The bass compressor pedal is a little misunderstood and often overlooked by first-time and even experienced bass players. When choosing bass guitar pedals most people will have heard of a bass compressor pedal, but always wonder whether they actually need a bass compressor pedal for their bass guitar rig.
Hint: you do. Trust me on this one.
Bass compressor pedals are super useful tools for bass players because they play a crucial role in shaping the tone and maintaining the consistency of your bass guitar’s sound. There are a few options out there, but no other has been specifically crafted by bass players FOR bass players quite like the Black Country Customs Custard Factory bass compressor pedal. We think it stands out in the crowd with its studio-quality bass compression you can rely on, but more on that in a few moments.
In summary, a bass compressor pedal’s job is to bring all the sounds of each string to the same level without destroying the dynamics of your playing and reduce any dead spots on the bass. A bass compressor pedal will bring the quieter sounds up in volume so they’re the same as the louder sounds and reduce the louder sounds so they’re not overtaking the quieter sounds. You retain all the dynamics of each string and there are no dead spots in your playing.
For slap bass players in particular, as well as rock players, a bass compressor pedal can be a massive benefit as the slaps really pop, but the low end is retained. For rock players, you won’t get lost in the mix and each bass run is heard in full volume.
In more technical terms, a compressor bass pedal “compresses” an audio signal’s dynamic range, which means it limits the disparity between the loudest and quietest parts of a sound. What you get, when you use a bass compressor pedal is a more balanced and controlled sound that sits well in the mix, regardless of the playing style. You can play quietly and you’ll be heard. You can hit the string harder and you won’t stick out too much. You’re sitting nicely with the other musicians.
Yes, it does, if you set it correctly. You’ll find bass compressor pedals make the most difference if you’re a gigging bassist in a band that gigs around a lot of different venues with low-quality PA systems or someone who plays with different musicians. If this is you’ll benefit from a bass compressor pedal. When you set it properly, adding compression to even out the mix, it’ll help you find your place in the mix without drowning out the other instruments on stage and it will drastically reduce the horrible BOOMY sound that most venues suffer from, especially those with hollow stages. Another key benefit is that it won’t destroy your dynamics – especially if you use the Black Country Customs Custard Factory as you have 3 modes of compression – Fast, Medium and slow, so you can set how “drastic” you want the compression.
This depends on the venue, but a little compression will always be a benefit for bass players who want to reduce the boominess of their bass sound and bring up the bass notes without drowning out the treble sounds. A little compression will ensure that each note is heard at the level you want it to, but won’t destroy your playing dynamics – it’ll still sound soft if you play softly, but you’ll hear it a lot more clearly.
So why is a bass compressor pedal essential for bass players? Here’s a bunch of reasons…
First and foremost a bass compressor pedal will make your bass sound better. It’s kind of like adding salt to food. Let me explain…
If you’ve never tried it, you might think your sound is fine without it, however, once you experience the magic of compression on a bass guitar and what it does to enhance your sound, it’s hard to go back. A touch of compression can highlight unique aspects of your bass and tone that might have gone unnoticed like the subtle timbre of your pickups towards the bridge or the low-end notes that often get left out towards the neck.
As we all know, bass laying traverses a range of subtle dynamics and frequencies, that if lost can be the difference between a good-sounding bass sound and a bad one. A compressor helps smooth out these dynamic variations, making the bass sound more consistent across the mix.
If you’ve ever played live, especially where the stage is hollow or the PA system isn’t that great, you’ll know that bass frequencies can be notoriously hard to manage so you want to do the best you can to mitigate that BOOM that can ruin a bass sound and make the PA engineer turn you down. A bass compressor pedal helps “tighten” the low end, making the bass sound clearer and more focused reducing the unwanted boominess of your bass amp.
Sounds complicated, but a good compressor can bring out the latent harmonic content in a bass sound, enriching the overall tonal quality of your bass guitar. In basic terms it can make a terrible bass guitar with less than awesome pickups sound like a million dollars.
It can turn a bland and weak bass sound into a powerhouse of tone!
Compression is a lifesaver, especially when playing in a band in a live or rehearsal scenario. When you use a bass compressor pedal, and this is one of the major benefits, it ensures that your bass lines don’t get overshadowed by other instruments – drummers I’m looking at you!
If for example, you’re playing in a trio with a guitar and drums, without compression, your bass might get lost when the music transitions between loud and soft sections. Compression ensures that your bass remains consistent and is part of the sound, rather than just an addition. We all know it’s the bass player’s job to hold down the groove, so maintaining consistency of tone and volume in a live setting is essential.
Bass compressor pedals have multiple uses, and some bassists use compression to manage their overall volume, while others use it to control the dynamics of their attack. If for example, you just want to be heard clearly, you can adjust the presence on the BCC Custard Factory Bass Compressor for example and make sure your bass notes are clearly defined.
However, if you want additional punch, especially on the chorus or middle eight sections you can use a Fast compression mode and add punchiness, sustain, and even help the bass note compete with the kick drum, which is crucial for setting the groove!
Not every genre or style of bass playing needs the same style of compression. For example, if you’re playing in a shoegaze band, you’ll want a Slow compression attack which only really kicks in when you hit the strong hard. If you’re in a high-gain rock band, you’ll want a FAST compression attack which means it kicks in as soon as you hit the string, bringing your bass to the level of the guitars. However, if you’re just jamming with some jazz musicians and you want to sit in and out of the mix, floating in and out when the time calls for it, a Medium attack is ideal as it kicks in based on your playing dynamics.
you find that your bass sounds fantastic when playing solo but gets lost in a band setting, that’s a clear sign you need compression. Even if this isn’t an issue, compression can enhance almost any bass sound when used correctly.
If you use a lot of different pedals on your bass pedal board, especially if you use an ampless bass rig you might find that your signal starts to lose power – this is just down the fact that signal loss can occur after 18.5ft of cable. A bass compressor pedal can help you bring your tone back to life. If coupled with the Laney DB-Pre bass preamp pedal, you can go completely ampless and just use this, in conjunction with a bass compressor to get a myriad of bass tones and just use a pedalboard to gig with!
In conclusion, a compressor pedal for bass guitar is an essential tool for any bassist who values their tone – and let’s be honest, we all do. Whether you’re looking to enhance your tone, maintain consistency in a band setting and keep up with your kick-drum heavy drummer, or control your dynamics when you’re running a 2×12 Digbeth bass amp rig at a festival, a compressor can do wonders for your sound by bringing you back into the mix at a level that allows your bass sound you’ve worked so hard on to shine. If you haven’t already tried one – we recommend the Laney Black Country Customs Custard Factory Bass Compressor Pedal.
The Custard Factory by Black Country Customs is a triple-mode bass compressor pedal designed to deliver studio-quality compression on your pedalboard.
Handcrafted in the heart of England, the Custard Factory features a robust, road-ready build with silent switching. Its compact size makes it a perfect fit for any pedalboard, while the side-mounted jacks ensure hassle-free cable management and easy addition to your board – notice the slightly off-centre jack placement – yep that makes it WAY easier to add to your pedalboard and coexist with any other brands you may have.
The Custard Factory is packed with features that make it a versatile and invaluable tool for any bass player. I’ll be here all day shouting about it, but the main benefits of the Custard Factory come down to the following:
The pedal offers three modes of compression – Fast, Medium and Slow. The MODE SWITCH on the Custard Factory bass compression pedal is designed to alter the speed of attack of the compression circuit, providing you with 3 distinct settings based on your environment and playing style. The Fast setting is best for quick musical runs, ensuring immediate compression for rapid note sequences which is ideal for metal bands. The Medium setting offers a balanced compression response, bridging the gap between the Fast and Slow settings which Rock and Blues bass players will love. Meanwhile, the Slow setting is tailored for longer, sustained notes, allowing the bass’s natural attack to shine through before the compression effect takes over, which Jazz and Shoegaze bands will love.
The WET-MIX-DRY feature on the Custard Factory compression pedal lets you blend the uncompressed (dry) signal with the compressed (wet) signal of the pedal. This function offers bassists significant flexibility in tailoring their desired compression effect. By using a fully dry setting, your original signal remains untouched, while a fully wet setting gives you the compressed tone, completely. The benefit of blending the two is that you retain your instrument’s natural dynamics while still reaping the benefits of a compression pedal, plus you have WAY more control than most bass compressor pedals.
The presence control on the BCC Custard Factory Bass compressor Pedal, controls the amount of treble in the compressed signal. If you’re finding that your bass is just too bright, or you want to change the tone of your bass without using the tone pots on your bass, you can activate the BCC Custard Factory for those moments where you need a brighter, treble-heavy sound. On the flip side, if you’re using a semi-hollow bass and you’re finding the bass sound too boomy, this can bring out the treble qualities of your bass, ideal for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sound!
In the world of bass compressor pedals, the Black Country Customs Custard Factory gets you the sound you’ve got in mind. We highly recommend checking it out.
I hope that’s helped you answer the question “Do I need a Bass Compressor Pedal for bass guitar?” but chances are you’ve figured out that there are plenty of benefits of getting one and adding it to your setup. At the end of the day, they’re going to make your bass sound better, bring out the tones and qualities of your bass guitar and help you sit better in the mix no matter who you’re playing with, what style or genre you play or how hard your drummer hits. What’s not to love?