Bassists Get Theirs: Keeley Electronics Releases the Low End-Optimized Variant of Their Volume Squasher

There’s an old adage about the Keeley Compressor, 2 and 4-knob versions alike: “amazing on guitar, meh on bass.” The reason why the Keeley Compressor squashes in such a desirable way is the particular type of midrange that the pedal emphasizes. There’s something about the way it causes your guitar parts to leap out of a speaker- it’s like engaging a drive or at least a boost pedal.


Translated to bass though, it’s just too much honk. I’m sure someone’s used a Keeley Compressor to great effect while maintaining the low end, but it’s often not the ideal choice. But Keeley has been revamping their compression lineup this year, as seen for example with the announcement of the Compressor Pro back in January. But for those of us who tend dark gates of the low end, the Bassist Limiting Amplifier is far more exciting.

Or is it the “Bassist Compressor”? I feel like everywhere I go on the internet the pedal’s design is different. On the Keeley site itself the page and YouTube demo video (below) say Compressor, but the photo on that page says “Limiting Amplifier. “And hell, some photos floating around online feature a switch where the second LED would be. Speaking of that mystery LED, is it a meter that gets brighter as the pedal works harder? God I hope so. That was always my main gripe with Keeley Compressors: the lack of metering.

Well, mystery name aside, what are the differences between the Bassist Compressor/Limiting Amplifier and the original Keeley models? I’ll let the company explain it in their own words:

The Bassist Compressor is built around the exotic and extremely high fidelity THAT Corp. 4320.  Think of it as very affordable studio-grade dbx compressor in stomp box format!  It uses high performance Voltage Controlled Amplifiers, on board true-RMS detector, and ultra high performance op-amps to bring you the very best quality. VCA compressors give you precise control.  Therefore they are directly suited to bass guitars. The Keeley Bassist Compressor is both musical and very transparent.  Where our older compressors were based on the CA3080 or the LM13700 and are perfect for single coil guitars, the new Keeley Bassist Compressor has no problems with active pre-amps and line level input signals!  Not only can the Keeley Bassist handle astonishingly large signals, it has an incredible bandwidth of over 20 KHz and incredibly low noise.  No detail in your bass guitar’s tone will be lost.

The concept of a DBX-style, more transparent compression/limiting pedal from Keeley is a pretty exciting one. I’m hoping to test one of these out in person at NAMM. But for the moment, preorders are being accepted on Keeley’s website. The pedal that must not be named will begin shipping in early November, and the price tag will set you back $199.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.

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