A bass compressor is an essential piece of equipment for live playing. Especially if your bass technique relies heavily on slapping and popping, then a bass compressor will help to keep your regular finger-style playing volume in line with those sections.
If you have other pedals, then including a bass compressor at the end of your pedal chain can help to limit their effects somewhat so that they don't make your playing totally incomprehensible to the audience.
- At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 8 Best Bass Compressor Pedal On The Market
- 8 Best Bass Compressor Pedals
- 1. Jim Dunlop MXR M87
- 2. DigiTech Bass Squeeze
- 3. Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal (Editor's Choice)
- 4. EBS Multicomp
- 5. Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
- 6. Xvive XB1 Bass Squeezer Compressor Micro Pedal (Budget Choice)
- 7. TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor
- 8. EBS Sweden AB EBS-Pedal-SE-MC Bass Compression Effect Pedal
- So which should I buy?
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 8 Best Bass Compressor Pedal On The Market
Aguilar TLC Bass (Editor's Choice)
Xvive XB1 Bass Squeezer (Budget Choice)
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Buyer's Tips: What Makes A Good Bass Compressor Pedal
The best bass compressor pedals are ready to deal with a wide range of frequencies. If you find that your slapping is being 'clipped', this is because the pedal can't accommodate for higher pitches. If your particular style doesn't rely much on this technique, it won't be a concern (here's looking at you, Doom Metal players!) but there are other benefits for a great bass compressor that you should consider if you haven't used one before.
- The more gigging you do, the more likely you'll find yourself playing in venues with poor in-house equipment. A compressor that gives you a lot of control over your volume limits will be a huge asset to you by giving you some form of control without having to spend a fortune (and without needing to lug around your own PA system everywhere).
- The best bass compressor pedals allow you to tweak more than just the attack and sustain, but give you options over volume and tone. These greater options come at an increased cost, but should be seen more as an investment in the quality of your sound (although the rest of your equipment also contributes, for example a well made and maintained guitar will allow you to be much more precise in terms of what signals you are generating before they get to the compressor.
- The capabilities to support multi-band compression, or at least parallel compression give you much more freedom, enabling you to simulate the effects of a professional studio recording session in the middle of the street when you're out busking with your band mates for the day.
For a good guide on what all of these terms mean, and how you can optimise your compressor's settings for your performance, check out http://www.studybass.com/gear/bass-effects/bass-compressor-settings/ for more information.
8 Best Bass Compressor Pedals
1. Jim Dunlop MXR M87
This compressor has a wide range of adjustable settings, which means that it can be intimidating for a beginner but also makes it worth considering if you're a little more technically minded. Whilst it's not the easiest piece of kit to master, spending a little time either doing some research online or talking to a friendly sound engineer will let you get the most out of this compressor.
It’s a popular and professional product, and its stomp box size means that it will fit neatly into your pedalboard.
2. DigiTech Bass Squeeze
This compressor works very differently from the MXR. Instead of manually controlling your attack and decay, the Bass Squeeze allows you to set your Hi and Lo band frequency, with the rest being taken care of by the software. Whilst this dual band capability is useful, and easy for a beginner to understand, you may prefer to have control over these things yourself.
Its sturdy, metal casing means that you can trust this pedal to last, and the option to plug into an adapter or power off a 9V makes it pedalboard-friendly.
3. Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal (Editor's Choice)
An analog bass compressor that gives you four versatile controls; level, threshold, attack and slope. In terms of bypass, it gives you a very true sound so this makes it an attractive option for bassists not wanting to lose their natural sound.
This pedal keeps it simple and visual whilst allowing you a high level of control over your level of compression. It’s also small and sturdy!
4. EBS Multicomp
One of the most popular compressors, the EBS has a well deserved reputation. It features dual band compression, which cannot be overlooked in terms of how useful this can be for your live sound. The controls are a little different from other similar pedals, allowing you to switch between three modes (multi-band, normal and tube) which adds a nice variety of tones to your bass.
There is also the option to switch between active and passive modes, depending on what level of output you'll be producing, this versatility can be extremely useful.
5. Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer Pedal
A two knob compressor, with a three setting switch for attack gives a fair degree of flexibility, whilst still fitting comfortably into the stomp n' go category of pedals.
It's one of the most straight-forward to use on this list, so if you're just starting out in the weird world of compressors, take the opportunity to try this one out if you get the chance so you can have an understanding of how they work.
It’s small, sturdy and - most importantly - effective.
So which should I buy?
There are two options here that stand out. Firstly, the TLC is a powerful compressor that handles a wide range of frequencies very well and hands over control to you of virtually anything you could need. It's only real downside is the lack of multi-band capability.
Because of that, I would also recommend the EBS multi comp, as it possesses this additional functionality whilst still retaining a fair level of customisable settings, even if it lacks the versatility of the TLC.
Either way, both pedals still produce a very natural sound, and are also able to work reasonably well as limiters without clipping your aggressive, active playing.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly - as well as eco-friendly(!) - option, then the micro pedals by Xvive and TC Electronic are both great ways to go! There’s not much between them, but the Xvive is around half the price, so…
Whichever pedal you choose is right to compress the sound from your bass and other pedals, we hope that it will enable you to deliver your sounds with the clarity deserve!
Do you agree that these are the best bass compressor pedals? Let us know in the comments below!
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Djangology’ and when he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his Campervan.