Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Jon Patton Bearhug: This is a DIY project developed by a guy known as "Midwayfair" on the various pedal forums. It uses a FET circuit with a relatively low parts count, and it can fit in a Hammond 1590A "micro" housing. Click here for the schematic, and here's Jon's web page. He also built the Madbean Afterlife that I reviewed.
Controls include the standard Comp and Vol knobs, plus a two-position toggle for selecting long or short release time. As a side effect, this toggle also changes the intensity of the compression a bit, so you want to keep that in mind when comparing the two release times. The inherent attack time is rather fast. The Comp knob covers a fairly wide range, from more subtle to fairly heavy squeezing. It can flatten some big spikes, at the stronger settings, but it's not really ideal just for clean peak limiting. The action is smooth, without an obvious "dip and swell" effect.
The noise floor is very low. There is zero loss of highs or lows, even at the extreme ends, and no scoop or hump in the middle. Patton says the tone is supposed to be transparent, but to my ears it has a thick and "chewy" quality compared to other pedals that I've described as sounding transparent. It's not an exaggerated tone effect, but I think the subtle clipping of the compression plus the fast attack time result in a noticeably textured tone. This doesn't change at any Comp knob setting; it might be more obvious on bass than guitar. To be clear I am not talking about an overt click or buzz type of clipping, but just this subtle thickness.
If you were debating which DIY micro comp to build, I'd steer you to the Afterlife for transparency, and the Bearhug for more character. Personally I like the Afterlife better, but that's just subjective taste. The quality and nature of the construction, cosmetics, bypass, etc. are entirely up to you or whoever builds it. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC.

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