Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher

Where were you playing when you first thought you might need a compressor? Was it the live show at the dumpy bar where your lowest notes sagged into the plywood stage, or was it in the studio, where your best Geddy Lee impersonation faded into the background past the twelfth fret? It’s true, most people playing in their bedrooms or jamming in the garage might never need or want some compression, but to people playing out or recording, it’s an invaluable tool to tighten up the presence of the bass guitar and even out its attack across very disparate string thickness. As a side benefit, the nature of wood, having some spots on the neck that sustain more than others, is also balanced, letting notes hang in their air where they otherwise may not.

A new choice for your toolbox is the Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Compressor and Sustainer. EHX had previously reissued its Soul Preacher compressor in the tiny nano-sized enclosure, offering the Bass Preacher as an aptly named update for bass players. The controls are quite simple: A Sustain knob controls how much compression is applied to the signal, a Volume knob controls how much gain should be applied to that compressed signal, and a three-way toggle controls the speed at which the compression effect takes hold of the signal, ranging from a near-instantaneous clamp to a gentle squeeze. Despite the simple controls, users will have to play around a bit to find the sweet spot between all three. A very aggressive slap-and-pop style player might want a lot of compression and a fast compressor response to remove the peaks of their attack and present a smoother compliment to the drums. In its Volume control, the Bass Preacher has a ton of gain on tap; even a much-flattened signal can be brought to the same volume as the dry signal. Personally, I’m more often a fingerstyle player with a softer touch, and I found myself enjoying the Sustain knob around 9 o’clock with the Speed toggle at Medium, which made me sound a little more even but still let me play dynamically to emphasize what I wanted. For a unique effect, max out the Sustain knob, set the speed toggle to Slow and play some natural harmonics across the fretboard. They take on an almost bell-like quality as they are artificially sustained, seeming to pulse as they ring on and on.

Electro-Harmonix is a company with a rich history of compressors, with the Soul Preacher being an early foray into the stomp-box sized arena. While testing the Bass Preacher, I compared it with my experience using a vintage ‘70s Soul Preacher. The Soul Preacher was designed for the electric guitar, so it certainly isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, but fun nonetheless. The vintage Soul Preacher had a little more coloration to the tone, though neither it nor the new Bass Preacher gives a truly transparent, studio compressor-like sound. The vintage Soul Preacher seems to have less gain, which makes the signal a little quieter as the knob turns towards maximum compression. It was also a little noisier, something that can be expected with vintage pedals at times. I was pleased that the Bass Preacher could get a similarly squishy tone, nailing that kind of “compression as an effect” vibe that old pedal compressors are known for. The vintage Soul Preacher features a treble boost control to add a little more high-end back to the compressed signal. For bass purposes, this does add a nice zing to the attack, but makes the G string sound a little tinny. Losing a treble boost and gaining a control over the speed at which the compression takes hold is a good tradeoff, and coupled with modern day bypass and noise reductions, seeking a vintage Soul Preacher is time better spent just playing with the Bass Preacher if you’re interested in both.

What We Like:
A squishy, vintage-sounding coloration that compares favorably to the vintage Soul Preacher adds to an already useful effect. With plenty of gain and control over the speed of the compressor, bass players interested in stompbox compression can make this work no matter their playing style.

It may not jive with your equipment and the amount of overdrive you get won't rip your head off.

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