Pete Cornish OC-1: Pete Cornish is a legendary builder known for designing pedals and systems for guitar giants such as Brian May, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, and many others. Consequently his pedals are not exactly cheap, not easily available at shops, generally not meant for bass, nor designed with the casual consumer in mind. I was not sure I'd ever pick up an OC-1 for testing, but fortunately one of my readers offered to loan one to me.
It is an optical design, though Cornish says it is original, not copied from any other opto comp on the market. It has a very minimalist signal path, aiming to reduce any impact on the tone and minimize any possible noise. I have to say it succeeds very well on both counts. It's not an exciting tone machine, but it is quite transparent, and it doesn't add any noise of its own. For anyone whose experience with compressors so far is that they "kill the tone", the OC-1 would be a pleasant surprise. It also does not distort noticeably even when hitting it with a very high input signal. There is no loss of low end, and the frequency response is flat up to around 10 KHz, where the highs start to roll off.
The action is also very smooth and even, especially in the note attack. The note then swells with sustain as your note trails off. The amount of that swelling sustain depends on how high you set the compression, along with how strong of a signal you feed into the pedal. The knobs include Volume, Blend, and Comp. The Blend of course allows you to retain even more of your unprocessed tone and action, especially useful during heavier compression.
It has no meter to indicate the amount of compression. The housing of the grey-box one I am reviewing is HUGE, like a hardback copy of War and Peace. Actually the footprint is not as large as the Retrospec or the Cali76, but it looks bigger because it is such a tall chunky block. There is a somewhat smaller black-box version that does not take batteries. The construction quality is highly rugged, at least on the outside; I was not able to examine the interior because of tamper-evident tape sealing the base. It runs on Boss standard 9V DC, and the footswitch bypass is a high quality buffer.
Price in USD: new $775, used $350 to $500.
Naturally you are wondering "is it worth it?" Well, for most people the answer is probably no, at least brand new. It doesn't sound or work any better than other "transparent" pedals at half the price, and it is quite large. But if tonal transparency with some noticeably increased sustain are your main goals, and you want all of your gear to be at a premium professional level--or at least to be perceived that way--then it may be worth hunting down one of these used. It does sound very nice!
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