Long a maker of fine guitars and basses, Hiro Miura jumped into the world of effects pedals with the launch of the Miura M2 Compressor/Limiter.
Unveiled at Winter NAMM 2017, only 40 of the hand-made pedals are currently available through select dealers and retail at $280.
Following his company’s motto of “Never complete, keep evolving,” Miura believed it was time to take compressors to the next level and focus on creating an effect that didn’t kill the lower frequencies.
We wanted to make a compressor pedal that doesn’t squeeze the tone with attack,” said Miura. “We also didn’t want to over-compress the low B.”
Why use a compressor?
Compressors and limiters are used to reduce large swings in dynamics and to prevent your signal from distorting or clipping. In a way, they act like a bit of sonic insurance when it comes to dynamics — which is why they are often used when playing slap bass.
When used sparingly, compressors can also enhance bass tone by increasing sustain and creating a more defined, “sweeter,” note.
Enter the M2
The Miura M2 Compressor/Limiter comes out of the box looking like it’s ready to go to work. No enamel paint. No fancy artwork. Just a sturdy stomp box ready for today’s working bassist.
The box measures 3.75” x 4.75” x 1.375” and has some heft to it — but not the kind of weight that makes you wish you left it at home. The pedal gives you a solid feeling that you can take it on stage and stomp on it for years without a hiccup.
The pedal has an input and output impedance of 1Mohm and is powered by a DC9V (power supply not included).
The white control knobs are easy to see when lighting is at a minimum and the contrasting black indicator lines won’t leave you guessing where your settings are.
A blue LED in the top left tells you when the compressor is engaged. The blue LED on the right indicates the compressor strength. The light gets brighter the more the compressor is working.
Threshold sets the volume level for when the compression effect is engaged. With the dial all the way to the left, compression kicks in with the weakest of inputs. All the way to the right will affect only the stronger signals. You can adjust the threshold based on how much of your dynamic range you want altered by the compressor. You can choose to have most of your notes compressed or just the loud ones.
Ratio determines how much compression is applied to the signal above the threshold. Common ratios are 2:1 to 20:1, with the 2:1 and 5:1 being the most popular with bassists. To put this in context, for every two decibels going into the compressor only one decibel above the threshold goes out in a 2:1 ratio. The higher the ratio, the more compressed the signal is and the more “squished” the sound.
The Miura starts at 1:1 ratio with the control turned all the way to the left. With the dial at noon, the ratio is about 5:1 and maxes out at 9:1 with the dial all the way to to the right.
Attack describes when the compression effect kicks in once the signal crosses the threshold. A longer attack creates a more natural sounding note and a shorter attack chokes the note by having compression engage sooner. The M2 attack ranges from 220 microseconds to 100 milliseconds.
While some pedals offer an adjustable Release to control how long the compressor affects the signal, the M2 is fixed at 22 milliseconds. “We chose the release time based on where we didn’t want the sound to distort when using the low B,” said Miura.
I loaned the review model to an experienced pedal guru, Derek Jones, for his take on the M2. As a veteran session bassist and long-time musician for the Cirque du Soleil production KA at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he put the pedal through its paces.
“I’ve used several compression pedals over the years and the M2 really brings out some nice qualities of the bass to the mix,” he said. “It’s really a musical piece of equipment.”
“It’s what I call a ‘shoulders down’ piece of gear. It makes you feel comfortable and relaxed to play through because you’re not thinking about the pedal during a gig. I’d have this on at the beginning of my signal chain and not worry about it.”
Since it’s not easy to translate a compressor into words, it’s probably best to use your ears and decide for yourself.
The sound clips are divided into five categories of finger, pick, slap (with my apologies to slappers), chords, harmonics, and fretless. Each category repeats the line with no compression, light compression, moderate compression (noon on the dial) and heavy compression. All other controls were set at the starting point recommended by Miura: Threshold at 9:00, Ratio at noon, and Level at noon.
The clips are intentionally at a slower tempo to let you better hear the pedal in action.
If have trouble hearing clips, click to listen
Miura’s plans include the introduction of a bass pre-amp DI later this year. The pre-amp will use a transformer designed specifically to enhance bass frequencies.