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My dad always used to say, “Son, some people drive Fords and some people drive Chevys.” I have no idea what that says about me and my rusted-out ‘68 BMW 1600, or exactly what he was getting at, but my guess is it’s that many things in life are divided into two camps, whether it’s Fender or Gibson, Democrat or Republican, or the raging middle-class debate over – yawn – Camry or Accord.
Generally, life hands you at least two choices, and compressors are no different; the choice being sparkly or squishy. Yeah, I hear you, keep the technical jargon down, but it’s true. High-end, studio grade stuff, like the Teletronix LA-2A, can squish if need be, but its real forte is offering up loads of pre-squash compression and adding a gorgeous sparkle to the high-end, while focusing the bass frequencies, with most other studio-quality compressors behaving much the same.
On the other side of the compression spectrum, you’ve got footpedal compressors. First becoming popular with the masses in the ‘70s – just in time for the then-current quest for clean sustain – squishy compressors tend to lack that topend sparkle, but also add crazy amounts of sustain and a kind of rubber band pop to the strings. This makes them popular with the country set, where speed-of-light chicken pickin’ is the norm and the resulting cascade of notes can use some help with separation.
The EH Soul Preacher falls more in-line with the squishy side of things, but without the overt sacrifice of top-end sparkle. With certain settings it can add a little, but more importantly, it’s tough to find any settings where it takes it away. It also adds as much or as little squish as you want, from let’s-wrangle-this-here-bottomend- back-in-the-corral to full-on, Adrian Belew-approved smoosh, all while staying out of the treble frequency’s hair. Many compressors in this price range don’t offer as much usable tonal flexibility.
Adjusting the Sustain sets the amount of compression and helps the Preacher sound good with single coils and humbuckers alike. I found single coils did well with the Soul Preacher at pretty much any Sustain setting, while humbuckers started entering the point of diminishing returns much past noon. The Attack control comes with three very usable presets labeled fast, med and slow, top to bottom. The fast preset squishes the entire signal, and I don’t know if it’s just due to my point of reference, but this is where I liked the Preacher the best, reminding me of a particularly good, ‘70s type of compression. The med preset lets the leading edge of the transient through, then steps on it. This seemed predominantly useful for chordal work, or for getting some crazy, Frippy sustain, even with clean settings. Slow misses the initial attack altogether, then comes down hard, and when the Sustain knob is full up offers a cool swell effect, giving credence to EH’s suggestion of using this setting for “funk chord comping or chunky rhythm playing.”
If you’re looking for a squishy compressor, but dig your tone as is, the Soul Preacher would be my first recommendation. The fact that it’s affordable and made by a cool company can only be a bonus.
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