The Strymon Compadre is a VCA compressor circuit designed to be versatile, and it is. The device is more than a compressor. In many ways it is a logical follow-up to the Strymon OB.1 which Strymon has discontinued. I revised the bass version of the OB.1 here.
Clear, transparent, and neutral were three words I used to describe the OB.1 and those words remain highly relevant in describing the Compadre too.
Compression is often undervalued, or misunderstood at best. However, the Compadre combines two distinct compression modes with boost that can be used separately or together. It is easy to hear and feel differences between the two compression modes and you can tell the Compadre is obviously making a difference.
It is a device that makes you value compression as a tool and also a sound enhancement.
At the same time it is highly versatile.
The two onboard compression types are called Studio and Squeeze. More on this later.
The compression control varies the threshold. Turning the Compression dial clockwise increases compression by lowering the threshold. Fully counterclockwise mans no compression is applied.
The Level dial adjusts the output level when the compressor is engaged. There is a fair amount of volume level adjustable with this dial.
Use the Dry dial to add uncompressed signal to the output of the compressor. As you rotate the dial more clockwise you are introducing more of your original (dry) signal into the web (compressed) signal. This form of parallel compression is highly useful for maintaining punch and initial transients through — even more helpful at higher compression levels.
When the Comp Type switch is in Studio mode (flipped up) you get smooth compression. Strymon refers to the Studio mode as like vintage rack compressors. Silky smooth is exactly how I would describe it. With the compression dial between 8:00 and 10:00 the device is smooth, smooth, smooth and can almost seem undetectable, until you turn it off. Then you realize the value add. At higher compression levels (the dial at 1:00 and higher), the Compadre feels more squishy but definitely still organic and natural. When you blend in more dry signal it makes for a real nice combo of stronger compression with great dynamics. Ratio is fixed at 4:1.
When the Comp Type switch is in Squeeze mode (flipped down) you get a much harder, more obvious compression and much more squash. In this mode with the compression dial at 2:00 or higher you are entering limiting territory. Again, it all feels organic and natural. Ratio is fixed at 9:1 for squeeze.
Both modes are highly useful and obviously different.
This isn't one of those "multipurpose" devices that ends up being a "one trick pony".
No, the Compadre is equally good in Studio mode and Squeeze mode.
That said, my tendency leaned toward the Studio mode because it is so smooth and pleasant. A great always on type of device in this mode. You miss it when you turn it off.
Squeeze mode comes to the rescue when need that extra squeeze and leveling.
There is also a Boost function with a separate foot switch to control the Boost. A red LED illuminates when the boost circuit is activated. The Boost and Comp circuits operate independently, with the Boost located after Comp. When both are bypassed, an electromechanical relay is activated for true bypass. There is an available 14db maximum boost.
The Boost EQ switch is a 3-way position switch and allows you to select the frequency shape. On bass guitar I found the flat position (flipped downward) to be the only position of much value. In the flat position, the entire range is boosted. In Mid position (center) there is an obvious boost in the mid frequencies. Problem is, these mids dominate any available low end making a bass guitar sound unnatural. However, if you place the Compadre in front of an EQ or some type of preamp with low end control pushing the mids with the Compadre actually becomes quite useful, and interesting. The Treble position ads a lot of high end and I can't imagine most bass players finding much of any use for it.
On guitar the experience with the EQ is entirely different. The Treble position does tighten up the bottom end by boosting high mid/treble frequencies. The Mid position does significantly fatten tone.
There is also a Boost Type switch located on the back of the pedal. You select between clean or soft clipping. In the Clean position you add up to 14db of gain without introducing noticeable clipping. But when flipped to Dirty, the boost circuit increases output level while introducing soft clipping like with an overdrive pedal. It is a pleasant form of OD and I can see it as being useful enough to potentially replace another OD pedal downline in your chain. It is definitely usable on bass and guitar.
Fav/Midi input is there to connect a Strymon MiniSwitch for remote selection of a favorite setting. Nice! I can certainly see this being a great feature for those who gig with multiple instruments or want to use this device in both the studio and on stage.
You can use the Strymon Compadre with a 9volt battery or with the included power supply (or any power supply) at 9VDC center negative, 150maA minimum.
The casing is brushed aluminum and is very solid. The whole pedal looks and feels like a quality piece of equipment all the way around. That is what you would expect from Strymon.
There is a red LED that illuminates when the Comp foot switch is activated. There is no LED to indicate compression level/gain reduction. Because of this, some will find this unacceptable and immediately rule out the Strymon Compadre. The Compadre is easy to dial in though. I understand why users prefer having some sort of gain reduction meter but keep an open mind with this one. Each function performs very well. There is a quality feel to the whole package and it isn't one of those devices where it is either the extreme of can't tell it is doing anything to the extreme of overly squashy. It is highly useful.
This isn't some tone magic box. It isn't a "punch machine". It doesn't do big and fat. It does do what a great compressor should do. Makes everything smoother, adds sustain, makes playing feel better, helps you play faster, and does that special something where you don't want to turn it off.
To my ear it doesn't eliminate any lows or highs but don't expect it to beef up your low end either. Compadre’s frequency response goes all the way down to 20Hz . That said, your tonal output will seem tighter and more focused. It is not clinical in any way. It is extremely quiet.
Especially in Studio mode the compression is very musical, precise, and transparent. While I typically prefer having control over attack and release, the Compadre's detection engine must work well because I didn't feel the need to play around with either attack or release. Of course it would be nice if such controls were present but I suspect that is beyond the scope of what the Compadre is intended to be. That is a highly useful and easy-to-use compression engine (with some added tone tweaking functionality). It accomplishes this purpose very, very well.
This thing doesn't disappoint. You may be wondering whether I'd prefer the OB.1 or the new Compadre. No question that the Compadre is a nice upgrade.
• Two modes of compression
• Quality build; quality compression
• Boost on hand
• OD (if you want it)
• Pedalboard friendly • Parallel compression
• EQ (for guitar players)
• Independent boost and compression
• EQ not highly usable for bass guitar
• Other than the dirty boost, if you are looking for tone coloration, look elsewhere
Retail price: $299