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Strymon Compadre review

Could Strymon’s latest be your amp’s new front-end?

Strymon Compadre review
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

A unique design that shows real grown-up thinking, the Compadre’s three-pronged (if you add the expression pedal for volume control) practicality could make it the essential link between your guitar and your amp - its perfect companion, as the name suggests.

For

  • Two compression types; three boost types.
  • Dry blend control.
  • Practical size for a twin-footswitch pedal.
  • Expression pedal volume control.
  • Presets.

Against

  • Nothing.

Arguably, there are two pedals that you can put before your amp to give you a range of practical tonal options without getting too far removed from its core sound - compression and boost

Strymon’s new Compadre offers just this combination with digitally controlled, fully analogue audio signal processing, which delivers separately footswitchable boost and compression sections that you can choose to use individually or together.

The Boost section has options for targeting its frequency range, while the VCA-based compression section effectively provides two different compressors - one offering the type of compression you might expect from vintage studio rack compressors, the other for the harder squeeze associated with classic stompbox compressors.

Besides these, the Compadre has a facility for volume control (accessed by simply plugging an expression pedal into a dedicated rear-panel socket), giving you complete control over your volume without the tonal degradation that can occur when your signal passes through some volume pedals.

Sounds

The compressor comes first in the signal chain, and there’s nothing complicated about it. You simply choose Studio or Squeeze mode and use the large knob to turn up the compression, which it does by lowering the threshold above which compression occurs. 

The Level knob adjusts the pedal’s output when the compressor is engaged, cutting or boosting the level by up to 6dB. A Dry knob is becoming a must-have feature on compression pedals, and here it mixes your dry signal in with the compressed.

Do you want your boost clean or dirty? The Boost Type's Dirty setting brings in soft clipping for a touch of overdrive.

Do you want your boost clean or dirty? The Boost Type's Dirty setting brings in soft clipping for a touch of overdrive. (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The transparent subtlety of the Studio mode should be your choice if you’re not looking to use compression as a blatant effect. 

Here, you can keep sound consistent and add smoothly decaying sustain without being too obvious, especially if you mix in some dry sound to retain the natural feel of your note attack. It’s classy tone strengthening and conditioning that doesn’t jump out at you but that you’d miss it if it was bypassed.

By contrast, the Squeeze mode, while still capable of subtlety in evening out the sound and increasing sustain, can go further into compression as an effect, with an obvious clamping down on note transients that works brilliantly for a country player doing some chicken pickin’ and pedal-steel-style bends.

Switch it to Dirt and the boost becomes more of an overdrive, conspicuously Tube Screamer-like in the Mid setting

The Boost offers up to 14dB in its Flat EQ setting, delivering straight volume boosts and plenty of full-range amp-driving capability, but the two extra EQ options greatly increase the flexibility.

The Treble setting is classic treble booster, pushing upper mid and high frequencies and tightening up the bottom-end, while the Mid setting brings forward midrange frequencies that will fatten up any tone and is particularly effective in getting a richer drive sound from an amp that’s already cooking.

If you yearn for something a little grittier than a straight clean boost, a rear-panel switch selects between that and a soft clipping boost circuit. Switch it to Dirt and the boost becomes more of an overdrive, conspicuously Tube Screamer-like in the Mid setting.

The Boost EQ switch allows you to focus the frequency of your boost here: Flat is a full-range boost, Mid brings the midrange forward and Treble will push the top and tighten up the bottom-end.

The Boost EQ switch allows you to focus the frequency of your boost here: Flat is a full-range boost, Mid brings the midrange forward and Treble will push the top and tighten up the bottom-end. (Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Nicely responsive to touch, Strymon’s Compadre feels very natural to play through and offers many options whether you wish to switch in the different sections when needed or set up a sound that particularly suits you and leave it inline. The compression and boost sections mesh together extremely well and can combine to create a front-end that brings the very best out of your amp.

It’s dead easy to use in a WYSIWYG way, tweaking knobs as necessary, but it does have presets if you’re happy to connect up some external gear to access them. You can save the settings of all the pedal’s knobs and toggle switches, including the rear Boost Type switch, plus the bypass state of both Boost and Compressor.

Like the Strymon pedals that sport a Favorite footswitch, you can store a Favorite setting here that can be accessed by connecting a Strymon MiniSwitch or another external latching footswitch. 

Alternatively, Strymon’s MultiSwitch Plus three-button footswitch will give you access to three presets. Much more is available via MIDI where you can not only access a full 300 presets but remotely control patch parameters, too.

Specs

  • PRICE: $/£299
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Compressor and boost pedal
  • FEATURES: Selectable true or buffered bypass, Class A JFET input circuit, 300 presets, MIDI control
  • CONTROLS: Boost, Compression, Dry, Level, Boost EQ selector switch, Comp Type selector switch, Boost Type selector switch, Boost footswitch, Comp footswitch
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output, Volume,
  • FAV/MIDI POWER: Supplied 9V DC adaptor, 150mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 102 (w) x 114 (d) x 44mm (h)
  • CONTACT: Strymon