Custom Audio Electronics V-Comp: This is a great little unit, that unfortunately is almost impossible to find anymore. CAE no longer makes them; Custom Audio Japan is the current manufacturer, but they haven't answered any of my emails; and the one USA distributor recently told me they are dropping the product due to lack of sales.
It's an optical comp with a single preamp tube for a make-up gain stage. If you turn the threshold down all the way, it can be used as a "clean" booster with a nice tube tone. I tried a few different tubes in there, but the stock GT actually sounded best. This comp adds a noticeable darkness and thickness to the tone. It rolls off the highs some, but doesn't lose any low end. Otherwise, the envelope is very natural and smooth, so you wouldn't notice it as an effect. The note attack could get a little mushy when used with another tube preamp, but it's the perfect tool for warming/fattening a solid-state preamp. Like most tube devices it can pick up some noise from your pickups and room wiring, but overall it's surprisingly quiet, especially on the decay. There is no audible noise swell unless you crank it to an extreme setting.
The interior of the box is very densely packed with components--other pedal companies such as EHX should check this out and take a few notes about efficient use of space. The housing is the "medium" size of Barber, Diamond, BBE, etc. It takes a high-current 12 VDC wall wart, it will not run on a typical brick or daisy-chain power supply. The footswitch is true bypass.
This is one of my oldest reviews; I had intended to update it with direct comparisons to the Markbass and Effectrode pedals, but I was not able to get CAJ or their vendors to loan me one for review, and I am not going to buy it a second time if it's being discontinued anyway.
Price in USD: new $500, used who knows? I haven't seen a used one in years.
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