Have you ever had an experience with something previously unknown that left you surprised and pleasantly satisfied? I'm going to go out on a limb and venture a guess that you probably have not heard of Swindler Effects. That's a shame because here we have an example of something that deserves attention. This minimalist looking compressor put a smile on my face.
Swindler Effects is a small pedal maker out of Alabama conceived by Drew Swindle, a computer engineer. According to the Swindler Effects website, Drew and his business partner Sam Light say "Our goal is to bring products to the table that are both sonically and aesthetically inspirational." Works for me and at least sonically, the Workers Comp lives up to that goal. At least in my opinion. Swindler has partnered with New York City based designer Matt Kraus to create the Functionalist Design Series, an homage to the design principles of Dieter Rams.
The Workers Comp is based off the Dynacomp and Ross Compressors but with Swindler tweaks. There are 4 Knobs and one switch. Side mounted jacks and power input, and blue LED indicating power to the pedal. There is no LED indicating gain reduction. It has a soft touch true bypass foot switch.
The Compression knob controls the amount of compressed signal mixed with the dry signal. There is a fair amount of compression range. I found my sweet spot preference between 9:00 and 11:00 (2 - 4 on the knob). Past noon and things start getting quite squishy though the intensity of the output of your bass hitting the compressor will definitely effect the compression threshold. The pedal allowed my playing dynamics through unless I really cranked up the compression dial.
The Attack knob allows you to adjust how quickly the compress reacts to the input signal. With the compression knob at or below 10:00 (3 on the knob) I didn't hear a huge difference across most of the rotation range. It's pretty transparent in that regard. But with compression knob increases past noon you will audibly hear more variability in attack as you rotate the attack knob clockwise. My preference was between 8:00 and 10:00 (1 - 3 on the knob) for nice smoothing but with plenty of articulation and enough initial transient to satisfy.
The Release knob allows you to adjust how long the compressor keeps working on the input signal once it has been activated. My preference was around 3:00 (8 on the knob). It is great at adding sustain yet somehow excels at simultaneously accommodating fast and/or rhythmic playing. Nice!
The Level knob controls the output volume. There is a decent amount of gain, though not nearly as much as the likes of the Empress, Keeley, Cali76 CB, Doc Lloyd, etc. More than the recently reviewed Lightning Boy Op-2 compressor though.
There is also a toggle switch named Bright that helps reclaim some of the high frequencies that can be lost during compression. This circuit is probably aimed at guitarists but I found I actually liked flipping it on with my fretless bass and also when I had bass boosted on via amp or onboard bass EQ. It really adds a nice sparkle or sheen and aids finger style articulation. That being said, it would be totally unnecessary on an already bright bass. It also came in handy with slap style playing. There are other compressors (like the Strymon OB-1) that have EQ point boost switches that offer little to no value for a bass guitar but this one actually has appeal.
In real world testing, the Workers Comp can go from adding just a hint of sustain and consistency to quite squishy. You won't get a lot of dip and swell. It is transparent and neutral but there is something going on that sounds really good. Highs and lows are retained. It doesn't really add color but adds something real nice that just makes the tone more spacial or having presence. It enhances your tone in a musical way. You might not notice what it is doing until you turn it off. Then you miss it immediately. It is very quiet unless you dime the compression knob. I had no issues with headroom with any of my basses.
If you are looking for color or a noticeable EQ effect, the Workers Comp is not for you.
But for a compressor that keeps your tone in tact but somehow sweetens things up and down the fingerboard, you should consider the Swindler Workers Comp. In my experience and to my ear, sometimes a compressor can sound really good with one bass yet isn't a great fit with another bass. The Diamond BCP-1/Bass Comp Jr comes to mind. For what it is, the Workers Comp sounded good with all of my basses. It's not going to deliver that "tone magic" baked in color like that of Diamond though. That's not what the Workers Comp is all about. Sonically, it reminds me more of the Keeley Bassist or Compressor Pro, Becos CompIQ Mini Pro, or Empress in terms of its neutral and transparent response. But it has that presence that I like about the G-Lab compressor, Smoothie, Strymon, and Whirlwind. A nice studio sound for lack of a better description. It is on the smooth side and does a good job of evening out playing from string to string.
The enclosure appears to be decent quality. The knobs turn easy but with a solid feel.
Retail price: $150