When you think about glass, you think about clarity. You think about windows that shield you from the wind and rain, but also reveal the subtle and resplendent beauty of the landscape you surround yourself with. In the process of doing their job, one side will invariably catch all the dirt and degradation that comes with exposure to the elements, but the best glass will clean up with little more than a once over with a squeegee.
In a lot of ways, a compressor should be just like this, a portal through which you allow your audience to experience your tone. It should retain the clarity and detail of the image you’re trying to portray while keeping all the nastiness at bay. Some pedal based compressor designs do a great job of part of that rubric, others go over the top with a whole grab-bag of invisible options, but Fender’s new design The Bends has a perfect balance of everything a compressor should and could be able to do.
With the new series of pedals they released at NAMM ’18, Fender has really hit a lot of nails on their respective heads. The whole range, in a nutshell, is a hit list of effects types that Fender’s product designers have in some ways simplified and in others expanded to include features that professional musicians have long gone thirsty for. I’ve written about a few of them now as well as played them all in turn, and the thing that stands out across the board is just how easy it is to get a precise and unique take on exactly the sound you’re looking for. The Bends is no exception.
Compression is by far the most oft misunderstood colour in the rainbow. While its brothers overdrive and distortion are designed to jump right out at you like red and blue in a rainbow, compression is more like ultraviolet. You might not be able to see it, but if there is too much of it around it will burn your tone to cinders. On the brushed black face of The Bends you have a simple set of controls. Drive adjusts your input ratio, Level limits the amount of output, and Recovery juggles a healthy mixture of attack and release in a kind of crossfaded curve that simplifies the way the twin audio paths cure your signal.
At its most audible, the compressed sound is a curated mixture of both pedal and rack based units. It has the crystalline, bell-like chime of some of the more expensive modern stompboxes, the hefty squelch of vintage designs and the unlimited, lightening fast dynamic control of the kind of studio outboard gear you could trust with an orchestra or a jazz drummer.
Being as forward thinking as they are, Fender has also equipped the unit with a wet/dry blend knob, which affords even the more discerning audiophiles another level of subtlety and leaves your clean tone intact. Whether you’re using it to settle the to and fro of a sloppy pick hand or looking for almost infinite sustain, either way The Bends has you covered.
Hits and Misses
Clarity, versatility and lightening fast reflexes in a sleek, black box
Independent attack and release controls would make this unit unbeatable