Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Yamaha Magicstomp:This is a digital multi-effect pedal with an emphasis on amp modeling. It includes models of a few different kinds of compressors and limiters, as well as various amp voicings, overdrive, EQ, and other functions with compression included.
The comp models named "Tube" and "FET" are intended to provide heavy coloration of the signal, while the ones named "Natural" are intended to be transparent. Digital modeling is a mixed bag: on the one hand it never really sounds identical to the original gear it's modeled on, but on the other hand it provides a fairly large percentage of those tones in a much cheaper package--especially considering how many models are included. I often get asked what pedal will achieve the compression sound of certain big-name recording artists, and really none of the small analog pedals can give you the full sound of an LA2A or 1176 (the expensive professional studio comps that were likely used in the big-name recordings). These digital modeled versions, on the other hand, achieve a surprisingly good deal of that tonal effect. The tube and FET comps in particular in this Yamaha are really thick and beefy, and they sound a lot more like the recordings that people always ask me about, compared to the results from other tone-fattening pedals like the Compulator or the Fat Burner.
Of course there is a down side. There are some artifacts from the digital processing; it's very hard to describe in words, but there is a harshness in the highs, and the sound overall just isn't as smooth as the analog versions, although in a full rock band mix I doubt anyone could hear the difference.
While the models provide tons more coloration and "effect" than most comp pedals, they don't actually compress or limit as well. Even at maximum ratios I found it very easy to overload the Yamaha and cause clipping either in the pedal or in my mixer. There's also a constant audible background hiss; it's not actually any worse than the noise of most cheap analog comps, but it is there at all settings and even in bypass, it cannot be dialed out.
There are three parameter-control pots (knobs), and each patch has three parameters set up to be controlled with those knobs. However in trying to dial in the best settings for my signal I needed to also access other parameters which are hidden in the "deep edit" programming. That is a bit tricky, and is best achieved by plugging the Magicstomp into your computer and using their editing software. On the one hand it's great to have such programmability, but on the other hand it's a big hassle.
Here's the short version: if you are trying to get a wide range of super thick fat tones, and can't afford the serious high-budget studio processors, this Yamaha modeler will do it better than most analog pedals. But if you are more concerned with actual compression and limiting you'll be MUCH better off with a good analog unit. The construction quality is not great--many of the parts are metallized plastic, not actual metal. It runs on 12V AC with a very high current draw. It's not "true bypass", and the bypass sounds kind of bad, unfortunately.
Price in USD: used $100-$200, no longer available new.


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