G-Lab BC-1: This optical comp pedal comes from a Polish company that so far hasn't gotten the attention it deserves in the West. What makes this pedal remarkable is it's an analog compressor with the sort of presets and switching options that you normally only get with digital multi-effects. At first glance this pedal might seem like just two "typical" very simple two-knob comps stuffed into one box. But there are several dip switches hidden on the sides that open up an interesting range of control options; there are MIDI jacks for external control; and there is a hidden third channel of compression!
One switch toggles between fast and slow release times; it is labeled "guitar/bass", but it's not clear which of those is supposed to get which release time. Both positions are useful either way, and the difference is not huge. One switch toggles the bypass footswitch between "true bypass" and a very clean, strong buffered bypass. Another switch selects low or high input gain, to match up with low or high output instruments. A rotary switch selects the MIDI channel. And lastly a pair of toggles select the order of comp channel switching, and the function of the footswitches. The options include A/B, A/B/C, or one footswitch for increment (A/B/C) and the other footswitch for decrement (C/B/A). This array allows you to have whatever sort of channel switching will work most conveniently for you, and is a real luxury for most of us who are accustomed to only choosing between on and off.
The knobs are the usual Comp (amount of compression) and Boost (level, make-up gain), and you can set channels A and B completely independently. The "hidden" channel C is pre-set with both comp and boost at maximum! So for example you could set channel A for light smoothing compression, channel B for stronger peak limiting, and then kick on channel C when you want to really pop out with a more intense effect. I frequently get asked to recommend a comp that can "do it all", compressing gently most of the time but then magically clamping down on peaks for passages of slap/pop or other aggro playing; up to now, I have always told those people "keep dreaming". But here we go--this pedal's range of control and channel switching is the real deal.
The tone is very clear and clean, with no loss of highs or lows, and no noise. It's not an especially fat or exciting tone effect, but it doesn't harm your tone either. The action is smooth, even, and natural. Stronger ratios are available for some peak limiting, but it won't do exaggerated squashing effects. The make-up gain stages offer a lot of extra boost for driving your amp, and you can easily set up channel A or B as just a clean boost with no compression, if you want.
The contruction overall is rugged and high-quality; however the switches on the side panels are small plastic devices that were really designed for internal settings, not for external or frequent usage, so just be careful with those. The good news is they are recessed in the side panels, so they won't get bumped or broken easily; but the bad news is that makes them difficult to switch. You need to use a small screwdriver or similar; a fingernail or a guitar pick won't do the job. The footswitches are noiseless relay switches, and it is "true bypass". There are LED's to indicate which channel is selected, effect on/off, buffer on/off, and one that shows the amount of compression (amusingly labeled "Dump"). The pedal housing is slightly larger than the typical Barber/Diamond medium size, but not as large as the Joemeek or Taurus pedals. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC.
In terms of functional versatility, this is one of the most pleasingly useful comps I've ever tried. The fact that it's so uncolored and noiseless makes it a serious winner!
Price in USD: new $250, used $170-$200
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