Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

FEA Dual Band Comp Limiter: This is the first dual-band pedal (as far as I know) ever to offer full control over the threshold, ratio, attack, and release of both bands. For more explanation of dual band processing, see my article on that subject in the FAQ. This model has had a few revisions over time, each making some significant improvements; so if you buy a used one, be sure to contact Frank at FEA about whether yours would benefit from being sent in for an upgrade to the latest version.
As with most of FEA's other comps, this is an optical type, and it has been optimized for transparent tone and smooth, unobtrusive action. There is no loss of highs or lows, and it adds no noise at all. There are no audible artifacts around the crossover point, or when your signal crosses the threshold. There are LEDs for both bands to indicate signal over the threshold. As with most other dual-band systems, the lows often sound tighter and less "boomy" because the highs do not get ducked (attenuated) every time the lows hit a peak. This is great news for people wanting a crisper, more articulate sound, but it may disappoint people wanting fat dubby tones.
The range of the crossover is from 45 Hz to 1 KHz, a very useful range for all instruments. Regardless of the frequency knob setting, all frequencies above 5 KHz actually bypass the compression circuit, uncompressed, for better high end detail and lower noise. On most previous dual-band comps, the attack and release were preset by the manufacturer; they mostly made good choices, but there are times when it really is worth it to have that control yourself, and the knobs on this one have a wide useful range. The ratio on both channels is adjustable from 2:1 to 7:1, which covers anything from general light smoothing to strong control. It doesn't do "squishy effects" though, the action is more neutral and natural.
The low band additionally has a switch to toggle between Comp and Limiter modes; as a limiter the low band's ratio is set at infinity:1. This setting has none of the clicks or distortion artifacts that plague many other limiters. The only downside to it is that such a high ratio (as with most other limiters) can remove some of the transient strength or resonance of a big low note. So you will find it's an individual judgment call whether it's more useful to have the peaks capped hard or if you need more heft and energetic depth. I actually find that for normal, non-extreme playing, the maximum 7:1 ratio of the regular "comp" setting is sufficient for handling most spikes, with plenty of energy and fullness in the tone. But it's nice to have the "limit" setting for times when the peaks would be more extreme or uncontrolled.
In addition to the true bypass footswitch, there is a footswitch for bypassing just the high band, which can be useful if you want the maximum of dynamic articulation but still need the lows to be kept under control. The pedal runs off a normal Boss-type 9VDC supply, but like the Maxon CP9Pro+ it has a "charge pump" inside which raises the internal voltage to 18V for greater headroom (less distortion). The housing is the "medium" size of Barber or Diamond. Overall the construction of this pedal is very high quality and solid, it looks and feels like a professional piece of studio equipment.
This is my personal favorite choice of pedal for clean, tight, non-squish-effect compression. Its greatest strength is in improving articulation and clarity for cutting through a mix. Here is my favorite setting:
• LO band--threshold 2:00, ratio max (7:1), attack 8:30, release 7:00, gain 2:00, comp/limit switch set to comp (though the limit setting is also good).
• Freq 8:30.
• HI band--threshold 1:00, ratio 10:00, attack 10:30, release 2:00, gain 3:00.
Note however the thresholds for both bands will be dependent on your specific instrument and how you play it. The main thing to take away from the settings I show here is that I use the LO band as a peak limiter, covering only the lowest end of the frequency range, while I use the HI band across most of my signal for a lighter general smoothing/fattening compression.
Price in USD: new $345, used $225-$320


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