Demeter''s Compulator is a useful compressor that gives you more of what you love

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.

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 beautiful way.

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.

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 Strat and transitioned into blooming and very musical feedback. Switching back to the Les Paul was like letting the bull loose. I still had effortless sustain, but it was coupled with a thicker, more distorted tone. By backing off the Attack knob, I discovered I could create a reverse-guitar effect and a sucking sound that reminded me of a tape flipped backward. This pedal offers a lot of sonic variety.

I continued experimenting with various settings and different guitars. Ultimately, I found that while the Compulator Pro has more knobs than most stompbox compressors, it was hard to dial in a bad sound. Demeter has somehow found a way to give you options without making it difficult to get a great sound, and that’s quite a feat. My only niggle was that I found it possible to distort the pedal with high-gain active pickups. But this only happened on the first note—before the compressor had a chance to clamp down on the signal. And, again, it didn’t happen with passive pickups. (James Demeter says users who experience distortion because of high-gain pickups can safely operate the unit at 12 volts for more headroom, or they can send the unit in to be modified for less overall gain at no charge other than shipping fees. “As with all things,” he says “there was a compromise. The stock unit was designed for 99 percent of the guitars out there.”)

The Verdict
I won’t lie—I’m not usually a fan of compressors in my guitar signal chain. Most compressors tend to squash the signal in a way that sounds too obvious to my ears and diminishes my tone. The Compulator Pro is really the polar opposite of that. This pedal makes everything feel better, and what comes out of it is simply a bigger, badder version of what went into it. Armed with the Compulator Pro, you’ll never get washed out in the band. Just twist a few knobs, and you’ll sound loud and proud, with soaring lead lines and bristling harmonics. Highly recommended.

Buy if...
you want more of what you love in your tone.
Skip if...
tightening up your dynamic range isn’t compelling.

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