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 5 Best Bass Compressor Pedal On The Market
Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal (Editor's Choice)
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
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.
5 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.
- An LED meter lets you see exactly how much compression is in effect whilst you play
- Lets the natural sound of your playing come through
- Has good potential for use as a limiter if needed.
- The battery drains extremely quickly, and in order to change it you'll need to remove 4 screws. I would suggest using a mains power supply whenever possible in order to avoid it suddenly cutting off halfway through your slap bass solo.
- The knobs are somewhat over-sensitive, making it difficult to tweak without going beyond what you had intended. To fix this with a little bit of DIY, you can increase the size of the controls by affixing larger knobs.
- They are expensive, so if you are on a budget it might be better to take a look at some of the cheaper options first.
#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.
- Fairly cheap for a compressor.
- Simple controls that won't require an in-depth understanding of how they interact with each other.
- Large foot pedal makes this compressor easy to turn on and off.
- Extremely poor battery life. Whilst the official product descriptions boasts a 4 hour battery life, you are unlikely to actually get a full four hours of solid use.
- Noticeable sound distortion can very easily overtake any benefits you receive from using it.
- Very little headroom makes it unsuitable for anything but passive bass playing.
#3: Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal
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.
- Rivals a professional rack compressor, allowing you to have extremely subtle compression or go for ridiculously overpowered dubstep-style 'wobs' without destroying the tone of your guitar.
- Easy to remove battery compartment making it ideal for 'on the go' usage, so you'll be thankful of this if there are ever any issues during a gig.
- Wide spacing between the knobs means you are unlikely to accidentally adjust them when activating the pedal.
- The TLC is another expensive pedal. The cost is reflected by its capabilities, but even so you might want to leave this purchase to a later date when you've made enough money from your gigs to pay for it first, as even the best compressor won't pay for itself.
- The input and power jacks are walled in by a small protruding lip that makes it awkward for a right angle jack to be used.
- The lip also extends downwards, meaning you won't be able to use velcro to stick it to your pedal board.
#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.
- For a dual-band compressor the EBS is one of the more affordable options without losing quality.
- True bypass when not in use means that it won't distort your signal without having to remove the pedal from your chain completely.
- Even high levels of compression will not result in large 'noise' production.
- A maximum compression of 5:1 in dual band mode means that it has limited functionality as as a limiter if you have a heavy slap technique.
- The lack of manual controls over your attack mean that you won't be able to play with the effects as much as you would with other pedals. The EBS is good at what it does, but not much else.
#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.
- Easy to use, this is a great way to get your feet wet without being overwhelmed by the amount of fine tuning options available.
- Very reasonable price makes it a realistic first option for a new bassist.
- True bypass allows you to not worry about interference when it's not in use.
- If you're a more advanced player, or have a preference for being able to control every element of your sound, you'll be disappointed by the lack of additional settings.
- The Bass Preacher uses a three mode switch for attack, instead of a fully adjustable knob, which means you are stuck with preset levels that may be ever so slightly off target for your particular needs.
- Lack of multi band compression could cause problems if you a more of an active than a passive bassist.
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.
Do you agree that these are the best bass compressor pedals?