If you’re looking for one thing to help level out your dynamics, add punch to your sound and tighten up your low end, then you might benefit from one of the best bass compressor pedals. While often overlooked and even misunderstood, bass compressors can be key to a great and consistent bass tone.
In a nutshell, a bass compressor pedal takes your signal and levels it out. Your quiet bits will be made louder and your loud bits will be made quieter so that the whole thing is more of a general volume. Of course, how much the pedal squashes your signal is down to how you set the compressor. Some of the best bass compressor pedals have a range of controls on board to help you tweak different parameters, giving you complete control.
Grabbing yourself a bass compressor can improve your overall bass sound, regardless of what style of player you are, or whether you’re playing in a band or you’re a solo instrumentalist. Certain settings can help bring out the attack of a pick, which is great for some styles of rock. Funk players swear by a compressor as it helps those slaps and pops really come through in a mix, and generally it can just help fatten your tone up, smooth it out and make it sound a little more professional.
There are lots of different bass compressor pedals available, all with various features that will suit different players. We’ve chosen a range of models, covering different budgets, and added some expert buying advice to help you choose the right one. If you'd like to read it, click the link.
Best bass compressor pedals: Guitar World Recommends
If we’re talking about the single best bass compressor pedal, then the Origin Effects Cali76 wins our vote. Its 1176-style compression controls your dynamics and adds some body and punch, all whilst retaining your playing dynamics. Being able to blend in your dry, unaffected signal is also really handy.
We also love the MXR Bass Dyna Comp as it manages to pack a whole host of features into a tiny pedal. With four knobs and an attack switch, you’ve got plenty of control over how the compression affects your tone, making this a versatile little beast.
Best bass compressor pedals: Product guide
This pedal aims to replicate how a studio-style 1176 compressor would affect your bass signal, with some added clarity on that precious low end. It’s incredibly musical and very versatile, plus it’s built like a tank, so it’s impressively road-worthy.
Origin Effects are known for making some of the best effects pedals out there, and this bass compressor is up there with the best of them. This is a studio-grade FET compressor with fully variable input, output and ratio controls so you can dial in exactly the level of compression you want, as well as how it reacts with your volume. There’s also a dry knob that allows for parallel compression – this means you can blend in your clean, unaffected signal alongside your compressed sound for a more natural tone.
In addition, you’ve got a high pass filter that leaves your low end untouched, while compressing the top end. This helps keep those bottom strings sound nice and fat, whilst keeping everything else higher up more in check. Lastly, there’s a single attack and release knob which allows for easy sweeping through various settings for how quickly the compression kicks in and finishes. This is a superb bass compressor, adding more body and sensitivity to your tone, whilst retaining your natural dynamics and expression.
The Dyna Comp is somewhat of a legend within the world of compressor pedals, and the bass version lives up to that legend. Super compact, with a range of controllable parameters that make it easy to dial in your desired sound, the MXR M282 has it all, making it one of the best bass compressor pedals on the market.
This compressor is built around a CA3080 circuit that is known for having a good dynamic range and being transparent, meaning your inherent tone shines through.
What we really like about this compressor is the clean knob which lets you blend in your dry, unaffected signal as much or as little as you want. With this, you can get a nice, heavily compressed sound, then dial in some dry signal so that it doesn’t sound too squashed. The attack switch lets you choose between a slower, more vintage style attack and a quick, modern attack, making it ideal for pretty much any style of bass player.
Featuring a blend of analog and digital technology, the Darkglass Hyper Luminal Compressor is functional, versatile and comprehensive, and affects your bass signal in a way that’s musical and dynamic, making it one of the best bass compressor pedals out there right now.
On board the Hyper Luminal Compressor you’ve got four traditional-style knobs for controlling the amount of compression, attack and release time, output volume and a blend for your dry signal. Then you’ve touch sensors that control the compression ratio and the mode. It’s the ability to change the compression mode that really makes this model stand out, as you can choose between BUS (modelled after an SSL bus compressor), FET (1176 style) and SYM (Darkglass’s old Super Symmetry compressor pedal).
Even if you don’t understand the differences between these various compression styles (and it really isn’t crucial that you do), it’s nice to have slightly different flavors of compression available at the touch of a button.
Aguilar make some incredible bass gear including pickups, amps and bass effects pedals. The ‘TLC’ in their TLC compressor stands for trans linear control which is an analog dynamic circuit design. There’s a peak limiter on board so you don’t get those nasty volume spikes if you slap or pick a little too hard.
The four knobs allow for quite a lot of control over the compression. The 'slope' knob is essentially a ratio control that determines the amount of compression, 'threshold' controls at what level the compression kicks in, 'attack' is how quickly it kicks in and 'level' helps compensate for gain loss so that your volume is where you need it to be.
This is all housed in a really sturdy and incredibly road-worthy casing that will stand the test of time. It compresses in a musical way and really allows you to shape your bass tone how you want it.
Electro-Harmonix are one of the biggest names in the pedal game, so it’s only right that they have a unit dedicated to bass compression. The Bass Preacher is a compact pedal with two easy to dial in knobs and a three-way attack switch.
Having the different attack speed settings allows you to control how quickly it grabs your signal and affects it. So, whether you’re playing slap bass and want a quick attack, or playing with a plectrum and want some of that pick noise to come through first with a slower attack, then you’ve got all basses covered (pun intended).
This won’t take up much space on your pedalboard, and it does the job. It’s nothing fancy, but if you’re after something simple and easy to use with a range of applications then this is certainly one of the best bass compressor pedals out there.
This compact pedal offers bassists pro-level, multi-band compression that responds well to dynamics and allows your tone to remain clear. There’s also a handy display on board so that you can see easily when your signal is being compressed, and by how much.
The four knob layout is easy to dial in, but gives you a good amount of control over various parameters of the effect. You’ve got knobs for release (i.e. when the compression stops), overall level, the ratio of compression and the threshold at which compression kicks in. Because it applies compression differently to different frequency bands, the low end of the bass remains dynamic and tight, whilst enhancing the mids and high frequencies.
We’d expect nothing less from Boss, what with them being possibly the biggest manufacturer of effects pedals in the world, and this model does exactly what it needs to, at a fair price.
This one-knob bass compressor manages to apply studio-grade, multi-band compression to your bass signal, whilst acting as one of the easiest to use pedals out there. If you want something that’s super simple to set up, without having to really get into the ins and outs of compression, then this could be the best option for you.
Whether you want a little or a lot, the TC Spectra Comp applies compression equally to your low, mid and high frequencies so your tone is balanced, punchy and sustains when you need it to.
As with many of TC’s pedals, the Spectra Comp is equipped with Tone Print technology allowing you to dial up some pretty big artists’ carefully tweaked signature settings with your smartphone, meaning that there’s actually quite a bit more packed into this tiny pedal than you might think.
Whilst this isn’t specifically a bass compressor, the wonderfully titled Kongpressor is really versatile whilst remaining easy to use. There’s also a handy metal bar on the pedal so you don’t accidentally knock the controls when you’re switching it on and off with your foot.
With knobs for volume, compression, treble, attack and release – almost like a studio compressor – you’ve got loads of control over how the compression affects your signal. Setting a longer release time allows long notes to bloom and sustain for longer – ideal for more chilled out basslines.
It’s a really well built, and great sounding, musical compressor – plus it’s a great price.
Best bass compressor pedals: Buying advice
What should I know when buying a bass compressor?
One consideration to make is how much control you'd like over the effect. Compression can be a bit of a dark art, and really mastering it can take some time, so beginners might want want to opt for something simple that offers more of a ‘set and play’ functionality with just a few knobs, or maybe even a single one. If you know what sound you want, and you either know how to adjust the parameters to get it or you’re well up for the challenge of trying, then look for something with a few more controls on it.
Do different styles of music need different compressors?
Another thing will be how much you vary the style of music that you play. If you’re flitting between jazz, funk, rock and pop, then a bass compressor pedal with more tweakability will probably be better suited, so you can dial in the right sort of compression for what you’re playing at that time. If you know that you’ll likely be playing similar sorts of music most of the time, then that’s less of a concern.
The sort of tone does vary between the models in our list of best bass compressors. Compressors are used a lot in studios and particular models are lusted after for their unique sound. Some of the above pedals offer the same sort of tone and response as these sought-after compressors, allowing you to have a studio-grade tool on your pedalboard.
How much should I spend on a bass compressor?
There’s no rule as to how much you should spend on a bass compressor pedal. More expensive models tend to have more features, or will yield a slightly better tone. Really cheap pedals might do the job, but they’re likely to break or fault sooner. Some trustworthy brands to look out for include Boss, MXR, Electro-Harmonix and Aguilar.
As with any pedal, size can matter. We’re all looking to make gigging, practicing and recording easier, and a more compact pedalboard can aid this. A smaller pedal means that it takes less space on your board, so you can either have a smaller board (less to carry), or more pedals (more fun). If space isn’t an issue – maybe you’re only after one or two pedals, or you’ve got plenty of room in the van – or someone carries your gear for you (that’s the dream), then you don’t need to worry about size. You’ll probably find that the bigger pedals will have more functionality and flexibility too.