Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Alesis 3630: This rackmount two-channel line-level unit has been hugely popular because it offers a lot of features for a very low price.
 
It is nicknamed the "dirty six dirty" because it is so prone to distortion, especially on bass frequencies. I'd say it earned that name, because indeed it puts out a glitchy clipping sound whenever the threshold is crossed. It is possible to find settings where it will not distort like that, but (as far as I can tell) those cleaner-sounding settings are not actually doing any useful compression or limiting.
 
It also features a noise gate, which is like most cheap gates: useful if your signal is desperately noisy, but terrible otherwise. I would not engage the gate unless I absolutely had to.
 
The frequency range of this unit is pretty good, with no loss of lows; the highs get noticeably attenuated during heavy compression. The tone overall is sterile and dry. Many people have modded the guts of their 3630, and claim to have gotten much better tone and performance from it. But even so, I would only bother with that if you already have a 3630 and want to monkey with it. If you just want to save money, get a used Behringer MDX instead, or spend a few more dollars on the new 3632 model.
 
The construction quality is OK for the price. The 3632 is better built.
 
Price in USD: new $100, used $25-$70
 
or on Amazon
 

 
 
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