Download Example 1
Max compression and volume for sustain, Epiphone Sheraton
Download Example 2
JCM 800-style distortion with extra compression for leveling, Epiphone Sheraton
Download Example 3
Direct clean sound with added delay, Strat
All clips recorded with the guitar into the Compulator straight into Axe FX Ultra
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.

First Take
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.

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.

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.

The Compulator Pro gives you a lot of flexibility to sculpt sound, but such flexibility often makes 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.

In Play
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.

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.

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.

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 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.