What is it?
When it comes down to the important business of hitting your amp's front end to make it sizzle without changing its tone altogether, you're going to reach for boost and, to make a night of it, compression.
They go together. Some pedals just get along, making a highly functional alliance in pursuit of a greater tone good. Compression and chorus works like this too when you're looking for a processed clean tone to bring the house down. But boost and compression, it feels right that they should be housed in one enclosure.
The Compadre is not Strymon's first time around the block with this idea. The recently discontinued OB-1 housed boost and an optical compressor under one roof, but the optical parts became hard to source and so it was back to the drawing board.
The result is a pedal that controls things digitally while offering an all-analogue signal path for your guitar. The boost and the compressor can be used independently or together, and each has a few tricks up its sleeves.
Like the OB-1, the boost section allows you to select the frequencies you want to juice, with a three-way toggle switch to select between Flat (i.e. all frequencies boosted together), Mid for the midrange boost and Treble for... Well, for boosting the high-end, and you can very well imagine how useful this is when you need to find a way to poke through the mix.
Of course, a clean boost might well tip your amp into natural overdrive but this improves on the OB-1 by offering a dirty boost for overdriven tones on tap. Altogether, the Compadre is more tweakable than the OB-1.
After all, what's the point in being a bona-fide guitar genius when no one can hear your solo?
The VCA compression section pairs two different types of compressor, one a vintage studio rack-style compression, and the other for squeezing down hard in the fashion of classic stompbox compressors – the DynaComps et al.
There is also a volume control facility, to which you can attach an external expression pedal to the rear-panel socket, allowing for volume sweeps and no loss of tone. So assuming you've got some delay elsewhere in the chain you can get your inner Allan Holdsworth on with that. Very handy.
Performance and verdict
The compressor is first up in the signal chain and mercifully it is an uncomplicated beast. Select from the two types on offer, Studio or Squeeze, and dial in how much you want to compress, and then there is a level control that adjusts output when the compressor is on, allowing you to boost or cut 6dB.
The Dry knob, of course, is an essential feature for so you can dial in how much of the compressed signal you want and how much dry.
It's easy, but also very effective, and very powerful. You can use Studio to tidy up and add a bit of sheen to your tone, or you can run Squeeze mode hard for super-tight country squashed tones. The Studio really delivers a transparent performance, an always-on sweetener. You'll only really notice it when it's not there.
• Xotic SP Compressor (opens in new tab)
A sonic squeezer that will easily squeeze onto your pedalboard, the SP operates as a straight compressor but also as a nice-sounding booster.
• Yerasov S-Compressor SC-3 (opens in new tab)
A bargain alternative, just turn the level up full, step on the footswitch and you'll get a lovely boost, combined with compression that should make your notes sing for solos.
• Orange Kongpressor (opens in new tab)
The volume knob offers up to 12dB of clean boost, so the pedal can be used purely as a booster, offering a range of volume boosts that are great for amp driving, or maybe taking things up a notch for solos, especially so with a small amount of compression dialled in.
Squeeze really does do a number on your transients and boosts sustain. Your chicken pickin' game requires a strong compressor, and this delivers that squash beautifully. Pedal steel style bends are another option when you've got this engaged, especially if you've got the external volume pedal connected for that weeping tone.
As for the boost, you've got a choice of clean or dirty, and three frequency profiles to play with. The dirty boost is really just an overdrive by another name, and so when you kick that on in the Mid setting you are in for some TS-style crunch. The High boost offers a nice shimmer on top, while Flat is exactly that; oomph for all.
There is a lot that is great about the Compadre. For a start, it is a cinch to operate. You won't have to play around with the manual, and for an effects pedal that is designed to play with your amp that feels appropriate. The compression and boost play so well together, and might even help you fall in love with your amp again.
You can save your favourite settings and access them via an external latching footswitch. Strymon's MiniSwitch is designed for this purpose and costs around 60 bucks or so. Alternatively, go all in with the favourites and get Strymon's MultiSwitch Plus, which gives you three presets, or connect via MIDI for remote parameter control and saving up to 300 settings.
When you factor in the volume control option, the Compadre presents itself as a formidable tool for juicing your tone with some professional sheen and giving your amp something to think about. It's sure to be a pedalboard perennial.
MusicRadar verdict: With a clever, intuitive design, the Compadre makes an ideal one-box solution for adding some secret sauce to your tone and bring out the best in your amplifier. Meet your new always-on stompbox.
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Compressor and boost pedal
- FEATURES: Selectable true or buffered bypass, Class A JFET input circuit, 300 presets, MIDI control
- CONTROLS: Boost, Compression, Dry, Level, Boost EQ selector switch, Comp Type selector switch, Boost Type selector switch, Boost footswitch, Comp footswitch
- CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output, Volume,
- FAV/MIDI POWER: Supplied 9V DC adaptor, 150mA
- DIMENSIONS: 102 (w) x 114 (d) x 44mm (h)
- CONTACT: Strymon (opens in new tab)