ART Levelar: This is a one-channel line-level tabletop unit, not much bigger than a pedal. It can fit in a rack space, but it would need to be attached to some sort of shelf. It is a "tube comp" of the standard variety, having an optical compression element and one 12AX7 tube as a make-up gain stage. It can be found used at very cheap prices, but it actually sounds quite good!
There is a small amount of hiss, which does swell up on the tail of a sustained note, but it's no worse than most solid-state comps. The highs and lows are pretty decent, not the deepest or brightest, but good. The tone is a bit dark and muddy-sounding. There can be a little click on the attack, depending on the input you feed it, but the action overall is smooth. The only attack/release control is a button to switch between "auto" and "fast"; The auto setting works pretty well for bass, although I wish it had more controls. The ratio control is also limited to a button to switch between "compress" (~2:1) and "limit" (~6:1). Both settings can be useful and good-sounding, but only for moderate non-extreme compression.
The threshold knob and the simple LED metering are very useful features that are missing from most pedals. It can work with both line-level and instrument-level signals. The construction is a bit cheap, but not flimsy--it would probably survive if you dropped it. The bypass switch (a button, not a footswitch) is not "true bypass", but the bypassed signal quality is pretty clean. It requires a 9v AC wall wart power supply.
This tube comp doesn't have the extreme fatness or gooeyness you might hope for from a tube device like the EHX Black Finger, but the noise level is far more acceptable. Excellent bang per buck!
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