The classic Ross Compressor & MXR Dyna Comp are archetypical guitar compressor pedals with a distinct compression sound that is still highly regarded today by many guitarists. But these classic designs are also known for their drawbacks, mainly tonal coloration, a lack of parameter control, and a high level of signal noise. In recent years several builders have attempted to refine and improve upon those original designs with varying degrees of success. While we have sought to play and review the most talked about of these Ross/MXR inspired pedals, one pedal has eluded our critique until now: the Wampler Ego Compressor.
The Ego Compressor, like the Ross & Dyna Comp, is an OTA (Operational Transconductance Amplifier) compression pedal. This style of compression is particularly well suited to guitar, having an organic quality that lends itself well to the instrument. Building off this solid foundation, the Ego Compressor forgoes the simplified 2-knob control set (Sustain & Level) by adding additional knobs for Attack, Blend, & Tone. Wampler has also taken great measures to ensure the Ego Compressor is as transparent as possible while remaining exceptionally quiet in operation. We’ll put it to the test in our Wampler Ego Compressor review to find out if this is really the best Ross/Dyna Comp style compression pedal around.
- Hand-built in the U.S.A.
- High grade film capacitors and resistors picked for their superior sound and response
- Completely true bypass (via highly durable relay switching)
- Battery connection and 9v power jack (barrel plug like Boss)
- Top mounted jacks for tightly packed pedal boards!
- Power draw: 14mA
- Five controls – volume, sustain, attack, tone and blend
- Blend control allows you to get sustain only – no noticeable effect on the attack of the note (great for playing with distortion)
- Tone control adds in high frequencies giving you plenty of clarity and ‘jangle’
- 3.5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
The early Ego Compressors (along with other Wampler Pedals) had side mounted input/output jacks. Wampler has cleverly moved these jacks to the top side of the Ego Compressor (and is gradually doing so with their newer non-mini pedals) to accommodate modern guitarists who demand smaller guitar pedals for their crowded and tightly-wired pedalboards.
The Ego Compressor also has a soft-touch foot-switch with true relay bypass. Many guitarists favor these, and I personally like the feel of them. But a soft-touch foot-switch alone doesn’t completely solve the issue of “clicking” when you activate/bypass the pedal. Fortunately, the switching is fairly quiet due to the high quality relay Wampler chose and shouldn’t be much of an issue anyway if you’re the type who leaves your compressor on all the time.
Inside the pedal you’ll notice a few of the larger premium film caps Wampler uses as well as the NEC Japan EA2-5SNJ switching relay. It looks like tidy, mostly SMT construction on a reasonably thick PCB board. I’ve never heard of anyone doubting the build quality of the Wampler pedal and build quality certain seems solid here.
Sound & Performance:
I’ve had a difficult time writing this review. The problem wasn’t with the pedal. The problem was that every time I’d start playing the Ego Compressor, I couldn’t seem to stop long enough to sit down and share my thoughts about it. That should already tell you something. But I’ve pulled myself away for now, so here it goes.
If you’ve played any kind of Ross/Dyna Comp inspired pedal, you’re surely familiar with the “feel” that these types of pedals impart on your guitar rig. Likewise, the Ego Compressor excels at reinforcing a cohesive bond between your guitar and amp. And dare I, this pedal seems to go a little bit further in doing so than most compressors of a similar design. It didn’t take me long to define why that is and what it is that I like so much about this pedal. In a word, it’s simply this: tone.
Wampler defines the Ego Compressor by its “transparency” and its accomplishment of achieving that to their ears, but there are some understated qualities of this pedal in the tonal realm that I’m going to attempt to explain. Yes, the Ego Compressor is one of the most transparent OTA compressors I’ve heard. If that’s all you’re looking for, stop reading this review, and go give Wampler your money. But that’s surprisingly not the strongest selling point for me when I play this pedal. So listen up, tone chasers, as this is what it’s really about.
One of the challenging aspects of designing an OTA compressor is maintaining the signal integrity as it’s being compressed. There’s a certain dulling effect, more noticeable on lower quality compressors, that can suck the life out of your tone by blunting your high-end and over-coloring your guitar sound. While Wampler’s Ego Compressor combats this through its use of premium grade film capacitors, resistors, and other high quality components, it’s the Tone knob that’s essential in preserving the treble frequencies of your guitar’s tonal spectrum. What’s more, the Tone knob can add a subtle hint of brilliance to your guitar sound that produces a very pleasing sparkle. You don’t lose any low-end from boosting the highs either. Your lows remain tight and focused all around regardless of how you apply the Tone knob or other parameters. As a matter of fact, the Ego Compressor certain has the most full low-end of any OTA compressor I’ve played. It’s also worth mentioning that the Tone knob doesn’t significantly raise the noise floor even at a maxed setting.
The Blend knob can also be crucial to dialing in your tone. It essentially lets you blend your wet and dry signals together for true studio style parallel compression effects. You could try blending in a brighter compressed signal (using high Tone settings) with your dry signal. You can also blend in a wet signal with a slower Attack and higher Sustain to add some overall sustain to your sound without overly compressing your signal. Or you can dial in a more heavily compressed sound and blend it to taste for an even thicker sound with more impact and power.
Adding an Attack knob to the old 2-knob compressors was one of the first modifications to be made, and it’s an essential aspect of dialing in your compression sound with the Ego Compressor. Basically, rolling it all the way left (counterclockwise) results in a faster attack that puts the squeeze on your signal right away. As you move the knob slowly clockwise, you’ll hear more of your pick attack come through which is desired for a less obviously compressed sound. A brighter Tone knob setting can be applied with a fast Attack setting to put in a quick squeeze while not overly blunting your pick attack during fast runs.
The Sustain knob determines how much compression is applied to your guitar signal; the higher it’s set, the harder it squeezes. As I mentioned before, it’s commendable how well the Ego Compressor preserves your guitar’s sound on various settings, even when using higher ratios of compression. This “tonal headroom” may encourage you to experiment with higher levels of compression that you may normally dial in when using lesser Ross/Dyna Comp style compressors. Max out the Sustain, dial in your Attack, brighten up the Tone, and set Blend to taste. It’s quite surprising how even extreme settings are uniquely playable on the Ego Compressor. While a higher Sustain setting brings up the noise floor a little, it’s still noticeably quieter than other OTA compression pedals.
The Level knob can also achieve quite a lot of boost. There’s more than enough make-up gain on tap, but if you want to slam an overdrive pedal or hit your amp hard, the Ego Compressor can be kicked in for a mean solo lead boost.
The Wampler Ego Compressor is simply outstanding all around. Let’s see the final result.
The Wampler Ego Compressor is the best Ross/Dyna Comp style compression pedal on the market today in terms of sheer versatility and how well it preserves your guitar’s inherent tone. It’s the new measuring stick on which to grade all other OTA compressors. It manages to be incredibly transparent and full sounding, without significantly coloring your sound. The Ego Compressor’s Tone knob is also useful for shaping your top-end and retaining high-end emphasis when applying moderate to heavy amounts of compression. Rarely is a compressor so useful throughout such a wide range of settings, and this makes the Ego Compressor applicable in any situation, especially as your go-to ‘always-on’ comp.
That concludes our Wampler Ego Compressor review. Thanks for reading.
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