Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

 
Himmelstrutz Miss Nutcracker: This boutique pedal comes to us from Sweden. It uses an optical comp element.
 
Although they say on the Himmelstrutz website that this pedal is good for bass as well as guitar, the fact is it rolls off the low end quite noticeably. It's a long curving slope, not a sharp cutoff, so it might still work for a 4-string player who likes a tightly controlled low end; but generally I would only recommend this pedal for guitar. The Tone knob is a high cut, and there is no loss (or boost) of highs with Tone at the max position. Rolling back the Tone produces a midrange hump shape overall. The general tonality is bright and hard, it cuts through well, especially with the Tone knob near max. I wouldn't describe it as fat, but it does add a bright punchy coloration to the mids and highs. It is best suited to somebody who wants a "spanky" in-your-face sound.
 
The Comp knob seems to increase the amount that the opto circuit reacts to your signal, unlike many other compressors where that knob would control a gain boost going in to the device. This means that turning the Comp up does not boost noise at all. Of course the make-up gain can amplify any noise that was already in your chain, but the pedal itself has very very low noise.
 
There is an LED to indicate when your signal crosses the threshold and the compression is triggered. Turning the Comp knob to minimum means no compression, so you can use the pedal as a "clean" boost; however the tight/bright tone color I described above is just as strong even with Comp at minimum. The envelope shape and action are generally smooth, not having an exaggerated dip/swell, but you can get more squash by feeding a stronger signal into it. The feel of the effect will definitely depend on the output level of your instrument.
 
There is a two-position toggle labeled "Mode". It seems to be an attack time control, selecting between a very short and a very long attack time. The longer attack time means a brighter, sharper note attack, and more transparency, while the shorter attack means more control over transient peaks. With short attack and the Comp knob at max, it can do some peak limiting, but that is not its strongest feature. Instead I would consider it more like a punchy tone enhancer.
 
It's in the small MXR-type housing, and the construction quality is very good. The footswitch is "true bypass". It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC. It can safely take up to 18V, but I don't know if that really improves its performance.
 
Himmelstrutz has replaced the "Miss" Nutcracker with a newer model called "Mr" Nutcracker. I haven't tested it yet. From the info on the website, the differences are that the Mr. has an additional knob controlling an active input gain stage, and a 3-position toggle to passively adjust the low end. I do not know yet whether that means it will have more low end available, or just more rolloff of lows.
 
Price in USD: new $250-$330, used $150-$180
 

 

 
 
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