What compressor pedals have sidechain HPF or frequency crossover capabilities?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bdhoward27, Jan 15, 2022.

  1. Over the past couple years, I’ve been looking for compressor pedals that have sidechain HPF or frequency crossover options. I know of a few companies out there making them - BecosFX, Origin Effects, Empress, Darkglass, FEA Labs, etc., but I’d like to know if there are others...

    The way I’m looking to structure my chain doesn’t call for a dual band, rather one that allows me to set the HPF manually so it only compresses the mids and highs and allows the lows to pass through. Looking for manual control rather than a fixed frequency already pre-programmed into the pedal. As of now, I would be looking to stay under $200 new or used...

    The first time I became obsessed with the idea was when I noticed that my MXR M87 sounded great until I attacked my lower strings harder. I could never get the attack, release, or ratio right, especially when drop tuning, without an unwanted pumping. Aside from that, I think it’s a great compressor (not a knock on MXR). I’m sure updating my bridge would do wonders, but I would like to focus on the compressor pedal in this thread, please...

    I just missed out on a Broughton Audio Apex before Josh discontinued them. Kicking myself now. At $180 it was a steal. Now it seems anyone that wants to sell a discontinued or unavailable Broughton Audio pedal on Reverb wants twice what Josh charged. Really disappointing. I’d still love to get my hands on one...

    Also, I know I mentioned earlier that I wanted to be able to manually tweak knobs rather than the pedal having a fixed HPF, but Becos FX had the CompIQ Mini Pro, but I can’t find it anywhere. It was in the sub-$200 range. Anyone know what happened there?

    Earlier I mentioned Darkglass. The Darkglass Suite is intriguing to me. Reminds me of the Neuro Editor for Source Audio. Would like to be able to tweak on the fly, but I think this would be alright once I got used to it. Have never owned a Darkglass pedal, but I want to. Finding one used may keep me within my budget...

    Anywho, just curious if there are any I’m missing. Always happy to learn from the community. Thank in advance!
    Das Jugghead likes this.
  2. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    This is a good question that I don’t know the answer to.
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  3. never-enough

    never-enough Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2019
    Lost Angeles
    Sorry to pour salt in the wound re: the Apex, I bought one a ways back and if I knew they were going to be discontinued I would have bought another. Definitely a steal at the original selling price.
    I also use a Cali76cb that pretty much fits the bill except the used price tends to be around $275.

    I’m curious what others suggestions are!
    bdhoward27 likes this.
  4. No worries! Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. Have rarely read a negative word about it, or any of his work for that matter. I missed out by a couple months. I think he mentions the VCA chip used in the Apex has been discontinued by the manufacturer. It’d be cool if Josh had another compressor in the works. Wishful thinking...

    I already know Origin Effects will be out of my range. The Becos FX Twain is up there, too. So is the new version of the Empress Compressor. I see there are a few of the 1st version of the Empress Compressor for sell that would work for me. An EQ pedal can be placed in the sidechain. I have a Fuzzrocious Feed Me V1 that would work great here. Considering it, but want to see what else is out there.
  5. TwototheValley

    TwototheValley Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2019
    He does, and it’s not. :thumbsup:

    Don’t know whether it will have a sidechain HPF…maybe that can be the subject of wishes!
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  6. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Unfortunately “only compressing the mids and highs and letting the lows pass through” is not how a side-chain HPF works. A side-chain is essentially a copy of your input signal fed to the triggering section of the compressor- you can manipulate the side-chain signal with filters to change the way the compressor reacts to your playing, but your full signal is still compressed whenever the circuit is triggered regardless of any filtering on the side-chain (so big low-end peaks won’t trigger the comp as easily with a side-chain HPF, but the lows will still be compressed anytime the comp is triggered). In order to get the lows to pass through uncompressed you would actually need a dual-band comp (setting the threshold of the low band so it never triggers) or alternatively a blender with an HPF FX chain (like a Byte Heaven Sugar Britches) so you could only send your highs to the compressor.

    That said, what you describe about your experience with the MXR could definitely be cleared up to a great degree with a well-implemented sidechain HPF as it would decrease the comp’s sensitivity to those lower strings and so generally make for less of that pumping on the low strings if set well.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2022
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  7. It’s funny you mention Byte Heaven. I purchased an SC-1 Singlecross from Tom and plan to use the M87 in the high loop, but would like to experiment with another compressor prior to splitting the frequency. He actually has a video where he does this and then recombines the signal with a Boss LS-2 after I asked his opinion on the matter...

    Since discussing the idea with him months ago, I haven’t been able to experiment like I’ve wanted to with it. I plan to do this soon. This is what I plan to do if I can’t get ahold of a compressor pedal with a HPF option.
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  8. That’s exciting! Any ideas on a release date?
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  9. The Spectracomp from TC elec. is a multi-band 3 comp. you could set it just like you are looking for no comp at lower freq's .
  10. TwototheValley

    TwototheValley Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 3, 2019
    Some time this year….

    All I can suggest is to keep checking the Broughton website for updates!
    bdhoward27 likes this.
  11. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    I know you were looking for other brands, but take a look at the FEA Opti-Fet. Has the 5 primary compression controls, plus a sidechain "EQ" with bass, mid and treble controls that alters the amount of compression within each frequency range. Very easy to use. Might find a used one around $200. Good luck, DM
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  12. HazeGray


    May 30, 2017
    Have you tried placing a HPF somewhere in line before the compressor? Getting rid of those sub 40-50 Hz freqs, to me, puts less stress on the comp, and IMO sound more natural.
    Zbysek, bdhoward27 and Zooberwerx like this.
  13. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    It could work well for you for sure. I use a Schalltechnik Omnilooper as a crossover FX looper and have experimented successfully with using different types of compression on highs and lows (essentially creating a dual-band compression circuit) and I would say having no compression at all on the lows while the highs are compressed is generally not all that useful to me (Much like drive pedals that only clip the highs/mids and leave the lows clean and uncompressed, it is tougher to get a cohesive sound and tougher to get a good balance between the frequency bands, etc). The technique you describe using a comp before the crossover and another in it sounds like it could be promising too.

    Sidechain HPFs are great at decreasing "pump" because most comp circuits are more sensitive to low-frequency energy, so little spikes on the low-heavy strings can make those strings tend to trigger the comp alot more consistently than the thinner strings. When you find just the right HPF setting where it is mostly the midrange thats triggering the comp then a bass can sound much more balanced across the board (though there are types of playing where I could see setting the HPF in a more extreme "effect-like" way where only the highs of the high strings are triggering the comp and it could sound cool, like certain slap tones).

    Since trying a comp with a sidechain HPF for the first time its been hard to go back to using ones without it (at least without using a more complex chain like the Omnilooper one I described). Alot of more basic compressors just sound too "effecty/squishy" now. I've only tried a handful of pedals with HPF capabilities, but can vouch for both the Cali76CB and the Hyper Luminal (I still have the Hyper Luminal). I do wish the app controls of the Hyper Luminal were accessible from a phone, though it hasn't stopped me from getting good sounds with it (you just have to do all your settings experimentation before the gig unless you have a laptop to bring). I found the FEA OptiFet cool, but didn't find its side-chain EQ as useful as a dedicated HPF for calming down pumping on the low strings- its definitely more of a character compressor anyway though, reminding me more of a tube circuit in alot of ways.
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  14. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    One of the simpler yet effective approaches. Add a compressor with a blend function of some type and you can get some pretty impressive results, a la "New York" or parallel compression, without the need for addt'l peripherals. I've seen several mid-tier (budget conscious!) comps with this feature which meet my definition of "best buys".

    bdhoward27 likes this.
  15. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    At the risk of sounding completely stupid (hasn’t stopped me before), why not consider a multiband compressor that lets you dial in as much or as little compression as you want based on a variable frequency?

    There are several out there, from the venerable and still available TraceElliot SMX multiband comp to more recent offerings.

    Good old Ovnilab has a write up about dual/multiband bass compressors at Dual band compression , it’s older but might be worth a read.

    Compress the mids and highs, and let the lows run free.
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  16. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Not quite what you’re asking about, but possibly what you’re looking for:
    Doc Lloyd Photon Death Ray
    The sidechain is set to the Fletcher-Munson curves, so it mimics how our ears hear.
    Doesn’t squish the lows at all (because our hears have problems with low frequencies)
    It’s glorious and frankly, astounding that it took this long for someone to think of this.
  17. never-enough

    never-enough Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2019
    Lost Angeles
    i have one of these as well and can say it’s a great comp, but I haven’t seen them sell at/below the $200 mark the op is looking to stay within.
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  18. Ya but what if you dont want comics on ur comp. ?? lmfao
    bdhoward27 likes this.
  19. HertzWhenIPlay


    Jan 15, 2011
    I like things that go BOOM
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  20. MultiScaleMale

    MultiScaleMale Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    As mentioned earlier, the HPF in the side chain only affects the triggering of the compression of the full range signal, not a limit to what is or isn't compressed. In practice, it can effectively be the same thing or very different depending on what you're playing. To truly do what you want you'll need a dual band compressor. Maybe try an EBS MultiCmp in MB mode and see if it's "close enough"? What you truly want is going to cost more than $200 and maybe you'll be happy, maybe you won't. Something with a clean blend / parallel compression may also get you "close enough".
    bdhoward27 likes this.