high frequencies I wasn't expecting and I want to treat these new highs well. I like the HPF on the Cali and that's the main reason I singled it out against the other compressors but it's gigantic.

    I'm also not 100% sure I even need a functio like a HPF. I assume a HPF Let's you allow some high frequencies through the compressor unaffected. Is that correct for the Cali?

    Edit: The Bloom settings on the Pressurizer sound like just what I'm looking for.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  20. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Whoopsies... Sorry.

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