CompIQ STELLA Pro Compressor Pedal for Guitar & Bass
CompIQ Stella Pro is a full-featured compressor/limiter pedal that provides an unprecedented amount of control through its many parameters.
Packed in a small-sized and road-worthy black-powdered aluminum enclosure, the highly performant and versatile CompIQ Stella is the smartest addition to any pedalboard, small or big. It can be used in any studio usage scenario, including bus compression and tracking, and it performs admirably on stage. Designed with bass and guitar in mind, it is excellent with any other instrument (keyboards, synths, electro-acoustic guitars or other instruments, etc.), and also with vocals or anything else, really, with an appropriate pre-amp.
A transformer coupled balanced / unbalanced (floating output) board is optionally available for the CompIQ Stella. The DITOS allows for direct to interface recording, FOH connection from a distance, or simply for bringing in a complementary new voice to pass it next on your signal chain, with tight and punchy lows, enhanced low-mids, and warm-ringing highs. The DITOS board comes pre-installed when ordered along with the CompIQ Stella compressor.
Note! A good understanding of audio compression is normally required to optimally set the CompIQ Stella for live performance or studio recording. The switches are fairly small for large hands, but, since they are not to be used very often, we traded their placement inconvenience for adding more compression controls in such a small box.
Studio-level audio performance in a pedal format
The CompIQ STELLA Pro Compressor is an all-analog externally powered or battery-operated compressor pedal designed for guitar and bass and hand-built around the top-class 4320 THAT Analog Engine®. The amount of control it offers is staggering and probably never before seen in a compression pedal, especially of this size. We didn’t leave out anything that helps to bring out a truly clean, accurate, and transparent compression. At the heart of processing, a true RMS-level detector measures the input signal and applies accurate feed-forward compression through a transparent sounding, high-performance Blackmer® VCA.
With so many controls, one may wonder how can this be tamed and furthermore, properly used in a live setup. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. We provided sufficient options not only for in-depth control but also for making things easier. For instance, with the flip of a switch, you can take out the Manual Attack & Release controls (the most daunting of the art of compression) and let the Dynamic Auto Timing analog circuit do the right thing for you. Two choices are available, Fast or Slower timings, and both respond gracefully to any playing style. In both settings, transients are handled faster while steady signals benefit from longer release timings. Faster timings present a more accentuated compression feel and are well suited for peak limiting.
The manual control of Attack and Release timings will expand the compression flavors by an order of magnitude. To mention just a simple trick: delay the attack time a little while bringing back a faster release time and you will end up with a punchy and proper sound for country chicken pickin’ or for instrumental stand-out soloing. Combine this with the Side Chain Filter and the X-EQ and increase your options even further. All these together will also remind you of an optical-soul type of compression, demonstrating the tremendous versatility of this pedal.
The full-scale Ratio (1:1 to infinite:1), the instrument to line-level Threshold (-40dB to +10dB) range, and up to +20dB of Makeup Gain, all in continuous controls, add to the plethora of switchable options to further attain the ideal compression for any musical program.
A Dry/Wet Mix allows for parallel compression (a.k.a. the New York style), where the desired amount of unprocessed input signal is mixed with the compressed signal, for a more natural effect application.
The Stella – the brand’s flagship compressor for bass and guitar – is the perfect embodiment of the company’s spirit. Apart from your regular controls like ratio, threshold, attack, release and gain make-up, the Stella also has toggle switches for the side-chain filter, Tilt EQ, and knee. While there’s a lot going on with this pedal – it has nine knobs, seven LEDs, and four switches – it’s a lot more intuitive than it seems. WE SAID Small, but packs all the features of a VCA compressor, and the same audio quality too.
Additional features are available for the very demanding players. The Side Chain Filter has three selectable options – Normal, Low, and Deep -, very helpful for bass instruments or when a fuller output is needed. To keep things simple, set the filter to Normal and the compressor will just act naturally in most instances. The Normal side-chain processing presents a non-linear, high-pass characteristic above 1KHz, which balances the potential trigger difference between the energy of low and high frequency. Such a feature is usually available only in high-end studio compressors and it is intended for a natural effect application even on higher compression ratios. If higher amplitude lower-frequency notes trigger compression too early then the Low (-12dB per octave filter, -12dB@90Hz) or Deep (-12dB per octave filter, -12dB@200Hz) sidechain high-pass filters will slightly push the compression application towards the higher frequency spectrum, freeing up the low-end at the output. In other words, the frequencies filtered out in the sidechain end up being less affected by compression at the output of the compressor.
The Compression Knee can be selected between Hard and Soft, each option having its own sonic signature. Hard Knee compression acts fast and squishes hard. Use this if you aim for peak limiting or in-your-face compression effect. Soft Knee compression acts progressive and gentle, helping to create a transparent effect application, even at the highest ratio.
The X-EQ equalization circuit dawned in the 70′ Hi-Fi era, has two selectable options for its pivot frequency: High (at 1KHz) proper for guitar and Low (at 330Hz) suitable for bass. This is a post-compression applied correction that can be either necessary for voice compensation from one instrument to another, or desired, for your particular sonic signature.
On top of all these, we added an analog Saturation circuit that can add harmonic distortions to the dry line (only), which can then be mixed with the compressed wet line, for precise balancing of the effect. This circuit rivals the vintage studio tape-overload compression effect which was a studio recording trick during the ’60s. Tape saturation is a pleasing sort of distortion arising when high amplitude audio signals are recorded on magnetic tape.
The Saturation control can vary in intensity from nothing to mild and up to warm overdrive. The result is either subtle, adding richness to the sound peaks, or obvious, with a tube-like screaming distortion feel. If needed, Low and High-frequency cut filters can be engaged by removing two internal jumpers. This helps eliminate low-frequency fuzziness or prevent high-frequency from sounding too harsh. The auxiliary Level control on the dry line will compensate for the volume loss introduced by a higher saturation setting. This parallel processing is delicately brought together and leveled up with the Mix blend knob. The parallel tape saturation feature also transforms the CompIQ Stella into a compression-overdrive effect.
An 8-LED compression display indicates the amount of effect applied to the input signal (or gain reduction), providing visual feedback over how much the sound is processed.
Pristine audio processing
The CompIQ series of compressors is not gonna alter the magic voice of your instrument. They preserve the original guitar or bass tone while providing unobstructed, pristine audio compression. The high dynamic range of these compressors allows for natural-sounding clean tones and low noise, artifact-free audio processing without the distortions introduced by many other compressors.
DITOS • Transformer-Coupled Balanced/Unbalanced Output Board
An optional transformer-coupled output board is available for insertion in the space usually used for the 9V battery. The DITOS board provides a transformer-coupled balanced output in 1/4″ TRS format that is suitable for direct recording or for sending the signal to a mixing console. It can also be used as an unbalanced floating output to send the signal to another pedal or amplifier while capturing the warmth of the output transformer. The main output remains functional at all times and it could be used for sending the signal to another processing chain or a tuner.
When Stella is in bypass, the signal still passes the DITOS circuit, so this may account for an active compression bypass (as opposed to the main output which will be true bypassed).
Although the unbalanced main output and the transformer balanced/unbalanced output may be used at the same time, the latter is phase-reversed. You may use the DITOS output with a cable with hot/cold wires reversed if you want to use both compressor outputs at the same time. Ground-lift jumpers are available internally for dealing with potential ground loop noise issues.
The DITOS board comes pre-installed if ordered along with the CompIQ Stella. If ordered separately, you must drill your Stella’s aluminum enclosure yourself for the 1/4″ TRS output connector.
The DITOS board comes prepared for simple interconnection with CompIQ Stella mainboards manufactured after September 2021. However, the DITOS is also backward compatible with older versions.
The transformer output works exquisitely well to complement the Burr-Brown signal conditioning in the Stella’s main circuit. The tone is filled with natural warmth, rendering tight and punchy lows, enhanced low-mids, and warm-ringing highs.
DITOS sound demos
Sound demos on bass
Sound samples courtesy of jazz artist Jean-François Untrau from France. Alternating compressor Bypass and On. Click the Settings Examples tab above for details on the settings used.
- True analog bypass
- Blackmer® VCA analog compressor
- Optional DITOS board for transformer-coupled balanced output (10KΩ impedance)
- True RMS-level detector
- Ratio 1:1 – inf:1 (limiter)
- Threshold -40dBu to +10dBu
- Make-up Gain -6dB to +20dB
- X-EQ with selectable frequency pivot 330Hz for bass or 1KHz for guitar
- Soft/Hard compression knee
- Manual timing: attack 0.12 to 12 ms/dB of gain reduction, release 1.2 to 120 ms/dB of gain reduction
- Fast/Slower dynamic auto attack and release timing with hold for peaks over the threshold
- Normal/Low/Deep side-chain filter
- Dry/Wet mix
- Tape Saturation on the dry line with Level compensation and Low/High-frequency cut filters (jumper selectable)
- 8-LEDs gain reduction meter
- Hi-quality FET audio ICs, low tolerance parts, Panasonic & Kemet audio capacitors
- Genuine Hammond black-powdered aluminum enclosure
- Runs on standard 9V internal battery or 9-18 V DC external power supply (not included), center negative, 12mm long barrel plug
- 3-years warranty (direct to manufacturer, international, transferable)
|Dimensions||11,2 × 6,8 × 5 cm|
Input impedance: 1MΩ
Blog post: The 101 of the CompIQ line of compressors
Before you start
The CompIQ Stella is a full-featured compressor in pedal format which allows complex processing while preserving the dynamics of your playing. A good understanding of compression is normally required to optimally set it up for live performance or studio recording.
We advise testing the CompIQ Stella with an instrument amplifier instead of using headphones. Start by playing with it alone then integrate your settings along with your other pedals.
Here is the Stella Manual for your reference. For more in-depth technical info on our VCA line of compressors please take a look at the CompIQ 101 section. If you have particular questions regarding how Stella works, or you would like to share your feedback please contact us.
Stella sound demos on bass
Each demo has an associated image with pedal’s knobs & switches position used when recorded. A higher resolution image is displayed when loading the track on Soundcloud — along with details regarding the instrument, strings used for that phrase, and playing technique. Start by playing any track in the playlist below and click View Track to load it on Soundcloud for details.
The audio phrase is played twice in each track. First, the dry sound with the pedal in bypass, followed by a take with pedal engaged.
Many thanks to jazz artist Jean-François Untrau (France) who recorded these demonstrations.
Stella + DITOS sound demos on guitar
Blog post: CompIQ Stella Settings Examples