A Pro-Quality Compressor
by Philip Snyder
For some time there has been a lot
of discussion about various compressors. As a rule I have always loathed
compressors feeling that they robbed too much of the tone I worked hard to
develop. Not long ago my dislike for compressors was tested again when I
learned of the Keeley Compressor, built by Robert Keeley, in an issue of ToneQuest Report. My initial thought was "Here's another overpriced 'boutique'
pedal that won't be any different than all the other compressors except in
price". I had a lot to learn.
Because of the interest in
compression here at
12stringbass.net I decided to do a little research. What exactly was
"good" compression? Did any such beast really exist? The answer is yes, and
the Keeley Compressor is built upon these exact values.
The first thing I learned about
compressors is that most alter your tone greatly. A lot of this is due to
cheap components. The Keeley Compressor utilizes only the very best parts made: Switchcraft metal In / Out jacks,
metal film resistors and capacitors, and 2SC1849 NPN
transistors (which have been out of production for years). Add to this true
bypass circuitry so there is no loss of signal when the pedal is off. All of
this adds up to a very quiet pedal that provides maximum clarity and
Transparency? What does that mean? That's the second lesson...
is a very special thing... it's your musical identity. Everything you put
between your fingers and your speakers affects it. The best you can hope for
is that all those components can be controlled to work in your favor. I've
always believed that compression by nature was an evil thing! I felt it worked
against everything I tried to accomplish with my tone... suppressing the highs
and dulling the overall sound. I was amazed that the Keeley Compressor didn't
do this. My highs were still there and my instrument's tone remained unchanged. The pedal did what it was supposed to do without screwing anything
else up. I can't ask for more than that.
I was also
impressed with how easy it was to operate. The instructions Robert includes
with the pedal are simple and to the point. He even goes as far as to suggest
settings so the owner has a place to start experimenting from. I found this to
be very useful. He also made suggestions about where it should go in the
signal path... something that I think is very important and all too often
itself has only two controls - Sustain and Level. Between these two knobs you
can achieve any desired level of compression you could ever need. They are
both very dynamic which speaks to quality and I found that I didn't need any
more than what they offered. The metal housing is the same size and shape as
the MXR Dyna-Comp and the LED is a bright blue! Cool!
the Keeley against a Boss LM-2 Limiter side-by-side (in line) and the
difference was obvious. The Boss pedal (and I generally like vintage MIJ Boss
stuff, which this was) did exactly what I expected it to do... take all the
bite and attack out of my tone. The Keeley didn't touch my tone at all... it
simply provided whatever compression I set it for and let my sound ring
through clear as a bell. Absolutely amazing!
was originally marketed towards guitar players (Peter Frampton uses
one). Recently Robert has sold them to several bassists with great
results. Since 12-string basses are 2/3rds guitar (you know it's true!) I
thought this would be perfect for the instrument and I was right! The octave
strings ring out proudly and the fundamentals are pushed right up there with
them. It tightens the whole sound and the instrument never sounded so good!
line... from a guy who has hated compressors for nearly 25 years, I have
totally changed my position. Compression is a good thing IF you have
the right compressor to work with and know how to use it. Robert sells the
pedal for $219 to your door and it has a 2-year warranty. Check out www.robertkeeley.com/ for
more info on the Keeley Compressor and other Robert Keeley products including
mods and other Keeley effects.