Budda Chakra: As far as I can tell, the Chinese manufacturer of Carl Martin's "vintage" pedal line has started making the exact same pedals for Budda Amps, just with a different paint job. So the Chakra is essentially the same thing as the Carl Martin Classic Opto Comp. The only differences are that the Budda version has a 3PDT footswitch, and it has bright clear highs compared to the "dull" highs I complained about with the CM. However the CM I reviewed was the older weird-shaped version, so maybe the current normal-shaped version is totally identical to the Budda, I don't know. I'll have to buy a new CM to find out, yay... Note that the product description and instructions from Carl Martin (reprinted by Budda) are badly written and in some ways incorrect, so do not take them literally.
With that semi-negative stuff out of the way, the rest of this review is positive! This pedal provides a lot of value for the money. I get emails all the time asking for a suggestion of a pedal that is better quality than the cheapest choices, but not as expensive as the premium ones. The Chakra is one of the best answers to that question. It's also the main suggestion I'd make to anyone who has been looking for the BBE Opto Stomp that I used to recommend so much.
It features not only the typical Comp and Level knobs, but also controls for input Gain and Attack time. The Gain knob is for matching the response of the comp up with the output levels of your instrument, and avoiding unwanted clipping. Comp controls the intensity of the compression, however it does this by increasing the gain into the opto stage, so really it is best to think of these two controls more "artistically" as just different ways of getting less or more compression. Comp has a stronger effect on the squishiness of the action.
The Attack knob has a wide range of response, all the way from glacially slow to nearly instant. This control is also very interactive with the other settings, changing the action significantly as well as the way the comp reacts to different frequencies. The attack time is slowest at the minimum position of the knob, going faster as you turn it clockwise. Personally I think any setting below 12:00 is too slow to be useful.
The compression action is a smooth optical squish, not extreme but having that classic long swell. It is capable of a wide range of response, from gentle smoothing to heavier squashing with very long sustain. Although it can compress strongly, it's not ideal as a peak limiter, so I wouldn't recommend it for someone just wanting to cleanly cap off peaks. The squashing becomes noticeable when you hit it hard. I'd recommend this pedal most to somebody who wants light smoothness and a bit more "pop" rather than a strong effect.
The tone is very clean, and nearly transparent, with no loss of lows or highs. It is not as fattening as some other comps. The noise level is impressively low.
The footswitch is "true bypass". The construction quality is decently good, and it runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC. The housing is the standard medium size of Barber or BBE. If you are on a budget, I recommend this pedal very highly!
Price in USD: used $70 to $80, new $135 to $150.
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