Fromel Velvet Vice: I first reviewed this optical comp a few years ago; Fromel then went through a period of adjusting their business and production, and the Velvet Vice was unavailable for a while. The new pedals are made a bit differently from the old ones, with SMT (miniature) components, so we felt the review needed an update. As a side note, you should check out the Fromel "Shape" EQ pedal, I love it.
The Velvet Vice has very clean, nearly transparent tone, with no loss of highs or lows at all. The high-mids and highs get a little bit of boost. Both the frequency range and action are improved over the older models, so this is one case where there's no need to hunt and covet the earlier version. I didn't notice any clipping when playing with a high-output bass. The noise level is very low at most settings, though stronger compression will of course amplify any noise you feed into it.
Knobs include Comp, Rel (release time), and Volume. The Comp control has a good wide range, from very light smoothing to strong squeezing, all the way to insane smashing at the maximum end of the knob turn. The results will also depend on the output level of your instrument. The action is smooth, with no "dip" during the peak; at stronger settings you will hear a rising swell of sustain as your note decays. Release time goes from medium slow to very slow, so if you hit it with wild dynamic jumps, it will stay compressed on subsequent notes. That means this pedal will work best with relatively steady playing. Attack time has no knob, but it changes with the release time: a slower Rel knob setting also gets a slower attack.
The construction quality is good, much cleaner than the older handmade ones, but they still managed to keep some of the raw industrial hand-etched cosmetic appearance. The new housing is the small MXR size (the old ones were a bit bigger), and it runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC. There's no LED to indicate the amount of compression. The footswitch is a non-clicking type that controls a relay for bypass. There is an internal toggle to select whether it is "true bypass" or a high-quality buffered bypass.
Price in USD: New $179, used about $100-125.
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