Origin Effects Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe Review – Best Compression Pedals?

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Origin Effects took the guitar playing community by storm a couple years ago when they released the Cali76 Limiting Amplifier, a compression pedal that replicated the performance of the legendary Urei/Universal Audio 1176 FET Compressor. While the many variations of this inspired pedal (including the Cali76-STD, Cali76-TX, Cali76-TX-L, Cali76-TX-P, Cali76-TX-LP, Cali76-G, & Cali76-G-P) have attained instant classic status due to their best-in-class sounds, there’s always been one not-so-“small” problem for some guitarists: the original Cali76 pedals are BIG. Though many guitarists realize the critical impact a quality compressor can have on their overall guitar sound, some can’t justify removing 3 standard sized pedals from their pedalboard to accommodate a massive Cali76. While it’s been a long time coming, the Cali76 Compact (Cali76-C) and Cali76 Compact Deluxe (Cali76-CD) have finally arrived, promising the tones and features of the Cali76-STD and more at a fraction of the size.

The Cali76-C & Cali76-CD start by being only 1/3 the size of the larger Cali76 units. This immediately makes them seem like a more enticing addition to a crowded pedalboard. The idea of having the original Cali76-STD sound in a significantly smaller pedal will already be enough to sell many guitarists. What’s more, the Cali76 Compact Deluxe also features the “Dry Mix” option found on the Limited Edition Cali76 “P” pedals that offers true parallel compression possibilities. While the Compact Deluxe (Cali76-CD) appears to be a 1:1 Cali76-STD in terms of parameter knob functions with a bonus “Dry” control, the regular Cali76 Compact (Cali76-C) differs in that it offers a simplified take on the Cali76 concept. There’s no Dry knob, the Attack & Release are combined in one knob, and the Ratio knob is replaced with a 2-position “High/Low” Ratio switch. While it appears stripped down in terms of functionality, Origin Effects assures us that the Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe have made no sacrifices in terms of sound quality and tone. (And as I discovered, performance is even enhanced in some areas!)

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As we’ve already reviewed the original Cali76-STD, the Cali76-TX (featuring Origin Effects’ custom “iron core” transformer), and the Cali76-TX-LP (with an ultra high grade Lundahl transformer, parallel compression “Dry Mix” option, and foot-switchable boost), we’re going to focus on discerning whether or not there are any differences to be observed in the performance of these 2 Compact Cali76 pedals. (See our Origin Effects Cali76 review for the in-depth story on the former pedals.) As we still have the Cali76-TX-LP on hand from our previous article, this affords us the opportunity to run it at 9-volts in “Cali76-STD mode” alongside the Cali76-C & Cali76-CD to compare. When the larger transformer-equipped units are powered at only 9-volts the transformer is bypassed to produce the sound and tone of the original Cali76-STD pedal. Since our Cali76-TX-LP also has the “Dry Mix” option, some better side-by-side assessments can be made in particular with the Cali76-CD and its own dedicated Dry function.

Here’s a brief feature rundown of the Cali76-C & Cali76-CD before we dig in with our Origin Effects Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe review.

Features:

  • 100% Class-A discrete signal path
  • Classic, ultra fast “FET” response
  • Studio-grade discrete-transistor preamp
  • Optimized for guitar but can process any source
  • High-current, low-noise electronics
  • Ultra-wide frequency response
  • Ultra-high input impedance
  • Silent switching
  • High-quality “signal-conditioning” bypass mode
  • Premium components throughout
  • Advanced power supply filtering and protection
  • Flexible external power requirements (9-18V DC)
  • Designed and built in England

Cali76 Compact (Cali76-C):

  • Combined Attack/Release control
  • Dual-position Ratio switch
  • PSU Spec. 42mA @ 9V / 58mA @ 18V

Cali76 Compact Deluxe (Cali76-CD):

  • Dedicated Attack, Release and Ratio controls
  • Dry Blend control for parallel compression
  • Rugged jewel-lamp gain reduction metering
  • PSU Spec. 77mA @ 9V / 104mA @ 18V

Visit Origin Effects for more info about the Cali76-C (Compact) & Cali76-CD (Compact Deluxe).

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Cali76 Compact: See the lowest price on Amazon.

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Sound & Performance:

Origin Effects may have only been around for a few years, but lead engineer, Simon Keats, has been designing and building high quality, studio grade hardware for decades. Simon had already accomplished a masterful feat of engineering in shrinking down the venerable Urei 1176 rack-mounted compression unit into a pedal format, but to reduce the Cali76 Compact/Compact Deluxe foot-print to only 1/3 of the size of its universally acclaimed predecessors seems beyond belief. While Mr. Keats made every attempt to mimic the topology of the Urei 1176 in the original Cali76 units, as these pedals grow smaller you’d think that surely some sacrifice of tone would be made. Miraculously, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. While I claim no authority about whether or not the Cali76-STD or its transformer-equipped variations perfectly capture the “tone” of the Urei 1176 (as the old vintage Urei units and the Universal Audio reissues will show somewhat differing tonal characteristics anyway), the most important thing here is how the Compact units sound in relation to the original Cali76-STD (which these pedals replace) and how they stand on their own in general.

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Let’s first dig in with the Cali76 Compact Deluxe as it appears to be the more exciting pedal at first glance, being loaded to the brim with features. Plugging in and kicking it on produces that familiar Cali76 feel of adding to the responsiveness felt between my guitar and amp. Whether its owed to the ultra high quality components used, the general FET compression design, or some ineffable quality unknown to me, the Cali76 Compact Deluxe produces the same compression magic found in any of its larger brethren. The “In” knob increases the input signal, acting as a “Threshold” style control by increasing how much of your signal will be compressed. The Ratio dials up the squash evening out your transients and dynamics in accordance to how high you’ve set the Input and varies between a lighter 4:1 ratio to a heavy 20:1 ratio. The Attack & Release serve the familiar duties of articulating the way the pedal compresses your guitar signal, how fast it’s compressed and how fast it returns your signal to its original volume level. The Cali76-CD offers a familiar style of attenuating your sound if you’ve used a studio compressor with a similar control set or any of the larger Cali76 pedals. (I’ll cover the Dry knob in a moment.)

In my original impressions of the Cali76-STD I recall the sense of transparency I heard in the unit, and I hear it all the same in both the Cali76-CD & Cali76-C pedals. Some FET based compressors are well-regarded for their character rich coloration. These qualities are also due in part to the transformers used in such units as I discovered when comparing the Cali76-TX (more colored) & Cali76-TX-LP (more transparent). Either way, the transformer-less Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe are in that same realm of transparency as the Cali76-STD. While I spent most of my time with the Compact units on their own, the comparison to the Cali76-STD sound became more apparent when I pulled out the Cali76-TX-LP.

In running the Cali76-TX-LP at only 9-volts the unit bypasses its Lundahl transformer to sound identical to the Cali76-STD when its also powered at 9-volts (again, see our original Origin Effects Cali76 review). This allowed me to play the TX-LP side-by-side with the Cali76-C & Cali76-CD to see how accurately the Compact Series produces the tones of the original Cali76-STD. Also, to prevent any possible tonal coloration from the “always-on” buffers in any of the pedals, I used a true bypass effects switcher in my review testing. Both the Cali76-C & Cali76-CD nail the classic tones of the Cali76-STD on most settings. Experienced ears may hear some slight variations on some settings, but these differences are marginal if noticeable at all. (See our review YouTube video above to hear for yourself.) Simply put, in terms of tone alone, both of these pedals are worthy successors to the now discontinued “Standard” Cali76 pedal. Also, in regards to the sacrificed “Boost” function of the TX-LP that won’t fit on the Compact Series due to their smaller size, it was a novel addition to the TX-LP to add some extra utility and fill in the extra space on its huge surface, but I’d happily do without it to have room on my pedalboard for a separate clean boost and overdrive pedal of my choosing.

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There is one noteworthy difference to be aware of. On similar settings (particularly “In” and “Out”) on the TX-LP in STD mode and the Compact units, the Cali76-C & Cali76-CD each produce a noticeably higher output level than their larger sibling. My original guesses were that Origin Effects either hot-rodded the Output on the Compact Series or perhaps different potentiometer tolerances meant that you have to set the knobs at slightly different positions to produce identical sounds. Origin Effects said that it’s actually “due to the fact that the ratio curves are a little more accurate compared to the older models”. Apparently, the changes in topology to shrink down the Cali76 circuit also uncovered areas for minor improvement to an already near-perfect formula. Either way, a slight reduction of the “Out” knob on the compact pedals serves the trick of helping to match the level of the Cali76-STD if you’re used to playing the larger model. (In the review demo I instead boost the TX-LP when matching levels.) But while it’s clear that the Compact Series delivers the goods, you shouldn’t get stuck on trying to create the exact sound of the Cali76-STD on the exact same settings. As always you should let your ears guide you to the settings that work best with your guitar rig depending on the context you’re in.

Perhaps the second biggest draw of the Cali76 Compact Deluxe (after its size) is the Dry knob. There are some that argue against the necessity of having a Blend knob on guitar compressor pedals as it kind of defeats the purpose of using compression in the first place. But having dedicated Wet (“Out”) and Dry controls in this case offers an arguably more authentic way of achieving parallel compression, a desired way of using compression in the studio. Essentially, you use the Dry to set your signal level and bring in the compressed signal up in the mix via Out until desired results are achieved. On percussion elements like drums this adds more of a transient emphasis for thicker, meatier sounds. On vocals engineers would sometimes bring in a hint of the compressed element precisely for the desired coloration of the compression. While the general transparency of the Cali76 Compact Deluxe makes it less suited for “coloring” your tone with compression, you’ll still find all kinds of useful sounds from subtle to extreme. For guitar, this technique will help you create a sound that isn’t so obviously compressed due to the retained dynamics of your Dry signal but with increased sustain from the compressed signal being blended in with the Out knob. The Dry knob’s versatility when it comes to adding as little or as much compression as you want, carefully mixed in with your uncompressed signal, also makes the Cali76 Compact Deluxe one of the best “always-on” compression pedals around.

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Now let’s talk about the Cali76 Compact (Cali76-C). At a glance the “knob snobs” might see this as just a cost-saving, stripped down unit. Well, it is actually. But this is one of the more thoughtfully “stripped down” pedals I’ve played and should in no way be considered as an inferior product. As alluded to previously, the Cali76-C makes no sacrifices in terms of tone compared to the Cali76-CD. But it does a few things differently, and these unique features will be of particular interest to some guitar players. First, the Dry knob function is absent, putting the Compact in line with the larger Standard unit which didn’t include a “Dry Mix” function. Second, the variable Ratio knob is replaced with a simple High/Low Ratio switch for choosing between a greater or lesser compression ratio (Low is 4:1, High is 20:1). Third, and most interestingly, the Attack & Release knobs of the Compact Deluxe are combined into a single knob. This proves to be incredibly useful and intuitive in practice. A balanced blend between Attack & Release is always at hand. Basically, the most essential elements (In & Out knobs) are retained while the rest of the parameters have been optimized for easily dialing in quality compression sounds. This makes the Cali76-C a clear step up in terms of sound quality compared to most 2 & 3-knob compression pedals while maintaining an easy-to-use control setup for those who don’t like twiddling with too many knobs. If you like the way the Cali76 sounds but were intimidated by its size and control layout, the Cali76 Compact is for you.

Yes, the sound quality of the Cali76-STD is ever present in these pedals. I hope you didn’t doubt that Origin Effects could pull it off. Since they discontinued the original Cali76-STD (the TX & TX-L are still available!) it was obvious that they believed the Compact units lived up to their original intentions. The only thing missing is the row of LEDs indicating the gain reduction taking place (although the Compact Deluxe has a cool multi-colored jeweled LED that provides visual feedback). Another noteworthy feature on both pedals are their new active bypass foot-switches. The compression fades in when you activate the pedals to avoid any audible “pops” or “clicks”. If you hate loud foot-switches, you’ll greatly appreciate this subtle addition. It won’t make a difference if you leave your compressor on all the time, but you’ll love it when you do happen to step on it and realize there’s no harsh clicking sound coming out of your speakers. Just be aware that if you’re kicking it in for a solo, make sure it’s activated at least a split-second before you hit the first note to get around the quick fade-in. It’s also worth mentioning again that the increased volume output on the Compact Series adds some boosting qualities if you like having clean boost potential from your compressor.

The Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe are serious business, and Origin Effects has indeed done it again. While I can’t wait until Simon & Co. venture into other styles of guitar pedals beyond compression, the Cali76 will always be the origin of it all. Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-5.0

The Origin Effects Cali76 Compact & Compact Deluxe take the modern classic Cali76 to greater heights in a smaller foot-print. While owners of the original Cali76-STD will no doubt be contemplating making the switch to one of the smaller units to gain some pedalboard real estate, I expect a flood of new guitarists will also now jump on the Cali76 bandwagon. The Cali76-C & Cali76-CD both nail comparable tones to the Cali76-STD. The Cali76 Compact Deluxe has in-depth, studio-style control and a parallel compression “Dry” option for guitarists who really like to dial in their compression tones. The Cali76 Compact keeps things simple for getting iconic 1176-like compression without the hassle and is a serious upgrade from your average 2 or 3-knob compressor pedal. Origin Effects now has 2 more entries in their resumé that are among the best compression pedals you’ll ever play.

That concludes our Origin Effects Cali76-C Compact & Cali76-CD Compact Deluxe review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier Review – Best Limiter Pedal?

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Keeley Electronics is perhaps the most well-known name in stompbox compression. After all, Robert Keeley’s classic 4-Knob and (recently discontinued) 2-knob Compressors have been going strong for over a decade, surpassing well over 40,000 guitar pedals sold. So when Keeley Electronics finally released their “Guitar Compressor #2”, or GC-2 as it’s called, it raised more than a few eyebrows. But the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier isn’t to be mistaken as a replacement for the legendary 4-Knob Compressor. As the name implies, this pedal’s focus is more so limiting as opposed to general compression. What’s the difference? Glad you asked…

Compression Vs. Limiting

Compression and limiting are essentially variations of the same thing: dynamic control that reduces volume peaks in audio. Basically, these effects make loud sounds quieter. A useful side effect of this is that quiet sounds will appear louder as your peaks are reduced in volume, essentially evening out your overall volume level a bit. This can also result in clean sustain which is very sought after among guitarists. Of course an unwanted side effect of compression/limiting can be that low level noise gets louder as well, making it important to use such effects with restraint and with understanding of how their parameters work.

Essentially, guitar compressors are typically used on the front-end of your effects signal chain. Compression helps even out your playing dynamics for a consistent signal that can be louder, punchier, smoother, and generally more flattering depending on what you’re going for. As limiting guitar pedals like the GC-2 are pretty uncommon, it’s important to understand how limiting is typically used in the studio to figure out how to best make use of such a pedal.

Limiting is one of the most important effects used on mixes and final masters of audio recordings. A limiter is typically the last effect used in an audio path on the master mix bus to put the final touches on the overall dynamics of a recording. Also, the technique of “brickwall” limiting is often used to put an aggressive ceiling on dynamics that prevents any volume peaks from crossing the selected threshold. Being a limiter in pedal form, the idea of using the Keeley GC-2 Limiting Amplifier as an end-of-signal-chain pedal opens up a few possibilities that typical stompbox compressors lack. All of that will be mentioned soon in our review.

The Legendary dbx 160A Compressor/Limiter… at your feet!

Keeley-Electronics-GC-2-Limiting-Amplifier-dbx-160-01The GC-2 packs another surprise under the hood: its “extreme high-fidelity THAT Corp. 4320” chip. These chips were conceived and created by former dbx engineers and deliver performance and response that rival the legendary dbx 160A, widely considered one of the best compressors of all time. The diminutive GC-2 Limiting Amplifier even sports a similar 3-knob control set and hard-kneed compression style as its dbx predecessor. Thanks to this chip and other ultra-high quality components, the GC-2 has a frequency response that extends far outside the typical range of guitar, making this truly a studio-grade pedal. This means two things: your tone will not be compromised and you can potentially use this pedal with other instruments and line signals for a style of compression/limiting that’s reminiscent of that dbx 160 sound. Very cool.

Now let’s run down the features and find out if this is the best limiter pedal around in our Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier review.

Features:

  • Studio-grade compression in a pedal
  • User-friendly controls so you can find your perfect sound
  • Contains THAT Corp. 4320 chip
  • Controls for Ratio, Threshold, & Level
  • Attack Time: typically 15ms for 10dB, 5ms for 20dB, 3ms for 30dB
  • Release Time: typically 8ms for 1dB, 40ms for 5dB, 80ms for 10dB, 160ms for 20dB, 240ms for 30dB
  • Powered by batter or 9VDC power adapter (current draw: 15mA)

Visit Keeley Electronics for more info about the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier.

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Sound & Performance:

First, I’m going to evaluate the merits of using the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier as a front-of-signal-chain compression effect. The GC-2 is actually a modified version of Keeley’s Bassist Limiting Amplifier, a pedal designed for extremely smooth and even compression response, essential for consistent bass signals. The GC-2 differs from the Bassist in that it is designed to be less responsive to those ultra-low bass frequencies, instead responding within a range more suitable to guitar. It also has a “snappier” response and a quicker Attack & Release than Keeley’s Bassist Limiting Amplifier. But the idea is that it can really give you a level of compression that’s more even and consistent than what you may have experienced with other compression pedals.

When setting the Threshold and Gain knobs at around noon, you’ll typically achieve a setting that’s pretty much at unity volume with your bypassed signal. And with the Ratio knob rolled all the way down, the GC-2’s compression is at 1:1, producing no noticeable effect on your signal. If the Threshold Indicator LED is flashing red on any hard strumming or plucking, kicking the Threshold up a little towards 1 o’clock or higher ensures it stays green and isn’t compressing at all. From here I noticed something quite amazing. The GC-2 is perhaps the most transparent effect pedal I’ve ever heard. This is a very big deal. Most compressors, even considerably transparent ones including Keeley’s own 4-Knob Compressor, often impart their own sound, however subtle, on your signal. This can be a good thing in some cases and is often a part of what gives certain compressors their sought-after sound. But it’s really refreshing just how “not there” the GC-2 can be when engaged. I A/B’d the GC-2 without compression against my bypassed signal repeatedly and could never accurately tell when it was active or not. It doesn’t get more transparent than this.

Keeley-Electronics-GC-2-Limiting-Amplifier-Review-Best-Limiter-Pedal-02When cutting the Threshold down to where the Threshold Indicator LED begins to illuminate red, the GC-2 will begin compressing your signal at a ratio set by the Ratio knob. You’ll notice the compression coming in when rolling the Ratio from 1:1 to 2:1. The GC-2 still maintains its pristine transparency when compressing although you’ll notice it leveling off those volume peaks. Keeping the Threshold around the 10-12 o’clock range with Ratios from 2:1 to 4:1 produces more subtle effects. The compression has a hard knee and combined with the GC-2’s fast attack, produces a tight compressing effect that kicks in instantaneously. On the lightest settings, it’s barely noticeable, maybe taming a volume peak here and there. If you turn down the Threshold a bit and set the Ratio to around 4:1 or 5:1, you can get some pretty heavy compression that clamps down hard while not killing your tone. Very nice.

But the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier’s fast attack, hard knee, incredible transparency, and Infinity:1 ratio give this pedal even more utility at the other end of your signal chain. And that’s where some effects using guitarists will discover how indispensable the GC-2 really is.

If you’ve got a reasonably large pedalboard, you know how problematic it can be to constantly monitor the output levels of all your different pedals. Sometimes an output level gets set too high or maybe you activate 2 high output pedals at once that unintentionally produce a huge surge in volume. By setting the GC-2 to a pre-specified Threshold with an Infinity:1 Ratio, you can set up a “brick wall” limiting effect that will keep any high output pedal from blowing holes in your speakers or shredding your audience’s eardrums. Need a little more headroom for your boosts and overdrives? No problem. Just raise the GC-2’s Threshold to a setting that allows additional volume clearance. Yes, you can save your headroom while sparing your audience from an aural assault because you forgot to roll down the Level control on that monster fuzz pedal of yours. You could simply put it after an assortment of distortion and fuzz effects and get the job done. But there’s one more consideration…

So the GC-2 can prevent accidental walls of noise, but it can also work with such intended soundscapes. Maybe that self-oscillating delay pedal could benefit from a volume ceiling that keeps it from getting too out of hand. Now you can go on with your shoegazing and sonic experimentalism knowing that the beautiful noise you’re creating will have some sort of volume restraint. The GC-2 is perhaps the ultimate end-of-signal-chain pedal, keeping your precious tone in tact while ensuring no unwanted volume levels reach your amp and audience. I’m surprised it took this long for someone to release a pedal that does this job as efficiently as the GC-2 Limiting Amplifier. Big kudos to Robert Keeley and Co. for releasing this essential guitar compressor pedal.

The Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier solves an unmet need of effects pedal using guitarists, and will find homes at the beginning and ends of many guitarist’s signal chains. (If you’re still unsure of which Keeley compression pedal to get, check out our Keeley 4-Knob Compressor review & Keeley Compressor Pro review.) Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-5.0

The Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier is a true stompbox limiter and the ultimate end-of-signal-chain pedal for dynamic volume control. Drawing upon the legacy of the dbx 160A, the GC-2 provides a hard-kneed compression that adds punch and clarity to your sound while maintaining absolute transparency. It can be used just as well as your go-to compressor or boost as it’s one of the purest sounding compressors around. But pedal junkies who have large pedalbaords or simply like to experiment and make beautiful noise with a variety of pedals at once will appreciate the “brick wall” limiting offered by the GC-2. Nothing passes until the GC-2 allows it to. It’s definitely the best limiting pedal available today.

That concludes our Keeley Electronics GC-2 Limiting Amplifier review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Free the Tone Silky Comp Review – Best Boutique Compression Pedal?

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The Silky Comp is a guitar compression pedal by Japan-based Free the Tone. It is boutique compressor pedal of the finest craftsmanship, each being handmade one-by-one from the highest quality parts. The labels of the Silky Comp are even hand-written and signed by Yuki Hayashi, owner and president of Free the Tone and one of the most well-known effects designers in Japan. This pedal promises a silky smooth compression like no other compressor. Is it the best boutique compression pedal available? Keep reading our Free the Tone Silky Comp review to find out.

I’ve been trying out a lot of compressors lately on my search for the best ones available. The Silky Comp caught my attention as I am familiar with the reputation of its legendary designer, Yuki Hayashi, a well-known gear designer in Japan who once designed guitar pedals for Providence, another Japan-based gear company. The Silky Comp is a hand-made version of an already famous pedal by Providence called the Velvet Comp. The Silky Comp by Free the Tone also features a proprietary soldering technique that promises greater sound quality and has that little hand-written, personalized touch by its legendary designer. This certainly seems like a great choice of compressor for any guitarist seeking the best. Let’s run down the features and dive into the Silky Comp review.

Features:

Hand-made from the highest quality components.

Sustain, Attack, and Level control knobs.

True Bypass which for letting your signal pass through unaffected when disengaged.

Powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter.

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Sound & Performance:

I plugged in my Fender American Standard Stratocaster and dialed in a nice warm and clean amp tone. I went for a flat setting with all the knobs of the Silky Comp at noon and activated the pedal.

It’s immediately apparent that a moderate amount of compression is being applied, mellowing out the tone a bit. The Silky Comp provides a nice, gentle squeeze to your sound, rounding out your tone with a smooth, warm compression.

Pushing up the Volume knob to around 3 o’clock provides an immediate surge in overall loudness. Like many great compressors, this pedal can provide plenty of clean boost with various levels of compression when needed. The Silky Comp produces a pleasant increase in volume that enhances the power of your sound while preserving the natural feel and sound of your guitar.

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The Sustain knob functions as expected of a quality compressor, only it’s especially smooth and warm on this pedal. While letting a chord ring out, you can turn the Sustain knob on the Silky Comp and really hear how much sustain is being added when you push it clockwise. The Silky Comp produces a welcome, musical sustain that seems to carry your notes on clouds of silk.

The Attack control can seem quite subtle on many settings, but turning it all the way left, then right reveals its impact on the overall sound produced. Turning the Attack knob all the way clockwise produces a limiting effect that will keep your signal balanced and even throughout the most aggressive and dynamic strumming, perfect for RHCP-style funk and comped guitar stabs.

Throughout every setting, the Silky Comp reveals no trace of overly apparent “breathing”, a sign of a truly smooth and musical compressor. The pedal envelopes your sound in a compression of the highest quality.

Turning up the Volume and Sustain controls will push a clean amp and bring out a gentle overdrive, delivering a smooth saturation that isn’t too jagged or harsh.

The Silky Comp provides a great compressed sound for high gain solos, too. You can rip into a lead and hold out some really expressive notes that will ring out with singing sustain. This pedal can certainly add the finishing touch to a great lead tone.

Smooth, warm, and musical are the 3 words that keep springing to mind when listening to the Silky Comp. The Silky Comp is certainly one of the best boutique guitar compressor pedals and will add a professional sheen to your guitar tone.

Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The Silky Comp by Free the Tone is a boutique compression pedal of the highest quality. The compression produced by the Silky Comp will wrap your tone in a velvet-like embrace that is never too overbearing. While trying to resist saying that this pedal is as smooth as silk, those words can’t be true enough. The Silky Comp is one of the most smooth and musical compression pedals out there. If you’re looking for the best boutique compression pedal, the Silky Comp by Free the Tone may be just what you need to add the perfect professional touch to your sound.

That concludes our Free the Tone Silky Comp review. Thanks for Reading.

 

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Be sure to check out our reviews of the Free the Tone Gigs Boson Overdrive, Free The Tone Flight Time FT-1Y Digital Delay, and Free the Tone Matt Schofield MS SOV Special Overdrive!

Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD Review – Best Compressor?

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For ancient alchemists, attaining the legendary Philosopher’s Stone was the result of a lifetime of dedication to the Great Work. Many of them did not succeed. But the engineering wizards at Pigtronix have turned lead to gold once again. Behold the Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD. For those who already regard the original Philosopher’s Tone as one of the best guitar compressors available, this limited edition variation of that classic pedal may be your new holy grail.

As Above, So Below

The Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD uses 1N60 Germanium Diodes in an asymmetrical clipping format. This results in a very smooth top end and midrange response, resulting in even more character and punch than the original Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone. The differences in these two guitar pedals become apparent when you compare the sound of the grit settings on offer. More on that in a moment. Let’s run down the features and dive into our Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD review.

Features:

Germanium Enhanced GRIT.

Pigtronix-Philosophers-Tone-Germanium-Gold-LTD-Review-Best-Guitar-Compressor-03

Handpainted by Jason Myrold in a Gold Sparkle Finish.

Limited Edition.

Exclusive for ProGuitarShop.

Grit control mixes in a smooth layer of distortion into the effect.

Sustain control sets the threshold for the compressor. Turn it up for more intense compression and sustain.

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Blend control determines the mix of effected and dry signal.

Treble control buts or boosts frequencies at 2k.

Volume control sets the overall output level of the device when engaged.

Super compact form factor.

No noise operation.

Powered by included 18VDC 300ma negative tip power supply.

Visit Pigtronix for more info about the Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD.

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Sound & Performance:

Be sure to check out my Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Review for comparison. I tested and reviewed both at the same time.

The Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD is very similar in most regards to the original Philosopher’s Tone with the exception being the different tonal character provided by the Germanium Diodes.

Using an American Stratocaster and a clean amp sound, I was pleased to find that the Germanium Gold LTD is just as pristine and quiet when using it at flat knob settings.

I did a lot of A/B comparisons between the two pedals. The Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD does have a little more power than the original Philosopher’s Tone at extreme settings. With no Grit and the Volume maxed out with the other knobs at noon, the Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD punches through with a bit more authority.

The tone of the Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD just seems a bit more colorful than the original Philosopher’s Tone which sounds a little more dry by comparison. The variation in tone between the two Philosopher’s Tone pedals is so subtle that it’s difficult to say one sounds better than the other. It’s simply a matter of personal taste that warrants close listening from ears experienced enough to hear the subtle differences.

The Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD packs in the same level of versatility as the original Philosopher’s Tone, making it ideal for any compression need whether it’s country twang, warm jazz, bright funk, or saturated lead tones. Like the original, this pedal does it all and does everything exceptionally well.

Turning the Grit knob allows the differences of these pedals to become more apparent. I find the Germanium flavor of the Grit to be a bit thicker and a little fuzzier. The original Grit is a little more transparent in nature. The Germanium grit of the Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD is just as adept at enhancing your drive sounds when used in front a distortion pedal or overdriven amp.

While the original Philosopher’s Tone specializes in really preserving the character of your guitar on every setting, the Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD infuses your tone with the added character of the Germanium Diodes when blending in the Grit. This is a very welcome addition for anyone who appreciates that sought after character afforded by quality Germanium Diodes. For those who appreciate the Germanium flavor, you’ll certainly feel that Pigtronix have taken a good thing and made it even better. P.S. Try this pedal in front of the Pigtronix Mothership guitar synth pedal for a more consistent signal and epic guitar synth tones.

Let’s have the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The original Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is a modern legend in it’s own right. The new Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD adds a welcome chapter to that legacy. This is a truly versatile compression pedal that will turn any sound to gold. The Germanium Diodes add a unique character that makes this pedal a great alternative to the already amazing Philosopher’s Tone. If you’re looking for the best guitar compressor out there, be sure to try out the Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD. It may be the final alchemical stage to perfecting your ultimate guitar tone.

That concludes our Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Review – Best Guitar Compression Pedal?

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The mythical philosopher’s stone was able to turn lead into gold and was believed to be the true elixir of immortality. Attainment of the philosopher’s stone was the ultimate goal for ancient alchemists, representing the pinnacle of purification. Guitarists are alchemists in their own right, searching endlessly for that ever elusive perfect guitar tone. The alchemists at Pigtronix have toiled away in their lab to bring us one such relic purported to be the Magnum Opus of guitar tone: The Philosopher’s Tone. It it the best guitar compression pedal out there? Keep reading our Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone review to find out if this pedal will help you accomplish the Great Work.

As Within, So Without

One of the key mysteries of the Philosopher’s Tone that separates it from other guitar compressor pedals is that it doesn’t rely on a CA3080 chip like so many other compressors out there. Pigtronix sought out a new alchemical compression formula and claims that their design has more sustain and less noise than other compressors that rely on outdated CA3080 chip technology. This design is unique to the Philosopher’s Tone and promises to transmute your lifeless lead tone into golden singing sustain.

Features:

Grit control mixes in a smooth layer of distortion into the effect.

Sustain control sets the threshold for the compressor. Turn it up for more intense compression and sustain.

Blend control determines the mix of effected and dry signal.

Pigtronix-Philosophers-Tone-Review-Best-Guitar-Compression-Pedal-02

Treble control buts or boosts frequencies at 2k.

Volume control sets the overall output level of the device when engaged.

Super compact form factor.

No noise operation.

Powered by included 18VDC 300ma negative tip power supply.

Visit Pigtronix for more info about the Philosopher’s Tone.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

From the moment I opened the shiny box and first looked upon the Philosopher’s Tone, I had a feeling I was in for something special. This guitar pedal has already garnered a stellar reputation, but still, I wanted to try it for myself to see if it lived up to the hype.

I plugged my American Stratocaster into the Philosopher’s Tone and went for a full, yet flat clean amp sound. With the Grit rolled down and the Volume around 1 o’clock, I set the other knobs to noon and engaged the effect.

Before I even played a note, I noticed something very important…

The Philosopher’s Tone is dead silent. If you’ve ever played just about any other compressor on the market, you’ll already know that adding compression to your signal typically raises the noise floor. The Philosopher’s Tone is one of the most noise-free guitar compression pedals I’ve ever heard.

Silence is golden, but playing something releases the true power of the Philosopher’s Tone. Sustain is abundant… ah yes, glorious clean sustain. Chords and single notes ring out longer and with more clarity. The extra sustain induced by this pedal may make you never want to play without it. Seriously, you can just find a mild setting and leave it on all the time for the added sustain. It’s that good.

Finding a balance of compression with the Sustain and Blend knobs will help you craft your perfect tone. The Philosopher’s Tone is truly a master’s tool for the sonic alchemist. You can blend your dry tone to taste with the compressed sound matched with just the right amount of sweet sustain.

The Treble knob is also perfectly tailored to helped you sculpt the high-end of your sound. Roll it back for a warmer, vintage feel, or crank it for some country-style twang and bite.

The Grit knob is an interesting addition. This allows the Philosopher’s Tone to color your sound in a pleasing way, adding some dirt along with the sustain. Turn it up for some great saturation.

Want some searing tones for high-gain solos? The Philosopher’s Tone will transmute your distortion pedals into gold. You must try it in front of a high-gain pedal or distorted amp channel. Crank the Grit, Sustain, and Blend knobs for some truly over-the-top distortion and sustain.

It’s hard to find a “bad” setting when using this pedal. The controls are so well integrated and responsive that you will always find a use for this pedal. The Philosopher’s Tone may become your most cherished treasure. It’s simply that good. Of course, if you’d like a little something extra, check out the Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold LTD as these two pedals are siblings. Or if you want something just a little more simple, try the Philosopher’s Rock.

Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is a rock solid compression pedal with more versatility than most. This pedal adds a crystal clear sustain to your sound without adding unwanted noise like most compressors. If you don’t already own a compression pedal or even if you do, you may just discover the missing link to your perfect guitar sound in the Philosopher’s Tone. Whether you need ultra high-grade, noise-free compression, a punchy clean boost, or gritty saturation, the Philosopher’s Stone does it all with ease. If you’re looking for the best guitar compression pedal, see if this pedal is it for you. The Philosopher’s Tone is truly a Magnum Opus.

That concludes our Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone review. Thanks for reading.

 

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MXR Dyna Comp Review – Best Guitar Compressor Pedal?

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The MXR Dyna Comp has a long history of being one of the best compressor pedals for pro guitarists for over 30 years. It has been regarded by many as an indispensable tool for crafting the perfect tone and can still be heard today across genres of music ranging from country to metal and everything in between. Does the Dyna Comp still hold its own after 30 years? Is it the best guitar compressor pedal you can buy? You’ll have the answers in our exclusive MXR Dyna Comp review.

But first, let’s talk about just what exactly a compression pedal is and how it works.

MXR-Dyna-Comp-Review-Best-Guitar-Compressor-Pedal-05A compressor pedal’s primary function is to essentially “even out” or “flatten” the dynamic volume range of your guitar tone before it reaches your amp. To put it simply, the quiet notes become louder, and the loud notes become quieter.

Why would you want to do this? Glad you asked. While there are many creative uses for a good compressor, here are two of the primary reasons.

First, by evening out the volume levels of your notes, you can get a consistent sound that’s perfect for tight clean tones, a must for chickin’ pickin’ country styles. The MXR Dyna Comp has defined the Nashville guitar sound for decades, being one of the essential guitar pedals of any session and touring player worth their salt.

Second, if you want to get smooth lead tones with added sustain and volume, a good compressor will take your sound to the next level. It works like a boost pedal while attenuating and refining your sound while preserving your guitar’s tonal character.

Let’s see how the Dyna Comp handles our performance test.

Read more about the MXR Dyna Comp at JimDunlop.com.

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Sound & Performance:

I broke out a Strat first and went for a nice warm clean tone. I dialed in both knobs around 12 o’clock and fired it up. The Dyna Comp added a noticeable amount of girth to my tone, thickening up the sound and adding sustain.

Pushing the Sensitivity knob farther right while pulling back the Volume knob gave a great sound for slapping and popping. I’m not much of country player in all honesty, but I loved the percussive funk I could effortlessly wrangle out of this pedal. The sound is punchy, yet remains smooth and focused at the same time.

The controls are very simple to use, and it’s easy to dial in a great sound. The Output control gives you more volume, pushing your amp harder as you take it farther clockwise. Adjusting the Sensitivity knob will let you find just the right amount of sustain.

Through a humbucker equipped Gibson SG, I was treated to some gorgeous lead tones. Notes ring out for days with more harmonic definition. You can max the knobs for a choked sound, but I prefer finding a sound for a nice solo volume boost with increased sustain. You’ll certainly be heard during your solos when you step on the Dyna Comp. It cuts through the mix nicely.

This pedal is a classic, coming in that familiar sized MXR enclosure like the Phase 90, Carbon Copy, and Micro Amp pedals. While there are plenty of compressors that have come out since the Dyna Comp’s release ’76, many of which offer much greater flexibility, this is still a solid pedal and a good first compressor for those who’ve never used a compression pedal before.

Let’s see the verdict.

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Overall-Rating-4.0

The MXR Dyna Comp is still going strong into it’s fourth decade. This pedal has been widely regarded as one of the best compression pedals out there, and it’s reputation is certainly understandable. If you want punchy cleans with a lively character or smooth lead tones that ring out with sustain, this pedal is for you. The MXR Dyna Comp is arguably the best guitar compressor pedal you’ll find in its price range. It’s a great first compression pedal and just might be the only compressor you ever need.

That concludes out MXR Dyna Comp review. Thanks for reading.

 

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