BBE Opto Stomp: There are a few revisions of this pedal on the market, and they MAY have noticeable differences. The most recent one is gray, with very plain graphics; I haven't tested it yet. The one before that is yellow with a brown mustache-and-monocle graphic, and the original older ones have red lettering and a toggle switch between the knobs. This review covers those two.
I reviewed the first version several years ago. Later I started seeing comments from people about that version (with no mustache) having low output levels, while other people with the same model said theirs had plenty of output gain. Also, the one I reviewed had a "true bypass" footswitch, while at least one other review said theirs was not true bypass. So it seems to me that BBE changed the pedal's internal design at least once before changing the external markings. When buying an older one, there's nothing on the outside to indicate whatever may be different on the inside, so good luck. A BBE employee claimed in a forum post that the only functional change they made with the new mustache-and-monocle version was the elimination of the -15 dB toggle switch that was on the earlier ones, however I think that was not true.
I rated the original one very very highly because it was built like a tank, and had clean tone with no losses, smooth natural action, and very little noise--all at a nice low price. It was the clear leader for value, in terms of high quality and performance for low cost. The later comments I saw about low output levels were concerning, but not enough to make me change my review. Unfortunately the mustache version just sucks. There is a persistent glitchy ticking sound that accompanies each note you play. Sometimes it sounds more like digital noise, other times it sounds more like a dirty connection--but this is not a digital device, and the connections are all clean.
In fact I wanted to be sure that the one I bought (used) was not defective, so I bought a second one brand new, and it sounds exactly identical. In my review of the original version I had mentioned a slight "fizzy" artifact that could be heard occasionally; the ticking noises in the new version are much more noticeable and consistently present. I even tried using different power supplies, and different signal chain connections, with no improvement. Not everyone will hear these noises, because of the low fidelity and limited frequency range of many guitar/bass amps; but for me it's intolerable.
It still has some good qualities: rugged construction, no loss of lows or highs, no hiss noise, unobtrusive action, true bypass footswitch, and standard Boss-type 9VDC power jack. The low ratio makes it best suited to light smoothing, not squashing or peak limiting. But I cannot recommend it due to the clicking artifacts. Also I was a big fan of the -15 dB switch on the original model, for use with high-output instruments, and it was stupid of BBE to remove that feature.
If you happen to find the first version, with white sides, red lettering, and -15dB switch; and if the output levels don't seem to be too low; then buy it! That particular one is a really, really good value. I've heard a suggestion that the oldest (best) ones had a blue LED, while later ones had green or red LEDs. I can't verify this unfortunately, so please let me know if you find out for a fact. I will test out the newer gray version as soon as I get a chance.
Price in USD: new $100, used $30 to $70
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