Dave Hall Amps VT1-Bass Comp: This handmade pedal is a combination tube and optical compressor much like the EHX Black Finger. Like the EHX, it is capable of a range of compression effects, but also like the EHX it is way too noisy. It is based on Dave's successful VT1 tube gain circuit, with the compression circuit added on to it.
There are two comp modes on the one I'm testing: "soft" and "hard". The soft mode is very smooth and natural, and fairly easy to dial in a useful setting. The only tricky part is setting the input trim control so that the blue compression LED registers the amount of "reaction" to your signal that you want. The soft mode has a low range of ratio, better for smoothing than limiting. The hard mode is a much more extreme squash- it has a high ratio and it reacts more intensely to your signal, so it requires careful experimentation to find a setting that is not too bizarrely crushed.
I found good results by turning the input trim pot back so that my signal only made the LED light up about "half brightness"; at that point the hard mode was a very effective limiter, and the squash was much more appealing to hear, somewhat like an Orange Squeezer. The noise levels were about the same at all settings in both modes. In the soft mode there is a pronounced boost of the highs and high-mid frequencies, which creates a very cutting, aggressive, and bright sound. I don't think the lows were rolled off per se, but they seem attenuated by comparison to the very strong boosted highs. In the hard mode the lows and highs are much more balanced, with no rolloff or peaks that I noticed.
Another feature on this pedal is a boost switch which allows you to increase the gain out of this pedal by an insane amount. The boost is intended for overdriving tube amps; frankly it is to be used with great caution, as the amount of gain available can damage your speakers or ears if you switch it on and play without first turning down the output level.
The footswitch is true bypass, although it is an electronic switching system and I found if there was a grounding issue anywhere in the chain, I could hear the power supply of the DHA even in bypass. The pedal requires a special power supply, just like the EHX; it will not run on batteries or a standard Boss-type supply. As with all tube devices, you may hear different amounts of noise depending on your own equipment and environment. I also think this pedal will sound best through a cab with no tweeter.
Price in USD: new $260, used probably around $160
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