Menatone J.A.C: This pedal may or may not be in current production, I really don't know. Menatone ceased production of all pedals for a long time several years ago, but then they came back with newly updated designs. The JAC is listed by some dealers as "in stock" today (mid 2013), but not all dealers have it, and it's not mentioned on the Menatone website. Your guess is as good as mine. The one I reviewed here was the older original model.
The initials JAC stand for "JFET Audio Compression". JFETs are a type of transistor that is often used to emulate the sound of tube gain stages, but they can also be used as a dynamic gain-reduction element, as in the classic Urei 1176. So I thought since this says "JFET compression" on the label that the JFETs would provide the compression--but in fact the JAC is an optical compressor, and the JFETs are there to simulate tube gain. Supposedly the JAC design is based on the Urei LA2A (a high-end vintage tube comp) but only the concept is similar, not the components or the sound.
That said, it sounds really good. There is no loss of highs or lows. The mids seem a bit scooped though, so if you like that "smiley face EQ" then this pedal will sound fantastic to you. The main reason the mids sound that way is that the high end is boosted a little and has a sharp, biting quality that really cuts. The tone is otherwise clear and full. The JFETs do not provide overdrive or much of the "vintage" coloration or fatness most people think of as "tube tone". All the posts repeating how the JAC is based on the LA2A are misleading in that way--you might buy it expecting a really thick old-school sound from this pedal. Instead I would describe it as crisp, aggressive, and bright, with about the same amount of warmth as the Diamond and Demeter pedals.
The older model was in a larger housing with three knobs: Gain (input gain, controlling the threshold as well), Gain Reduction (ratio), and Vol (output level). The later model is in a smaller MXR-sized housing, and the Gain Reduction knob is now labeled simply "Comp". The recent one also has either a three-position toggle switch for cutting treble, since many users thought the original was too bright sounding, or a second LED to indicate the amount of compression. Be sure which one you are buying.
Because the ratio can be set quite high, and the attack is fast, this pedal is very good at controlling big signal spikes and will even work for slappers. In fact the bright crisp tone and action, combined with the limiting, make this pedal a killer for slap. The gain stages are a bit noisy, so you will get lower noise by feeding it a very clean input signal, and using low/moderate gain and volume settings. Increasing the Gain can significantly increase your sustain, by effectively lowering the threshold, but as with any other sustainer you get more noise that way as each note decays. The compression attack is snappy and the release is long and smooth.
The Gain knob allows this pedal to work well with just about any level of output from your instrument. I wish more comp pedals had a good input level control like this. The footswitch is not "true bypass", but the bypass is very clean. The construction quality is very good. It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC.
Price in USD: new $200, used $125-$150.
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