This is a very low noise compressor. After I first plugged it in and started playing with it for a minute or two I actually unplugged my bass from the input and plugged in again just to make sure I had a good connection. It's a low noise compressor. Nice!
The appeal of The Warden, in my opinion, is that it doesn't seem so compressor-like. It does a great job of taking your tone and just making it, well, sound better. What comes in, comes out fuller, more even, and with more punch. It's not that it isn't working as a compressor, its just not an in-your-face compressor. Your tone isn't overly colored and your dynamics are not totally squashed. Your tone is evened out in a very natural way.
The Warden isn't a magic tone enhancer.
Leave that to the likes of the Diamond or the Doc Lloyd Photon or Mad Professor Forest Green by way of examples of compressors inserting their own color. At the same time, The Warden isn't 100% transparent though either. To my ear anyway. But it is a subtle coloration. Using the tone control you can shift the lows, mids, and highs to suit your taste which will certainly impact more coloration to your tone.
There are six controls on The Warden making this compressor versatile. The interaction of each allows for a wide range of sounds and compression effect.
Turning the tone knob counter clockwise cuts highs dramatically. I found it too much past 8:00 or so where it starts getting too muddy to my ears. Turning clockwise raises the high end and remains useable through most of the range. At extreme settings, the highs become noisy. The included manual says tone is nearly flat around 11:00. Depending on what bass I used I felt the most neutral position was somewhere between 11:00 and noon.
Attack controls how quickly the compressor latches on and reacts to the incoming signal. All the way clockwise is the slowest reaction time, and all the way counter clockwise is the fastest. I found it quite useable across the entire range.
Release controls how long it takes the signal to raise back to the level determined by the sustain and ratio settings. All the way clockwise is slower, all the way counter clockwise is faster. This control really interacts with the sustain and ratio settings. When you adjust one, the impact on the others is such that you might want to tweak the others too. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, its just something to be aware of. The sustain control is the nucleus of the whole pedal.
The Ratio control, to my ear, doesn't off the the widest range. But when turned all the way up (clockwise) and the attack turned all the way down, you can get a real nice almost peak limiting sort of feel but with plenty of dynamics still. I found the ratio control to be quite useable across the entire range. Turning the attack counter clockwise with ratio all the way clockwise presented more in the way of squish. Even at these extreme settings though there isn't much in the way of pumping.
Now for the sustain. This is the secret sauce of the pedal. It essentially controls how hot the signal is coming in to the compressor circuit. The more you turn it clockwise, the hotter the signal and also the more volume output you hear. Dynamics also become less as you turn clockwise. Very little sustain (more counter clockwise) = less compression. More sustain added (turning clockwise) = more compression. But that's where the ratio and attack knobs really come in to play. You can increase the sustain substantially, but dial in the ratio quite low (counter clockwise) and the attack quite slow (clockwise) and things get real punchy and full sounding quickly.
Even with high sustain settings, the compressor remains impressively quiet. Very nice!
This is the type of compressor I envision people using if they want an "always on" type of compressor. It just makes everything better without adding too much color. It's not in the totally transparent camp like the Keeley Bassist or Empress but quite far from the other extreme. It isn't the easiest of compressors to dial in but once you understand and get the feel for the interaction between the ratio, attack, and sustain its pretty simple to make things more evened out and fuller. It adds nice sustain and clarity.
Runs of standard regulated 9-volt DC power with center negative barrel and is boosted internally to 18 volts. Note: the manual says to not try running above 9-volts.
The switch is the standard click type and is true bypass. White LED that isn't overly bright. There is not threshold indicator. The pedal seems very well built and looks great. Top loaded jacks and power connect is nice for tight pedal boards.
EarthQuaker Devices did a great job with The Warden.
Retail price: $199