Let's get the obvious out of the way. Yes, the Markbass Compressore is larger than your average compressor pedal.
No it is not as pedalboard friendly as many other options. But there is a lot to like about it. Read on.
The Compressore has a 12AT7/ECC81 tube inside.
Probably the most remarkable aspect of the Compressore is the fact that it truly does use that tube to actually perform the compression.
It isn't just part of the gain stage with some other compression circuit behind it. That said, if you are expecting gooey, tubey sound, that's not really the Markbass. It is remarkably open sounding for a tube compressor. At first pass you might also conclude it is quite transparent too. For a tube compressor, it is, but it imparts its own tonal coloration that is relatively subtle. But what it adds is mighty fine. I'd go so far as to call it addicting. To me, this is tone magic without radically changing your inherent tone. Once you turn off the pedal you'll be looking for that foot switch to click it back on as soon as you can. To be clear, it is not transparent. There is coloration. But to me anyway, this is really the good kind of coloration that makes you want to leave the Compressor on all the time.
It is also very quiet which is commendable for a tube compressor. The tone is very smooth but with an overall fattening of the tone. It's one of those compressors that makes you sound bigger while evening things out at the same time. To my ear, lows and highs stay fully in tact. I guess there might be a little high end roll off but that's getting a little picky. It's there, but subtle.
I love what it does for my in ear monitor mix.
I've heard some describe the tone as dark. On the one hand, I can see where it could be possible to describe it this way. But it is not muddy or lacking definition. Quite the contrary actually. Articulation, harmonics, and just flat out presence is better in every way when playing through the Compressore. Compared to something like the Cali76 CB or Empress or Keeley Bassist/Compressor Pro the top end is going to feel and sound more subdued. But the highs are still there, just rounded out. In the context of tube compressors, the Markbass Compressore is articulate and refined. It reminds me of a cross between the Retrospec Squeezebox and maybe the Doc Lloyd Photon or JHS Pulp 'N Peel.
There are six knobs. Before that scares you off, let me reassure you that they are intuitive, useful, and you can readily tell what each is doing.
Gain (0 - +16dB): Controls the instrument input level. I really liked the gain at noon or higher. Setting around 3:00 - 4:00 and you can start hearing a little harmonic content.
Threshold : The input level at which the sound becomes compressed. There is a wide range available and it is easy to dial in just barely compressing your signal to a threshold where virtually every note is grabbed.
Ratio 1:1 - 1:hard limiter: Controls how intense the compression is. For me the sweet spot is between 9:00 and 11:00.
Attack 2 - 50 ms: Sets how quickly the sound is compressed. All the way counter clockwise is fast, latching on quickly. All the way clockwise is slower, letting more transient through. I prefer the knob at noon to 3:00.
Release 100 - 750 ms: Determines how quickly the sound decompresses. All the way counter clockwise is fast release, all the way clockwise is slower, or optimizing for longer sustain. Of all the controls, the release settings seems to have the least amount of variability.
Volume: This output volume control allows you to balance the compressed signal level with your uncompressed signal level (when the pedal is off). There is plenty of volume on tap, especially when you have the gain higher.
There is a super bright LED that illuminates when the pedal is turned on. A yellow LED flashes when your signal is being compressed, and the intensity of the light reflects the intensity of the compression. While maybe not as nice as an array of LEDs this one works just fine and is very responsive — much more so than the likes of the Cali76 CB for example. If you aren't a knob tweaker that LED will help you dial in the compressor.
I had no issue with headroom with any of my basses. It handled everything thrown at it with ease.
The Markbass Compressore can be dialed in for subtle compression all the way to limiting.
At higher settings it does get grabby — more more so than I like. Some may dig it though and the "dip and swell" is obvious. It would not be a top choice as a limiter though. More extreme settings are not where the Markbass shines in my opinion.
For a subtle to moderate tool though, the Compressore is a winner in my book.
If I had a Top 5 list, the Markbass Compressore would be in it. I really like it.
True it is big. True it has somewhat difficult power requirements (true of most tube pedals though). The Markbass manual says it requires 600ma minimum making it not super pedalboard friendly. I will say I've been running mine on 500ma on a CIOKS DC7 without issue. Newer power supplies like the CIOKS (and many others) now have 12 volt outputs so power requirements are becoming less of an issue but it will take up room on your board. I've got mine on a Pedaltrain Nano+ right now. It does ship with its own power supply.
Foot switch is true bypass. The pedal is surprisingly lightweight for how big it is but seems to be well made. Note: the version I am reviewing here is the new casing style that entered production sometime around 2015 I think. The older casing allowed the knobs to be more recessed potentially making it less likely to be accidentally bumped. I personally prefer the look of the newer style, especially how much more streamlined it is. Hopefully the pictures provide enough perspective on size. It is pretty easy to get inside if you ever needed to access the tube. If you can live with the power requirements and size, I can't recommend this one enough.
Retail price: $200