BY STEVE OUIMETTE
At one point or another, most guitarists have
used a compressor to level out dynamics or
produce singing sustain. Country guitarists
love compression for clean chicken pickin’,
and funk guitarists live and die by the spank
that comes from a highly squeezed signal.
If you’ve never played with a compressor
before, you owe it to yourself to plug in and
discover how it can draw out more tone from
both your guitar and amp.
With the Compulator Pro, James Demeter has
brought sophisticated studio compression to
stompbox users. Whereas many stomp compressors keep it simple, offering only compression and volume knobs, Demeter has squeezed
controls from high-end rack compressors into a
package guitarists can use in front of their amp.
a device more challenging to operate. To learn
how easy or hard it would be to dial in great
tone, I ran the pedal through a variety of tests.
Housed in a yellow metal case, the Compulator
Pro looks sharp and feels solid. The pedal sports
four knobs: Attack, Release, Compress, and
Volume. Below the controls are a true-bypass
footswitch and a bright blue LED that tells you
when the compressor is active. The unit runs on
a 9-volt battery or an optional power supply.
To begin with, I plugged a Les Paul with
Sheptone AB Specials into the Compulator Pro
and then directly into a Creation Audio Labs
MW1 Studio Tool. The MW1 is a Swiss Army
knife for D.I. signals and reamping, and it offers
the cleanest way I know of to get a guitar signal
into Pro Tools without coloring the sound.
remedied that. However, I should note that at
extreme compression settings, you may not get
back all your volume (that is, the volume you’d
have if the effect were bypassed)—even if the
Volume control is maxed.
In addition to standard 1/4" input and output
jacks, the Compulator Pro has a High/Low
Gain switch, which is connected to a recessed
trimpot that lets you dial in a preset amount
of boost. The trimpot is accessible with a small
screwdriver along the unit’s left-hand side, and
it’s set to 20 dB of boost at the factory.
After setting the Compulator’s controls to
noon and engaging the footswitch, I realized
those settings are quite extreme and significantly lowered my overall volume. Playing an
open-E chord and letting it ring, I could hear
the sound trigger the compressor, get pulled
down in volume, and then slowly ramp up as
the Compulator pushed the gain higher in
response to the fading notes. As I listened, I
was impressed that the Compulator Pro added
no extra noise—its circuit is dead quiet.
Next, I plugged the Compulator Pro into a
65Amps Tupelo combo. With the pedal off, I
adjusted the Tupelo for a fat, clean sound and
then stomped on the Compulator. With its
previous settings, the pedal instantly made my
sound thicker and larger. The tonality didn’t
change—the Compulator simply delivered
a better version of the same sound. Again,
I found the pedal to be quite transparent at
these settings, and I heard all the nuances of
my playing being amplified and controlled in a
The pedal’s compression circuit is based on
a photocell, a design borrowed from vintage
studio compressors. Because of its big, natural
sound, optical compression has been a favorite
of studio engineers for decades—but it isn’t
often found in stompboxes. Attack and Release
controls let you adjust how fast the compressor turns on and off. The unit also includes a
Volume control for making up the gain you may
have lost after compressing your signal.
Wanting a less obvious compression effect, I
pulled Attack and Release down to 9 o’clock
and repeated the drill with the E chord. At
these settings, the sound was much smoother.
Though I knew the compressor was operating,
it was virtually undetectable. The attack and
the release were so smooth I couldn’t hear the
make-up gain coming into play.
Switching to a Fender American Standard
Strat, I was able to dial in some serious
quack. Because the Strat’s single-coils have
less output than the Les Paul’s humbuckers,
I flipped the Gain switch to High and got all
the signal I needed. I had the sense that playing my guitar was easier with the pedal than
without it. Leveling out the dynamics made
me feel like I was on steroids—everything
was powerful and smooth.
The Compulator Pro gives you a lot of flexibility
to sculpt sound, but such flexibility often makes
With that in mind, I fully cranked the Compress
knob and experienced nearly infinite sustain.
Remember, this is with a completely clean
signal. This setting reduced the overall level,
but a quick twist of the Volume control easily
To test out the Compulator Pro’s singing qualities, I kicked up the volume and
gain on the Tupelo and let it rip. With the
Compression backed down to about 3
o’clock, the pedal set to a fast attack and
slow release, the sound turned into a wild
sustain fest! Notes spilled effortlessly from my