Ashly DPX 200: This is a compressor and parametric EQ in one rack space. The DPX100 model has a graphic EQ instead of parametric. The compressor portion is the exact same as the one in the CLX 52/51, so this review is good for those units as well. Ashly gear consistently impresses me with its solid construction, clean sound, and useful functionality.
This comp has zero noise. None. It has a complete range of controls, and the threshold and in/out level controls allow compatibility with a wide range of other gear. There is absolutely no loss of highs or lows. The compression circuit has a dual release law, which means it releases quickly after big spikes and more slowly after lower peaks crossing the threshold; this means less "pumping" and more natural, invisible action. There are no audible artifacts upon crossing the threshold.
As I noted in an older review of the CL 100, there are some settings where the sound can be a bit dull or sterile, but you just need to find the right settings to bring out the best in your sound. However this won't add any "magic" to the sound, no sparkle or fatness or character. Just solid, transparent, effective management of levels, and some clean sustain if desired. Compared against the Aphex 651, the 651's expansion of highs can add more sweetness and presence to upper harmonics, but the Ashly is shallower front-to-back, and more likely to be in good 'spec' (operating as new), while the old Aphex units are frequently out of spec and needing maintenance. They are equally good at peak limiting.
The bypass switch does not remove the input and output gain stages from the path, so it can be difficult to A/B the compressed and "dry" sounds--you have to adjust the levels each time. However the bypass is transparent. The in/output jacks are balanced only, and this unit is not designed to take input directly from a guitar or bass. There are more exciting or toneful compressors out there, but there are almost none better at the fundamental job of clean signal management.
UPDATE: A reader has informed me that Ashly recently had some problems with defective CLX-52's that got shipped out. The bad news is, you have no way of knowing whether the new or used CLX-52 you order will be one of the defective ones; the good news is that Ashly can and will fix them. Contact Jim at Ashly if you have a concern.
Price in USD: used $150 to $300, no longer available new. The CLX 52 is still in current production, at $150 used and $359 new.
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