Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Seymour Duncan Studio Bass and Vice Grip: These are updates of the discontinued Doubleback pedal, which is a VCA type. In addition to a normal clean blend, the Doubleback had a toggle switch to mix in the uncompressed mids or the highs. The Vice Grip has that same feature. The Studio Bass version replaces the high blend mode with a low blend.
 
Aside from that, the published specs say the Vice Grip has a wider range of attack time, and more available output gain, than the Studio Bass. I emailed Seymour Duncan three times to ask about any other differences between these two models, or any other technical information they could provide. They responded only once, and here is everything they said: "both pedals are compressors, the Vice Grip is for guitar and the Studio Bass is for bass". Gee, thanks for the help.
 
The knobs include Blend, Level, Attack, and Compression. Blend controls the amount of uncompressed signal mixed in, for all three frequency settings. Compression sets the ratio, ranging from 1:1 to 20:1, so it covers the full range from lighter squeezing up to peak limiting. And it does a pretty good job across that range. The Comp knob also seems to control threshold via input gain, as the noise floor raises up the higher you turn that knob. So at the maximum ratio it also has a low threshold; this sounds quite good in its own way, but it won't work for somebody who wanted the kind of peak limiter that only caps the highest peaks.
 
The unit I'm testing is the Studio Bass, and its attack knob has a narrow range of control, very subtle. It's a good general-purpose attack time, but kind of a waste of a knob. The inherent release time is fixed, and it is quite fast. The action is smooth and level, and does not do any sort of rubbery squishing effect.
 
The frequency range of the Studio Bass is ruler flat, with zero loss of highs or lows, and zero humps or scoops in the middle. I do not know if the Vice Grip rolls off any of the low end, but I would not expect it to. The tone overall is clean and clear, but a little warm, not clinically transparent. The blend allows it to keep some brightness and tone during heavy compression, where some other comps can get dull. The noise level is pretty low overall; it's not dead silent, but better than average, and really the only noticeable noise comes from the boost it adds to your existing signal as you turn up the Comp knob.
 
The Low setting of the blend has an effect similar to the bass expansion/emphasis settings on many rack comps, which use a sidechain to reduce the amount that the detection circuit reacts to low frequencies. In this case however it is not a sidechain process, but an emphasis of the bass volume on the clean channel. While that does sound good, I actually prefer the Mid setting. It increases your punch and cut and articulation, without causing clipping from boosted lows. This is a killer feature.
 
The construction quality is good and solid seeming. The housing is the size of a Boss, slightly larger than MXR. But it makes up for that with top-mounted jacks, which are a great feature for tight pedalboards. There is no meter to indicate the amount of compression. It runs on Boss-standard 9V DC. The footswitch is "true bypass".
 
Overall this pedal provides a LOT of quality per dollar, and I will be glad to add it to my top picks list. I wish it had LED metering, even lower noise, and separate threshold control, but you'll pay a higher price for those.
 
Price in USD: new $159 to $169, used probably $99 to $125
 
or on Amazon
 

 
 
All text on this page written and owned by Cyrus J. Heiduska, 2006-2017, all rights reserved.
Copying is prohibited, but please feel free to link to this page using the link text "compressor reviews".
PRIVACY POLICY