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

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

  1. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    On a serious note, this thread is a fascinating read! I love compressors, but I’m pretty set on what I’ve got. Regardless, it’s fun to read all about these new ones!
  2. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    My board this morning. Giving three compressors a shot. Becos Compiq, Strymon OB.1, SolidgoldFX Horizon.

    jdc866, cosmicevan, Slaymus and 8 others like this.
  3. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    This thread motivated me to finally order an FEA DB-CL! Super duper excited to start working with it. After weeks of debating compressors it came to the Cali76 and FEA DB-CL. I think one day I'll want to try the Cali76 in person so I might try one out but the FEA won in the end. The transparency and Lo/Hi frequency split were important features and hearing so many people praise the FEA for silent operation really sold me.

    Thank you for putting this thread together scubaduba! I appreciate that your reviews include feature set comparisons with other effects pedals. It really helped me gain a better understanding and better appreciation of the different things compressors can do and ultimately helped me focus on the features I wanted.
  4. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Jazz & Cocktails Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    This is an interesting observation - much appreciated.
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  5. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    I have both. I've been testing them out with a new band. At present, I am running the Cali76 CB. They are both excellent compressors, but they are also very different. The DB-CL is very similar to other high quality opto comps in that has a soft-knee in most settings. This gives a more of a 'womp, womp' attack typical of this style of compressor. (Not a change in timbre, but a change in the attack.) The major benefit of the DB-CL is that you can really tailor the lows to your liking. With most other comps there is a trade-off between response to highs and lows. Not so with the DB-CL. The Cali76, on the other hand, has an immediate and aggressive attack. If the DB-CL is 'womp, womp' the Cali is 'bang, bang'. The attack to me is so immediate that it doesn't sound as much like there is a compressor on. (Keep in mind that I've been trying these with a MM StingRay5 Special which is very punchy.) The Cali76 also tends to emphasis upper harmonics more giving a very slightly over-driven sound. This makes the bass sound lively. So if you are looking for aggressive, go with the Cali. If you want smooth, go with the DB-CL.
  6. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    Thanks for those details! That sounds consistent with everything I've heard and read so far. Smooth is the tone I hear in my head and I play with a light touch so I'm not after aggressive.

    My tone is built off a ESP six string with soap bar pickups and tape wounds so the 'womp, womp' is actually perfect for what I'm looking for.
    I've been using an EBS multicomp to individually compress my highs and lows. It's worked for the past 7 years but I need more tweakability now so I can properly sculpt my attack. Also since the DB-CL can route my highs and lows down two signal chains will play perfectly with the stereo processing on my Source Audio Aftershock. That's what really decided it in the end.
  7. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    The BOSS BC-1x is really good in this way too. No matter how it's set, there's no trade-off in clear highs. If anything, the highs are a tiny bit more present vs. the dry signal.

    Ultra-quiet, very transparent with just a slight bit of sweetening, excellent metering and super simple to set.

    Woefully ignored only because it's by BOSS.
    Moody Tuner likes this.
  8. Killens84

    Killens84 Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2008
    Can anyone provide a direct comparison between the FEA DE-CL and Whirlwind OC Bass? I’ve been loving my DE-CL. The OC Bass has also had my attention. I’d like to know how they compare.
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  9. The Diaper Geni

    The Diaper Geni Submissive. And loving it.

    Nov 22, 2005
    Central Ohio
    Thanks to this thread and Onvilab’s reviews I purchased a Broughton Apex. I have an MXR M87 that I really like, but yet....Well, you know....New gear is fun!

    I A/B/C-ed the M87, Apex and a Seymour Duncan Studio Bass and for me the Apex won out. Sounded cleaner/crisper and I dialed in a tone almost immediately than the other pedals.

    Anyhoo, there will be two comps for sale soon here in the classifieds.
  10. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    The MXR is tough to beat. It works better for me with active basses. It's definitely worth keeping around.....
    My Main Compressor is the Doc Lloyd Photon Death Ray.
  11. SteveBassJr

    SteveBassJr It all sounds the same, It's all one song! Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2009
    I have been geeking out on comps. This thread is great. I used the Keeley Bassist for a few years. Loved it for a time and moved to the Markbass compressore, to have some real tube compression. I also use an Ebs Multicomp. Very intrested in the Smoothy.
    I like to run into my comp first then my preamp & anything else thay might follow before my amp. Have the comp grab my notes before any enhancements happen.
    jdc866, Zbysek, cosmicevan and 3 others like this.
  12. 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
    Just adding another big wave of thanks to @scubaduba for doing all this work.
    I am learning a lot.
    NKBassman, Slaymus, jdc866 and 8 others like this.
  13. Robertron


    Feb 12, 2010
    NewYork, NY
    I feel the same way. All of my effects sound better in one way or another with a compressor on before them.
  14. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Nice review. I haven’t compared it with all the other stuff out there but have had one on my board for about two years or so. It replaced a Demeter Compulator. I like a natural sounding compressor, so I’m glad you found it to be just that compared to all the other ones on the market.
  15. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive

    Apr 23, 2014
    Well. I got it. Came home yesterday and a suspicious package had been laid, unceremoniously, upon my desk.

    TLDR: Compressor-gas has been soundly nullified and dispatched :)

    Exhibit A turned out to be a Maxon CP-01. Understatement: there's not a lot of written detail about, for reference, and my awareness of these things is still almost entirely theoretical. My FGC was once the one and only. Not anymore.

    Very clean in every respect, this thing hits the mark. Couldn't be happier, on first impressions. It seems that these were sometimes — not always — housing the then newly minted CP-9 board, back in the seminal months of twentieth century stomping. Maybe, I got lucky. I can't tell for sure — I've never seen a CP-9 circuit — and I haven't yet had a peek. No dramas. It's a goer.

    It's doing what the FGC does, general duties, with consummate ease and may even be a little less 'grainy' — more headroom — which may stem from the implementation of a beefier voltage equation. Is it 18v? As I was browsing last night, I got an inkling that it may well be. Got this pedal on impulse, being a bit of a Maxon fan. Now, the learning begins in earnest :smug: I haven't put a bass through it yet but it does auger well.

    It hits the baseline — I didn't do my dough — I'm happy to report. And this one may even suffice as another always-on compressor. With three knobs and the promise of burgeoning Sustain (currently parked at around eleven o'clock) and Level and Attack (both maxed), this thing's already entertaining some lovely boosted tones, both clean and effected. Let the games begin :woot:

    For me, probably, there's still one more river to cross, compression-wise. Something funky's the order of the day, now. What's the bet though, that that one's already written up and hiding smugly in here somewhere. Time to don the Thinking Cap. But I'm in no hurry now — the gas has dissipated, calm has descended, all smooth and sweetened, with a venerable and unassuming CP-01, now the center of attention.

    If you'd like a glimpse of one, this guy, Shane, has a decent youtube demo. Mine's behaving along those lines, pretty much. (Warning: not a bass guitar in sight. My apologies ;) Stay tuned.
    kesslari likes this.
  16. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Thoughts on the Becos CompIQ MINI Pro Compressor:

    This new little compressor pedal is manufactured in Romania in their own lab. While the Becos CompIQ MINI Pro may be little, it is not short on features. The team at Becos managed to cram a whole lot of versatility into a small form factor. In fact, this micro pedal packs more tweak ability options than you would find in many compressor pedals more than twice its size. It is a Blackmer® VCA type compressor with FET active circuitry and WIMA audio capacitors.


    The enclosure is the metal Hammond and feels solid with some weight to it. There are three top mounted dials, one dial on the right side, one small switch, and an internal jumper. There is a green power LED and a 5 LED gain reduction meter. Wow! Don't forget this is a tiny pedal.

    The Ratio dial adjusts the ratio from very no compression 1:1 (all the way counter clockwise) to limiting action Infinity:1 (all the way clockwise). That's a wide range and I found it useful all the way across the dial. From light compression providing general smoothing out of notes to limiting action the Compiq is more than capable. The manual says says the compression level will be 2:1 ratio at 9:00. Noon equates to 4:1 and 3:00 equates to 10:1.

    The Threshold dial adjusts the signal level after which compression is applied. So at lower thresholds the compressor kicks in immediately. Set higher means more of your signal passes untouched. There is 50db of threshold range so this little compressor will accommodate a big range of instruments and output levels.

    Both of these controls are very interactive. The gain reduction meter certainly helps understand what the compressor is doing but you are wise to you ear while dialing in. The gain reduction meter is very effective. The first three LEDs that light are green, the third is yellow, and the final LED is red indicating significant gain reduction.

    The Gain dial allows you to make up any gain lost with the adjustments of ratio and threshold. As is expected, the higher you turn the gain, the more noise is introduced to the signal. Adjusting the threshold or the wet dry mix (side knob) variables first can help mitigate added noise. The CompIQ MINI Pro isn't overly noisy, but it is definitely not as quiet as the Diamond or FEA line of compressors. The wet dry mix knob on the side is really an important part of the mix. There is plenty of gain on tap.

    The Wet Dry mix dial mounted on the right side of the pedal allows you to blend as much or little of your clean signal with the output compressed signal. In the middle, the mix is 50/50. When set to 100% dry (all the way counter clockwise), the CompIQ MINI Pro acts like a buffer. The Wet Dry knob makes a lot of difference. More and more compressors these days seem to include a blend feature, but this one works really, really well. You will readily hear different tones and feel as you adjust and there is obvious interaction with the Ratio and Threshold dials in particular but also the amount of gain you will need to adjust. All of the adjustments work together.



    Tucked in between the Ratio and Threshold dial is a small switch to adjust Soft or Hard Compression Knee. When set to Hard, the compression is more evident and the ear will perceive compression dynamics more easily. The Hard knee makes the compression/limiting effect more obvious. You'll want to flip the switch to Soft Knee if you prefer more subtle application of compression. People often prefer a soft knee with a lower threshold for a more fluid or less dramatic effect. Here you have your choice and it is really a great feature. One not found on many compressors, let alone one the size of the CompIQ MINI Pro.


    But wait! There's more. The Becos CompIQ MINI offers dynamic processing of attack and release timing. This means that short transients are handled with faster timings, while steady signals get slower timings. I've used the Compiq into a Genzler amp through Genzler cabinets, via earphone out with Beyerdynamic DT770's, and live in a 2500 person auditorium and I never felt like I wished I had manual control of attack and release timing. Whatever is going on with the circuit, it works. But, inside the pedal Becos provides a jumper to accommodate a faster or slower attack and release time. It is on by default corresponding to slower timings (10-15ms Attack, 100-220ms Release). You can take the jumper off which makes the adaptive timings faster (5-7ms Attack, 70ms Release). You will notice relatively dramatic differences. The jumper is circled below.


    I had the pleasure of dialoguing with Becos and there are several learnings and additional commentary I'd like to share as a result.

    1. Becos will soon be shipping a new version of the CompIQ which replaces the internal attack/release timing jumper with an external switch. No doubt this will make an already versatile even more useful and is a nice enhancement. Here's a couple of pics of the new edition which will be shipping immediately. There will be no change in price for this added feature.



    2. Though the pedal operates at 9 volts with standard center negative pin, Becos says it will operate at 12 volts. Benefit really is only a bit more headroom and a bit more gain.

    There is a whole lot of versatility in an amazingly small package here. This isn't a compressor that is going to impart some sort of flavor or coloration to your tone. If you are looking for "tone magic" this isn't it. It reminds me a lot of the Keeley Bassist (and Keeley Compressor Pro) and the Empress Compressor. It offers more controllability and versatility than the Keeley Bassist and does a great job of subtle compression all the way to harder limiting action. You get clear transparent compression. Your tone stays the same, but comes out better. I didn't notice any loss of highs or lows. I had no issues with any of my basses and never had concern about headroom. It has a great feel to it and is a joy to use. Doesn't really make your tone bigger or fatter but it does do compression really well. It sounds great. Turn it off and you'll immediately want to turn it back on. This was true when playing live and through my Beyerdynamics. I switched back and forth between 9 volt and 12 volt operation a lot but didn't perceive any real difference.

    The footswitch is true bypass. Side mounted input and output jacks. The knobs are plastic but rotate with a solid feel. I would personally prefer the side mounted wet/dry dial to be a bit larger. A little goes a long way and the small dial is a little tricky make precise adjustments. I suspect Becos is trying to keep that knob small and out of the way of patch cables. Sometimes small pedals can feel fragile, but this pedal seems to be of high quality and feels solid.

    I'd also like to point out that the included manual is probably the most helpful descriptive language I've seen included with a compressor pedal. Those new to compression will definitely benefit from the informational content. Even if you are a compressor junky you will find aspects helpful to understand exactly what to expect from the Becos CompIQ MINI Pro. Nice job Becos!


    There are other small format compressors on the market but I'm not aware of anything that comes close to the punch Becos packs into the CompIQ MINI Pro. All at a price of $149.95. There is a lot to like for sure. It works great with bass. This little pedal rivals many full-featured compressors on the market at a fraction of the size. The words "Pro Compressor" on the face of the compressor is appropriate. I think Becos has a hit on their hands.

    Note: Retail price is now $168.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  17. Low Down Brown

    Low Down Brown Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2018
    Well dang...

    Now I want a Compiq.
  18. 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
    And a Hyper Luminal...

    I'll say it again - it's a really good time to be a bass player.
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  19. Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
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  20. The Diaper Geni

    The Diaper Geni Submissive. And loving it.

    Nov 22, 2005
    Central Ohio
    Me, too. I'm not even a comp nerd!!

    That's a bada@@ lookin' little compressor!
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