7 Best Bass Compressor Pedals: Your Buyer’s Guide

Compared to their thinner-stringed brethren, it’s far more likely that you’ll want to employ a compressor when playing bass. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most basic is that bass tends to have a greater dynamic range. Sure, some guitars can vary a great deal depending on how hard you hit, but this generally pales in comparison to bass. A slight change in attack can have a dramatic impact on the wave of sound that issues forth. By using a compressor, you can harness this power to keep it focused and present. Bass is a foundational instrument, and even if the listener doesn’t know exactly what they’re hearing, it can really wreck a performance for the bass to drop out or spike when it shouldn’t. Keep things even, powerful, and clean with these excellent bass compressor pedal options.

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When last we discussed compressors, we discussed compressor pedals for guitar. Strictly speaking, any compressor should work for any application, since their primary job is dynamic range reduction, not necessarily tone shaping. However, many pedals created for guitar tend to roll off the low end since the instruments they're meant for are mid-focused. Further, because of the vastly extended low end and the more-varied styles of play, bass compressors generally offer more controls and a more neutral tonal character.

Another, albeit potentially minor, thing to consider is that the noise floor preference for guitar and bass are fundamentally different. On the whole, the average guitarist these days is gain stacking one or two boosts, a light to midrange overdrive, and a heavier overdrive or distortion sound. With each of these, a degree of hiss is introduced that is more or less accepted as coming with the territory. For bass, one or maybe two of these gain stages is likely to be the max and a low noise floor is expected. Bass compressors offer the flexibility (or at least the proper tuning) to keep this in mind.

If you want to get really, really in the weeds, or if you're having trouble finding a compressor that works for you, check out Ovni Labs for a very, very long list of alternatives and reviews. It's also worth noting that a few of the DI boxes for bass we put on this list have compressors built-in, if you want to go that route. Here we'll keep it to seven great options for keeping your bass tone squashy.

Once you've decided on your compressor, you also may want to consider your live rig. Check out our best bass amps for gigging here.

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