Demeter Compulator: This pedal was one of the kings of the mountain for several years, alongside the EBS and Maxon CP9Pro+, and my original review of it was accordingly lavish with praise. In the last couple of years, however, some new contenders have managed to equal and even significantly beat the quality of the Demeter; so the time has come for me to update this review.
This is an optical comp, with the smooth tone and action usually associated with optical. It does not lose any highs or lows, and has a relatively flat EQ profile, with maybe a slight bump in the low mids. The tone overall is very natural, and warm but not highly colored. The attack and release are very fast, so it is good at catching transient spikes at the beginning of each note, without obvious dips or swells; the down side of the fast attack is that some users feel it softens/dulls their note attack too much. The noise level is very low, but not silent. There is a little bit of hiss from the pedal itself--not enough to bother most people, and nowhere near as bad as the Keeley/Dyna/etc., but not quite as good as the Diamond for example. The noise level improves if you power it with a battery instead of an external supply.
In addition to the usual "compress" and "level" knobs, there is a trim pot recessed in the side of the pedal. This allows you to adjust the level of your signal going into the pedal, so you can treat it like a threshold control, adjusting the response to high-output or low-output instruments. I wish the range of this control was wider, but it helps enough for most typical cases. I have seen several users of high-output basses complain that they got clipping from the Demeter even when they turned that trim pot down; but personally I have never managed to get any clipping. I even just now tested it by putting a clean-boost pedal cranked to 35 dB gain in front of the Demeter, and it did not clip audibly at all. We all experience different things with different combinations of equipment (and ears), but I suspect the clipping people heard was actually from their amp.
The compress knob controls the ratio, with a range of approximately 2:1 to 10:1. The ratio has a "soft knee", which means that the ratio starts low and increases proportionally to the amount your signal goes over the threshold. So even at the max knob setting, your signal will start off being compressed by much less than 10:1, and it will automatically work its way up as your spikes increase, and finally approach 10:1 when you send it a very big spike. This provides a very natural-sounding response. It is possible, with a high-level input and a high ratio setting, to get output that's lower in level than the bypassed signal; so if you encounter that situation, just turn down the trim pot or the compress knob (or both). With the max ratio being 10:1, it is possible to use this pedal for clean peak limiting, if you adjust your input levels carefully. The level knob controls the output volume (make-up gain) as usual.
The footswitch is not "true bypass", but the bypassed tone is entirely transparent. The construction is sturdy enough. The housing is the small MXR size. There is no LED or meter to indicate the amount of compression or whether the signal is crossing the threshold, so you have to rely on your ears. The DC jack takes a tip-positive 1/8" male plug, not the standard Boss type, so you'll need a special adapter in order to use most power supplies. Also, like most reverse-polarity pedals, it does not work well with daisy-chain type power supplies, even with the "correct" adapter; use an isolated supply instead.
So how does it stack up against the new guys? Well, some of them have lower noise; some have fatter/warmer tone; and many have greater versatility and range of controls. But as a workhorse, very easy to use, with smooth, natural tone and action, the Demeter is still a good value.
Price in USD: new $219, used $125 to $170
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