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

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

  1. laklandplayer

    laklandplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    USA - Memphis, TN
    I was thinking more of the effect it would have on the Low B string response. Some compressors are notorious for losing the low end when you use them.
    Mohawk likes this.
  2. frankzap


    Apr 11, 2014
    Bronx, New York
    That means this compressor is very quiet by design. If such a low ratio of compression is set at maximum, then there is not much need for a makeup gain to recover, so there will be no noise added from amplification. It looks like an "always on" compressor to me. It would be nice to have a "noise comparison" for compressors, all having set the same ratio.
    CunniMingus likes this.
  3. geolikezik


    Mar 13, 2016
    From my understanding, we generally don't perceive changes in volume that are less than 3dB and most cab will struggle to reproduce 30/40 Hz fundamentals.
    Having the CompIQ, I can't hear any loss of low end on the B or any other string at any threshold/ratio settings.
  4. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Heard back from Bondi. Was told they do not have anything on hand to send at the moment.

    This is definitely one I'd like to test though and I know others are interested. Anybody have one they'd like to share for a bit? :)
    imabuddha likes this.
  5. I'm a big fan of their Sick As overdrive, I'm sure their compressor is top quality. I hope you can test one soon.
  6. laklandplayer

    laklandplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    USA - Memphis, TN
    My test is if I perceive any tonal difference if the comp is in or out. I get no loss from my Keeley's, Whirlwind OC or my new Ampeg Opto.
    Mohawk likes this.
  7. geolikezik


    Mar 13, 2016
    Yep, I can only speak for myself as perception is indeed a subjective matter and YMMV but for me, it definitely share the same tonal qualities as the Keeleys.
  8. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    What do you think of the Opto? I just picked one up and so far, for the price, simplicity, Small size and 9v, it's a really good compressor. Its not quite as nice as my Diamond that is more than twice the cost, but it works better with active basses and with a simple 9v you can toss it in your gig bag, etc.
  9. DarkSword


    Nov 14, 2018
    Nashville, TN
    So, I joined this forum today because I was trying to get some info on a Maxon vs MXR compression pedal, but after reading through your reviews I'm leaning more toward either a Smoothie, Studio Bass, or Empress.

    A bit of background, I currently play a Fender Jazz Bass with a worship band. I've been using our music minister's Boss CS-3 because I don't have a compressor of my own, but am interested in an upgrade. We play a lot of praise songs the likes of Hillsong and Elevation, along with modernized traditional gospel tunes. I'm looking for something easy and efficient, with a sound that's more natural, but strong, and that plays well with acoustic guitars and multiple vocalists.

    As I said, I'm most interested in the Smoothie, Studio Bass, and Empress. Is there one you would lean toward more than the other considering the context? Or am I completely off base?
    SteveBass5 likes this.
  10. SteveBassJr

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

    Aug 11, 2009
    I know these have been covered but, I just recieved the Smoothie and I must say Im blown away. It is by far the the best comp I have used. The Keeley Bassist was great! The Markbass compressore is fantastic. EBS multicomp is just okay.
    Im not a technical expert but to my ears, the Smoothie is just so darn sweet. I compared all of them. The MB sounds darker than the Smoothie. Bongo did a great job with the parameters on the Smoothie. His suggested settings are right on with my ear. Just a bit of adjustment to the attack knob and I'm in heaven. My pratice routine has never sounded so good. I cant wait to gig with it this weekend!

    Attached Files:

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  11. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    I think you've put forth three good options there for what you are looking to accomplish. A lot of it will come down to what features are most important to you. All of your choices are are versatile. I don't think you would go wrong with any of them. If you want to alter your tone more, the Smoothie has the Tone knob and the Duncan has the three way switch. I'd give props to the Smoothie for being the best option of the three from the perspective of that EQ curve. Top mounted jacks on the Duncan is nice. The empress is probably the most transparent of the three and lacks additional EQ options which may or may not be important to you. The LEDs are pretty cool on that Empress but it is also the largest of the three.
    Low Down Brown and DarkSword like this.
  12. laklandplayer

    laklandplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    USA - Memphis, TN
    I love the Opto about as well as my Keeley Bassist. I just used it 10 nights in a row on a show and it sounded great. Being optical, It's warmer than the Keeley and does a good job. It's pretty darned close to my Whirlwind OC in terms of smoothness. I love the vintage vibe.
    Mohawk, frankzap and Low Down Brown like this.
  13. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I love the Smoothie and the Empress. Both have wet/dry blend which makes subtle compression easy IMO. I don't know how you feel about metering, but the Empress' LED ladder is second-to-none for a pedal: easy to tell at a glance what the compressor is doing. Yes, of course you can also use your ears, but if your goal is subtle compression then it's valuable to have visual confirmation, especially in a noisy environment or in the mix. I can be guilty of playing differently during the gig than I do during setup/soundcheck -- pretty sure I'm not the only one!

    I haven't tried the Studio Bass, but I've read that it's also a great comp.
    scubaduba and DarkSword like this.
  14. Jim C

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

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    What do you mean by warmer?
    All things equal, an optical comp and a VCA comp have the same potential EQ.
    One could make a case that that many optical compressors have similar attack and decay curves like a tube amp but that compression action could be changed electronically.
    Both devices react to an over the threshold condition and lower the overall volume; one does it with a voltage controlled amplifier and the other does this with an optical device.
  15. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Although they’re similar in function, there’s a difference in the implementation and details. And that’s where the differences in tone and response come into play. So while you could make a case in the abstract that there’s no differences, a side by side comparison would show the opposite more often tends to be the case.
    frankzap and laklandplayer like this.
  16. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    How'd that come about?

    It's multi-band without complex controls, and probably the easiest compressor to set in that you can pick settings virtually at random without compromising or altering your tone. Exceptionally transparent and low-noise at all settings. Metering as visible as the Empress, probably brighter.

    Best aspect is that it totally passes the highs through, if not exciting them a bit. Perfect if you want pick grind or fret clack to make it to your od/dist/fuzz boxes further down signal, or slap and pops to really ring out.

    Sweetens sound a little, but should be of no interest to those who want a compressor to double as part of their tone shaping. Begs consideration as a simpler Empress, FEA, Cali not Doc Llyod, Diamond, etc.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
    wmmj and GentProvocateur like this.
  17. frankzap


    Apr 11, 2014
    Bronx, New York
    I guess he refers to "sounding like a tube". Maybe. The harmonic distortions introduced by tubes processing audio signal are perceived as likable, and some electronics can replicate that, to a degree. On the other hand, optical compressor benefit from light permanence on the sensor they are coupled with, which make the volume variation of the compression to be sort of smoother. Sudden variation in level, as is the case with compression, where signal is dropped with an attack time and released after, also introduces a sort of distortion. Overall, optical compressors have longer attack and release times, and they sound good as long as ratio is kept rather low. Once you start squashing more or use it as limiter, they better have a threshold, otherwise they will color a lot. Some may like it. Some may not, and may prefer the transparency, fastness and versatility of vca compressors. These can have shorter attack timings that don't distort the signal the way opticals do. I suppose one should have both kinds, to use them as needed. Compressors have many flavors, that is for sure.
    laklandplayer and SteveBass5 like this.
  18. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    I got a Becos Compiq today. This is the new one with the F/S switch. I agree with @scubaduba that it is similar to the Keeley. I think the Keeley has a better noise floor. (For live use, this is a non-issue.) The range of the controls is very good. The knobs and switches seem pretty sturdy. The H/S switch is a bit hard to get to. But that is ok for me, because the hard setting is really hard to my ears. The fast/slow switch is ok. It seems to modify the release times. I think it would sound better if the slow setting where slower. That would be better for bass, but it's the current setting is better for guitar. Still it sounds ok to my ears. The meter is helpful. So is the wet/dry mix. It's not the type of compressor you really want to crank up. It has no magic that way. It kind of does it's job and stays out of your way mostly. I plan to use it as a live limiter. It will be perfect for that. Besides there is nothing else on the market like it in a 1590A case.

    One negative: the power adapter jack seems a little wiggly. I wrote Becos about it. It won't take the new BOSS power supply with the extra rubber shroud. During testing, if I bumped it, the power would disconnect. I reseated the connector. It seems better now. I am concerned about its longevity though. If it was perma-placed on a board with a quality power supply, it probably won't be an issue. If you are the type to connect and disconnect your pedals a lot, I would be concerned. If it failed, I doubt I could get it fixed anywhere. It would suck to toss a great pedal because of the power jack. Let's see what Becos comes back with.
    Moody Tuner, scubaduba, Jim C and 2 others like this.
  19. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Becos got back to me in minutes!! (Nice to see they are paying attention to their customers.) Here is what he said:

  20. scubaduba

    scubaduba Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    I'll be reviewing it soon. Next up is the Lightning Boy Op-2 duo.