Boss BC-1X Bass Compressor Review
Boss’ latest compressor for bassists aims to tame dynamics with punch and precision.
Clip 1 - Release at 7 o’clock, ratio at 3 o’clock, threshold at 11 o’clock.
Clip 2 - Release at 8 o’clock, ratio at 12 o’clock, threshold at 12 o’clock.
So what’s the big deal about bass compression? It may not be the most glamorous effect, but it’s invaluable for evening out your signal and can change your overall tone with the right (or wrong) tweaks. Common complaints about compression are that it can sound unnatural and/or too squeezed—to the point that bass doesn’t sound like bass anymore—and that compressors can be noisy. On the flipside, the right compression can sweeten a tone and make life a whole lot nicer in both live and studio situations. We spent some time with the new BC-1X Bass Comp from Boss. It’s their answer to the common complaints about compression and a pedestal for the positive attributes of the effect.
Squeezed, Not Stomped
The familiar aesthetic of Boss pedals hasn’t changed much in 30-plus years, and the BC-1X preserves that vibe with a simple layout: four side-by-side controls positioned above a high-resolution gain-reduction indicator. A solid-feeling pedal, the green-metal-flake housing has the aforementioned decades of field-testing as verification of its ruggedness. Under the hood is what Boss calls MDP (Multi-Dimensional Processing), the secret sauce to their newer pedals. MDP technology virtually separates a signal into different parts and analyzes the parameters of these parts—such as frequencies and dynamics—before the effect is optimally applied to each part independently. It’s all very 21st century, but none of that matters unless it sounds good, right?
No bad tones. Gain-reduction indicator is a welcome feature.
Most bassists still don’t know they need compression.
Ease of Use:
Boss BC-1X Bass Compressor
To test the pedal’s mettle, I used a Yamaha BB1024X loaded with active Aguilar pickups and an Aguilar OBP-3 preamp. The BC-1X is designed to run at 18V, so you can use it with active basses with very hot output. (An internal boost circuit helps that onboard 9V.) So I could best hear the nuances of the BC-1X, I plugged into a PreSonus FireStudio interface and pulled out a set of headphones.
I set the pedal’s level control to match the bass’ unfettered level, which for me was about 11 o’clock. The release was set low at 8 o’clock and I dialed the ratio and threshold knobs to noon. The result was a wonderful compression that allowed my bass to sing and not feel too narrow or underwhelming. At this level, the gain-reduction indicator was barely hitting the yellow (which is about 75 percent). No stomping required with this setting—I could have kept it engaged all night.
Compressed for Success
I experimented with various combinations of ratio/release/threshold and found that the pedal could handle everything I threw its way. With all the dials set at straight-up 12 o’clock, you get a little midrange bite without losing the sonic qualities of the instrument. Boosting the ratio to a more aggressive setting (around 3 o’clock) will be friendly for a more pop-and-slap approach. It’s really difficult to get any bad compression from this pedal. The MDP circuitry ensures that great tone shines through, so you can set a comfortable compression level for whatever style of music you’re playing and know that just the right frequencies are being compressed.
I’d wager that at least half the people reading this have either played through or owned a Boss pedal. Boss has been around for a long time because they continue to push the envelope, and the intuitive BC-1X with its impressive circuitry and features like the gain-reduction indicator is no exception. The pedal provides natural bass expression without compromise while giving players some added tone possibilities to explore. If you’re in the market for a compressor that will tighten up your sound yet still let your tone shine at the same time, you may want to give the BC-1X a look and listen.
Watch the Review Demo: