Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Barber Electronics Tone Press: This is a Ross/Dynacomp type with a clean blend. I first wrote about this pedal in 2006, it was one of my earliest reviews. Now it's 2009 and I bought another Barber to see if my opinion would change at all, considering that I've learned much more about compressor use over the last few years. Interestingly, my opinion now is almost the same as before. Barber updated this pedal at some point, but the external appearance and markings are identical--so there is no way to know whether any used Tone Press you might buy is pre or post updates. Also I have no idea what the updates were.
 
This pedal is designed for transparent tone and added sustain, and it achieves both of those very well. It also features a blend knob for mixing the compressed signal with the original uncompressed input. With the blend knob all the way to the left, the pedal acts as a clean boost. The ratio is fixed at a fairly high amount, I'm going to guess about 10:1. The threshold is also fixed; the Sustain knob controls the amount your signal is boosted up past the threshold. There is also an internal trim pot labeled "color" which allows you to change the flavor of the tone; turning it to the left seems to roll off the highs and boost the mids a bit.
 
Because the ratio is so high and the attack is fast, this pedal is pretty decent at controlling big signal spikes. The down side is that the gain stages of the effect are not very quiet, and they also amplify your existing signal's noise floor quite a bit, so as your note decays and the compression releases, the noise floor swells up dramatically. This can be minimized by keeping the Sustain knob at a low setting, around 9:00 to 10:00, where it won't be silent but also not any worse than most other pedals. Those low settings will also provide the most unobtrusive, natural compression. You can achieve a tremendous amount of sustain by turning the Sustain knob up, but that comes with a tremendous amount of noise on the note decay.
 
There is no loss of highs; the lows are very much like other OTA's in that they are good enough for an EADG bassist but not a low B. Even with the blend knob, it's inherent to this type of compressor that the low end sounds tightened-up, not "fat" or deep. The overall EQ shape is reasonably flat and the tone is quite transparent and articulate.
 
The housing is the same "medium" size as the Diamond and Empress. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC. The footswitch is "true bypass", and the construction quality is excellent.
 
Price in USD: new $160, used $90 to $125
 
or on Amazon
 

 
 
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